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Continuation on Mythic Play Style - from Story-Games

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Video with subtext

I’ve discussed the potential of video with subtext or annotations as a way of teaching RPGs a lot back on story games. Perhaps I should try to dig up the thread? The short version is that I agree in full! :)

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Never once claimed "Nuance" or "Depth"...

Hi Paul,

I am a bit flabbergasted by your assertions. I know in my heart of hearts that you are not malicious but I am deeply put off your claims. Have you been really reading what I've been posting these last years? I have long acknowledged and argued that all three known CA's are of equal enjoyment to those that enjoy those CA's. But also learned long ago that players also have preferences and enjoy playing certains CA's over other CA's and there is NOTHING wrong with that either. One of the most important ideas to come out of the Forge was that if the table is having fun then that's all that matters. That is a point of view that I wholeheartedly agree with and have said so numerous times.

I'm seeking to understand and describe a certain, as yet, poorly understood CA. ...and guess what? It's functions differently from other types of CA's. However, as it turns out, better minds than I have pointed out a very strong correlation to a conceptual framework that is extremely alien to most of us literate types. I've worked hard to try and understand this alien conceptual framework and do have the unusual advantage of having lots of experience operating within said conceptual framework. As a result of lots of personal experience and private instruction from a noted scholar in said field I have since proffered explanations of how this CA works and how it is different from other CA's.

...and you know Paul, different CA's operate and emphasize different things from each other. There is nothing either good or shameful about that fact. In fact we glory in the diversity of game CA's and designs out there because they are different. Yet we recognize CA's because there are commonalities to these games that make for useful classifications. Gamism - Stepping On Up is the highest priority but can have other elements going on during play. But one of the fundamentals of Gamism is that you don't jigger with the mechanics during a game because that changes the yardstick and value of success. Narrativism - Story Now is the highest priority of play but doesn't have to be the only driving force. But what you can't do is ignore the Premise completely or those players will feel frustrated or deprotagonized. Where the actual enjoyment comes from playing such games will vary from player to player in the specifics but will line up with the general CA goals.

I've been describing the particulars of how mythic-bricolage works. Shockingly they are different from G/N. Not shockingly the points of enjoyment map strongly to the parts of mythic life that have the greatest importance. Meaning. Structure. Creation. Communication. Extreme subjectivity. These are the highlights of this CA. The form that this creation process takes as you labeled (note - I did not) as "Nuance" or "Depth" are the NATURAL PRODUCTS of this CA. I give many examples about these things as tells of this particular CA in action. Everyone who plays this CA in time will have many such moments of possibly even greater emotional impact or sublime moments than the game I play in. Just as noted in an essay long ago, all CA's can have story but each CA has its own priority and process of play. Just because Nar is focused on Story Now does not mean a story cannot emerge out of Gamist play. Its just that Gamist play does not prioritize story creation/character development like Nar does. Does that make a player who loves Nar games elitist? Is it wrong to say that Nar facilitating games are good at creating great and moving stories? No. So why does you underwear knot when I describe the natural products of mythic play - an supremely subjective experiential creation process? That is what this CA - what this Creative Agenda PRIORITIZES. Lest I forget, let me remind you of another who has played this CA felt about it -

"On Sunday I played the sixth session of our Spicy Dice Roll game. It's been going so well that it makes me want to make all sorts of outrageously strong claims. Stuff like "This is the game all of you benighted fools fumbling about attempting to tell fantasy epics with D&D are trying to play!" Very ridiculous and outrageously strong claims!" - Jeph at Story-Games

My efforts have NEVER been to denigrate other CA's or elevate mythic-bricolage above others. I have worked very hard to understand what it is that makes this work so that it can be explained and shared with others. Second I have and continue to fight to get it recognized as a legitimate Creative Agenda. Apparently you feel otherwise. So for lack of understanding you dredge up your an old standard that I'm benighted, elitist and what I'm really playing is not a CA at all but "free form" which is just as devoid of useful meaning as "Exploration Squared" and all that other junk that was floating around years ago. If you don't understand that is fine but, please, no ad hominem. If you find my explanations insufficient may I suggest Chris' "On Charitable Reading" and then the reading lists he suggested in his threads - especially on Bricolage and Text and RPG's? Seriously you offered "free form" on Story-Games and I asked you for a working processual definition for it and never game me one. So why are you working against greater understanding by offering confusing and ill or undefined terms rather than working towards better understanding?

I'm arguing that this CA, mythic-bricolage, works in a very specific way and produces specific results. These results are X and for those who like X its really powerful. Where do I get the right to say this is powerful? Because entire cultures live mythic lives giving meaning to the world, their very existence and their place in it. Would not playing a game that acts on those aspects of life in a very first person way be a powerful experience? What's so wrong with saying that as a quality of this CA and a priority of this CA? It doesn't make this CA any better than G/N. I just means that this CA focuses on this things as a priority while other CA's do not. Big whoop. We now have each CA focusing on their own thing. Do not become sloppy or conflate ideas. Take time to read and digest what is and has been said. I also invite others who have not been exposed to this CA to give it try. Its very different from other CA's and if your thing is experiencing first person what it's like to live in another world (or other circumstances very alien to your own) then this CA is the one for you. I want to hear and see how others find this CA. How their experiences were. What they discovered about it. Then not only do we get a better understanding we can also move to making it more accessible to others. Is that not the purpose of these boards?

Let us light some candles rather than curse the darkness.

Best,

Jay

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Crossing our wires here!

