Jan 10, 2021


This week didn’t start out great, with me sleeping through my alarm and waking up at about 1pm. I decided to retroactively take Monday off.

The transition from holiday to work is rough.

Other than that, it was business as usual. A few people are still off, so the team’s a little quiet, but there’s enough to keep ourselves occupied.

One tricky problem came up: we deployed the NCSC password blacklist, to prevent people from signing up with, or changing to, the top breached passwords. For existing users, we can check if they have a breached password on sign in, but what about users who don’t sign in regularly? Well, we just have to check every password (about ~44,000 which meet our minimum length restriction) against every user. Because we’re using good password hashing—a pepper, a random salt, and an expensive hash function—this is going to take a while. Oh well.


This week I read:


I finally read about the Threefold Model, a predecessor of GNS, and I definitely prefer it as a model of player goals.

GNS is the most widely known such model, but it’s really confusing. GNS breaks player motivations down into three types:

My major problems with GNS are:

  1. It is written as if gamism and narrativism are the ways to play a game (with narrativism being the best way), and that simulationism is something some people think they like, but they’re just mistaken. GNS adherents can be very pretentious.

  2. Simulationism groups two very different types of game—realistic gritty world-simulations and unrealistic genre-simulations—under the same umbrella, because they’re both “simulating”, even though one doesn’t care about the story at all and the other is all about the story.

  3. Nobody really agrees on what each category means, because the original essay is kind of vague. As said, simulationism is particularly bad; but gamism and narrativism are also pretty confusing.

I’ve generally described myself as a “simulationist” gamer—which is already unfortunate because GNS seems to look down on us—but one who wants to simulate worlds, rather than think about the story. But because PbtA games, which are basically the opposite of what I want, are also considered “simulationist” games, the word itself is almost completely unhelpful in describing what sort of games I like to play.

It’s like the GNS authors thought “surely nobody actually wants to play as if the game world were a real place, because that’s just tedious.”

Enter the Threefold Model. It’s much better. It breaks player motivations down into:

So Threefold-Dramatism covers GNS-Narrativism and the genre-simulating aspect of GNS-Simulationism; Threefold-Gamism is the same as GNS-Gamism; and Threefold-Simulationism is actually a narrow enough category to be useful for describing things.

Since GNS came later, and reads as if narrativism is really the best way to play RPGs, I suspect that it came out of the Dramatist community wanting to separate people who view “the story” in different ways—people who want to play a game with a good story vs people who want to explicitly play with the story—but without introducing a fourth category. And I think that was a mistake.


I backed the Little Nuns kickstarter, for an artbook of these nuns with ducks.