The Awesomeness Imperative

The Awesomeness Imperative

The Awesomeness Imperative

Since there have been such interesting posts on RP game design theory I thought I would mention something that has not been talked about a lot, and I think is important. The need for a player to play/identify with an awesome character.

• In a gamist ruleset the player will min-max his character.

• A simulationist wil model his character after a fictional hero of movies or literature.

• In a narativistic game the player will choose fictional aspects for his character that makes him awesome.

So my question is, how much of GNS is due to the players personality or preferences and how much is just the player using the tools that the system provides to achieve awesomeness?

9 thoughts on “The Awesomeness Imperative”

  1. DW characters are awesome, no doubt. I am The Wizard. I cast magic missiles from my eyes. The GM is my fan; he conspires in my awsomeness.

    And that’s an attractive trait in a game, no doubt. Most RPGs are power fantasies, and I enjoy that aspect. My go-to character is dashing athletic swashbucker, which contrasts with the actual slightly feeble middle-aged computer programmer. There are reasons why RPGs aren’t generally about them.

    But an awesomness imperetive? No, I don’t think so. I had an enormously great time playing Kagmatsu, being a ineffectual, cowardly, but innocent and joyful, in a game that’s entirely about women’s powerlessness. I played out my Trail of Cthulu’s character’s (a middle-aged scientist – hmm) inevitable descent into paranoid madness with relish.

    Maybe it’s age. I’ve done the awesomness thing for too many years. The performance aspects, the desire to entertain your friends and yourself, are the things that have come to matter most.

  2. Thanks for asking the question, I had to refresh myself on GNS theory, I remember encountering the term a while back. I would say that most of “GNS” falls upon player personality or preference. Games that allow them to actualize those desires are played longer than those that don’t.  I agree with Adrian Brooks last paragraph, but I also fall into that middle aged gaming group. Better a lousy game system with good friends than an awesome system with lousy friends. 

  3. There are definitely people who would choose complex characters over awesome characters. There are definitely people who say they prefer complex characters to awesome characters.

    The question is, If you give a player a choice between a complex character and a character that is awesome, what would he choose?

    If you did a statistical analasys, what percentage of gamers would rate awesomeness above complex? In other words the question is not wether awesomeness is an imperative or wether it should be an imperative. The question is, for how many people is it actually an imperative? How many people would use whatever the system gave them, GNS wise, to achieve awesomeness? Not for the sake of G, N or S, but for awesomeness?

    Now I realise that “awesomeness” is highly subjective. But lets give it the definition of “exceptional, competent, not mediocre in the field that interests the player”.

    With “complex” I mean characters with complex motivations and emotions, the stuff good literature is made of.

  4. “So my question is, how much of GNS is due to the players personality or preferences and how much is just the player using the tools that the system provides to achieve awesomeness?”

    That’s a mischaracterisation of GNS.

    I’m a Gamist; I play RPGs as a game, in order to solve puzzles and beat the challenges set before me.

    I’m a Narrativist; I play RPGs to tell compelling stories and explore my character and his relationships in a fictional world.

    I’m a Simulationist; I play RPGs to explore fictional events by modelling systems of combat and exploration.

    You actually may wel do some or all of things in a particular game or session. GNS is a description of modes of play.

    Nothing there about awesomeness. I’m can be (and am) a gamist who doesn’t prioritise character effectiveness, while noting most RPGs provide systems that generate effective characters.

    That aside; in my group of five, one player prioritises character effectiveness over all else. Which can be an issue, as his agenda differs from the rest of us (despite us all being of gamist inclination)

  5. Adrian Brooks

    I recognise the validity of GNS theory. All I am asking is wether there are not other things that are more important, like character identification. Also part of this is the reason for character identification in RPGs, which I suspect is mostly heroism – as in awesomeness.

    I am a narritivist. I get bored waiting for my initiative turn while staring at a grid. But more than that I hate being a thief when the ranger is better at finding traps ( he put ranks in perception) than me. I hate having to play 10 sessions before I can start doing awesome things with my character, because I usually die before then.