Jay,

It seems that, perhaps, I took you to be making rather more strong and grandiose claims than you are actually making. In return, you may be reading what I thought was a kind and light response (e.g. see particularly my last paragraph - I am no trying to accuse you of any wrongdoing here!) as far more stringent than intended.

I’m pretty sure we’re both reasonable people and on the same side - I’m curious about your game, you’re interested in explaining it better - so let’s both make efforts not to escalate this further, shall we?

I think this is actually a pretty fruitful point in the discussion, and I’d like to pursue it further. But I am also going to have very sporadic internet access from dec 25 - Jan 7, so rest assured that if I disappear I am still interested in the discussion and that I haven’t been cheesed off :)

In the meantime, would you like to take the lead on how to resolve this stumbling point, or would you like me to clarify, instead? I’m happy to follow your led if you’d like. I consider you a colleague and a friend - I’m certainly not intending to come across as confrontational. Let me know!

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Here is an interesting quote...

I just happened to stumble on this today, and it seems relevant, so I will leave it here for now:

It’s from an OSR blog.

You see, in Old School play ... fluff is crunch. The sandy floor, moist walls made of soft stone, composition of the gate, and disposition of the kobolds all can feed into the players' improvised plans and the DM's improvised rulings.

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Old times from the Forge,

Hey Paul,

I don't want to be the site curmudgeon. I see that I overreacted and I understand why. The phrasings of your questions as well as your claims all carried the stink of what I dealt with at the Forge. I fought tooth and nail there and should have taken a breath to remind myself that I was not at the Forge despite your phrasing. I defended my position and my bonafides too aggressively for this forum and posters and for that I apologize. I ask of you in the future to cease any notional comments on my character or motives unless you have textual evidence to back it up. If you should bring forth such evidence then I would be obligated to consider whether or not I should continue postings as such behavior is not fit for discussion boards or any civilized discussion.

On another note I would ask, as I have asked in the past, if you wish to use "freeform" as a CA description, then I demand that you also include a description of the process of play. "Freeform" as a name for a CA was a poisonous term when used 15 year ago and it is no less toxic now. Not because "Freeform" (whatever that means as a process of play) is inherently bad, but rather it became the dumping ground of all play that was not understood. It took years to breakout Zilchplay from Sim (or mythic-bricolage if you like) and to get to the understanding that MB IS a CA with its own unique functional mechanism of play and with its own attendant player interests. To use "freeform" as a descriptor for MB is to push the discussion backward 15 years and I'm not interested in giving up ground that was won with so much blood. In all seriousness before you ever use "freeform" again write out the process of play to include with the next time you post using it. I've asked you a couple of times and you've never responded. OK. You don't have the time, but then don't use the term.

Can you see the problem? You say you are excited at how the conversation is progressing then you throw out a regressive term that derails the whole progression. Or if you find "freeform" to be useful then give a solid description of the process of play including what the players are jazzing on and what things the system rewards on a Social Level. If you did that then I'd have no choice but to engage! But to just toss the term out without definition is to lob firebombs on the discussion.

So bad on me for responding too aggressively. Bad on your for using useless but explosive terms. No harm, no foul.

It’s from an OSR blog.

You see, in Old School play ... fluff is crunch. The sandy floor, moist walls made of soft stone, composition of the gate, and disposition of the kobolds all can feed into the players' improvised plans and the DM's improvised rulings.

I'm not sure what you're trying to get at with this quote. If its worth anything I've been shown quotes of "Dave Arneson" that show strong similarities to the CA I've been discussing. Like I've said many times, we didn't invent it but it is extremely rare. Are you suggesting that the quoted player is describing MB? Maybe, but its hard to tell without seeing/reading what the players at the table are responding to and how the reward cycle of the game functions (what is rewarded and how is it rewarded.) Other than that I don't know what to make of the quote.

Best,

Jay

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OSR quote

I can probably expand a little on the context/meaning of the quote.

In case it is not familiar, the OSR means the "Old School Renaissance." This refers to a broad movement that has taken place over about the last 10 or 15 years, where a lot of people (including many younger people) have become interested in playing old versions of D&D from around 1980. This movement has led to the publishing of many new games that are informed by old-school D&D but introduce modern innovations.

Generally, when most people talk about playing an OSR game, I take it to mean something like the following:
- The game is a sandbox. There is no pre-planned story.
- There is a pre-planned environment (usually a dungeon or a wilderness setting). The DM has maps of the environment that the players will explore, with notes saying where the monsters live, where the treasures are hidden, and so on.
- The goal of the game is to get treasure (by exploring the DM's world and finding the places where it is hidden).
- Player characters are defined mainly by what they do during the game, not by the special powers they gain or by a backstory written before the game.
- Player characters are relatively weak and easy to kill, making combat very dangerous. Players need to use clever strategies and negotiate with NPCs in order to survive.
- The rules of the game are very simple (compared to modern D&D). When a situation arises that is not covered by the rules, the DM makes a ruling to decide what happens.
- The main role of the DM is to be a neutral referee, simulating the world in response to player actions.

All this came about partly as a reaction to the type of D&D products that were being published by Wizards of the Coast during the same time, which tended to involve linear storylines, lots of combat, complex rules, and a focus on characters with cool special powers.

Obviously there are many differences between the "OSR" ethos and the game Jay plays, but there are also a few similarities.

Paul's quote nicely highlights one notable similarity: that is, using the established details of the setting to resolve actions, rather than a complex set of mechanical rules.

