Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist?


Gamer Life General Discussion


I've been reviewing some roleplaying theory recently, and I'd like to get the community's views on GNS Theory. Feel free to comment as you like, but if you prefer a little structure, try to answer some of these questions. (Formatted for easy replies)

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Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist

  • My Style - What is your primary play style?

  • My Group - What is your group's primary play style?

  • Pathfinder - What style is best reflected by Pathfinder's game design?

The Exchange

Just a friendly word of warning. GNS Theory is either loved or hated depending on where you go. You will find most people hate being pigeon holed into using it to define their games. The original author of GNS Theory wasn't even really satified with it and developed more advanced theories later, as I understand.

Shadow Lodge

I don't feel that anyone can be classified as just one category. So it's really meaningless.


Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist

  • My Style - What is your primary play style?
    I'm mainly a narrativist as both a GM and player. I have a secondary streak of gamist, and very little simulationist.

  • My Group - What is your group's primary play style?
    My current Pathfinder group is a little more simulationist than me, and a little less narrativist.

  • Pathfinder - What style is best reflected by Pathfinder's game design?
    I think Pathfinder is primarily gamist, with a little simulationist, and only a dash of narrativist sentiment.


I'm with TOZ. Down this road is nothing but pointless anguish.


TheLoneCleric wrote:
Just a friendly word of warning. GNS Theory is either loved or hated depending on where you go. You will find most people hate being pigeon holed into using it to define their games. The original author of GNS Theory wasn't even really satified with it and developed more advanced theories later, as I understand.

I agree with Ron Edwards that GNS theory is incomplete, but I still find it to be a useful tool. Much like Newtonian physics, there are more advanced theories, but Newton will still get the ball over the plate.


TOZ wrote:
I don't feel that anyone can be classified as just one category. So it's really meaningless.
Umbral Reaver wrote:
I'm with TOZ. Down this road is nothing but pointless anguish.

Thank you both for being so supportive and constructive. I look forward to your insights.

Silver Crusade

My style is Have Funist.

My group's style is Have More Funist (Orthodox branch)

Pathfinder's Design Style is Made 3.5 Fun Againist (Reformed Branch)


Silly Blueluck that's like asking if I like mint ice cream or if I like caramel. I would like both because they compliment each other. (my personal opinion)

Shadow Lodge

I'm a helper! :D

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Blueluck wrote:

I've been reviewing some roleplaying theory recently, and I'd like to get the community's views on GNS Theory. Feel free to comment as you like, but if you prefer a little structure, try to answer some of these questions. (Formatted for easy replies)

.

Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist

  • My Style - What is your primary play style?

  • My Group - What is your group's primary play style?

  • Pathfinder - What style is best reflected by Pathfinder's game design?

Put me down as another rebel against the pointless assignment of labels. My gaming style draws of all three elements, in varying amounts. I think that's true of anyone that I'd willingly game with.


TOZ wrote:
I'm a helper! :D

If you're a helper can you help me think of an idea for a witch under the time domain because I'm stumped.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
LazarX wrote:


Put me down as another rebel against the pointless assignment of labels. My gaming style draws of all three elements, in varying amounts. I think that's true of anyone that I'd willingly game with.

Labels are useful if they are descriptive and not proscriptive, i.e you can have more than one label.

I found the GNS theory very useful when I was trying to understand why I disliked another RPG we where trying, and why Pathfinder found a place in my heart.
Is it a complete theory? No - but few, if any, are.

I'm guessing, and I may be putting words in Bluelucks mouth, but I don't think it was meant to be be phrased as you can only be one.
It's the blending that has interesting results.

My personal style is Narrative/Simulationist, with emphasise on the Narrative.

My old group was all over the place and we eventual schizmed half Pathfinder, half the other RPG, the other half wavering each way.

Pathfinder is Narrative/Simulationist with emphasise on Narrative.


I'm pretty sure that my judgment on GNS as Bunkum may be found among these great posts.


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The GNS model is best used as an analytical tool. And then used as a basis for designing games by a game master/designer, based on said analysis.

As TheLoneCleric said, we as players don't usually like to be pigeonholed. And I think that most of us, like TOZ and Umbral Reaver said, can't agree to belong to only one "type", as we will change our style of play according to the game being played and the interactions with our fellow players.

That being said, I always think theory is a good thing, and using tools to analyse and structure the way we think about games, can only be helpful. As Kurt Lewin said; 'There is nothing so practical as a good theory'.

