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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Conflict Resolution and Gamism  (Read 5450 times)
Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« on: April 13, 2004, 11:00:25 AM »

This is a lot of junk all strung together.  Hopefully it'll make sense at the end.

*****

Once upon a time I started to shift my play more towards conflict resolution as an anti-wheedling technique.  (Wheedler being a John Kim (TM) brand term for players that overcome challenge by manipulating the real people, often the GM.)  One wheedler behavior is the manipulation of a serious of small tasks to trick another player into slipping up at some point, then referring back to a previous statement to overcome the current conflict via some convoluted plan or logical whole.  I consider wheedling to be gamist, the tactics just involve social techniques.  (Whether or not this fits John's definition I don't know, but it's close enough for me.)

Example:

Bob, "I go talk to the arms master."
Sammy the Wheedler, "Do they have coat hangers in the closet?"
GM, "Ummm... I don't know.
Sammy, "They have to hang their coats on something."
Gm, "I guess, I don't see why not.  Sure.  What were you saying Bob?"
Bob, "I want to talk to the arms master about the armor and weapons we have for the troops."
GM, "Sure, Ok"
Sammy, "What are they made of?"
GM, "The arms master is... What? I dunno, metal.  The arms master is..."
Sammy, "Are they slick like a modern day coat hanger?  Do they make them here?"
GM, "I guess so, why does it matter?"
Bob, "Can we get back to talking about equipping the damn army?"
Sammy, "I'm just curious."
GM, "Ok, he says you've only got enough armor for half the men and that the enemy is well funded and..."
Sammy, "Ok, I melt the plastic off of all the coat hangers and process the petrol into gasoline in the kitchen and use the gasoline to make C4 and blow up all the enemy's troops."
Bob, "What?"
GM, "It's the spring of 1454.  They don't have plastic, dumbass."
Sammy, "But you said the coat hangers were slick like modern day coat hangers.  Modern day coat hangers are coated in plastic"
GM, "I didn't say they were made of plastic."
Bob, "Ummm... You can't make gasoline from plastic, and you can't make C4 from gasoline either."
Sammy, "Sure you can, they're all just carbohydrates and some nitrogen."
Bob, "It doesn't work like that, especially not at this technology level."
GM, "Sammy, you can make a bomb out of lantern oil."
Sammy, "But C4 is more..."
GM, "I'm going to kill you in the face."
Sammy, "Yeah but..."
GM, "In the face."


Well, I got a little carried away and made the wheedling fail, albeit rather dysfunctionally.  This is a difficult behavior for me to describe, because part of effective wheedling is making it hard to point out.  It's not wheedling if the point is to build up to something, wheedling needs social manipulation.

Conflict resolution definitely won't solve wheedling, but it makes it easier to spot.  With conflict resolution instead of stating action you are stating intent.  Part of making this manner of wheedling successful is obfuscating intent.  If someone had just come out and asked Sammy, "What are you trying to accomplish?  What's your end goal here?", then the whole mess might have been avoided.

*****

I see a trade off between conflict and task resolution - tension.  Conflict resolution facilitates preservation of intent, preservation of character integrity, and shared collaboration.  However, with conflict resolution you lose some causality driven tension.  With task resolution you're ultimately handing over the actually direction of events to an outside force, hoping that the actions taken yield what you desire, but there are no assurances.  So seemly, task resolution increases risk.  You're risking intent, and hence final outcome, by hoping that a series of tasks will create a certain effect.

*****

This all leads me to say that task resolution inherently favors Gamism, because task resolution lays your strategy on the line.  

(I'm familiar with the speech about techniques not equating 1:1 with CA.  I'm inclined to poop on the speech in this instance, but I'll gladly acknowledge its validity if anyone has a good example of Conflict resolution working for Gamism.)
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- Cruciel
coxcomb
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2004, 11:20:09 AM »

I don't know if I can commit to a sweeping generalization, but I think that task resolution is strongest at the G end of the scale.

Conflict resolution seems to help in making the story belong to the players as well as the GM. That is, with task resolution, the conflicts can still be arbitrarily decided by the GM: "Yes, your sword connects with the demon, but he blows up and you are consumed in the fireball." Deprotagonization galore.

Also, task resolution seems to focus players on the specific actions rather than what is important to them. But if what is important is meeting the challenge (and in many cases, how you meet them), task resolution might work very well toward that goal.
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Jay Loomis
Coxcomb Games
Check out my http://bigd12.blogspot.com">blog.
M. J. Young
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2004, 02:34:38 PM »

I think your conclusion is poorly worded; or perhaps you can't reach the conclusion you stated from the evidence presented.

If what you meant to say is gamism is better supported by task resolution than by conflict resolution you're probably right, at least in a "preponderance of the evidence" sense--the balance tips that way at least slightly. What you said sounds like "task resolution supports gamism better than it supports either simulationism or narrativism", and with this I do not agree. Simulationism, particularly, is often well supported by task resolution, and although narrativism tends to be better supported by conflict or outcome resolution, task resolution is not inimical to it.

