The Fourfold Way

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Bruce Baugh

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
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Back when I started in gaming (dinosaurs did not still walk the earth,
but you could smell where they'd been, and one of the coolest RPGs to
date had all the diacritical marks drawn in by hand), there was
discussion about how to divide up gaming and talk about its pieces, just
as there is now. Glenn Blacow, with a lot of input from others, devised
the "Fourfold Way of Gaming". It's fallen into disuse, but upon
reflection I think it describes categories of gaming that interest me
better than most later ventures. As a public service, therefore, I'll
try to bring it back into play.

The Fourfold Way looks at what motivates players and GMs. These
categories are _not_ exclusive. If you arrange four lines emerging from
a central point, you can mark off how much of each influences a
particular person, a particular campaign, a particular whatever, and
define an irregular oblong of some sort. One game might have a lot of
one way and not much of another, but one doesn't happen at the expense
of another.

ROLEPLAYING is the focus on the personality of the character, whether PC
or NPC. The goal is to evoke the character as an individual, without
particular regard to game-mechanical efficiency or other concerns.

STORYTELLING is the focus on an unfolding narrative in which the events
add up to an interesting whole. The whole not be a classical or
conventional narrative with a firm beginning, middle, and end - it's
possible to tell many different sorts of stories. What matters for this
purpose is that the participant has the story as a goal.

WARGAMING is the focus on tactical simulation. It usually refers to an
interest in combat, but it doesn't have to - some games allow for
"wargaming" of social scenes, magical interactions, and the like. What
matters here is the idea that tactical (and strategic) excellence is the
priority.

POWERGAMING is the pursuit of what Glenn and others used to call "tokens
of advancement". Depending on the game, these could be experience
points, levels, treasure, social position, or almost anything else. The
point is that these tokens take priority in this approach.

Wayne Shaw and others suggested a fifth concern that should rank as
equal to the others. I agree, and will therefore present it as well:

TOURISM is the emphasis on sense of wonder, in any of various senses -
seeing exotic sights, using remarkable abilities unlike the player's
own, and so on.

(If you use Tourism as a category, obviously you graph the volume
defined by marks on five lines radiating from an origin rather than
four.)

Any particular person, group, or game may seriously downplay at least
one of these, but it's a very rare case indeed where only one of those
four or five categories is seen as a good and desirable thing. Thinking
about them as categories which can vary independently makes it easy to
steer away from regarding people and situations as anything-ist, and I
regard this as an active good in gaming taxonomy. Even if one mostly
prefers one thing, there's non-competing room for other values as well,
and in principle it's possible to have a lot of several or even all of
the categories.

In principle, no category makes another impossible or undesirable. A
particular person might feel that for a given purpose, one is more
important than another, but nothing stops that person from feeling
differently later or at the same time about some other situation - there
are no innate antagonisms between values.


--
Bruce Baugh <*> bruce...@spiretech.com

David Alex Lamb

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
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In article <8nua85$2ao...@enews.newsguy.com>,

Bruce Baugh <bruce...@sff.net> wrote:
>The Fourfold Way looks at what motivates players and GMs. These
>categories are _not_ exclusive. If you arrange four lines emerging from
>a central point, you can mark off how much of each influences a
>particular person, a particular ...

These are sometimes called Kiviat graphs - a competitor to bar charts for
displaying a visual representation of N different measures -- in the
"software metrics" world there are fancy commercial tools to display them
(e.g. http://www.metamata.com/docs/Metamata.b1.html for one)

>ROLEPLAYING is the focus on the personality of the character

>STORYTELLING is the focus on an unfolding narrative

>WARGAMING is the focus on tactical simulation

>POWERGAMING is the pursuit of ... "tokens of advancement"


>TOURISM is the emphasis on sense of wonder

It's a good approach, at least for people who don't get hung up on whether the
list is exhaustive enough; I imagine people could rate themselves on simple
scales (e.g. low/medium/high) fairly easily.

What about
SOCIAL is the focus on enjoyable interaction with other players
(which might, e.g., lead to ignoring some game rules if they upset
some players -- which might upset some intense wargamers).

Also, what about people who claim to be primarily interested in 'experiencing
a realistic/true-to-genre/consistent/... world'; a combination of some level
of tourism with some of the other categories?
--
"Yo' ideas need to be thinked befo' they are say'd" - Ian Lamb, age 3.5
http://www.cs.queensu.ca/~dalamb/

George W. Harris

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
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On Tue, 22 Aug 2000 16:37:25 GMT, Bruce Baugh <bruce...@sff.net>
wrote:

:ROLEPLAYING is the focus on the personality of the character, whether PC

:or NPC. The goal is to evoke the character as an individual, without
:particular regard to game-mechanical efficiency or other concerns.

:
:STORYTELLING is the focus on an unfolding narrative in which the events

:add up to an interesting whole. The whole not be a classical or
:conventional narrative with a firm beginning, middle, and end - it's
:possible to tell many different sorts of stories. What matters for this
:purpose is that the participant has the story as a goal.

:
:WARGAMING is the focus on tactical simulation. It usually refers to an

:interest in combat, but it doesn't have to - some games allow for
:"wargaming" of social scenes, magical interactions, and the like. What
:matters here is the idea that tactical (and strategic) excellence is the
:priority.

