*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 21, 2019, 06:33:00 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
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)
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Author Topic: Meaning at the beginning, middle and end  (Read 18158 times)
TonyLB
Member

Posts: 3702


WWW
« on: April 19, 2005, 05:33:42 AM »

In "Thematic Causality":  What, why and how?, over in the Muse of Fire forums, we hit some very interesting general-purpose questions.  Folks reckon, and I agree, that it might be worth discussing at large.

I think that we're all in agreement (there) that "meaning" is a construct placed onto events in the SIS by the perception of players.  There is, in short, no such thing as "inherent meaning."  Whether you have a Charisma of 6, or you did a great deed for the King, or any of that... at some point, some player (or players in consensus) are going to refer to that past fact as authority to shape present and future input to the SIS.  That's "meaning."  When your Charisma is why you fail to seduce the barmaid, that's some of the meaning of your Charisma score.  When your deeds for the King mean that you are now a target in the machiavellian machinations of the court, that is the meaning of your heroism.

But Ralph, and others, rightly point out that the social expectations for how that authority can be applied are negotiated at different points in the sequence.  I'll give my rough estimate of what those points can be:

Any fact which can be appealed to for authority goes through (at least) three stages.  It is Established as a fact.  It is Appealed to for Authority.  The Authority is Applied to the SIS.  This in turn Establishes new facts, and so the cycle continues.  It is that very continuity, from one link to the next, that Chris Edwards termed "Thematic Causality."

So, similar to IIEE, this is EAAE.  Somewhere in there the legitimacy of the claim is Judged, which can consist of both debates about whether it's applicable and reinterpreting the SIS in light of the agreement that it is relevant.

Meaning at the Beginning (EjAAE):  Typified by the "Charisma 6" example above.  Players come to the table with social expectations about what Charisma 6 means already in place.  Rules, precedent and explicit social contract come together to form an expectation of when that fact can be appealed to for authority.  Because of the way this structure reinterprets the SIS it is often viewed as "world-building".

Meaning in the Middle (EAjAE):  Typified by freeform Traits as in Universalis, Dogs in the Vineyard, Capes, etc.  A player refers to a fact for authority, and the legitimacy of that appeal is judged in the instant of the relevance of the fact, before things go further.  Expectations are (usually) informed by explicit rules (like "Anything the player chooses to bring in is relevant... but isn't it creepy what they think is relevant sometimes?")

Meaning at the End (EAAjE):  Quite possibly typified by Capes Inspirations, but maybe not.  A fact is used for authority, and the legitimacy of that appeal to authority is not judged until after the authority has already been applied.  The legitimacy (or not) of the appeal to authority does not determine whether it has authority to act on the SIS, but may determine what the nature of the newly Established facts are (and therefore have an impact on the next iteration of the cycle).


Does this seem like a sensible breakdown of the ways that social expectation can be applied to the ways that people appeal to SIS-features for authority?

Do these different styles of forming Meaning support different styles of play?  Or simply different narrative structures within any style of play?
Logged

Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2005, 05:52:47 AM »

Hi Tony,

This is nice & solid. My thoughts on your last two questions ...

Yes, I think it's a good breakdown, and a good description of the variety of approaches. It's especially nifty if one considers that my "Fortune in the Middle" terminology represents a particular case of "Meaning." I wonder if my "Fortune at the End" is actually a particular case of "Meaning at the Beginning?" I suspect it is ...

It might be interesting to parse out how differing expectations lead to different dysfunctional trends in role-playing.

For example, if I am working mainly from an expectation of Meaning in the Middle, and if another guy is working mainly from an expectation of Meaning at the Beginning, I suspect a whole lot of arguments about what Climb 13 "means" or "would do" are going to arise during play. (I also suggest that Cover in Sorcerer, in particular, is explicitly Meaning in the Middle in order to avoid such issues, which in practice seems to have worked without a hitch.)

I wonder whether the tendency for groups new to Universalis to get bogged down in the tenets phase represents a similar sort of confusion, or perhaps disconnect or lack of trust, among members of the group. They can't tell what the components they're inventing mean, and thus can't get them into action.

As for "styles of play," I'm not sure what you mean by the term. If we're talking about Creative Agenda (which is not the same as "styles"), then I think your point is CA-independent to a certain extent - or rather, that your breakdown applies well regardless of CA.

