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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 209 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Designing a relationship, not a rule?  (Read 9092 times)
Callan S.
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« on: February 27, 2005, 01:02:44 AM »

Sort of split from http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=14396
(also this thread seems similar: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=14497&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight= )

Ambiguity in rules. I'm sure you've encountered it. But first, imagine your handed a sheet of paper with something like this on it:

Steven: Get's angry easily, doesn't like pessimism but is sometimes that way himself
Jenifer: Optimist and outgoing, but doesn't think her actions through
Tim: Big man, uncomfortable about his size and speaks quietly because of it
And so on, with lots more names and brief descriptions which suggest possible interactions between them.

Now, the sheet doesn't have any rules except each player gets to choose a handful of characters and everyone just cooks up scenes and throws in their characters when it feels right. I imagine the main type of play it would shape is one where you mostly explore the conflicts between each character.

Now, that's pretty rough, but I imagine with an intriguing list (mine isn't great), you could have some fun for awhile, especially as you've got a stable of characters to apply, not just one PC.


Okay, next: Imagine your handed a sheet of paper with something like this on it:

Flaming hand: Set's fire to stuff really well, but sometimes stuff which you don't want to burn.
Telekinesis: Can easily grab and move lots of things, but not much strength.
Forcefield: Invisible force field can block many attacks before it's broken, but can not be moved once made.
And so on, with lots more names and brief descriptions which suggest possible interactions between them.

Again, you get a handful of them and can apply them when it seems it'll be interesting to you.

Here, I imagine, rather than exploring any particular events (or events where you examine the relationships between people), your going to explore what happens when each power conflicts with another.

These sort of sound like rules, but would seem to most like flimsy rules. Here I'm suggesting they aren't rules at all and are instead more like relationships, as with the characters example above. From the other thread, BESM sounded like it uses this. Rifts certainly does and I've seen other designs like TROS use this to a certain degree along with actual rules (interestingly I can't think of D&D 3.x doing it anywhere).

Like setting material you might find in a RPG where king X hates all the Y's, these aren't rules but are actually setting material. The same type of setting material as that king, because it doesn't do anything except force you, if you wish to play, to explore what it does (in your opinion).

Discuss?
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2005, 12:42:01 PM »

I'm not sure what direction you want the discussion to go down, but from my perspective its all rules.

As I see it rules define parameters...parameters being things that establish limits or borders.

King X hates all Ys is a parameter (as well as all the other things you've listed).

But roll Sword Skill + Dexterity to attack.  Natural 20 is a Crit is also a parameter.  In this case the limit is what skills and attributes are useable in combat (and by extension which aren't).

To me rules / parameters are pretty much synonomous although if pressed I suppose one could characterize parameters as being passive and rules as being the active establishment of those paramters.

The only difference I see is that one set of parameters has been rigorously and specifically defined, and the other set of parameters has been left relatively undefined.  I would argue that both sets could be rigorously defined (to any degree of crunch desired), and in many cases should be.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2005, 07:00:09 PM »

To emphasize what Ralph said, setting material is a subset of rules. Both serve as an authority to which we appeal in defining our shared imagined space. Contents of character papers are similarly a subset of rules known as characters, but they aren't really the characters--those exist within the shared imagined space, the papers being authorities to define specific but very limited aspects concerning them.

I think you've identified a type of rules, but they're still rules.

--M. J. Young
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kenjib
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2005, 09:21:00 AM »

Ralph,

Doesn't Universalis pretty much do just what the original poster is suggesting?  This is the part that says:

1.  How do I keep track of what is already in the SiS?

It then adds the other components needed to make imaginary qualities into a functional game:

2.  Who's turn is it?
3.  What am I allowed to touch?
4.  What if I don't agree with you?
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Kenji
Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2005, 01:36:16 AM »

Direction of the post: When I pitched them as relationships, I was trying to emphasize how much focus they would get. I'm pretty sure that if you plonk some torrid love affair material in the middle of a gamist dungeon, I think your going to turn heads at the table toward that love affair, for quite some time. Relationships can be that attention grabbing.

Okay, so say you've made some rules, which I'm dubbing 'relationships'.

Now, imagine them in comparison to D&D 3.x movement rules. Those movement rules are pretty cut and dried...nothing to them but to just use them.