:
:POWERGAMING is the pursuit of what Glenn and others used to call "tokens

:of advancement". Depending on the game, these could be experience
:points, levels, treasure, social position, or almost anything else. The
:point is that these tokens take priority in this approach.
:
:Wayne Shaw and others suggested a fifth concern that should rank as
:equal to the others. I agree, and will therefore present it as well:

:
:TOURISM is the emphasis on sense of wonder, in any of various senses -

:seeing exotic sights, using remarkable abilities unlike the player's
:own, and so on.
:
:(If you use Tourism as a category, obviously you graph the volume
:defined by marks on five lines radiating from an origin rather than
:four.)
:
:Any particular person, group, or game may seriously downplay at least
:one of these, but it's a very rare case indeed where only one of those
:four or five categories is seen as a good and desirable thing.

I wouldn't say that it's a very rare case;
I've been in a number of games in which storytelling,
powergaming, and wargaming are all pretty much
ignored, and great fun is had by all. An almost
exclusive focus on character & how the character
relates to the world is my preferred mode of gaming.


--
"If you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they
taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does." -Groucho Marx

George W. Harris For actual email address, replace each 'u' with an 'i'

Alexander Williams

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
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Bruce Baugh <bruce...@sff.net> writes:

> ROLEPLAYING is the focus on the personality of the character, whether PC

> STORYTELLING is the focus on an unfolding narrative in which the events

> WARGAMING is the focus on tactical simulation. It usually refers to an

> POWERGAMING is the pursuit of what Glenn and others used to call "tokens

> TOURISM is the emphasis on sense of wonder, in any of various senses -

What might be interesting is considering interesting measures of odd
combinations of these and see what niches shake out.

I imagine a game (relatively) high in STORYTELLING and WARGAMING, but
(relatively) low in the others could be intriguing, for example. Very
much a sort of Interactive History game, the idea being to weave an
interesting story through these series of conflicts, without a lot of
focus on individual character. The de-emphasis of POWERGAMING
suggests that the goal isn't to accumulate more power than the
opponant, but to weave a narrative and keep the conflicts
interestingly ballanced. Players might voluntarially give up
attributes in order to make a better story and more ballanced
conflict.

Interesting game. I'd play in it in a heartbeat.

Consider a game high in TOURISM and POWERGAMING, but low in the
others. What's that like? Wandering the countryside, picking up cool
toys, but rather shallow characterization. Probaby a really loose
system, as well, though not necessarily. Sounds a bit like Eddings or
even worse fantasy authors who seem hell-bent on forcing you
head-first into the world, without cool characters to show you the
way.

Other analysis could be fruitfully interesting.

--
Alexander Williams (tha...@gw.total-web.net) | In the End,
"Blue Jester needs food." | Oblivion
"Blue Jester needs fuku-wearing cuties." | Always
http://www.chancel.org | Wins

Mr. Tines

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
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In article <8nua85$2ao...@enews.newsguy.com>, Bruce Baugh <bruce-
ba...@sff.net> writes

>The Fourfold Way looks at what motivates players and GMs. These
>categories are _not_ exclusive. If you arrange four lines emerging from
>a central point, you can mark off how much of each influences a

>particular person, a particular campaign, a particular whatever, and
>define an irregular oblong of some sort. One game might have a lot of
>one way and not much of another, but one doesn't happen at the expense
>of another.

To some extent. It is arguable (I have argued elsewhere in the past)
that the Storytelling-Wargaming axis is correlated with cooperation vs
competition in playing style; while Roleplay-Powergaming is correlated
with the importance of the qualitative vs the quantitative ditto.

It does serve as a different way to slice things up when compared with
the r.g.f.a threefold way.


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/ / / / _ \/ -_|_-< http://www.ravnaandtines.com/
/_/ /_/_//_/\__/___/@ravnaandtines.com PGP key on page

Bruce Baugh

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Aug 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/23/00
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In article <8nuv90$1q1$1...@knot.queensu.ca>, David Alex Lamb
<dal...@qucis.queensu.ca> wrote:

>These are sometimes called Kiviat graphs - a competitor to bar charts for
>displaying a visual representation of N different measures -- in the
>"software metrics" world there are fancy commercial tools to display them
>(e.g. http://www.metamata.com/docs/Metamata.b1.html for one)

Thanks! I'm a sucker for good visualizations.

>It's a good approach, at least for people who don't get hung up on whether the
>list is exhaustive enough; I imagine people could rate themselves on simple
>scales (e.g. low/medium/high) fairly easily.

Right. This is not really an effort to be exhaustive so much as to hit
major topics of interest.

>Also, what about people who claim to be primarily interested in 'experiencing
>a realistic/true-to-genre/consistent/... world'; a combination of some level
>of tourism with some of the other categories?

I'd call that a combination of tourism and a particular flavor of
roleplaying. There's room for differentiation within the categories,
too.

My personal view is that any effort to be really exhaustive and
exclusive is doomed to failure, and that therefore an easily extensible
model is superior to others.


--
Bruce Baugh <*> bruce...@spiretech.com

Information wants to be free. Entertainment wants to be valuable.