Some role-playing games have a very sharp delineation between the rules ("crunch") and the fictional story information ("fluff"). For example, D&D 4e would write abilities with a mechanical description like "Melee attack with Strength against Physical Defence. On a hit, deal 4d8 damage" and then a separate fictional description like "You swing your weapon in a powerful arc that sends a shower of sparks flying in all directions." Then players would ignore the "fluff" description because it had no impact on play, and focus only on the rules part.

The author of the quotation wants to emphasize that when playing in an OSR style, the fluff description of something is not ignored, but can be built upon as part of future gameplay. For example, if an attack was described as sending sparks flying in all directions, then using such an attack in an area full of flammable materials might start a fire. In this sense the "fluff" (the fictional description) is "crunch" (part of the rules that impact gameplay). Any fact that becomes established as part of the game world can potentially become significant, and can be re-used by the players or the DM at a later time.

For players coming to an OSR-style game after playing only modern-style D&D (or playing video game RPGs, for that matter), this idea can be an exciting revelation. Basically, they can interact with the world in a way that feels much more "real" than when trying to interact only through hard-coded rules or to interact only in ways anticipated by the game designer.

From what I have seen, this particular feature of OSR play is very similar to the Cary Middle Earth game.

However, if you were to talk about the creative agenda, I would say it is quite different.

Most OSR players tend not to be very interested in any of the Forge theories, but I do recall one OSR blog somewhere that said something along the lines that they thought OSR play was fundamentally gamist, in the sense that it is all about the players overcoming the challenges posed by the GM. This blogger felt that this play style (in the less self-conscious form in which it existed before the OSR) had been badly misunderstood at the Forge, where it was wrongly classified as simulationism. They thought the source of the confusion was that old-school play has a very detailed fantasy world, and the players are very interested in the world and its details--but in fact they [old school players] are mainly interested because the details provide a wealth of tactical options and challenges, not because they are interested in experiencing the world for its own sake.

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Thanks, Billy!

That’s exactly right. I think it’s pretty safe to say that much OSR is Gamist (or at least leans heavily in that direction), but this is an example of how its adherents see value in a feature of this style of play which is also a part of the sort of game Jay is describing. I wanted to highlight this as an example of how we should try hard not to confuse the medium with the message: it’s possible to see technical and design similarities between games with wildly different Creative Agendas, so we must be careful not to conflate them. (More on this later, hopefully! If I don’t get to it before I leave on my trip, I promise to return to it in the second week of January :) .)

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Thanks for the heads up!

Hi Billy,

I deeply appreciate you taking the time and effort in laying out so clearly what OSR means. It will help me (and hopefully many others in the future) when discussing or referencing this mode of role-play. I have more to say but I caught this just as I was signing off for the night.

Paul,

If I don't see you on the boards before your "internet" holiday I do want to wish you, "Happy Holidays," beforehand!

Best,

Jay

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Sim was not understood at the Forge -

Hi Billy,

[...]They thought the source of the confusion was that old-school play has a very detailed fantasy world, and the players are very interested in the world and its details--but in fact they [old school players] are mainly interested because the details provide a wealth of tactical options and challenges, not because they are interested in experiencing the world for its own sake.

I believe that poster was correct in his analysis. No more than a handful of posters (at least nothing very little that I had read) at the Forge showed that they had any handle at all on Sim (Walt Freitag comes to mind – I wonder where he is and how he’s doing...). Chris Lehrich had some articles that I had read that paralleled my game experiences very closely which also offered an understanding to the process of play. We posted and PM'd and came to the general understanding that what I was posting about and his studies of myth and pre-literate cultures functioned very similarly.

Back to the quote.

That posters conflated an interest in the physical items of a fictional world with the Sim/MB game play process was a huge problem and disentangling them from Zilchplay and OSR was only just starting to gain traction when the Forge self-terminated. The very phrase “tactical options and challenges” employed in the quote by the OSR poster is a very strong tell of the Gamist CA. It’s not just enough that a game strongly “uses” the fictional world (“fluff” – that very word itself indicates a huge demarcation in CA priorities between Sim/Mythic-Bricolage and Gamism) as an element of Exploration but the how and why the players interact with the fictional world that is the CA tell.

As Paul T noted above -

it’s possible to see technical and design similarities between games with wildly different Creative Agendas, so we must be careful not to conflate them.

Indeed. This is a problem that I’ve had since I first started posting at the Forge and have been bumping into ever since, even here at Fictioneers. As I’ve noted in a couple of posts here when confronted with questions about whether such and such a game is MB or something else I’ve asked what the players were focusing on and got all jazzed about. Let’s go back to basics and recall the definition of a Creative Agenda. A Creative Agenda is not defined by Techniques but by player “[…] aesthetic priorities and any matters of imaginative interest regarding role-playing. […]” The Forge Provisional Glossary. The Sim/MB aesthetic priority lies in the prioritization of the experiential creative interaction with a fictional world from a supremely subjective point of view. As a technique Bricolage has been demonstrated to appear in all CA’s of role-play but only in Sim/MB is mythic-bricolage an aesthetic priority. MB is not only the aesthetic but also serves as the process of play that draws a player into the fictional world in a deeply personal, rich and creative manner. FREX – The OSR quoted player wasn’t interested in the fictional world as an aesthetic priority or as an experience but rather as a means to Stepping On Up more creatively and effectively. The Sim/MB player is looking to enrich their experience of the fictional world on an intense level while also adding and expanding to said world. This is why looking at techniques is an ineffective way to understand what the players at the table are really focused on. As far as I’m concerned looking at techniques as a guiding light to understanding what the Sim/MB CA is foolish.