    But then, am I really a narritivist? I own every expansion of Descent 2 ed and absolutely love it, a supremely gamist game.

    So lets say, if I am a gamist, why play an RPG where there are no stated winning conditions and the winning conditions that do exist are fuzzy at most? (What is the winning condition for a non violent encounter?) How do you beat the game when beating the game is so ill defined?

    Gamists would, I believe, play board games like Descent or chess if gamism were their most important goal.

    So I suspect the fact that gamists play RPGs when boardgames do gamism so much better means that there is something more important.

    Like identifying with an awesome character, the same way we identify with characters in other fictional media.

  6. Wynand Louw You’ve misunderstood GNS theory, though; and I’ve misled you.

    I’m playing D&D; when I select Magic Missile rather than Fireball because that’s going to be enough to finish the monster, I’m being gamist, merely playing a game. When use a Warhammer against the guy in Plate and get +2 to hit, I’m being simulationist. When I spare the Kobold because my character doesn’t beleive in inherent evil, I’m being narrativist.

    GNS merely says that RPG play has these aspects, that these are the things that you do when you play a game. Sure, some gamers have preference for particulars modes of play. Likewise, particular games emphasise some of these things over the others.

    So saying “I’m a gamist” is merely saying I enjoy the gamey aspects of RPGs slightly over the narrative simulationist parts. No more than that.

    So, no, GNS is not “the most important thing”. It was never meant to be. It’s nothing more than a definition of terminology.

  7. Yeah, I think there’s a lot of weird and unconnected ideas here about what GNS actually is.

    It’s important to realize that pretty much no one is JUST Gamist, or JUST Simulationist, or JUST Narrativist.   They are preferences. If I say, “For me, balance between classes is more important than making sure that everything that happens happens realistically within the game’s framework.” I am expressing a preference for Gamism over Simulationism.  But that doesn’t mean that simulationism is irrelevant to me.   It also doesn’t mean that I might not sometimes want to play something that is more simulationist than gamist.   Also, you can, of course, “scratch your itch” with other things – if you really love you some Tactical Combat, maybe you’d rather just play Warhammer 40k and  then when you roleplay, you’re really all about the narrative.

    I don’t think everyone always wants their character to be “awesome” (note: there are so many kinds of ‘awesome’ that this descriptor is pretty useless)  What everyone wants is to be part of awesome moments.  An awesome moment can be a warrior holding off two hundred men in a narrow corridor, though he dies afterwards.  An awesome moment can be when the detective realizes just what the serial killer’s plot is – and gets there just in time.   An awesome moment could be when the jedi falls to the Dark Side and force chokes his old best friend.  And of course, everyone’s definition of what is awesome is different.   And probably has very little, if anything, to do with GNS.

  8. Mike Pureka I think you nailed it about awesome moments – but that sort of needs awesome characters.

    I make a habit of watching my players while I GM for boredom. (Mainly because I played so many sessions where I got bored as a player)

    One of the reasons why players get bored at my table is if they dont get to do great stuff.

    At a pathdlfinder table one guy has min-maxed his character and gets all the kills. The other players get bored. At a DW table I had a situation where one player played a 3rd party playbook that was mechanically well balanced with the core classes but could fictionally do much more interesting things.

    The other players got bored because his character just did more awesome stuff. In both cases the player of the awesome character had an absolute blast.

    If you toned down the awesome character the no one would have as much fun as everyone would have if all the characters were awesome.

  9. No, see, that’s what I was trying to make clear with my dubious examples.  These don’t need to “awesome” characters for any particular value of awesome.  If a middle aged computer programmer pulls a child out of danger, that is awesome.  If angsty teenager has finally had enough and stands up to the bullies in his class, that is awesome.   Moments can be MORE awesome if the characters involved AREN’T. 

    If Dugan, the village blacksmith, manages to fend off four orcs and defend his family, that is awesome.  When Thorgar the magnificent kills four orcs, it’s not even Tuesday, it’s more like “Tuesday between the hours of 2 and 6pm”.  ANYONE can be part of awesome moments.  In many ways, having an ‘awesome’ character makes it HARDER to have awesome moments.

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