Common misconceptions about Creative Agenda

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A lot of misconceptions about Creativa Agenda are common, fostered by superficiality, hearsay, preconceptions passed as knowledge, posturing as an "expert" in various on-line communities, etc.


This is an (incomplete) list of the more common ones:


- Narrativist play requires, by definition, specific mechanics. [Ditto for Gamism, ditto for Simulationism.] A typical statement reads, "My players and I create stories together, on purpose, but we don't use Narrativist mechanics, so it can't be Narrativist play".

FALSE: The actual case: Creative Agenda is specifically about goals, decisions, habits, and acts of role-playing. Mechanics facilitate these goals et cetera; they do not define them. Nothing stops people from playing Narrativist, for instance, regardless of the mechanics they are using - the only claim is that the mechanics in question may trip them up, necessitating patch rules and similar fixes.

This point is actually a sub-set of a larger point, that there is no need for Creative Agenda to be conscious or deliberate by the players: the goals of a Creative Agenda constitute the "value system" of one's role-playing, and like all value systems, they are usually invisible to the one holding them, especially during moments of their direct application


- One can only play Simulationist, Gamist, or Narrativist, period.

FALSE: The actual case: when talking about the course of a person's role-playing over time, the Big Model explicitly disavow this claim; Creative Agenda applies to an instance of play. All perceptions that it must be "labeling" people are mistaken.


- Commitment to the integrity or consistency of role-playing's content is Simulationism.

FALSE: The actual case: that commitment is baseline Exploration, which is a requirement of any and all role-playing. Special attention to that Exploration is one of the mechanisms of enjoying or reinforcing any of the three goals, in the right circumstances for that goal, e.g. Narrativist play in which Premise arises out of setting elements and, say, geographical constraints.

This misconception is especially insidious because it carries with it the corollary misconception that Narrativist play must be completely unconcerned with the integrity of setting, previous events, or anything similar.


- Given a hypothetical situation, a Narrativist player would do X, a Simulationist player would do Y, and a Gamist player would do Z.

FALSE: The actual case: all such examples and generalizations are false when taken as definitions (i.e. any Gamist, etc). Each of the modes has literally dozens of applications and nuances that will affect the actions taken during play.

For instance, Gamist play varies along an axis of risk (minimal to maximal), as well as along an axis of centralized authority (absent to present to absolute), as well as in terms of what constitutes "succeeding" (wide variety of possibilities, including the difference between "winning for good" and "winning so far"), as well as in terms of who one's opponent(s) is or are, as well as along an axis of the role of Fortune (absent to medium to extreme), and as well as along an axis of when Fortune is applied (early, e.g. PC and scenario creation; to late, e.g. resolution only; or a combination of the two).

Given all this variation, I am to understand that one can point at "Gamist player" and state what he, she, or any Gamist player will do when confronted with a problem or situation of play? Nonsense.

The same variety applies to Narrativism, based on at least as many angles or axes of variation, and most especially to Simulationism.


- Vanilla Narrativism is a hybrid of Narrativist and Simulationist play. Secondarily, the terminology illustrates bias because it might as well be called Vanilla Simulationism.

FALSE: The actual case: Vanilla Narrativism represents an approach to Narrativist play with muted or low-impact demands on the players. It has nothing to do with Simulationist play in any way; the participants are indeed playing Narrativist, but not talking or thinking much about doing so.

(A lot of people are playing vanilla narrativism out there but upon reading about Creative Agenda, think they must be "Simulationist" because they are interested in or committed to aspects of the setting]


. GNS has corrupted and misused the Threefold.

FALSE: The actual case: GNS is not the Threefold. It shares some vocabulary with it, which is not the same as sharing terminology. There is no obligation to remain consistent with the Threefold's concepts, goals, terms, or framework for discussion.

Historical note: When Ron Edwards wrote "System Does Matter," he thought that he was using the Threefold without modification except for one tiny change in naming an element (Dramatism to Narrativism). He was was mistaken, and that was soon pointed out to him by Hunter Logan and the Scarlet Jester. Since then, the Threefold is considered as an inspirational source and not, in any way, as an included component that we must remain consistent with.

Useful Threads

A previous outdated version of this list, applied to GNS (before the Big Model), 2002: Seven major misconceptions about GNS