GNS as Resolution Criteria

While GNS “creative agendas” are often used in the context of what players want from a game, or what type of play a game system supports, I think of them instead as modes of resolution.  When deciding what events will transpire, the GM could take any of the GNS modes into account.  In gamist resolution, the primary criteria for deciding how the story procedes is “What sets up interesting challenges for the party?”  In narrativist resolution, the primary criteria is “What makes a good/interesting/exciting/fun story?”  In simulationist resolution, the primary criteria is “What is most likely to happen within the game world in response to these events?”

This way of looking at GNS promotes a slightly different usage of the terms “gamist,” “narrativist,” and “simulationist.”  When viewed as a creative agenda, one might say “This player is gamist.”  But when viewed as criteria for choosing what events come next, the GM is the sole deciding party.  We might say “This player prefers gamist resolution,” but only the GM can actually be gamist.  Another interesting outcome of this shift is that the 3 modes are no longer mutually contradictory.  In theory, a particular choice of what happens next can satisfy what would really happen, what sets up interesting challenges, and what makes a good story.  Of course sometimes these priorities will clash, and that will necessitate that the three modes be prioritized according to what is most important to the group, but they can all coexist in the same turn of events.

The three resolution mode questions, when prioritized by the group, make an excellent piece of technology for the GM to improve a game.  By asking themself those three questions when deciding an outcome, the GM can more closely match the types of resolution that the players prefer, and frequently satisfy players with different preferences at the same time.

  • What is most likely to happen within the game world in response to these events?
  • What sets up interesting challenges for the party?
  • What makes a good/interesting/exciting/fun story?
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2 Responses to GNS as Resolution Criteria

  1. This is the threefold model, essentially, just so you know.

  2. karl says:

    Of course it is! Just viewing it through a lens I hadn’t before. The important part is thinking about resolution criteria, like someone suggested in posing the “sniper test.”

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