C. Comparison of the Process Model with Other Models of Role-Playing

In this chapter, an attempt is made to compare the Process Model with the various other models of role-playing created before. The chapter is mostly intended for people familiar with the respective models, not as a full review of them, so previous knowledge of the other models discussed is assumed. The focus of the comparison is on relating the models to the Process Model by analyzing design purposes and use expectancies, and by mapping concepts between the models. Additionally, some thoughts are given on what the Process Model might have to give the other models. The models discussed here are the Threefold Model[20], the Three-Way Model[21], GNS[22], the GENder Model[23], Glen Blacow's and Robin Laws' player type classification[24], The Big Model[25], and Channel Theory[26].

C..1 The Threefold Model and the Three-Way Model

The Threefold Model tries to describe gaming styles through goals. These are not the same as the sought after Results of the Process Model however, but correspond more with the Processes, the actual form of enjoyment gained from pursuing these goals not being given much thought. The Threefold Model describes three styles of play, Dramatism, Gamism and Simulationism. The short definitions of these, taken from [20] are as follows:

is the style which values how well the in-game action creates a satisfying story-line. Different kinds of stories may be viewed as satisfying, depending on individual tastes, varying from fanciful pulp action to believable character drama. It is the end result of the story which is important.

With this definition, the Threefold is quite vague on what actually causes enjoyment for Dramatists, it only proscribes that that something be found in the Story. The mapping of Dramatism in the Threefold thus depends on what actually makes the story satisfying. Most likely it will be Exploration of a Concept or Exploration of an Entity.

is the style which values setting up a fair challenge for the players (as opposed to the PCs). The challenges may be tactical combat, intellectual mysteries, politics, or anything else. The players will try to solve the problems they are presented with, and in turn the GM will make these challenges solvable if they act intelligently within the contract.

This definition of threefold Gamist can be seen to map to either or both of Tension and Challenge in the Process Model.

is the style which values resolving in-game events based solely on game-world considerations, without allowing any meta-game concerns to affect the decision. Thus, a fully simulationist GM will not fudge results to save PCs or to save her plot, or even change facts unknown to the players. Such a GM may use meta-game considerations to decide meta-game issues like who is playing which character, whether to play out a conversation word for word, and so forth, but she will resolve actual in-game events based on what would "really" happen.

Simulation, in the scope of the Process Model, is not really a Process, but a Method. The Process most likely involved in Threefold Simulationist play will be Exploration of an Entity of the SIS, but with the added methodological constraint of Strict In-Game Cause-and-Effect.

In the Three-Way Model[21], Simulationism is replaced with Immersionism, defined as follows:

is the style which values living the roles life, felling what the role would feel. Immersionists insist on resolving in-game events based solely on game-world considerations. Thus, a fully immersionist player will not fudge rules to save its role's neck or the plot, or even change details of background story irrelevant in the setting to suite the play. An immersionist organizer will try to make the plots and setting such that they are believable to the players.

While this definition skirts the Process of Immersion, it mixes it with other elements. The notions of realism and in-game causality are again Methods in the Process Model. The definition also does not make a clear difference between outside Empathy and Immersion.

As the Threefold model strives to describe common major styles of play, it could be beneficial to it to study the various playing styles that can be formalized using the Process Model (see chapter 3.2), and see if any of the possible combinations of Benefits, Processes and Methods should rank a classification of their own. Careful thought should at least be given to the inclusion of Immersion in the basic model, as well as to the omission of Competition in its entirety.

C..2 GNS

The GNS model is an evolution from the Threefold, and a precursor to the Big Model, developed by Ron Edwards at The Forge. It strove to find important goals and decision-making considerations in role-playing that were distinct from and incompatible with each other. The model posited that coherent, successful play could exist only when just one of these goals was being realized.

GNS defines the elements of Gamism, Narrativism and Simulationism as follows in [22]:

is expressed by competition among participants (the real people); it includes victory and loss conditions for characters, both short-term and long-term, that reflect on the people's actual play strategies. The listed elements provide an arena for the competition.