H'm ... or is it that simple? As you probably know, I usually turn to the reward system as the center of "system matters" when CA is being considered. So if the meaning you're talking about feeds into the reward system in an identifiable, consistent way, then I think how it's conducted is relevant to CA.

That doesn't mean that any one of your categories lines up neatly with any one of the CAs, but it does mean that we can talk about how a given approach (e.g. Meaning in the Middle, especially) may, in tandem with other aspects of System, works well with a CA in a given instance.

Cool stuff, Tony.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Troy_Costisick
Member

Posts: 802


WWW
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2005, 07:52:01 AM »

Heya

Ron wrote:

Quote
H'm ... or is it that simple? As you probably know, I usually turn to the reward system as the center of "system matters" when CA is being considered. So if the meaning you're talking about feeds into the reward system in an identifiable, consistent way, then I think how it's conducted is relevant to CA.

That doesn't mean that any one of your categories lines up neatly with any one of the CAs, but it does mean that we can talk about how a given approach (e.g. Meaning in the Middle, especially) may, in tandem with other aspects of System, works well with a CA in a given instance.


Which is right, if I understand things.  And Tony put it that way here:

Quote
So, similar to IIEE, this is EAAE. Somewhere in there the legitimacy of the claim is Judged, which can consist of both debates about whether it's applicable and reinterpreting the SIS in light of the agreement that it is relevant.


So just like the Fortune mechanics can be applied in any CA so can these Meaning mechanics.  And just like how certain fortune mechanics along with other aspects of system work well with a given CA, so can this Meaning mechanics put forth by Tony.  At least, that's what I'm getting from this.  Is that right?

Peace,

-Troy
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2005, 08:02:45 AM »

Works for me, Troy. That's my reading of it too.

Best,
Ron
Logged
xenopulse
Member

Posts: 527

Heretic Forgite


WWW
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2005, 08:05:26 AM »

Yeah, this is very helpful.

As as Ron mentions, there can be issues when people expect one of these meaning categories and are confronted with another. I think that happens with traditional players who try their hands on some of the indie games.

The main tradeoff, as I mentioned in the other thread, is that MatB lends a lot of reliable expectancy. I know what's going on and how things will work, I can plan on it, and deviation will need a lot of justification. With MitM, interpretation will happen during play, which makes for more spontaneous events but also takes away some certainty and planning ability. MatE, then, is very spontaneous and means that players need to create their own causal links on the fly. That means they don't know what'll happen next or how their current contribution will hold up, but they also have a vast array of spontaneous possibilities.

It seems to me that most traditional RPGs are very much MatB oriented (obviously, we're talking about degrees here, as there is always some meaning that's made up on the fly). So I can see that there's a difficulty for traditional players in getting the hang of those newer, mostly indie games that ask more of them in terms of spontaneity and being able to operate without as much reliable expectancy.

That means, if I as a player suddenly don't have all those rules and regulations (not only mechanics, but all that's agreed to before play even starts regarding how events will go) in place to tell me how things are happening, I am empowered to contribute differently during play, but I might also be a little lost.

Thematic Causality comes in, then, when this is applied over the course of a session, campaign, etc. The more MatB we have, the more reliably we will have consistently causal events (notice the "reliably" part, as players can create this with MatE as well, they just have to work consciously toward it). In fact, through bricolage, we can probably build more and more MatB, but that's probably an issue for a whole other thread.

It seems to me that there can be a correlation between EAAE and CA (as Ron says, in conjunction with other parts of System), though on second thought, maybe there's some other play preference at issue here (reliability versus spontaneity). Because now that I think on it, you can support Sim play if you have a lot of MatB that's consistent with your Dream, but it might be helpful to be able to insert MitM so that the established rules don't get in the way of the Agenda. That's again where bricolage comes in, because we all know that there's just no perfect rules-system for our perfect play. Thematic Causality is certainly something that Sim-oriented players will strive for, but they may actually be able to do that better if they have the ability to spontaneously fit the meaning to the ideal, instead of being constrained by what's already established.
Logged

Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2005, 08:06:40 AM »

Hmm.

One way this scheme seems to be lacking is you put Universalis and Capes in the same category. As I recall, this whole thing came out of the recognition that there was some choice in design philosophy in which Uni and Capes (both GM-less Narr games) seemed to be opposing camps.

I certainly don't want to turn this into (specifically) Universalis vs. Capes here, (or worse, Tony vs. Ralph), but it seems like the scheme would be more useful if it attempted to explain the differences and validities of these two views.

