Monday, 10 August 2015

[Thoughts] Roleplay Gamers, World Simulation Vs / And Story

I wrote this topic several moths back, after discussion online about Simulation vs Story, then recently someone pointed me in the direction of the GNS Theory from Ron Edwards and Aaron Hoffmans opinion of it. Yes, it seemed to match up with my Simulation vs Story theories, but introduced the third Gamist (which I always thought of as a immature board gamer who disrupts the real RPGers)  to the table.. So now I've had to re-write this blog notes:
Arguments of World-Simulation vs Story-Roleplayer, now add Board Game Geek and maybe a Gamificator for good measure! 

Are you a board gamer, a war gamer or a listener?

My Initial foray into the psychology of roleplay was about the two. Simulationist vs Storyteller. This was aimed more at GMs, I felt that often a Storyteller was more railroady. The Players make some choices that follow the story that the GM (or for World of Darkness, the actually storyteller) has in mind, and provided the GM is the wolf and the players are sheep, they all get to have their own kind of fun.

Can you tell that I'm a Simulationist?

I have/had/will have again players who care not for their character sheet, level progression, bonuses, etc, they want to act out their part, partake in the story and enjoy themselves. They ask the rules lawyers what would be the best choice in their character progression. My own system was designed to guide these players to make it easier for them, the player is a fighter? he fights? he gets experience as a fighter and his fighting skills get better. He knows he's a fighter and feels like a fighter, so there is no need for him to care about min/maxing his skill set with a stealth attack or a spell, and besides, he's probably forget to use them, because when a creature walks into the dungeon, the fighter grabs his weapon and fights.
Then there are the rules lawyers, they study their own numbers with meticulous care, and make sure that they have their stats just perfect, balanced in the best way possible. and I'm covered there, because I think that way myself. (I think that to be a half decent game designer, you sorta need to be a rules lawyer to GM)

But when I encountered board gamers, I was always under the impression, they had just not yet learnt how to roleplay, and like a child in school who just doesn't get the lesson, they lash out in ways to 'make the game fun' or 'amp up the excitement' I never once thought that this was a sub-group unto itself.

GNS Theory

Firstly, While a long time reader of Psychology profiling, Personality Bartle Tests, GNS is new to me, so forgive me for the errors in interpretations, this is my own take on what 've read so far.

So Gamism is when you make the decisions based on extrinsic motivators. You form a party, and you are instantly friends, because that's the way the game is played. You go to the tavern and talk with the old man, to get the quest and then you complete the quest and get the gold and the girl/boy/victim and save the day. Because its a game, man! Meta Gaming could be considered gamism, checking on your friend in another room because you know that he just fell in a pit of acid, but you state.. "I haven't seen GunThar in a bit, I might just go check on him. "

Board Games that mimic roleplay (Descent, Heroquest, Talisman) are very Gamist, its practically the definition of a Gamist Game. So Often when I was balking at D&D and Pathfinder, It wasn't that those games suck, it was because they cater to the Gamism mentality, which I like some of, but as a Simulationist, I can't cope with. [I re-wrote the rules to Heroquest just months after I got it for my 14th Christmas to include XP]

Narrativism is roleplaying. Special voices, being angry or sad at appropriate moments, making sure you make choices, not based on if its the smartest thing to do, or the most efficient, but because its what my character would do. Well, maybe that's the simulationists perspective on Narrativism.

I've noticed alot of games are pushing towards Narrativism recently, which I applaud when done well, but they seem to be pulling away from the other end of the spectrum(s) Games coming out with little to no rules, arbitrary decision making, the GM is more like, telling a story, and the players are like, following along.. like Vampire, but without a character-sheet and experience points.

Simulationism is a Virtual world, Immersion by the players is achieved by making sure nothing outside of the parameters of the world, and rules, is broken (except the occasional 4th wall for humour). The game rules ensure that the world and its 'defined bubble of physics' is kept whole, so the players can make decisions quickly to create a fun experience.

Now, its pretty true that not many games can achieve this, and the ones that do are sometimes so grey/bland across their system, that takes away from the game play itself. I've read from some posts, players quoting how little fun it is to create a character and then get killed in the first session, because of realism. GMs are expected to fudge the dice to keep players alive long enough for the plot to become apparent, then if the player makes a stupid move, its his own fault after that.. Not every tavern would have an old man, and not every quest should be tailored for the players level.

Now, while I tend to lean towards the Simulation, I am trying as hard as possible to find the middle ground in all three. Or.. possibly, if I was to follow other theories.. all four:


Hedgehobbit said...

When you say "Narrativism is [snip] being angry or sad at appropriate moments," do you mean that the player is angry or sad or that the player is pretending that his character is angry or sad? I see those as two entirely different things.

If a player is playing his character as sad only because the game mechanics are telling him that his character is sad or because acting sad will earn the player some sort of meta-game point, then that, to me, is gamism.

Bannister Nicholas said...

[remember, its not my theory, I'm just commenting/interpreting what I read a few dozen times] Well yes a Gamist would roleplay sad if he gets some points, a Simulationist would because the rules say he should and he agrees with those rules, and a Narrativist would do so because his characters sadness makes the plot go forward, Also though A Simulationist and likely a Narrativist would roleplay the sadness because the character is actually sad, (or would that be a 4th new type of player?) a Gamist has no motivation to play the character as sad, but as humans go, he'd probably say something at the gaming table so his friends don't think he's a psycho.