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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: Theory Without Jargon - Help for the Desparate - Number 3  (Read 4166 times)

Posts: 1049

« on: February 27, 2005, 10:47:18 AM »

Last time I ended up by talking about how most contributions are automatically accepted by the group, but that some contributions need to be arbitrated by an agreed-on mechanical method. This sounds simple, but the process of automatic acceptance can be pretty complicated. Last time I made an assumption that every contribution will either be implicitly accepted, or will be mechanically arbitrated.

Let's return to Alice and Bob and Bob's trusty contribution: "Boron kills the Orc." Once Bob says this, what happens? The actual meaning of Bob's statement depends on the ownership of the various elements involved, and on the social agreement between the people in the group. That is, Bob's contribution can be interpreted several different ways by the other players, depending on the social agreement.

The real issue is, how much of Bob's contribution instantly becomes imagined fact? When does this happen? How much of it is held pending mechanical arbitration? Not every contribution is so clear cut as to be accepted or arbitrated in its entirety.

Bob's statement could be interpreted as:

1 - "I intend for Boron to kill the Orc if nothing else happens."
2 - "Boron is even now attacking the Orc. Let's use the combat mechanics to arbitrate this situation."
3 - "The Orc is dead, Boron having killed it."

Here are a few more examples to show how different ways of interpreting statements can interact with various ownership schemes.

Bob: "Boron goes to the Smithy and buys a sword."

Alice: "Wait, before you leave the Inn a mysterious stranger approaches you."

Alice has just rejected Bob's contribution completely. Can Alice get away with this? It depends on the social agreement. Does the agreement give Alice the right to unconditionally veto any statement that Bob makes?

Alice: "This town doesn't have a Smith."

Again Alice has rejected Bob's contribution completely. But this time it's a little different. Let's assume for a minute that no one has said anything about there being a Smithy in this town before. For Bob's statement to be true, he has to have the right to invent a new character (the Smith) from scratch. If Bob doesn't have this right - if, say, Alice is the owner of the town and its inhabitants - then Bob's statement was merely a shorthand for: "Is there a Smithy here? If there is, I want Boron to go there and buy a sword."

Alice: "The Smith doesn't want to sell you a sword."

Alice is contradicting Bob's statement that Boron bought a sword, but *not* the statement that Boron went to the Smithy. So what happens next? Is Alice allowed to veto that part of Bob's statement? If, for example, Alice owns the Smith character, then this could be a perfectly reasonable part of the social agreement. Alice might be proposing that they invoke some haggling mechanics to arbitrate whether or not Boron eventually does buy a sword, and how much it costs. Bob's statement has been broken down into two parts. The first part is treated like the third option listed above: When Bob says that Boron goes to the Smithy, everyone immediately agrees that Boron is now at the Smithy. The second part is treated like the second option listed above: When Bob says that Boron buys a sword, it's interpreted as "Boron will try to buy a sword. Let's use haggling mechanics to arbitrate this situation."

Alice: "You get to the Smithy, but it's engulfed in flames, and the Smith lies dead in the yard."

Again Alice accepting the first part of Bob's contribution, but this time the second half is not suspended for mechanical arbitration. Instead, it's been totally blown away by a big plot twist from Alice.

The Bottom Line

Contributions can be complex. Depending on the social agreement of the group, and on the ownership of various game elements, certain parts of a contribution may be accepted, while others are superseded, or suspended for mechanical arbitration.

Everyone in the group needs to have a shared understanding about ownership, and about what contributions (and parts of contributions) can be superseded or suspended for mechanical arbitration. It's important to note that it doesn't matter so much what specific approach the group takes to accepting contributions as imagined fact, as long as everyone is on the same page. One of the most important functions of a set of RPG rules is to establish this network of relationships in the social contract.

Unfortunately, many published texts are unclear in their presentation of this material. When different members of a group have different ideas about when, and what part of a contribution becomes imagined fact, mass chaos usually ensues.

Emily Care

Posts: 1126

« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2005, 07:51:08 AM »

It's looking good, Nathan. Sorry I haven't had more time to do an in depth analysis, but I think you'd do well to put these together and put them up somewhere.


Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Posts: 1049

« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2005, 08:50:17 PM »

Hey Em,

Glad you like it! I will eventually put them all up on my website. I'm not sure how many articles there will end up being, but it'll definitely be more than 3. :)

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