Or are you suggesting that Capes merely straddles a line, one which could be pushed further into unexplored territory?

More attempts to place existing games into the scheme may be useful. Are traditional designs tending towards Meaning at the Beginning?

There's some unspoken assumptions about Social Contract going on here, too. No clue how that fits in yet.
Logged

Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2005, 10:04:28 AM »

Looked at after the fact, all of these will get you to the same place...an enjoyable play experience.  But the process on how you got there will be quite different.

The biggest difference will be with player buy-in.  During the game statements will be made by one player that will need to be accepted by other players and incorporated into the SIS.  The amount of work you need to do to get that buy in, the amount of concession and compromise you must be willing to make to get that buy in, and the type of recourse players have who don't want to buy in will all be effected by the way the game delivers "meaning" as used above.

A lot of this difference is encapsulated simply by the notion of precedent.  The longer a particular fact / interpretation has been in place and the more often its been apealed to and applied, the much easier it is to get acceptance for future use.  When dealing with a new situation if you can extrapolate from already established precedent to form the rationale for your current narration then acceptance of that narration is far easier.

This impact can be greatly seen in games that permit/require more inventive narration from players.  Every time new ground gets broken it must be established, applied, and accepted anew.  The less it draws upon precedent the more the player must be aware of the social dynamics of the group in order to get that essential buy-in.  

If a character is given a penalty when trying to seduce a barmaid because he has a Charisma of 6, there is enormous precedent supporting that rationale.  Everyone knows what Charisma represents and how it gets used in the game and has probably seen it used like this in similar situations in the past.  On the other hand if a character is given a penalty when trying to seduce a barmaid because he's wearing red and the barmaid hates the color red that acceptance isn't going to be quite as automatic, especially if the barmaid's distaste for the color red had never been established prior to the application of the penalty.  That fact (distaste for red) hasn't existed for long, has never been appealed to before, and thus doesn't have the weight of precedent behind it to gain its acceptance.

There is thus a large difference in the play experience between meaning being accepted due primarily to the weight of precedence, and meaning being accepted that doesn't have any weight of precendence behind it.  In the latter case acceptance is far more dependent on the immediate social dynamic...how compelling the presenter is, how attuned the presenter is to what the group would consider to be fun at that point, and how much authority over such things the presenter has been granted.

This last is of particular note, because, without it, acceptance becomes dominated by the relative charismatic will of the players.  In a traditional game the GM is given enormous authority.  If the GM introduced the barmaid's distaste for red at the last minute he could probably get it accepted through force of authority alone although it would probably result in a good bit of grumbling from the players.  We can all point to examples of grudging acceptance of GM fiat in our play histories.

However, this becomes of particular interest to GM-less games (or GM-full games) like Uni or Capes.  Not everything that could ever happen in a roleplaying game can be derived exclusively from precedence and there is no single authority figure to demand acceptance by fiat.  How then are newly introduced elements imbued with meaning.  How do they get accepted into the SIS.

Force of Charisma is one way.  Skillful presentation by clever and entertaining individuals who can get their way simply because its so much fun to watch them go.  On a darker note social bullying can take place as well.

Game mechanics become another way.  Traditional game mechanics are only indirectly concerned with getting elements accepted in the SIS because they rely on a GM's authority to make that happen when precedent is insufficient.  In a GM-less game, however, the mechanics must be much more explicit about how elements get accepted.  Some games like Universalis appeal to group consensus with very rigid rules for how the group can choose to accept or reject narration.  Some games like Polaris or Great Ork Gods divide the specific areas of responsibility up, creating sub GMs with greater or lesser authority over a smaller area.

Capes is unique in that it grants no recourse.  The game gives authority to a specific player at a specific time and no other player has any ability at all to question, refute, reject, or even suggest alternatives to anything the authoring player says.



So I don't see "meaning" being categorized by game.  I see it being categorized in play as its created.  The way I view the three categories would be:

Meaning established at the beginning:  Rules, setting material, character backgrounds, things accepted prior to play simply by agreeing to play.  Everyone knows that Magic Users can't wield swords and Elves have infravision because these items were established prior to play and accepted by the simple decision to play D&D.

Meaning established during play:  Primarily in game events or rulings that have already occured earlier in the game.

Meaning not yet established:  This would be in game events and rulings that are currently actively in process of being integrated into the SIS.