The difficulty most people are struggling with is that myth is not a Technique because it is not a specific procedure or a specific set of procedures. It is a way of thinking. As a way of thinking it creates, alters, mutates and expands System all the time. It is what myth does. But the way myth functions it never really feels like we are tooling and retooling Techniques at all, it feels like we are discovering how the world works even though we are the very authors of how said fictional world works! That two different CA’s should both happen to put a superficially common emphasis on “Setting” shouldn’t come as a surprise. “Dogs in the Vineyard” puts a heavy emphasis on “Setting” as does OSR Gamism but that doesn’t mean they are the same CA. Neither should such a conflation exist between Sim/MB and OSR or DitV.

I’ve come to see that the whole “Spicy Die Roll” thing turned out to be a huge red herring because it focused on a Mechanic and not a Creative Agenda; Mythic-Bricolage. This has led a lot of people astray as they are still focused on Mechanics as defining or informing the definition of the CA. It was useful in getting people to make that first step in understanding MB but in the end it has acted as a hindrance to a fuller understanding of the CA. As I’ve argued many, many times those things that are called and used as “mechanics” in G/N are utterly different/alien in MB. In MB the analog of “mechanics” are found, such as they are, in the myth (and the source material) and not in printed rules sets. Myth is about “meaning in life” and used in a RPG as a process of play it becomes “creating meaningful experiences and a meaning filled fictional world” via a highly subjective process.

To that the end I’ve not conflated “technical” and “design similarities” between wildly different CA’s because I completely understand that MB play does not, cannot support any “technical” design considerations in the first place. Though I may have not used the phraseology employed in the above quote I’ve been arguing that point for years. It is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to understanding this CA. This is why asking for modules or similarly comfortable and known design items flies in the face of what and how MB works. At this theoretical stage of discovering what MB is, such items common to the hobby of role-play to date (modules, et al.) are extremely confounding and confusing. Later, when we all have a better understanding of MB then maybe the mythic analogs to modules could be created. But I promise that they won’t look like anything that currently exists in the hobby right now.

Some Christmas Eve ramblings.

Best,

Jay

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That's a very interesting

That's a very interesting rambling at that. First because it brings back context, second because of the technique / CA divide it reaffirms.

For me I understand "the prioritization of the experiential creative interaction with a fictional world from a supremely subjective point of view" as, more plainly, "getting to live in the (fiction) world". I can relate to that personally, with very specific instances of games I played with that agenda.

I have a personal model for agendas that resonates somewhat with that too, but never with a the exact Mythic agenda you describe. I want to ask the question that stems from that, knowing that the question is somehow inadequate, because it comes from my own perspective and model, rather than taking the Mythic agenda you propose as a starting point. I'll let you judge if it's worth answering : see, for me, the "pure form" of the Mythic agenda isn't about supreme subjectivity, but rather about the world.

To me, the subjective viewpoint of a character is just a way to get the world, but the world is what we're after primarily. And you can have secondary additions, like exploring the personality and subjective "filter" of a character, or enjoying the way events turn out, or sharing a ritual with people around the table. I'll give an example of how the world can be a primary focus with an "external viewpoint" : let's say we make a vignette zooming on a grasshopper, and give information about its species, and follow it up to the point when it gets eaten by a toad (without underlying theme or maxim, just like that, as a raw fact of the world), I say this is enjoying the world for itself. The question is then : do you think the subjective point of view from a character perspective matters so much in this agenda, by nature, or that you found the two intertwined by accident - or rather by tradition, because rpg=dnd=start with PC generation ? Isn't the character just "a means to an end" here ? Maybe the "subjectivity", if essential to the agenda, is not necessarily that of a character ?

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Simulationism == Myth?

What's the relationship between 'mythic-bricolage' and 'simulationism', exactly? Because a lot of things that I would call 'simulationist' (such as FATE, Gumshoe, or CoC) are not at all the same thing as we're discussing here, even if they both seem to fit the overall definition of 'simulationism'. And it seems more fundamental than just a difference of techniques.

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Its Not an Example of Role-Play

Hi DeReel,

For me I understand "the prioritization of the experiential creative interaction with a fictional world from a supremely subjective point of view" as, more plainly, "getting to live in the (fiction) world".

The two phrasings are identical to my understanding with yours being a much more accessible and easier to wrap one’s mind around. I use my phrasing for its exactness when discussing the idea on a theory level. In a general conversation with players I would definitely employ your phrasing.

The example you provide is difficult and will require much parsing to sort it all out. I’ll start with the “subjective” issue first. The subjectivity of myth and thus MB is baked into the process. This very first step in myth is to identify something physical that has a property that you need but that process always reflects back on the person(s) creating a myth. IOW the myth creator establishes a relationship between the physical object and himself/humanity as a whole. FREX a rock isn’t identified as a “rock” but rather a hardness that is greater than a man’s ability to crush – or something of the like. The point is, at the very start, every physical object’s “meaning” is found in its relationship to man. How does this rock fit in with my greater understanding of the world and my place in it? Everything has its place, its purpose and its role in reality as the mythic cultures understands it. It’s just how myth works. It is subjective from the get go. There is no “objective” reality, there is only the mythic understanding which is all encompassing, internalized and lived out. There is no “other” because anything “new” is worked into the greater mythic corpus and becomes part of entirety of their subjective map of reality. Subjectivity cannot be separated from myth as it is fundamental (and foundational) to myth.

WRT role-playing the subjective state of the player isn’t just a way to get into the world, it’s a by-product of what happens when you engage in mythic thinking. It is unavoidable. To think mythically is to think subjectively.