But your relationship rules? All sorts of focus can and will need to go there (since they aren't clean cut). They are full of pull, pulling the players to explore them like they might explore that torrid relationship.

So I'm suggesting that if you don't have clean cut rules, then the relationship style rules will become a major focus of exploration in play. It doesn't matter if you intended something else to be the focus, your design is pulling in players right here and they aren't reaching what you had in mind when you designed the game.

For example, if your book is about exploring king X hating Y, exploration is going to instead hover around all those relationship style rules you threw in. You'll get people going "Oh, I want to find out about the king...but first, how does my forcefield spell work again...I really want to find out".

I guess I've finally found and am expressing what I don't like about fuzzy rules: incoherant focus (vs what you presume is the focus of the game).
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2005, 01:23:48 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
I'm not sure what direction you want the discussion to go down, but from my perspective its all rules.

As I see it rules define parameters...parameters being things that establish limits or borders.
*snip*
I would argue that both sets could be rigorously defined (to any degree of crunch desired), and in many cases should be.

Would you say not making a distinction between the two types of rule, often leads to designs where the rule should have been rigourously defined but wasn't (or even vise versa)?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2005, 05:33:47 AM »

Hi there,

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the topic, but what I'm seeing is a little different from the points of discussion so far. Callan, let me know whether I'm throwing a monkey into the pool. I hope it's a duck, but I could be wrong.

Let's consider all the named, explicit stuff in a given rules-set. Then let's consider all sorts of stuff which, given the named stuff, is not named but is going to be important in the SIS.

In The Riddle of Steel, the specific interactions among types of weapons and types of armor are explicit.

In Sorcerer (the game I'm going to focus on), they are not, although they are mentioned and a blanket mechanic is provided for that purpose. In Sorcerer, however, there are multiple tactical, risky decisions to be made during a complex combat situation, and many of them depend on immediate opportunities and constraints. In practice, types of armor often play a big role.

1. The absence of the detailed rules for armor makes the role of armor in the game very important, sometimes ...

2. ... but only in Sorcerer, because the presence of certain rules (specifically, the important of a small and fleeting advantage) makes armor type a fruitful subject of play.

#1 and #2 have to go together to achieve the effect I'm talking about. If you only have #1 , then the thing is both absent and unimportant ... which is fine, if it has nothing to do with the goals or topic of play, but absolutely crappy if it is otherwise relevant (i.e. to setting, or something similar).

I made this point recently in [Musha Shugyo] Honor mechanics, in which I talked about how My Life with Master has no "Defiance" score. It doesn't have to. The interactions of all the existing scores, puts "defiance of the Master" into a premium focus during play, as a kind of unnamed score.

Without such "fruitful voids," perhaps envisioned as what you get when you show a person seven of the eight corners of a cube, a rules-set is no fun. It's just a full cube; you can look at it, pick it up, mess with it, and nothing happens except it stays a cube.

My point is absolutely independent of what the rules in question are about. We could be talking about social interactions among characters, physical combat, interactions of the characters with the physical environment around them, rules for the players interacting as people, or whatever.

My point is also independent of the scale and scope of the rules. We could be talking about tactical details of combat options, or we could be talking about some universal mechanic for morality.

Again, Callan, am I totally missing what you wanted to talk about? Or bringing the discussion closer to it?

Best,
Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2005, 03:36:18 PM »

Hi Ron,

It's really a neutral technique (I've been a bit biased toward it here).

I think that one fruitful void can draw away attention from another fruitful void, you put in your game. And if that second void is the one you as the designer wanted play to revolve around, then you've screwed up the design.

For example: (and I'm assuming the idea of a fruitful void can also apply to setting material, for this example) A game is about king X hating all the elves. But you then put in a fruitful void about how fighting works (and fighting is emphasised in the system one of the main conflicts you'll get into in your exploration of the kings hate).

Essentially they'll need to explore how fighting works before you can even explore the kings hate. Once the players are exploring how fighting works, why would they stop and explore something else, when they've already found something that's engaged their interests? This is going to end up being the emphasis they find in your game. Now if you wanted it to be, as a design goal, that's cool. But if you didn't, then you've made a mistake in design. That's my conclusion.

Now if the combat rules were clear cut, exploration of them is reduced. So players are likely to move on, simply because there isn't anything else to see in them and emphasis shifts onto what you intended as a design goal.

Any clearer? I don't want to do another rambling post. :}
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