BBlackmoor

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Aug 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/23/00
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In article <8nuv90$1q1$1...@knot.queensu.ca>,
David Alex Lamb <dal...@qucis.queensu.ca> wrote:
>
> Also, what about people who claim to be primarily interested
> in 'experiencing a realistic/true-to-genre/consistent/...
> world'; a combination of some level of tourism with some of
> the other categories?

That's a genre thing ("cinema verite"), not really in the same vein as
the various leanings Bruce mentioned. You could play most any genre
with emphasis on any of those general areas that Bruce mentioned.

I really, really like this, and that's one reason why. It also seems to
do a really good job of covering the major bases of gaming preferences
without stigmatizing anyone or focusing on one narrow style of play
without regard to any of the others. This fellow Glenn had a knack for
analysis, I think (I've been told he's dead, which is too bad).

BBlac...@blackgate.net
22.august.2000
--
news:rec.games.frp.moderated


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Deirdre M. Brooks

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Aug 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/23/00
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"George W. Harris" wrote:
>
> I wouldn't say that it's a very rare case;
> I've been in a number of games in which storytelling,
> powergaming, and wargaming are all pretty much
> ignored, and great fun is had by all. An almost
> exclusive focus on character & how the character
> relates to the world is my preferred mode of gaming.

When you say "storytelling," I do not think you mean what Bruce means
when he says "storytelling." Of course, using the word "story" in
reference to RPGs seems to really draw out some seriously heavy baggage
that I am *still* at a loss to comprehend.

--
Deird'Re M. Brooks | xe...@teleport.com | cam#9309026
Listowner: Aberrants_Worldwide, Fading_Suns_Games, TrinityRPG
"Atlantic City is Oz envisioned by used car salesmen and pimps."
http://www.teleport.com/~xenya | --Rick Glumsky, Celtic Filth

Darel Finkbeiner

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Aug 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/24/00
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Alexander Williams wrote:

> Bruce Baugh <bruce...@sff.net> writes:
>
> > ROLEPLAYING is the focus on the personality of the character, whether PC
> > STORYTELLING is the focus on an unfolding narrative in which the events
> > WARGAMING is the focus on tactical simulation. It usually refers to an
> > POWERGAMING is the pursuit of what Glenn and others used to call "tokens
> > TOURISM is the emphasis on sense of wonder, in any of various senses -
>
> What might be interesting is considering interesting measures of odd
> combinations of these and see what niches shake out.
>
> I imagine a game (relatively) high in STORYTELLING and WARGAMING, but
> (relatively) low in the others could be intriguing, for example. Very
> much a sort of Interactive History game, the idea being to weave an
> interesting story through these series of conflicts, without a lot of
> focus on individual character. The de-emphasis of POWERGAMING
> suggests that the goal isn't to accumulate more power than the
> opponant, but to weave a narrative and keep the conflicts
> interestingly ballanced. Players might voluntarially give up
> attributes in order to make a better story and more ballanced
> conflict.
>
> Interesting game. I'd play in it in a heartbeat.

Your "interesting game" here already has a published version. It's called 7th
Sea.
Let me say right off, I thoroughly despise this game. However, that has more
to do with the GM who introduced it to me than anything else.

In this system (7th Sea), a group of players makes an "ensemble" of
characters. Among the characters there is a total number of points with which
to build them. Different characters might use different amounts of points,
some may even take disadvantages in order to "give" more points to another
character. In this way, players cooperate in building a cast of characters
that fits together and has inter-dependent and inter-operable attributes,
skills, abilities, and disadvantages. One positive of this, of course, is the
elimination of "loner" characters. Another is that players are literally
forced into making their character fit with the group.

ahh, it pains me to even speak of the abomination.
God save us from Wick.


S. John Ross

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Aug 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/24/00
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| My personal view is that any effort to be really exhaustive and
| exclusive is doomed to failure, and that therefore an easily extensible
| model is superior to others.

And it's important to remember that there are things best defined by their
boundaries and things best defined by their centers. Where gaming is
concerned, the latter is almost _always_ the case ...


--
|| S. John Ross
|| Husband · Cook · Writer
|| In That Order
|| http://www.cumberlandgames.com - Stuff For Gamers


Bruce Baugh

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Aug 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/24/00
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In article <8nvdg3$423$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, BBlackmoor
<BBlac...@blackgate.net> wrote:

>> Also, what about people who claim to be primarily interested
>> in 'experiencing a realistic/true-to-genre/consistent/...
>> world'; a combination of some level of tourism with some of
>> the other categories?

>That's a genre thing ("cinema verite"), not really in the same vein as
>the various leanings Bruce mentioned. You could play most any genre
>with emphasis on any of those general areas that Bruce mentioned.
>I really, really like this, and that's one reason why. It also seems to
>do a really good job of covering the major bases of gaming preferences
>without stigmatizing anyone or focusing on one narrow style of play
>without regard to any of the others.

Precisely. If I were to run the Le Carre/Ludlum game I've wanted to for
a long time, it would draw fairly heavily on Roleplaying, Storytelling,
and Wargaming, with some element of Tourism, and Powergaming least
represented.