To me, the subjective viewpoint of a character is just a way to get the world, but the world is what we're after primarily. And you can have secondary additions, like exploring the personality and subjective "filter" of a character, or enjoying the way events turn out, or sharing a ritual with people around the table.

There are many issues with “just the world.” The first is that as human beings everything we sense about the world, any world, is filters through our senses and processed through our previous experiences and thus biases. It is absolutely inescapable to experience something, like a “world” without bias/subjectivity. The question becomes whether we engage that subjectivity openly or passively (by trying to ignore it). But the bigger problem I’m having is the extremely vagueness of what is meant by “the world.” Do you mean just the physical things of the world as objects? Or does that include the cultures of any sentients that inhabit that “world.” Do we go further into the “world” and include the lives of individuals all the way up to nations or entire worlds (or more perhaps)? Does “the world” include conflicts? What is it that draws you to a “world”? I’m assuming it more than its geography, yes? We want to enter the “world” of Star Wars not because of the cool ships but because of the struggle of the Alliance against the predatory Empire. The struggles of the people to survive in such a fraught environment. One cannot stay “neutral” as the Empire will not allow it. You are either with it, subject to it or an enemy of it. If you want to feel what it’s like to be in such a “world” then you have to have a point of view. Do you want to feel what it’s like to be part of the Empire then the character your playing will have to shaped in a way that allows for that point of view. IOW why? Who is this person that feels this way? Do you want to be free? Why? Are you looking to just live your life or are you taking up a cause? Either way to “experience” the “world” you have to be directly subject to it.

There was one poster long ago at the Forge who argued that acting as a tourist on a “world”, that is travelling about it but not getting involved in any way was Sim/MB. The problem was that without Creative Input they have no Creative Agenda. Eventually this play was shorn off from Sim/MB and given the unfortunate name of Zilchplay. The term was not meant to be derogatory or be a pejorative but no one could figure out a name that describe such play where the players were interested in the “world” but were not active in it in any substantial way. He literally described his play as playing Tourists. If they enjoyed that mode of play more power to them. There is nothing “wrong” with it. That being said it is also play without a CREATIVE Agenda. The players were not actively involved in the problems of the sentient peoples of the world. And to become involved means taking a point of view which means a subjective point of view.

For myself, FREX, I love Middle Earth for its peoples, its themes, its history and struggles. Yet if I love its history and struggles I’ve already taken a point of view on them. I am acting subjectively and in game I will thus be acting subjectively. I’m not merely observing or consuming, I’m interacting and creating.

I'll give an example of how the world can be a primary focus with an "external viewpoint" : let's say we make a vignette zooming on a grasshopper, and give information about its species, and follow it up to the point when it gets eaten by a toad (without underlying theme or maxim, just like that, as a raw fact of the world), I say this is enjoying the world for itself.

Definitionally what you described was not a moment of roleplay. What you described was either the act of someone reading something prepared out loud or speaking extemporaneously but there was no System, Situation, Character or even player(!) involvement (i.e. interaction). It was not Exploration as defined –

“The imagination of fictional events, established through communicating among one another. Exploration includes five Components: Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color.”

You can’t have role-play without Character. Now there are games where one player does not have sole ownership of Character but Character must always be present for the GAME to be classified as role-play. What you offered in your example does not qualify as role-play in and of itself. Also note that we have no Situation available in the example. The example you offered, as presented, is indistinguishable from that of listening to a podcast. Whatever it is that you offered it cannot be analyzed simply because it isn’t an example of role-play. There is no Exploration happening. Without Exploration I can’t even begin to discuss CA. My apologies.

Best,

Jay

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I'll need to Research -

Hi Aik,

I've not played any of the three games you mentioned so I'll have to do research before I can constructively answer. I've read some Actual Play accounts but that was long ago. Sorry.

Best,

Jay

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Too bad my example doesn't

Too bad my example doesn't work for you. I understand that a world is lived in from a point of view. It's also a compound of networks (ecological, sociological, etc.). Creating it may not be role playing but it sure is (collaborative) storytelling. No worries, I'll have to try harder and see how I can approach Mythic play style without a GM.

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Now we're getting into semantics...

Hi Aik,

What's the relationship between 'mythic-bricolage' and 'simulationism', exactly? Because a lot of things that I would call 'simulationist' (such as FATE, Gumshoe, or CoC) are not at all the same thing as we're discussing here, even if they both seem to fit the overall definition of 'simulationism'. And it seems more fundamental than just a difference of techniques.

I've taken some time to hunt YouTube and watch videos of games of FATE and CoC being played. I admit that such exposure is not anywhere near exhaustive but I do feel I got a fair sense of the nature of the game play of those two systems. FATE, from what it saw, is definitely Narrativist leaning as designed. That doesn't mean players can't take play the game in a different CA but the mechanics definitely tend directly towards story creation. CoC was a bit muddier but it to felt like High Setting vanilla Narrativism.

The problem with "Simulationism" as defined in the past (specifically at the Forge) was that the definition completely and utterly failed to describe a process of play like they did with Gamism and Narrativism. Thus on one hand we have a problem of semantics, what does Simulationism mean, and on the other hand a problem of a lack of Sim CA definition. As for the latter Narrativism's central motivating process of play was described as Address of Premise while Gamism's central motivating process of play was described as Address of Challenge. Simulationism was never described with its central motivating process of play. Thus, in the end, Simulationism was never properly defined. Because of the lack of definition of the motivating process of play Simulationism became a dumping ground for games that either didn't have a central motivating process of play (Zilchplay) or games that were so poorly designed such that no CA could properly be expressed without large amounts of rule editing/drifting.

