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Old Screeds

GNS Wemics [19 Feb 05] Part two of three

In my last screed, I linked to info on the Three-Fold Model of gaming and GNS Theory. In brief, GNS Theory holds that gamers play RPGs for three main reasons. Granted, one person could be motivated by all three, to different extents at different times, but if you asked gamers why they play, their reasons could be described with these three broad groupings:

  • Gamism: The player is motivated by "winning" -- that is, seeking out challenges and doing well in the context of the game. Gamist motivations might include surviving a tough fight; gaining wealth, acclaim, and other tokens of success; and creating the most powerful character.
  • Narrativism: The player is motivated by telling a fulfilling story -- that is, by rich role-play and plot development. Narrativist motivations might include making peace with an estranged father; settling a dispute between elves, dwarves, and orcs; and participating in an in-character poetry contest.
  • Simulationism: The player is motivated by exploring the game world, and seeing how it really works. Simulationist motivations might include exploring a new continent; researching how magic works; and setting up a merchant house, temple, or guildhall.

Now let's look at wemics through a GNS lens. In my recent letter from Nexx, the issue came up of most effective wemic weapon. I think the answer to this lies in a GNS interpretation:

  • Gamism: According to the D&D rules, a wemic's spear does 2d6 damage, while a greatsword does 3d6 damage. If you set the spear against a charge, damage is doubled, but except for that special case, the greatsword, by simple math, is best.
  • Narrativism: The best weapon depends on what advances the story. A wemic hero could wade charge through a sea of enemies armed with spears unscathed but for a few scratches -- but when his mate stabs him with a knife, the weapon hits to the heart, dealing what could be a death blow. The story of betrayal works better if the knife does more damage than the spear, so the knife (for this part of the story) is the better weapon.
  • Simulationism: After you reflect on wemic anatomy, posture, and style, it is clear that a knife is too small and a greatsword too unweildy to be effective. The spear is best.

Looking at my essay on the topic from a couple years ago, and at Nexx's letter in response to that, it seems clear to me that I was operating from a Gamist viewpoint, and Nexx, from a Simulationist. Take Nexx's letter, in which he says, "Inside the game world, however, you have to question how they would get greatswords in great numbers, and how they would they gain any great proficiency in them?" The phrase, "Inside the game world," makes it clear that Nexx wants the game to reflect reality, or, for a fantasy setting, the logic and sensibility of the way the world works. From a Gamist D&D perspective, the answer to "How are wemics proficient in greatsword" is an easy one -- all warriors are proficient in all martial weapons, per the rules.

Now, just because I am interested in Gamist themes and motivations (witness all my "By the Book" screeds), that does not mean I am not also motivated by Simulationist and Narrativist ones too. When my character makes game choices (of feats, skills, and classes) that are not the most powerful combinations, it may be because the "optimal" choices do not match the story I want to tell about him. When I suggest to my adventuring party that we head off into the unknown rather than descend into the same old dungeon again, that's my curiousity about the game world coming to the fore.

Similarly, there is no "right" answer about the best weapon for a wemic. If the reason we play is to have fun, then the right answer -- G, N, or S -- is the one that gives us the most satisfaction.

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