The GNS definition of Gamism maps neatly and completely to the Process of Competition.

is expressed by enhancing one or more of the listed elements in Set 1 (Character, System, Setting, Situation, Color) above; in other words, Simulationism heightens and focuses Exploration as the priority of play. The players may be greatly concerned with the internal logic and experiential consistency of that Exploration.

The Simulationism of the GNS model maps directly to the Exploration of an Entity of the Shared Imagined Space.

is expressed by the creation, via role-playing, of a story with a recognizable theme. The characters are formal protagonists in the classic Lit 101 sense, and the players are often considered co-authors. The listed elements provide the material for narrative conflict (again, in the specialized sense of literary analysis).

While this definition of Narrativism is still a bit vague, later definitions have equalized it with Exploring a Premise, which in the Process Model is a form of Exploring a Concept through the SIS.

Thus, the definitions of the GNS seem to map quite neatly to the Processes of the Process Model. As the GNS model has evolved into the Big Model, what the Process Model could have to give it is discussed there.

C..3 GENder

The GENder model[23] was created to counter some of the ideas expressed in the GNS model, positing that a single game can support multiple playing styles simultaneously. The Process Model recognizes this claim as valid, though not incompatible with the claim of the GNS model that coherent play requires that only one creative agenda be adhered to. In terms of the Process Model, it can be seen that multiple co-existing Processes often interfere with each other due to differing support methods and decision-making considerations, but as the Processes also independently generate Benefits, they can continue to co-exist without breaking the game as long as the interference is not severe enough -- especially since human beings are so able at adapting to non-optimal situations.

As for the playing styles of the GENder model, no definitive definitions of them exist. From the discussions and related definitions the following may however be gleamed: Gamist in GENder seems to mean the overcoming of obstacles, whatever they may be. This definition puts it into close contact with at least Challenge, Competition and Tension, mostly hovering between them. Explorative play on the other hand points directly at Exploration of Entities of the SIS. Finally, Narrative seems to share the definition of Threefold Dramatism.

C..4 Glen Blacow's and Robin Laws' player type classification

In his book of game mastering advice[24], Robin Laws describes a player type classification that is a modified version of an original[27] by Glen Blacow. In it, the following seven types of players are recognized:

The Power Gamer seeks to make his character ever better. This equates with the subprocess of Tactical Optimization, a part of either Competition or Tension, but as it is described in the text without bounds, it equates more with Competition.

The Butt-Kicker simply wants combat, and to excel in it. In terms of the Process Model, this can be simply described as Challenge operating jointly with the Exploration of the Concept of Violence.

The Tactician wants to overcome adversity and tactical challenges. This behavior can be part of the Processes of Competition, Tension and Challenge, but in its purest form is an instance of the last.

The Specialist, always playing and exploring a certain distinct type of character, could at first glance seem to be Exploring an Entity, but what is happening is probably actually better described as Exploration of whatever Concept the character type represents.

The Method Actor, who strongly identifies with his or her character, can, in terms of the Process Model, either be engaged in Immersion or the Exploration of the Entity he or she is playing.

The Storyteller, on the other hand, is harder to describe in terms of the Process Model. Being equal to the dramatist of the threefold model, it too lacks a clear cause for the enjoyment, only the medium through which it is gained is mentioned. Thus, the same considerations apply.

The Casual Gamer, finally, is described as a person who is playing without special interests, mostly joining in to enjoy the social aspects of the game. In terms of the Process Model, he may enjoy any of the Role-Playing Processes to an extent (though probably none of them very much), but is probably gaining something significant from at least one of the Social Processes co-occurring with gaming.

Coloring all these definitions is the core premise of the book that:

Role-playing games are entertainment; your goal as GM is to make your games as entertaining as possible for all the participants.
Taking this into account, it can be seen how many of the classifications also tie into an implied end Benefit of Entertainment.