Just to be sure that we're all on the same page Exploration (which is the action that defined roleplay as roleplay and not Improv Theater, or a board game, or Tennis, reading a book, et. al.) requires that players have substantive input to the events that are proceeding. Not just Color dialogue among the characters but real game altering input to the Situation at hand. Second I want to make sure that we're all on the same page with the idea that Setting/Color heavy games != Simulationism. Setting and Color are elements of Exploration but are not the central motivating processes of play. They do not define a CA and thus do not define Simulationism - whatever that definition may end up being.

Now, I've proposed a motivating central process of play with mythic-bricolage. As a proposed definition, MB provides both the Aesthetic concerns and the central process of play. MB also has the neat natural effect of altering one's sense of the here and now to that of the fictional world. Hence the moniker, Simulationism. Through player input and interaction the players create a visceral sense of being there. The process is deeply subjective and strongly experiential both strong indicators of disappearing into a creation or Simulation if you like. It could be said to be creating the "Dream" in the Right to Dream (a turn of phrase that I loathe with every molecule in my body! Right to Dream? Bah! If dream must be invoked then the phrase employed should be "Dare to Dream!")

However, that is a definition and process that I am still working on and trying to sort out. My efforts are not complete.

So I ask you, Aik, can you offer up a central motivating process of play definition for Simulationism? I'm curious because as I've asked this question for about 15 years no one has offered one up that covers all the above - Active player input, what the central process of play is, what the central creative aesthetic is. To my understanding the very few definitions of Simulationism I've seen lack one or all of those three items I've listed just previously. Those game systems that have been labeled as Simulationist in the past are really just an accident of history. People point to these game systems and utter "Simulationism" but they can never describe the central motivating process of play i.e., how the Simulationist Creative Agenda works.

Like I said, I've offered a tentative definition that addresses all these issues but I'll admit I might be wrong. But I'll need to read that definition of play first to be convinced. So...convince me!!! Maybe I've stumbled onto a 4th CA, but so far I haven't found any evidence to suggest so. I look forward to your response!

Best,

Jay

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hmm

We're getting into the weeds of semantics here, but I think I see what you mean. Might you say, then, that MB is the epitome, or a "best practice" example of that broad category we call "Simulationism"?

The key difference - if there is one, since the roles of Players and GMs always already differed - is that your writings on MB seem to place premiere focus on the subjective/phenomenological, over and above the objective/material, and above the thematic/narrative. That is to say: the Characters' point of view is considered over both Players and GMs, affect is considered over verisimilitude, mythic logic over narrative structure, and Character Stance over Player or Author Stance.

Am I with you still?

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Gumshoe

Problem is, I don't really understand why people like these games, or what motivates them to play them. As I said up-thread, Archipelago is the first (and only) time I've found something that fits the description of 'simulationism' to be fun, and that seems to align with your ideas.

But I have played a few 'investigative' games - mostly Cthulhu-derived stuff - so I'll give it a go anyway. Trail of Cthulhu is probably the exemplar of the style I'm thinking of. The basic setup of these games is that there's an extensive predefined module that lays out the mystery, clues, NPCs etc. for the GM. It isn't a linear adventure though - more a big collection of stuff to fiddle with, and the more clues you find the deeper you understand what's going on. I think that's basically the heart of the game - the players interact with the fiction to find out more about it, and what they find out depends on where they focus their attention and how they react to what they find.

I am quite sure there is no addressing of premise or overcoming challenge going on here (well, I have played one game where there was a great deal of addressing premise, but I think that more highlighted how bad the actual investigative game setup is for doing that). The clues aren't something you puzzle out - they're handed out if you interact with the right thing and the mechanics decide how much information you get from it - but there's always enough to keep exploring further. The point seems to be to dig into the setting through the lens of your character and see what you find - does that sound like a 'motivating process of play' to you?

Possibly there's a bunch of zilchplay mixed in here though - sometimes it does feel like an elaborate way of presenting prewritten material. But what the players do does (or at least can) change the situation significantly - if you decide to investigate the house where the murder happened instead of poking around the mayor's office, you might get an entirely different story, and have an entirely different understanding of what happened than the group who played the same game and went to the mayor's office. There is legitimate creative input from the players as well in how they portray their characters and interact with the set pieces and NPCs, so saying that there's no creative agenda here at all seems wrong, and as the goal seems to be exploration for exploration's sake, that fits under the umbrella of 'simulationism' as I understand it.

But yeah - unfortunately I don't actually like these games at all - I might have it totally wrong. I'm also not superinvested in defending these games as being simulationist - but I don't know what else to call them - and it does seem distinctly different from myth. All that said, this might be a fairly unproductive side-discussion to go down...

(Googled a bit and this seems to have some short, illustrative examples of what successful gameplay like this should look like, which matches my experiences pretty well: https://site.pelgranepress.com/index.php/evil-pelgranes-bad-gumshoe-advice/ )

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It is time

It is time for our annual reminder that even Ron does not use the GNS model anymore, because reasons.

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Well sure

Well sure - but no one's bothered to replace it with something better yet, so until someone does it's still kinda the best thing we have.

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Good Questions!

Hi Tod,

Good questions.

Might you say, then, that MB is the epitome, or a "best practice" example of that broad category we call "Simulationism"?

