[MUD-Dev] Re: Storytelling vs. Simulationist (Was Re: Room descriptions)

Travis S. Casey efindel at io.com
Fri Oct 2 09:44:02 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

On Thu, 1 Oct 1998 ApplePiMan at aol.com wrote:

> Is the implication in the quote above that simulationist and storytelling 
> worlds are at opposite ends of a continua? I don't see that they are, of 
> necessity. Why can't a world's primary focus be storytelling, and yet 
> have it still be simulationist?

Since someone else has already pointed out that "storytelling" also refers
to White Wolf's games, I'd like to propose that we use the terms that
rec.games.frp.advocacy uses for these two styles:  simulationist and

The difference is in how decisions are made:  a simulationist makes
decisions on the basis of "how would it really work," while a dramatist
makes decisions on the basis of "what will make a good story."

Note that most people fall in the middle, using a mix of simulation and
drama.  Also, note that one does not have to simulate things in detail to
be a simulationist.

An example might help; this is drawn from an example that was used
recently in rgfa to explain the difference, and it's based in a
pencil-and-paper system, but I think it'll still be clear enough:

  Let's say that the players manage to kill an evil sorceress... who just 
  happens to be the lover of an evil sorcerer who is a recurring enemy
  in the campaign.  Now, the GM has to decide when the evil sorcerer will
  learn about it, and when he'll come back to try to exact vengeance.

  A simulationist GM would take the information he/she has about the
  situation and try to figure out when would be reasonable.  The GM might
  have already decided that the evil sorcerer is on a trip to an evil
  sorceror's convention, and figure out how long it'll take someone to
  get a message to him, how long it'll take him to wrap up things there
  (if he's even there yet), how long the return journey will take, and
  how much time the evil sorcerer will take preparing his revenge before
  springing it on the PCs.

  Note that none of this has to involve actually simulating the evil
  sorceror's actions during this time:  just the fact that the GM makes
  the decision based on what would happen in the game world makes it

  A dramatist GM would choose the time of the evil sorceror's return to
  maximize drama -- for example, if one of the PCs has a wedding coming
  up, it might happen during the wedding.  

Again, most people fall in the middle.  Someone who leans more towards
simulation might still fudge the times a bit, to make things happen at a 
somewhat "better" time, but wouldn't do it much.  Someone who leans 
more towards drama might make sure that the timing is at least possible.

Lastly, note that good stories can happen either way -- the difference is
that a dramatist consciously plans things to ensure a good story.  It's
like the difference between a biography and a novel; many biographies make
good stories, but the story is secondary.  A novel, on the other hand,
should have a good story, and whether things would probably actually
happen that way should be secondary.

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