C..5 The Big Model

As stated above, The Big Model[25] is the current from of the model of role-playing developed at The Forge. It has its roots in GNS, but those aspects are only a small part of the current model.

On the top tier of The Big Model stands the Social Contract, defined as follows in the Glossary of The Forge[1]:

Social Contract
All interactions and relationships among the role-playing group, including emotional connections, logistic arrangements, and expectations. All role-playing is a subset of the Social Contract.

While the wording and intent in the Process Model is quite different, the concept of Shared Space of Imagining defined here certainly does have lots of points of contact with the Social Contract of the Big Model, both concepts being the containers of everything else.

The Big Model then defines a layer containing three Creative Agendas, Step On Up, The Right to Dream and Story Now, defined as follows:

Step On Up
Social assessment of personal strategy and guts among the participants in the face of risk. One of the three currently-recognized Creative Agendas. As a top priority of role-playing, the defining feature of Gamist play.

Step On Up is a driving force behind Competition and Tension. In the Process Model, it is best equated with seeking the specific Social Benefit of an acknowledgment of guts and accomplishment.

Right to Dream, the
Commitment to the imagined events of play, specifically their in-game causes and pre-established thematic processes. One of the three currently-recognized Creative Agendas. As a top priority for role-playing, the defining feature of Simulationist play.

The Right to Dream maps directly to the Method of in-game causality, and is in close proximity with other Methods, like the use of out-of-character knowledge. It also has a close relationship with the Process of Exploring an Entity of the Shared Imagined Space.

Story Now
Commitment to Addressing (producing, heightening, and resolving) Premise through play itself. The epiphenomenal outcome for the Transcript from such play is almost always a story. One of the three currently-recognized Creative Agendas. As a top priority of role-playing, the defining feature of Narrativist play.

In terms of the Process Model, this Creative Agenda can simply be likened to the Process of Exploring a Premise, a form of Exploring a Concept Through the Shared Imagined Space.

At the bottom tier of the model are Techniques and Ephemera, described as follows:

Specific procedures of play which, when employed together, are sufficient to introduce fictional characters, places, or events into the Shared Imagined Space. Many different Techniques may be used, in different games, to establish the same sorts of events. A given Technique is composed of a group of Ephemera which are employed together. Taken in their entirety for a given instance of role-playing, Techniques comprise System.

Moment-to-moment or sentence-to-sentence actions and statements during play. Combinations of Ephemera often construct Techniques. Changes in Stance represent one example of an Ephemeral aspect of play.

In the Process Model, these are both compacted into the definition of Methods, which then occupies the exact same space as in The Big Model in relation to the SIS.

The Big Model and the Process Model are complementary models that can be used to look at instances of role-playing from two quite different viewpoints, thus possibly fostering a greater understanding together than could be gained from the viewpoint of only one model. As for the part of The Big Model that continues to study coherent and incoherent playing goals and decision-making considerations, it could perhaps use the Process Model as a tool in further analyzing and formulating the various coherent and incompatible styles, as well as to probe for possible new additions.

C..6 Channel Theory

Channel Theory[26], built upon the foundations of a solid critique[28] of the Threefold and GNS, shares much with the Process Model, but also differs from it fundamentally.

Both models leave behind the single planar partitioning of a space that the older models exhibit. Both try to isolate distinct concepts from the whole of role-playing that could be measured independently. The basis of classifying these axles are completely different however. Channel Theory tries to create a thorough description of a gaming style, through partitioning the axles, or Channels, into priority groups. Unfortunately, the model stops at this, without describing any relations or interactions between the various channels. Due to this, the applicability of the Channel Theory model is extremely limited. It can only be used to describe, not analyze. The model would do well to analyze the different interactions between its component axles.

In general most of the top Element Channels of the Channel Theory model correspond with either Social or Role-Playing Processes in the Process Model.

Eetu Mäkelä 2005-03-02