Well, most of my games are like that. My short-lived game of mortals in
a dark and twisted San Angelo becoming vampires against their will
(mostly) was heavy on Roleplaying and Tourism, with some Storytelling
just because it was a playtest and I needed to go test out some things.

The theme and content of each game was quite different. The Fourfold Way
leaves room open to discuss a lot of other aspects of play.

Bruce Baugh

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Aug 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/24/00
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In article <8o3vbu$9vpqi$1...@ID-40196.news.cis.dfn.de>, "S. John Ross"
<sj...@io.com> wrote:

>| My personal view is that any effort to be really exhaustive and
>| exclusive is doomed to failure, and that therefore an easily extensible
>| model is superior to others.
>
>And it's important to remember that there are things best defined by their
>boundaries and things best defined by their centers. Where gaming is
>concerned, the latter is almost _always_ the case ...

Herein is MUCH wisdom, and if we ever do a r.g.f.mod FAQ about taxonomy,
I'd want to give this remark a place of honor.

Bruce Baugh

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Aug 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/24/00
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In article <39A4316E...@teleport.com>, "Deirdre M. Brooks"
<xe...@teleport.com> wrote:

>"George W. Harris" wrote:

>> I wouldn't say that it's a very rare case;
>> I've been in a number of games in which storytelling,
>> powergaming, and wargaming are all pretty much
>> ignored, and great fun is had by all. An almost
>> exclusive focus on character & how the character
>> relates to the world is my preferred mode of gaming.
>
>When you say "storytelling," I do not think you mean what Bruce means
>when he says "storytelling." Of course, using the word "story" in
>reference to RPGs seems to really draw out some seriously heavy baggage
>that I am *still* at a loss to comprehend.

Indeed. In any event, note that the Fourfold Way isn't intend to
stigmatize any of the choices - unlike George's own
to-me-incomprehensible crusade against any suggestion that storytelling
in gaming is a good idea, and unlike comparable crusades of other sorts.

I know some historical reasons why "story" is such a bad word among some
gamers, and I know that part of it was over-zealous crusading by people
regarded story as the self-evidently highest goal of all gaming. I also
know that those folks are all long since quiescent, matured, or both. It
would be nice to be able to talk about styles of gaming without having
it degenerate into shouted demands that we not like a particular feature
of some people's style of play.

George W. Harris

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Aug 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/24/00
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On Wed, 23 Aug 2000 13:17:50 -0700, "Deirdre M. Brooks"
<xe...@teleport.com> wrote:

:
:
:"George W. Harris" wrote:
:>
:> I wouldn't say that it's a very rare case;
:> I've been in a number of games in which storytelling,
:> powergaming, and wargaming are all pretty much
:> ignored, and great fun is had by all. An almost
:> exclusive focus on character & how the character
:> relates to the world is my preferred mode of gaming.
:
:When you say "storytelling," I do not think you mean what Bruce means
:when he says "storytelling." Of course, using the word "story" in
:reference to RPGs seems to really draw out some seriously heavy baggage
:that I am *still* at a loss to comprehend.

I had assumed (justifiably, I think), that
when Bruce said 'storytelling' he meant:

:STORYTELLING is the focus on an unfolding narrative in which the events
:add up to an interesting whole. The whole not be a classical or
:conventional narrative with a firm beginning, middle, and end - it's
:possible to tell many different sorts of stories. What matters for this
:purpose is that the participant has the story as a goal.

That is also how I intended the term to
be understood.

--
"The truths of mathematics describe a bright and clear universe,
exquisite and beautiful in its structure, in comparison with
which the physical world is turbid and confused."

-Eulogy for G.H.Hardy

BBlackmoor

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Aug 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/24/00
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In article <RIWzoHAs...@windsong.demon.co.uk>,

"Mr. Tines" <ti...@ravnaandtines.com> wrote:
>
> To some extent. It is arguable (I have argued elsewhere in the past)
> that the Storytelling-Wargaming axis is correlated with cooperation vs
> competition in playing style;

I can see some correlation there, but I think Bruce's (Glenn's) way of
putting it is more relevant and useful.

> while Roleplay-Powergaming is correlated with the importance of
> the qualitative vs the quantitative ditto.

"qualitative vs the quantitative ditto"? Quantity of what? Quality of
what? According to whom?

I think the descriptions Bruce gave are more descriptive and less
biased than the rephrasing that you are superimposing on them.

BBlac...@blackgate.net
24.august.2000
--
The power of my secret is the secret of my power.

S. John Ross

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Aug 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/25/00
to
| >And it's important to remember that there are things best defined by
their
| >boundaries and things best defined by their centers. Where gaming is
| >concerned, the latter is almost _always_ the case ...
|
| Herein is MUCH wisdom, and if we ever do a r.g.f.mod FAQ about taxonomy,
| I'd want to give this remark a place of honor.

[bows] Just remember to attribute it to "S. John Ross, Usenet troll who
really really dislikes gaming taxonomy discussions but who occasionally
posts something useful." :)

Bruce Baugh

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Aug 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/25/00
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In article <8o5plk$a4h7f$3...@ID-40196.news.cis.dfn.de>, "S. John Ross"
<sj...@io.com> wrote:

>| >And it's important to remember that there are things best defined by
>their
>| >boundaries and things best defined by their centers. Where gaming is
>| >concerned, the latter is almost _always_ the case ...