However, even the given statement is by no means absolute. Consider systems which attempt to scale for larger combats. It is difficult to make these judgements, because to some degree the difference between task resolution and conflict resolution is a matter of how closely focused you are to the situation. We (rightly) call a hit roll in D&D "task resolution" because it determines whether or not the attacking character successfully hit the defending character; but the concept of what is happening is more complex, as the game's descriptive text assumes that both sides are blocking and parrying and absorbing/withstanding most blows and the hit roll only determines not whether your one effort to hit the opponent landed, but whether one of your many efforts to hit him got past his defenses and landed. In that sense, task resolution is conflict resolution on the scale of the particular. Meanwhile, if you shift it to something like the D&D BattleSystem, you're talking about a squad of goblins attacking a squad of human infantry, and you settle it as one task even though it clearly involves dozens of individual attacks, parries, and responses--it is much closer to the level of conflict resolution, although it is still clearly gamist.

Which is to say that there is a tendency for gamism to be better supported by task resolution than by conflict resolution, but that this does not say either that conflict resolution can't support gamism or that task resolution will necessarily prove to be gamist.

Clear as mud?

--M. J. Young
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Jason Lee
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2004, 05:20:42 PM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
I think your conclusion is poorly worded; or perhaps you can't reach the conclusion you stated from the evidence presented.

If what you meant to say is gamism is better supported by task resolution than by conflict resolution you're probably right, at least in a "preponderance of the evidence" sense--the balance tips that way at least slightly.

...


Yeah, you've got it - very poorly worded.  Gamism is poorly (if at all) supported by conflict resolution is what I was driving at - not that's really any different logically.

Quote from: M.J.
...

What you said sounds like "task resolution supports gamism better than it supports either simulationism or narrativism", and with this I do not agree. Simulationism, particularly, is often well supported by task resolution, and although narrativism tends to be better supported by conflict or outcome resolution, task resolution is not inimical to it.


Yeah, agreed there as well.  Task resolution can work with Nar or Sim, but as Jay pointed out the shared collaboration drops, which can cause hiccups.

Quote from: M.J.
However, even the given statement is by no means absolute. Consider systems which attempt to scale for larger combats. It is difficult to make these judgments, because to some degree the difference between task resolution and conflict resolution is a matter of how closely focused you are to the situation. We (rightly) call a hit roll in D&D "task resolution" because it determines whether or not the attacking character successfully hit the defending character; but the concept of what is happening is more complex, as the game's descriptive text assumes that both sides are blocking and parrying and absorbing/withstanding most blows and the hit roll only determines not whether your one effort to hit the opponent landed, but whether one of your many efforts to hit him got past his defenses and landed. In that sense, task resolution is conflict resolution on the scale of the particular. Meanwhile, if you shift it to something like the D&D BattleSystem, you're talking about a squad of goblins attacking a squad of human infantry, and you settle it as one task even though it clearly involves dozens of individual attacks, parries, and responses--it is much closer to the level of conflict resolution, although it is still clearly gamist.

Which is to say that there is a tendency for gamism to be better supported by task resolution than by conflict resolution, but that this does not say either that conflict resolution can't support gamism or that task resolution will necessarily prove to be gamist.

Clear as mud?


I think here, and I know the boundaries can get fuzzy, you're mixing up scene resolution (larger scale) and conflict resolution (intent based Proposals).  As I understand it conflict resolution could be at the action scale, even though action scale + task resolution, and scene scale + conflict resolution, are the typically bedfellows.

Hmmm... Is the mud any clearer?
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- Cruciel
ethan_greer
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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2004, 07:26:40 AM »

I think I disagree with the proposal - it seems like you're looking at trends in RPGs and assuming that those trends indicate something other than immitation, precedence, or general preference. As an example, Tunnels & Trolls (quite Gamist) uses conflict resolution for combat.  CR isn't a rare technique in Gamism because it doesn't work; it's a rare technique in general because it's not as popular as TR.
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Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
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« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2004, 07:53:09 AM »

Hello,

Ethan, I was afraid someone would bring that into the discussion ...

Task vs. Conflict is one issue. Scale of the resolution (Action vs. Scene, e.g.) is another. I consider Tunnels & Trolls combat, or at least the basic group-roll chassis for combat, to be Task Resolution at the Scene scale.

I suggest that in much Gamist play, the intensity of Step On Up diminishes the necessity for conflict resolution among the characters. When Pawn Stance is common in that game, it might even remove that necessity altogether.

However, I think we are discussing historical trends and possibly ranges of preferences within Gamist play, not definitional features. It's an interesting point, for sure.

In playing Great Ork Gods, for instance, I think that the resolution is mainly about conflicts, specifically in terms of player conflicts/cooperation with "naked" Step On Up involved. In fact, the more I think about it, this is the kind of Gamist play I prefer the most.

Best,
Ron
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Jason Lee
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2004, 10:23:04 PM »

Another short reply tonight.

I actually wasn't even thinking about historical trends (in design); I didn't even take them into account.  It may be a historical trend because of preference.

I'm going to read Great Ork Gods when I get the chance.  I get the impression that the conflict resolution you are referring to is quite different than Nar conflict resolution, not that Situation and everything else isn't different.
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- Cruciel
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