GNS: Gamist Players

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We missed last weeks blog due to some real world interference, but this week we’re back on the subject of GNS - Gamism, Narrativism and Simulationism. In last weeks blogpost, we gave a brief introduction, describing the way in which players from the three different groups enjoy the game.

This week I wanted to look at the Gamist in particular, going a bit deeper into their core enjoyment and motivation as well as seeing where this may clash with the Narrativist and Simulationist. As a repeated caveat, people are far too complicated to fit perfectly within a specific category, so everything here should be taken with a grain of salt, even if it can still be helpful in understanding how you play and enjoy the game.

Running for Gamists

As mentioned, Gamists approach roleplaying as a game, not dissimilar to how they might approach a board game or a game of cards. Their enjoyment is from competition and the attaining of a sense of victory through that competition. Since most roleplaying games do not have a clear victory condition inherent in the system, defining what constitutes victory can have a big impact. Survival of difficult encounters and defeating enemies is definitely the key and most common one.

As a storyteller, you can facilitate this by providing challenges that are difficult to overcome - monsters that are more powerful than the PCs and challenges that block easy and obvious solutions. While the challenge should not be so difficult as to be impossible, it should require the players to think before they act. In particular, you should reward the player if they come up with clever ways to gain an advantage, be it a tactical manoeuvre in combat or using social leverage to get the outcome they want, as this further enhances a likely high point.

Gamist players often also set their own specific victory conditions. They want to restore their characters noble house, conquer the world or gain immortality. However, it is important as a storyteller to understand that these goals should not just be handed to the player on a silver platter. Part of the fun for the Gamist player is to earn their victory, through hard work, sacrifice and wits. If the challenge is too easy, not only do you rob the player of a challenge, but you stand a decent chance that they will retire the character shortly after. They accomplished their goal, after all, so its time for a new challenge.

One final great thing about Gamists is that they are very easily motivated towards quests: just dangle something that furthers their victory goals and you’re set!

Gamists vs Narrativists

Gamists sometimes clash with more Narrativism oriented players in that they seek out power and perfection, while Narrativists often enjoy exploring the flaws of their character. The Gamist feels the Narrativist should be punished for not making a highly effective character and will feel cheated if the Narrativist accomplishes the same level of success. Likewise, the Narrativist will get annoyed that the Gamist player is trying to outshine their character by making them ‘perfect’, leaving them with nothing to play against.

As a storyteller, introducing a system of merits and flaws if the game system does not do so already may be useful here. By making flaws provide room for benefits elsewhere, it gives the Gamist a chance to grow a more effective character at a cost, and you now have a game mechanical reason why the Gamist ought to also play their flaws. This allows the Narrativist something they can work with while most Gamist are very accepting of limitations if they accepted them to gain advantages elsewhere.

The caveat here is that merits and flaws need to be balanced. If you offer a Gamist the option to give up his ability to rhyme to become a better sniper, they’ll take it, and it will exacerbate rather than solve the problem, only leading to more accusations of ‘power gaming’.

Gamists vs Simulationists

Gamists may also clash with Simulationist oriented players because the Gamist seeks to win, while the Simulationist seeks realism. The conflict here is not that victory cannot be a realistic outcome, but rather that the Gamist may sacrifice consistency for effectiveness. Characters who abandon their previously strongly held convictions on a whim whenever it suits their purposes, or who change alignment in order to use a powerful magic item are likely to cause dislike and even accusations of metagaming from the Simulationist.

Clearly metagaming is not a good thing and need not be allowed, but the Gamist player may truly not believe that what they are doing is metagaming. They are simply developing their character to gain more advantage. Rather than blaming the player, it may help if you clarify, and follow through, that such a change of heart may have in game consequences.

If a smuggler character decides to turn his former friends into the authorities for a big reward, other friends may take notice and be less inclined to help them. If a wizard becomes evil to use a robe of the evil arch-mage, they may find themselves kicked out of their tower and be unable to learn spells from previously friendly wizards, while any new evil allies are far less willing to share.

This kind of consequence is very much understood by Gamist players and if the outcome leaves them worse off in the end, they probably won’t be repeating the mistake.

Gamists vs Gamists

Despite having similar motivations, Gamists may also clash with one another. In particular this happens when victory conditions clash in a way that is non-conductive. If both players seek to be the strongest, they may quarrel over a powerful magic item, for example.

Within reason, it is okay to let some of this play out. After all, the PvP struggle is something most Gamists enjoy. However, as these struggles can only have one winner, it will inevitably leave the other player as the loser. That is fine, so long as that is the end of it. One risk these conflicts run is that they echo through - the character who wins the powerful magic item will now be in a better position when the struggle for the next powerful magic item begins. If that happens, it may lead to some sour players.

A good way to avoid this is to help players set non-conflicting victory goals. If one PC seeks to become the strongest warrior, and the other to become the most powerful wizard, they can each shine without being in one another’s way. In fact, their goals become symbiotic, as the powerful wizard can make magic items to increase the power of the warrior, while the warrior can help the wizard acquire powerful new spells.

Are you a Gamist player? What awesome victories have you accomplished against the odds? We’d love to hear from you on the Community Forum. While there, be sure to check out this week’s changelog as well!