If anyone wants to have a further look at roleplaying theory, check out this Wikipedia article on the nordic conference "Knudepunkt" (Nodal point); Knudepunkt wiki article - scroll down to the list of publications, the books on theory (and more) are all on-line (at least since the one from 2003). Lots and lots of good stuff there.

And here's a link to "The Big Model"; The Big Model wiki article - which is the model Ron Edwards developed after the GNS model.


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Given the descriptions in that Wiki article:

My Style:
50% Simulationist, 25% Gamist, 25% Narrativist

My Group's Style:
45% Simulationist, 35% Gamist, 20% Narrativist

Pathfinder:
Dunno. Maybe 55% Simulationist, 40% Gamist, 5% Narrativist. If that. (I equate Narrativist to a bunch of those weirdo indie games.)


I don't believe the types exist as they are stated there. Things are far more complex than that, and the types themselves are not exclusive categories.


Umbral Reaver wrote:
I don't believe the types exist as they are stated there. Things are far more complex than that, and the types themselves are not exclusive categories.

That's narrativist talk!

But seriously, I agree; at least, on a Venn's Diagram, the area of commonality with be nigh-indestinguishable from a circle.

Dark Archive

Blueluck wrote:

I've been reviewing some roleplaying theory recently, and I'd like to get the community's views on GNS Theory. Feel free to comment as you like, but if you prefer a little structure, try to answer some of these questions. (Formatted for easy replies)

.

Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist

  • My Style - What is your primary play style?

  • My Group - What is your group's primary play style?

  • Pathfinder - What style is best reflected by Pathfinder's game design?

Well this is overly simple as most people are more complex than that. But I get what you are asking and the answers that most closely match are...

My Style - Simulationist

My Group - Simulationist

Pathfinder - Simulationist

Of course the last is just my opinion and for the group that is the view of the majority of the group. We do have one player who is more of a Narrativist and one who is more gamist, he just wants to roll dice and kill stuff most of the time. :)


I have qualities of all three. I am gamist in that I like combat not to roll initiative then have one save or die make the encounter be over as that was sort of building up to a combat that never really happened. I don't only play for combat though I also want to see the story get moved along.


TheLoneCleric wrote:
Just a friendly word of warning. GNS Theory is either loved or hated depending on where you go.

Yeah GNS is a lot like alignment that way. I can't count how many times I've seen "I don't feel that anyone can be classified as just one [alignment]. So it's really meaningless." in alignment threads. *Wink at TOZ*

Anyway I don't mind GNS but I find it really hard to describe myself with it. I'm heavy on simming, though not in the way that most people think of simming. I'm probably a gamist second and a narrator third.

One of my groupies would put gamism first, while another would definitely put simming first. By a big margin. The other...ah, I won't even try.

Shadow Lodge

Well, we all know how I feel about alignment too. :)


I agree with estergum & Derwalt that systems like GNS are best used descriptively rather than prescriptively.

Also, players and games both tend to represent a mix of these styles. Arnwn's method of using percentages is a great way to describe a player.

I'm probably
Gamist 30%
Narrativist 60%
Simulationist 10%


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Just finished reading the GNS article, I'll give The Big Model a read later on. Like a few other posters, I see such archetypes as merely being a useful tool to quickly describe something rather than an attempt to enforce behavior. The very notion of the reverse is practically alien to me.

For me, the answer varies depending on if it's my PbP or my local game.
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  • My Style: Simulationist (PbP), Gamist/Narativist (Local)
  • My Players: Mostly Narrativist (PbP), Gamist (Local)
  • Pathfinder: Predominantly Gamist with the ability to be calibrated for Simulationist play (i.e. modeling the mechanics to support the fluff)

At a high level, I find these descriptions handy for the same reason I appreciated the inclusion of "Player Archetypes" in the GMG. They can be useful for trouble-shooting conflicts by acknowledging common tendencies.

For instance, I would say that players who tend to prefer a more gamist environment would probably wind up frustrated in my PbP. I suspect they'd have more fun with the GMing style I use with my local players. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if this difference in preferences has determined why some players have stayed in my PbP and others have gone. If there's one thing these boards have taught me over the past few years, there are enough different playstyles that there's no compelliing reason to stay with a group (particularly a PbP group) that you don't have fun with.


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Laithoron wrote:

Just finished reading the GNS article, I'll give The Big Model a read later on. Like a few other posters, I see such archetypes as merely being a useful tool to quickly describe something rather than an attempt to enforce behavior. The very notion of the reverse is practically alien to me.

For me, the answer varies depending on if it's my PbP or my local game.
.
.