>[bows] Just remember to attribute it to "S. John Ross, Usenet troll who


>really really dislikes gaming taxonomy discussions but who occasionally
>posts something useful." :)

*scribbles out "random Usenet scumwad" and inserts new phrase*

S. John Ross

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Aug 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/25/00
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[Sjohn Observed]:

| > >And it's important to remember that there are things best defined by
their
| > >boundaries and things best defined by their centers. Where gaming is
| > >concerned, the latter is almost _always_ the case ...

[Bruce Responded]:


| > Herein is MUCH wisdom, and if we ever do a r.g.f.mod FAQ about taxonomy,
| > I'd want to give this remark a place of honor.

[Then Neel Puzzled Sjohn By Saying]:
| Cool. I get to disagree with 2 people in one post!
|
| The reason the fourfold way (and the threefold too) is useless to me
[snip]

Since I, too, was attacking the Fourfold, Threefold, and every other way
with my observation, how does this count as disagreement? Seriously, I'm
baffled. If I've accidentally associated myself in any positive way with the
pro-Taxonomy types, please accept my abject and sincerely self-loathing
apologies. I consider those fr**ty pebbles the very bottom of the lowest
level of the sludge that forms beneath the wet layer of the slime at the
bottom of the Usenet barrel. And by that I mean the particularly icky bit
over there in the corner, not just the GENERAL very bottom of the lowest
level, etc.

|| S. John "I May Never Stop Shuddering" Ross
|| Wigged-Out · Husband · Cook · Writer
|| In That Order
|| http://www.cumberlandgames.com - Stuff For Wigged-Out Gamers


Deirdre M. Brooks

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Aug 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/25/00
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Neel Krishnaswami wrote:
>
> Each of these limits the scope of possible designs in the other two.
> For example, if the PCs are all-powerful demigods (Amberites in
> Shadow, say) with nothing that can even slow them down then there
> likely aren't any consequences to their actions, and the moral
> questions are what they say they are. Likewise with the other two.

I like your model, as well as the fourfold. Each has its place as a
description of how an RPG might be run, I think. As long as the intent
is communicated, whatever works is fine. What bothers me is when one
particular vocabulary dominates discussions, especially when that
vocabulary is exclusive or meaningless, or both.

(yes, I realize I'm agreeing with you)

I'm more interested in people identifying what they enjoy in a game and
discussing that than in seeing what a game *is* tied down and nailed
flat. :-)

Neel Krishnaswami

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Aug 25, 2000, 9:11:34 PM8/25/00
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Bruce Baugh <bruce...@sff.net> wrote:
> In article <8o3vbu$9vpqi$1...@ID-40196.news.cis.dfn.de>, "S. John Ross"

> <sj...@io.com> wrote:
>
> >| My personal view is that any effort to be really exhaustive and
> >| exclusive is doomed to failure, and that therefore an easily extensible
> >| model is superior to others.
> >
> >And it's important to remember that there are things best defined by their
> >boundaries and things best defined by their centers. Where gaming is
> >concerned, the latter is almost _always_ the case ...
>
> Herein is MUCH wisdom, and if we ever do a r.g.f.mod FAQ about taxonomy,
> I'd want to give this remark a place of honor.

Cool. I get to disagree with 2 people in one post!

The reason the fourfold way (and the threefold too) is useless to me

is that they don't correspond to the tensions underpinning the games I
run.

It doesn't matter to me at all that I am running a 22% storytelling,
38% wargaming, 10% powergaming 30% touristic game, since that's not
how I structure my games and that's not how I think about them. The
pieces that you identify as distinctive to each style aren't for me.

Because these breakdowns are useless to me, it doesn't matter if the
model is extensible or not; at base is a core of useless cruft. And
that cruft will always block further discussion and development.
People have a very low complexity budget, and attempts to extend a
model always collapse into incoherence because no one (not even the
creators) can remember all the pieces. I've never seen an exception;
the only vocabularies that have much longevity are those that posit a
very simple breakdown, and even those get dumbed down from their
initial conception PDQ.[*]

I also think trying to identify the commonalities in gaming styles is
a mostly fruitless pursuit (that ought to appeal to S. John, though :),
since the commonalities are overwhelming. I would bet money that I
could sit down at a table and game with anyone on this group -- we all
do basically the same thing. The differences are all pretty subtle
differences: in short, the differences are things that happen at the
edges, the boundaries of the game.

So what do I advocate? Try to identify the tensions that interest you
at the moment. Invent a vocabulary for talking about it. Talk about
it, using anecdotes liberally. When you find something else that's
interesting, abandon the old vocabulary without a moment's regret.
This isn't good science, or even good critical technique, but gaming
chat is neither.

Here's another model pretty precisely captures the competing goods I
have to try to balance when gaming. I doubt it will be that useful to
anyone else, since the fault lines likely vary from person to
person. Sometimes it's not true even for me.