The process of getting those elements accepted into the SIS works according to the Lumpley Principle.  However, there are numerous ways for players to weight the negotiation process in their favor to make it more likely that their narration will be acceptable.

The Weight of Precendent is an attempt to draw on things that have had meaning established ealier and extrapolate that into the current situation.

The Weight of Authority is an attempt to use authority granted by the group to influence acceptance.

The Weight of Charisma is an attempt to use powers of personal persuasion/manipulation to obtain acceptance.

The Weight of Mechanics is a variation on the Weight of Authority where temporary authority is granted by mechanical means ("High Card Narrates" in Dust Devils) and the player uses that authority to influence acceptance.

And probably a few others we could come up with as well.



The thing that makes this of particular interest to me is that of all of these, the weight of precedence is the one that generally goes over with the least amount opposition or hurt feelings.  The idea that "a low Charisma penalized me last time, so it makes sense it would penalize me this time" receives nearly automatic acceptance with much less need to justify it by anything more than "its in the rules".

When people do object in such a situation its rarely in the form of "who cares about the rules" but more often in the form of "I interpret that rule differently".  Once the other party becomes convinced of a particular interpretation, it falls right back to "its in the rules".

In Universalis the precedent isn't so much "its in the rules" but "its an existing trait".


The key thing to note about appeals to precedent is that there always needs to be a human being to reach the decision.  Precedent itself can't decide anything.  It merely makes it easier for the real people to reach an accord.  Therefor, in all cases, for functional play there needs to be a mechanism by which accord gets reached if individuals disagree as to how to apply precedent.  Traditionally this is the role of the GM.  Uni uses mechanically enforceable group consensus.

In the threads that spawned this one there was a great deal of discussion on how Capes handles this.  Capes has zero appeal process.  Players who don't like another player's narration have no immediate recourse.  There are also no mechanics or guidelines to enforce or appeal to precedent.  So, while a particular player with the power to narrate may base their narration on precedent...they may not.  Other players expecting narration that is in-line with established precedent are left trying to retroactively justify the narration to preserve continuity.

This ability to freely ignore precedent during narration was, more or less, the core issue at the heart of much of the recent Capes discussion...made all the more noticeable because of the preeminent role precedent has with respect to altering the SIS.
Logged

Troy_Costisick
Member

Posts: 802


WWW
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2005, 10:48:07 AM »

Heya,

I’m with Valamir on a lot of this.  A very good post, Ralph.  I think he puts it best when he writes:

"So I don't see "meaning" being categorized by game. I see it being categorized in play as its created."

I hope I don’t help to get this bogged down into specific games, but it is indeed important to examine how unique aspects of games (such as GM-less style in Capes and Universalis) interact with the topic of this thread.  The mechanics of Meaning that Tony posted still apply in those games, I believe, but it may take more time to negotiate and finalize the meaning.  Just like in Fortune mechanics, the instant the die (or whatever) stops rolling is not the instant things are resolved.  Likewise, the instant Meaning is posited is not the instant Meaning is agreed upon.

Which brings me to something else I think bears discussion here on this topic and that is Hacking.  It’s similar to what happens in Universalis, but still different in its application.  I think it can be applied to Meaning in the beginning, middle, or end depending on the System.  It changes Meaning after it has initially been established and agreed upon.  In other words, while the players in Universalis might haggle over meaning in the first stage and then agree on it in the second stage, Hacking can come in on a third stage and change what has been agreed upon.  So what I’m asking is, is Hacking a “Meaning with Teeth” type mechanic similar to the “Fortune in the Middle with Teeth” concept?

Peace,

-Troy

Edit: Links to previous threads on Hacking:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13071&highlight=hacking
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12976&highlight=hacking
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13073&highlight=hacking
Logged

TonyLB
Member

Posts: 3702


WWW
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2005, 11:13:22 AM »

Ron:  I'm not really sure what I meant to convey by "style of play".  Your phrasing of (roughly) "These are techniques.  How do they apply?  What are their consequences?  How do they combine with other techniques?" is much the clearer.

Christian and Larry:  I think you're assuming that an entire game is MatB or MitM, or whatever.  I certainly don't see that being the case.  I think each technique gets applied at different times.  Example:
Quote
A fighter in D&D is trying to get past a door, guarded by an Orc.

