Actor Stance and Party Unity: Antithetical?

September 12, 2007

This post and its continuation shed some light on why keeping character and player knowledge entirely seperate does little to keep the party together.  Basically, since the players don’t want the party to split up and all lose spotlight time, each character needs a reason to stay with the group.  This tends to lead to the perennial question “Why am I going with you this time?” which becomes increasingly difficult to answer.  There are a few common solutions.  One possibility is to allow pawn stance play, in which the character does what the player wants (i.e. stays with the party) whether or not it is plausible based on the character.  With this solution, you lose strong character motivations.  Another is to provide strong party based reasons to stay together, such as all characters working for the same employer who sends them on missions together.  With this solution, it becomes much harder to work in personal issues.  In both cases, you lose something in order to achieve party unity.

In the linked post, Mike Holmes describes a third option, which is to allow author stance – the use of player knowledge to affect character actions, but with in character plausibility/justification.  With this stance allowed, the concept of “party” becomes much less important, and splitting up doesn’t have the effect of reducing spotlight time.  This is because players can plausibly involve themselves in interesting scenes (that the player knows about but the character doesn’t) whenever they choose.

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GNS as Resolution Criteria

August 28, 2007

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?