I try to balance freedom, consequence, and morality off against one
another. What are these things?

o Freedom is the freedom of action afforded to the PCs -- to what extent
can they act unimpeded? How constrained are their actions? This is
controlled by both in-game and out-of-game factors. If there are
super-efficient police in the setting, then criminal action is removed
from the scope of the possible for the PCs. If the group wants to focus
on events in a single city, then if a PC leaves then they are out of
the game, so viable characters can't leave the game area.

o Consequence is how strongly actions have repercussions. What can the
PCs get away with? This can be stronger or weaker than in real life;
in a pulp game where crime never pays, justice is an inevitable
consequence of crime. In action movie, a hero is never arrested for
the murder of any of the dozens of extras he or she dispatches. These
don't have to be metagame rules -- there might be in-setting rules:
magic obeys the threefold law of return, say. Or perhaps the invention
of the Bergenholm means that criminals can escape the jurisdiction
of their crime trivially easily.

o Morality is how often moral questions arise in the game, and what
set of ethics informs the design of the setting. What moral framework
must the PCs come to grips with? What are the competing moral
goods? What sorts of situations will these questions arise in,
and how often and are they avoidable?

Note that the morality that structures the game doesn't have to be
the morality of any of the players -- in my next game syndicalism is
the basic moral framework, but none of the players is as far as I
know an anarchosocialist. It's just a vehicle for exploring what it
means to abandon the state. (I could equally well have used right
anarchism; I didn't because that's too close to my own beliefs and I
hate preachy games enough to avoid even the temptation.)

Each of these limits the scope of possible designs in the other two.
For example, if the PCs are all-powerful demigods (Amberites in
Shadow, say) with nothing that can even slow them down then there
likely aren't any consequences to their actions, and the moral
questions are what they say they are. Likewise with the other two.


Neel

[*] Note that I said "vocabularies", not "models" or "taxonomies".
The latter two start out with too much complexity to survive on
Usenet; they are doomed from the start unless they evolve into
simple tags. This is what happened to the threefold, and it's
already happening to the Fourfold.

Bruce Baugh

unread,
Aug 26, 2000, 12:54:50 AM8/26/00
to

>The reason the fourfold way (and the threefold too) is useless to me
>is that they don't correspond to the tensions underpinning the games I
>run.

That's certainly the best of reasons for not paying much attention to
the model - it's why I don't use others.

I agree, btw, that talking in whatever terms seem to fit the game and
people at hand is usually best.

Justin Bacon

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Aug 26, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/26/00
to
In article <8o45vf$3v4...@enews.newsguy.com>, Bruce Baugh
<bruce...@sff.net> writes:

>Indeed. In any event, note that the Fourfold Way isn't intend to
>stigmatize any of the choices - unlike George's own
>to-me-incomprehensible crusade against any suggestion that storytelling
>in gaming is a good idea, and unlike comparable crusades of other sorts.

George objects to the suggestion that all roleplaying involves storytelling.
George is objecting to *being* stigmatized for choosing to play a game which
doesn't involve storytelling.

Justin Bacon
tria...@aol.com

Justin Bacon

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Aug 26, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/26/00
to
In article <8nua85$2ao...@enews.newsguy.com>, Bruce Baugh
<bruce...@sff.net> writes:

>One game might have a lot of
>one way and not much of another, but one doesn't happen at the expense
>of another.

Before discussing the Fourfold Way, let me say this: It's just as easy to think
of a point in the middle of a scale between Dramatist and Simulationist as
meaning that equal amounts of both are included in the game. There's only a
tradeoff in the sense that a wholly dramatist decision cannot also be a wholly
simulationist decision.

>In principle, no category makes another impossible or undesirable. A
>particular person might feel that for a given purpose, one is more
>important than another, but nothing stops that person from feeling
>differently later or at the same time about some other situation - there
>are no innate antagonisms between values.

And here again. Whatever gave you the idea that the Threefold was some sort of
straitjacket -- cementing you in place and never letting you move again?

BID.

I found the Roleplaying/Storytelling/Wargaming/Powergaming/Tourism to be an
interesting breakdown.

One note: I wouldn't mind seeing some category which would include an
appreciation of game mechanics -- embracing the mechanical elements of the game
firstly. Some of that might fall under Wargaming, but I would actually see them
as different concepts.

Justin Bacon
tria...@aol.com

Justin Bacon

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Aug 26, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/26/00
to
In article <39A74CAB...@teleport.com>, "Deirdre M. Brooks"
<xe...@teleport.com> writes:

>I'm more interested in people identifying what they enjoy in a game and
>discussing that than in seeing what a game *is* tied down and nailed
>flat. :-)

I object to that: I am clearly using tent pegs, not nails.

Sheesh, Deirdre! ;)

Justin Bacon
tria...@aol.com

(Die! Foul undead monster! I end your twisted existence with this stake,
<insert name of most hated, but long-living game system here>! Die!)

BBlackmoor

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Aug 26, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/26/00
to
> The reason the fourfold way (and the threefold too) is useless to me
> is that they don't correspond to the tensions underpinning the games I
> run.

Sounds reasonable. :)

> I've never seen an exception; the only vocabularies that have
> much longevity are those that posit a very simple breakdown,
> and even those get dumbed down from their initial conception
> PDQ.[*]

Can't argue with that (q.v. the "two party" system, "liberal"
vs. "conservative", etc.).