I have thought about the idea of a "broad category" a fair bit. The problem we run into time and again is that those games that have traditionally been lumped into Simulationism lack any common central motivating process of play, i.e., they lack those properties that allow them to be even categorized into a Creative Agenda. At least as accounted by design considerations. They are a mishmash of Techniques, usually task related, that fail to empower players to pursue their mutual creation and appreciation of the totality of the fictional world at a subjective level. Maybe in the end historical inertia will continue to categorize these games as Simulationist but it will be a distinction/name without useful meaning. If that becomes the case then MB as a Creative Agenda would by necessity be called something else.

As far as "best practice" goes I'm not sure how to parse that. Its sort of like asking if a game design that focuses on Address of Premise is "best practice" for Narrativism. Address of Premise is what you do in Narrativism. It defines the CA. MB is not so much "best practice" as much as it is expressing the CA process as defined (tentatively, but functionally).

The key difference - if there is one, since the roles of Players and GMs always already differed - is that your writings on MB seem to place premiere focus on the subjective/phenomenological, over and above the objective/material, and above the thematic/narrative.

The reason for the premiere focus on the subjective/phenomenological is that is exactly how myth works. It is a framework of relationships that includes the place of human beings in that framework on a personal level. The structures are not "abstract" but "real" and must include the "I". Ipso Facto myth is not, cannot acknowledge the "objective" though it is rooted exceptionally deep in the concrete of the "real" world. Abstract thinking (the antithesis of mythic thinking) though attempts to remove the personal relationship of the individual with the rest of reality but abstract thinking functions at remove from the material. Myth is so tied to the material that the myth changes as the material world changes. Abstract thought, while it will consider the differences in the changes of the material world still functions at the same remove of the ephemeral of ideas. Also MB has nothing to say about theme/narrative per say as that is the realm of Narrativism. MB creates myth, not stories. I'm not trying to be rude here but on a certain level what was quoted above is almost a tautology. Of course mythic play is subjective - its how myth functions. Its akin to saying of course Narrativism produces story - its how Narrativism functions. You see? I just want to make clear that the qualities you described are not creative choices but rather baked in qualities to the process of play. Does that make better sense? We don't choose to play subjectively but rather playing MB results in subjective play. Better? Worse?

That is to say: the Characters' point of view is considered over both Players and GMs [...]

Actually, for the greatest emotive bang for your buck in this mode of play you don't think about "Character POV" as an abstraction but rather you collapse the two as much as possible (not completely as that would effectively Dissociative Behavior) so that you don't think about Character at all. You become the Character. That's the "Simulation". You want to know what it's like to be a Jedi or an Elf place yourself in their shoes, get sensory input that only they can receive (as delivered by the GM) and live as best you can as how a Jedi or an Elf would live. A conceit of our game is that we remove the "dull" parts of regular day to day life to keep the game moving and interesting. Conflict is an excellent choice for making life "interesting". The GM definitely has a POV as he is making constantly making choices for what to include in the world and what to leave out. In fact, for this system of play to work, the GM has the extremely difficult role of being both deeply involved with events while not removing player agency. You can't GM MB without being deeply and personally involved in the source material and the events of the game itself. Going back to the improv jazz analogy the GM has to both intimately know the Standard and have strong feelings about it (a POV) so that he can improv effectively with the rest of the ensemble while at the same time introduce new motifs and what not to keep challenging his ensemble to keep creating in new ways in response to the introduction of these new motifs. However these new motifs must have a strong relationship with the Standard. Not easy, but necessary. Just as the improv jazz "band leader" might introduce these new directions to the music being created so does the GM in MB purposefully and mindfully (not subjectively) introduce new elements into the world (the bricoleur's closet) while maintaining the aesthetic (which is, definitionally, subjective - myth).

[...] affect is considered over verisimilitude [...]

To a limited degree that is true. But the problem with the idea of verisimilitude is the very definition of verisimilitude. No simulation can be a perfect representation of a reality. But that's hair splitting considering that games the so value so called verisimilitude are no where close to a close representation to a reality. When firing an arrow do we takin into account the physics of the unbending of the limbs of the bow taking into account the age of the materials, how temperature, air pressure, humidity, imperfections in the materials, how the flexion and compression changes over time, the weight and coefficient of drag of the shape of the arrow, the drag of the fletchings and how they effect the flight of the arrow, the rate of acceleration and the energy loss of the flexion of the arrow when released, current wind conditions, how tired the archer is, how hungry the archer is, the archer's specific skill with the weapon, etc, etc, etc. and this is nothing to say about how the damage the arrow does to the target is calculated. Verisimilitude is a garbage term to describe what is really an individual player's aesthetic response to the crunch of system.

Given that how an individual perceives and constructs their map of reality that MB is better equipped to give a sense of a real physical living world than a game system that relies on crunch. We all know that game system are NOT accurate representation of objective reality. There is way too much to model and the mathematics would be insanely complex. But as far as the individual is concerned their subjective sensory filtered understanding of reality IS Reality, thus a game system that specifically deals with one's relationship with reality (their internal map of reality as a sensory process) as the heart of the game process will give a much stronger sense of verisimilitude than rolling dice.

[...] mythic logic over narrative structure [...]

Again a tautology as we're not playing a Narrativist prioritized game. Note Gamism also puts Challenge above narrative structure.

[...] Character Stance over Player or Author Stance.[...]

That happens naturally when one engages in MB. Its not a creative choice but the natural outgrowth of the process of engaging in MB just like Story is the natural outcome of Narrativist play even if the players on not focused on "Story" but making interesting decisions for their character.

I don't know if I've effectively addressed what you wanted me to address. Let me know.

Best,

Jay

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Perfect.