  • My Style: Simulationist (PbP), Gamist/Narativist (Local)
  • My Players: Mostly Narrativist (PbP), Gamist (Local)
  • Pathfinder: Predominantly Gamist with the ability to be calibrated for Simulationist play (i.e. modeling the mechanics to support the fluff)

At a high level, I find these descriptions handy for the same reason I appreciated the inclusion of "Player Archetypes" in the GMG. They can be useful for trouble-shooting conflicts by acknowledging common tendencies.

For instance, I would say that players who tend to prefer a more gamist environment would probably wind up frustrated in my PbP. I suspect they'd have more fun with the GMing style I use with my local players. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if this difference in preferences has determined why some players have stayed in my PbP and others have gone. If there's one thing these boards have taught me over the past few years, there are enough different playstyles that there's no compelliing reason to stay with a group (particularly a PbP group) that you don't have fun with.

Using the reverse is telling people who have different prefrences they are doing it wrong. That is counterproductive and bad for the game.

Silver Crusade

Stimulationist.

puts on some Barry White


I guess I am 75% simulationist, 25% gamist, 0% narrativist.


Even the most hardcore threefold model advocates generally think of G/N/S as being like a set of 3 poles that each person is drawn more or less towards. Pure types of each of the 3 MIGHT exist, but I've never met any.
For instance, I'm probably the most simulationist of any of the GMs or players that I interact or have interacted with, and I'm maybe 80% S, 10% G, 10% N.

Where the model is really useful is in understanding and explaining why players and GMs have (frequently brutal) assumption clashes. Lots of folks on this board tend to minimize the differences, but in my experience, having moved around the map quite a bit over the years, there's a huge difference. Take, for instance, the most common GM prep activity, making encounters:

1) Gamist---2 orcs/player plus one Ogre boss. Encounters are based on CR and APL and desired degree of challenge. Nearly all AP and old school modules are built this way.
2) Narrativist---encounters will be such as to provide a satisfying story, lots of stuff like one faction changing sides mid-combat and the like, but usually starts roughly from the same assumptions as the gamist.
1 and 2 have this in common: The normal game contract is that if you encounter it, you can nearly always play through it to a successful outcome. This contract, which is almost NEVER explicit, is behind the incessant questions---why do my PC's never run/surrender/try to avoid a fight.
3) Simulationist---what you encounter is based off a random roll on the encounter table for the area where you were foolish/wise/bold enough to venture. It cares not one whit what your APL is. You can meet an orcish horde at 20th level or an ancient dragon at first.

Other areas which run afoul of the different assumptions are capture of pcs and escape from such, nasty special attacks (level draining was the grand-daddy of this debate), and to what extent magical things ought to be bought and sold. Answer me this---what fraction of the forum debate can be pigeonholed under these rough headings? My take is that it is an awfully high percentage. The canonical list of 'dick moves' plays into this topic as well.

For instance, Pc's who primarily adventured in G/N worlds frequently had an absolute loathing of level-draining (in the metagame sense, everyone loathed it inside the game itself). PC's in Simulationist games usually had no such burning hatred. Why?
In a G/N game, you typically have little choice in terms of what sort of opposition you're going to face. If the GM bought Ravenloft, guess where you're going on your next adventure? In a S game, your party mostly decided it's own targets and probably gave Ravenloft a pass in favor of picking on giants and other humanoids after weighing risk vs reward. Simulationists can get away with a lot more in terms of such things, precisely because the players elect the rope with which to hang themselves and they know it.


I'm not going to pontificate about the benefits or negative aspects of the model, I'm just going to bite the hook:

I'm predominantly Narrativist and Simulationist leaning much more towards the Narrative aspect.

My group is very much Narrativist. Each person leans either towards Gamist or Simulationist in their own way, but the core of group leans towards the Narrative aspect.

Pathfinder functions quite well for Gamist and Simulationist play, but that doesn't mean it's solely used for one or the other. I certainly may ignore rules at times to serve the narrative (though not as often as you might think).

Shadow Lodge

Blueluck wrote:
Much like Newtonian physics, there are more advanced theories, but Newton will still get the ball over the plate.

Off topic physics rant to follow:

The problem with Newton's theory of gravity is that, while it answered the question of "What effects does gravity have?" it didn't answer, or even attempt to address the question of what gravity WAS or WHY gravity existed. Questions that Einstein's general relativity DID address.


Actualy I have found the GNS very useful in running a gaming group. Different players might not be completely one or the other, but in my experience they do have preferences, and will enjoy a certain style of play more then the other. As such if let's say this weekend were playing a indie game such as houses of the blooded I will warn player a and experience has shown that the game will be better because of it. Similarly if were pathfinding next week I will warn player b, and the game will be better because of it.

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