> I also think trying to identify the commonalities in gaming

> styles is a mostly fruitless pursuit ...


> since the commonalities are overwhelming.

Mental gymnastics, as it were.

> So what do I advocate? Try to identify the tensions that interest you
> at the moment. Invent a vocabulary for talking about it. Talk about
> it, using anecdotes liberally. When you find something else that's
> interesting, abandon the old vocabulary without a moment's regret.
> This isn't good science, or even good critical technique, but gaming
> chat is neither.

You're making a lot of sense, Neel.

> I try to balance freedom, consequence, and morality off against one
> another. What are these things?

This is the sort of thing (not word for word, but darned close) that
the Hero Games folks have always put in their books when they discuss
campaigns and what kind of feel the GM is aiming for. I think it's a
great idea.

> [*] Note that I said "vocabularies", not "models" or "taxonomies".

I think that's an excellent place to put emphasis. "Vocabulary" implies
you're using words to decribe a thing, but doesn't imply (as the latter
do) that you are building a box that anything and everything can be
shoved into. I wish I'd thought of that.

BBlac...@blackgate.net
26.august.2000
--
Give a man a potato, and he can make French fries.

David Alex Lamb

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Aug 26, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/26/00
to
In article <8o7gno$9u8sm$2...@ID-40196.news.cis.dfn.de>,

S. John Ross <sj...@io.com> wrote:
>[Sjohn Observed]:

>| > >And it's important to remember that there are things best defined by
>their
>| > >boundaries and things best defined by their centers. Where gaming is
>| > >concerned, the latter is almost _always_ the case ...
>[Bruce Responded]:

>| > Herein is MUCH wisdom, and if we ever do a r.g.f.mod FAQ about taxonomy,
>| > I'd want to give this remark a place of honor.
>[Then Neel Puzzled Sjohn By Saying]:
>| The reason the fourfold way (and the threefold too) is useless to me
>
>.... If I've accidentally associated myself in any positive way with the
>pro-Taxonomy types, ...

I note you're opposed to the 'pro taxonomy types', i.e. the people. This
leaves me with some small hope you might agree with some of the following,
which is my take on the problem.

Reality is just about always far more complex than any abstraction, model,
formula, taxonomy, ... that humans can construct. The planets and their
satelites don't really move in ellipses, for example. What matters about any
model is whether its accuracy is good enough for some purpose at hand.

Further, *any* model is open to the criticism that it's "not accurate" or
"incomplete" or even "useless". That's like saying chocolate tastes bad -- it
does for some people, but not for most of the rest of us. Every model is of
limited accuracy, an incomplete description, and useless for purposes that
require a more detailed, or completely different, model.

And when someone *does* start using a model, they had better be sure it *does*
apply to the question at hand. So the question becomes, where *can* the
Fourfold be useful?

As Bruce said, the Fourfold has proved moderately useful to a lot of gamers
for many years in giving a vocabulary for a rough approximation to the styles
of gaming many gamers like, leaving out anything subtle. It remains to be
seen what it's useful *for*. That is, it may only be useful at the "axe"
level of chopping up the world of gamers into compatible subsets, and do
nothing for situations that require an engraving tool. If I'm running a game
for 'roleplayers' I can advise known 'wargamers' they might have some trouble
fitting in, or, if I feel like it, start thinking about how to adapt my
compaign so a wargamer's interests could be addressed in some way that
everyone might have fun.

It doesn't work for Neel; the things that matter most to him in classifying
games don't map at all onto the fourfold (apparently -- though Neel seemed to
start talking about campaign styles rather than game player styles). This
should not be surprising. I'm not sure if I can find the original Fourfold
article anytime soon [have to remember which magazine, then remember where I
put that box...], but I strongly suspect the original author actually did
describe it as a rough approximation.

Bruce Baugh

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Aug 26, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/26/00
to
In article <20000826073358...@nso-fg.aol.com>, Justin Bacon
<tria...@aol.com> wrote:

>And here again. Whatever gave you the idea that the Threefold was some sort of
>straitjacket -- cementing you in place and never letting you move again?

Because that's the way I see it used, most of the time - in practice I
find it serving to justify ignoring ideas and dismissing alternatives
far more than any other purpose. This isn't what I'm interested in a
taxonomy for, and I've seen the (sometimes augmented) Fourfold Way used
a lot more constructively.

(And, as I've noted before, and as Neel has said of the Fourfold, it
just doesn't address any topics very much of interest to me.)

>One note: I wouldn't mind seeing some category which would include an
>appreciation of game mechanics -- embracing the mechanical elements of the
>game
>firstly. Some of that might fall under Wargaming, but I would actually see
>them
>as different concepts.

I _think_ that Glenn would have put that under Powergaming, as a form of
pursuit of tokens of advancement. But then that breaks down when one
isn't really concerned with advancement. Hmm.