Yup. My terms come from my stance, which is external to your subject - like a sociologist looking at a culture - and thus we are in agreement, even when it seems to you I'm being tautological (my pedantry is for any third-party reader, western mindset and all). Just checking to make sure I am still following.

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Excellent!

Hi Tod,

Just as a matter of record I did agree with much of your post but was concerned with the arrows of causality. I just wanted to make sure they were pointing in the correct direction. There is much in MB that is "backward" from G/N and I wanted to address that. I'm glad my post was of some use to you.

Best,

Jay

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Hi Aik,

Hi Aik,

I am quite sure there is no addressing of premise or overcoming challenge going on here (well, I have played one game where there was a great deal of addressing premise, but I think that more highlighted how bad the actual investigative game setup is for doing that).

I'll buy what you're saying as I only watched people play the game and having never played it myself. The Sanity track is what made me think Vanilla Nar. That the rest of the game is set to overcoming challenges (task resolution) made me think Gamism. Several reviews that I read strongly suggested that CoC is a really bad game design with incoherent Techniques that wander all over the map CA wise.

[...] The basic setup of these games is that there's an extensive predefined module that lays out the mystery, clues, NPCs etc. for the GM. It isn't a linear adventure though - more a big collection of stuff to fiddle with [...]

Here we come to an excellent example of where MB differs from the old conventional undefined Sim. For a loooooong time Sim play was conflated with the useless term "verisimilitude" and a "rich" Setting. But looking at either neither points to a method of play. In MB you establish strong emotive bonds between the Character and the totality of the Setting in a ways that matter to the actual Player but in the actual process you the player extend the Setting and your Character. IOW - engage in mythic-bricolage. So while CoC has lots fiddly bits in the Setting the game play process does not establish meaningful relationships to those things of the world nor do the players expand the Setting nor their Character through play. Going on an Easter Egg hunt is not equivalent to MB. On the other hand, having read the rules to Archipelago I can see the designers worked very hard to encourage the players to developed those very types of meaningful relationships between the characters and the "world."

The point seems to be to dig into the setting through the lens of your character and see what you find - does that sound like a 'motivating process of play' to you?

No. While the particulars of this specific game the Characters might be motivated to find clues the 'motivating process of play' functions at the player level. What is motivating the players to play in this particular mode of play, e,g., Address of Premise, Address of Challenge, or engage in the creative improvisational act of Mythic-Bricolage? A game can have Characters looking for clues and be of any of the CA's. What "motivates" the Characters is not what is important, its what "motivates" the players to play a certain way that is critical. We must always try and remember that when speaking of Creative Agendas.

I'm also not superinvested in defending these games as being simulationist - but I don't know what else to call them - and it does seem distinctly different from myth. All that said, this might be a fairly unproductive side-discussion to go down...

I hear ya. Right now all I can tentatively offer is either Zilchplay games if speaking of the players or Incoherent if we are speaking of game design. The jury is still out for me regarding this "side-discussion" as this phenomena of play is widespread and stands tall in the history of the hobby - even if its just to say that the hobby of role-play doesn't have to be like "this". I don't know. It certainly doesn't help with understanding MB but I think there is a history that might shed some light about why MB is so rare despite it being so enjoyable to those few who have had the opportunity to play it. In general the hobby started off from table top wargaming and evolved into what it is today. It took a long time to sort out Gamist and Narrativist priorities and given the crushing propensity to deterministic resolution mechanics bricolage, being the opposite thereof and virtually extinct in the West could never evolve. Despite that most people jumped into the hobby to play in a fantasy setting! but had no pointers within the culture at large about how to achieve they effect they were after - an experiential game.

Thanks for the link. I watch it as soon as possible.

Best,

Jay

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Just to clarify - I'm talking

Just to clarify - I'm talking about Trail of Cthulhu, not Call of Cthulhu. They have the same theme and basic gameplay, but Trail of Cthulhu is a much narrower, more focused design that really hones in on the investigative gameplay. I think it's reasonably coherent from a game design perspective - much moreso than CoC.

I'm pretty sure uncovering the backstory, learning more, and soaking up the atmosphere - is what motivates the players. What it reminds me most of is point-and-click adventure games where the puzzles are trivially easy and just lead to more story/trivial puzzles. The challenge of the puzzles, such as it is, isn't the point of the game - it's just context/something active to do while you enjoy the atmosphere and find stuff out. But finding stuff out isn't a creative agenda. So, zilchplay then, I guess?

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Gotcha - Trail of Cthulhu...my bad!

Hi Aik,

Just to clarify - I'm talking about Trail of Cthulhu, not Call of Cthulhu. They have the same theme and basic gameplay, but Trail of Cthulhu is a much narrower, more focused design that really hones in on the investigative gameplay. I think it's reasonably coherent from a game design perspective - much moreso than CoC.

Now that we're talking about the same game system (doh!) I am in agreement with you about ToC being a more coherent game design. Full disclosure - I've only watched the game system being played and read commentary about how its designed. I've neither read the rules nor played them myself.

The challenge of the puzzles, such as it is, isn't the point of the game - it's just context/something active to do while you enjoy the atmosphere and find stuff out. But finding stuff out isn't a creative agenda. So, zilchplay then, I guess?

Sounds that way. There's the delivery of lots of Color by the GM and, like you said, there's very little substantive input by the Players. It is, in the end, a primarily a game of consumption and not creation on the part of the players. Which isn't to say its not fun for those who enjoy such play, but it certainly doesn't have a Creative Agenda.

Best,

Jay

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