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Subject: Re: Threefold mismatch
From: Mary Kuhner <mkkuhner at>
Date: 1997-Aug-08
Message-Id: <>

BEvill at (Brett Evill) writes:
Does anyone else find a problem because his or her players use a different mode to him or her? What are games like where the players, among them, use several different modes? Does anyone find the the GM's choice of mode sets the pace, and that the players conform?

I've been in these situations now and again....

I think there are three issues on which conflict is likely:

(1) The three kinds of players define "good play" differently, particularly with regard to how PCs make decisions; they are likely to regard each others' decisions as suboptimal (when disadvantageous) or cheating (when advantageous). For example, a gamist player may be affronted that a simulationist PC breaks under pressure even though no rule requires him to do so--this is seen as stupid, like throwing a piece away in a chess game for no reason.

(2) The three kinds of players take different kinds of responsibility for the success of the game. A simulationist player, even if the game is not simulationist, is unlikely to want to help the GM with issues of drama or game balance. Dramatist players often describe the other two kinds as hopelessly self-centered, willing to let the rest of the group down in pursuit of their own enjoyment. On the other hand, a simulationist or gamist player may see a dramatist player as bossy and manipulative, since drama goals generally involve the whole group and not just the player's own character. "What do you mean, you want my character to be a foil to yours?"

(3) Nobody wants to compromise in the area of their greatest interest. Simulationist players balk at introducing metaworld considerations into their play, no matter how helpful it would be. Gamist players aren't willing to stand by and allow cheating. Dramatist players hate to see a potentially wonderful story spoilt by dull, or worse disruptive, play. This can lead to horrendous fights. It is very hard to understand why someone else is being stubborn if you don't value the thing they are fighting to preserve.

In general, PC-PC conflict is a lightning rod for all of these disagreements; in a mixed group you should probably try your hardest not to provide occasion for it.

It has not been my experience that most players immediately adapt to the GM's style; they are likely to stick to their usual one, no matter how much conflict it causes. There are exceptions, but they're rare. After all, a gamist player (for example) sees the simulationist's behavior as "cheating". Even if other people cheat, does that mean he should? He's more likely to stubbornly continue to play "well" and resent the other players' refusal to reciprocate.

Maybe the GM can improve matters by talking about the desired style of his game, rather than assuming that players will pick up on it.

I had one resolute gamist in _Sunrise War_ in a party of resolute simulationists, but actually he was little trouble; he was a very relaxed, laid-back player and didn't worry over what the other players did. Once in a while he'd find a broken rule and exploit it, but I could live with that. However, we had to be careful not to ask him to carry too much of the narrative or world-interaction weight; his was the wrong PC to make the subject of a narrative hook, for example, or to ask for information about world issues.

I have been a resolute simulationist in a party of gamists on several occasions, never with good results. My character would refuse to tackle challenges unless she thought they were tractable, whereas the other players knew the GM was providing appropriate challenges, and felt I was just being willfully obstructionist. If I quit doing this, I felt that I was cheating, and I also felt extremely angry if my initial risk estimate proved correct. I think the only thing the GM could have done was to try to insure that each challenge looked good to my PC, so she wouldn't balk; but that's hard. In retrospect I was in the wrong place. If I want to enjoy myself with a roomful of gamists I should play something other than an RPG; I am too stiff-necked to adapt.

Mary Kuhner <mkkuhner at>

Last modified: 2001-Oct-29 17:21:59

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