Mr. Tines

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
to
In article <8o3t9p$b9v$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, BBlackmoor
<BBlac...@blackgate.net> writes

>In article <RIWzoHAs...@windsong.demon.co.uk>,
> "Mr. Tines" <ti...@ravnaandtines.com> wrote:
>>
>> while Roleplay-Powergaming is correlated with the importance of
>> the qualitative vs the quantitative ditto.
>
>"qualitative vs the quantitative ditto"? Quantity of what? Quality of
>what? According to whom?

Whether numbers or other qualities are important in defining one's
character/palying piece.

Neel Krishnaswami

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
to
S. John Ross <sj...@io.com> wrote:
>
> [Then Neel Puzzled Sjohn By Saying]:
> | Cool. I get to disagree with 2 people in one post!
> |
> | The reason the fourfold way (and the threefold too) is useless to me
> [snip]
>
> Since I, too, was attacking the Fourfold, Threefold, and every other way
> with my observation, how does this count as disagreement? Seriously, I'm
> baffled.

Because I'm not opposed to model-building (I created one in my post!),
but because I'm opposed to attempts to try to get them in wide
circulation. A good model can and will help people find new ways of
thinking about their games, and this is a good thing. Also, looking
back at what -has- helped me, the most interesting ideas and anecdotes
inevitably illustrated the boundaries and limitations of one techinque
or another rather than the commonalities.

However, the dynamics of Usenet mean that any model will decay into
uselessness pretty quickly, and will only be illuminating for a
relatively small subset of the readership; trying to create a standard
jargon is thus a self-defeating proposition.


Neel


Bruce Baugh

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
to

>However, the dynamics of Usenet mean that any model will decay into
>uselessness pretty quickly, and will only be illuminating for a
>relatively small subset of the readership; trying to create a standard
>jargon is thus a self-defeating proposition.

Upon due reflection, I have to agree. Let me build a model to more
precisely describe my thoughts....

Neel Krishnaswami

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
to
Mr. Tines <ti...@ravnaandtines.com> wrote:
> In article <8o3t9p$b9v$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, BBlackmoor
> <BBlac...@blackgate.net> writes
> >In article <RIWzoHAs...@windsong.demon.co.uk>,
> > "Mr. Tines" <ti...@ravnaandtines.com> wrote:
> >>
> >> while Roleplay-Powergaming is correlated with the importance of
> >> the qualitative vs the quantitative ditto.
> >
> >"qualitative vs the quantitative ditto"? Quantity of what? Quality of
> >what? According to whom?
>
> Whether numbers or other qualities are important in defining one's
> character/palying piece.

So you have a graph like this? [View with fixed-width font]

POWERGAME

CoC SAN Quantitative GURPS
mechanics | combat rules
| W
S | A
T | R
O Cooperation ----------+---------- Competition G
R | A
Y | M
| E
Feng Shui | Amber Attribute
stunt rules Qualitative Auction

ROLEPLAY


I have a couple of problems with the qualities you ascribe
to each end of the axis (story/powergame/wargame/roleplay)
but I have to run now, so I'll post again in a day or two.


Neel

S. John Ross

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
to

| >.... If I've accidentally associated myself in any positive way with the
| >pro-Taxonomy types, ...
|
| I note you're opposed to the 'pro taxonomy types', i.e. the people.

i.e. The people that I've been known to refer to as "fruits" but those are
people that I'm not in any way calling "fruits" right now. It's important
for that to be clear, else this post won't make it through the moderators :)

| Reality is just about always far more complex than any abstraction, model,
| formula, taxonomy, ... that humans can construct. The planets and their
| satelites don't really move in ellipses, for example. What matters about
any
| model is whether its accuracy is good enough for some purpose at hand.

Or whether it serves any function at all. The Gaming Taxonomies serve what I
consider a non-function: They're by Usenet, for Usenet. Long threads meant
to _facilitate_ (get this) more threads. Oh joy. Only, with the taxonomies
in place, the threads will now have their own jargon, aiding in elitist
attitudes ...

Ah! So there's a function, after all :) JUST what we need. Or rather, just
what they need over in rgfAdvocacy. Here, I have hopes (albeit varying
expections) of real talk about real gaming, in English, not Beatnik.

|| S. John Ross


|| Husband · Cook · Writer
|| In That Order

|| http://www.cumberlandgames.com - Stuff For Gamers

S. John Ross

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
to
| I _think_ that Glenn would have put that under Powergaming, as a form of
| pursuit of tokens of advancement. But then that breaks down when one
| isn't really concerned with advancement. Hmm.

Appreciation of elegant mechanics is entirely separate from gathering
tokens, just as appreciation of a fine car is entirely separate from wanting
to win an auto race.


--

S. John Ross

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
to
| Because I'm not opposed to model-building (I created one in my post!),
| but because I'm opposed to attempts to try to get them in wide
| circulation.

Which explains how you might disagree with me _generally,_ but not your
disagreement with the post you claimed to disagree with.

| However, the dynamics of Usenet mean that any model will decay into
| uselessness pretty quickly, and will only be illuminating for a
| relatively small subset of the readership; trying to create a standard
| jargon is thus a self-defeating proposition.

I consider Usenet useless from top to bottom, except as an essentially
mindless diversion. On the other hand, being a DOOM junkie (and Usenet
poster) I'm all for mindless diversions as long as we don't pretend they're
something other.

S. John Ross

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00