Fighter:  "I swing with my vorpal blade.  I roll a twenty!  Therefore the Orc is decapitated!"  (MatB - "Vorpal + 20 = Head-lopping")
GM:  "The orc dies messily, his body slamming back against the door, which closes.  There is the distinct sound of a lock clicking shut."  (MitM - "Headless flailing Orc + Lockable door = Door locked")
Fighter:  "Okay, I go get that barrel of oil I saw earlier, use rope to make a fuse, set it against the door, retreat to the next room and light the fuse.  It sizzles, burns, the barrel explodes.  Kaboom!"  (MatE - "Oil + flame = Kaboom!, but what does Kaboom! mean?"... maybe)
GM:  "The door is in burning flinders."
Logged

Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum
xenopulse
Member

Posts: 527

Heretic Forgite


WWW
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2005, 11:36:24 AM »

Tony,

I agree with you, it's not all or nothing. That's why I wrote:

Quote
It seems to me that most traditional RPGs are very much MatB oriented (obviously, we're talking about degrees here, as there is always some meaning that's made up on the fly).


Just that some games have much more MatB, while others have certain elements that are always interpretable in different ways during the game (like HeroQuest's abilities and magic).
Logged

Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2005, 12:40:15 PM »

Okay, so where does a veto power over modification of SIS fit into this? Just a case of Appeal to Authority?

I think I am trying in vain to integrate this into the Model at large. More examples (outside of Uni/Capes/D&D) might help make this less abstract.
Logged

TonyLB
Member

Posts: 3702


WWW
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2005, 01:08:31 PM »

I would think that a veto would be part of Judgment.  Judgment can include debate about whether the fact lends authority in this instance, as well as restructuring the SIS to make it more (or less, I suppose) applicable.

The veto would fall squarely into that "debate" category, I would think.

Now, interestingly, almost all vetoes are instances of MitM, as such.  They happen when the fact is Appealed to.  The authority to veto, however, can be based on MatB, MitM or MitE.  Examples:
[list=a][*]MatB:  "No, your new ring of mind control doesn't help you seduce her, because your Charisma is still 6."
[*]MitM:  "No, your new ring of mind control doesn't help you seduce her, because... uh... the enchanter's tower lends iron will to all servants."
[*]MitE:  "No, your new ring of mind control doesn't help you seduce her.  Which tells you something, if you stop to think about it...."[/list:o]
Logged

Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2005, 07:41:41 PM »

Quote

Now, interestingly, almost all vetoes are instances of MitM, as such.  They happen when the fact is Appealed to.  The authority to veto, however, can be based on MatB, MitM or MitE.  Examples:
[list=a][*]MatB:  "No, your new ring of mind control doesn't help you seduce her, because your Charisma is still 6."
[*]MitM:  "No, your new ring of mind control doesn't help you seduce her, because... uh... the enchanter's tower lends iron will to all servants."
[*]MitE:  "No, your new ring of mind control doesn't help you seduce her.  Which tells you something, if you stop to think about it...."[/list:o]


Ooh... the list command.  Sexy.

What about a game where you purposefully forgoe judgement for as long as possible, up to and including not judging the outcome entirely (leaving it ambiguous)?  I'm thinking about some of the PTA I played with Vincent, Meg and crew, where they were still discussing events from sessions ago in terms of implications rather than meanings.  Does this stress the social contract?

yrs--
--Ben
Logged

TonyLB
Member

Posts: 3702


WWW
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2005, 07:57:03 PM »

I'm not sure we're using the same terminology.  You're saying that players would forego judgment for that long about whether or not an appeal to past facts was a legitimate source of authority?
Logged

Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2005, 08:02:22 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
I think that we're all in agreement (there) that "meaning" is a construct placed onto events in the SIS by the perception of players.  There is, in short, no such thing as "inherent meaning."  Whether you have a Charisma of 6, or you did a great deed for the King, or any of that... at some point, some player (or players in consensus) are going to refer to that past fact as authority to shape present and future input to the SIS.  That's "meaning."

This is going to sound a pointless quibble, because it ends up almost exactly the same. No, that isn't "meaning" in terms of the group. That's the player expressing what they have previously decided is meaningful to them.

Once the other players have heard this expression and understood as best they can exactly what is meaningful to the player (sometimes it's hard to know even with the clearest speach), they may use this to their advantage.

Quote
Any fact which can be appealed to for authority goes through (at least) three stages.  It is Established as a fact.  It is Appealed to for Authority. The Authority is Applied to the SIS. This in turn Establishes new facts

Which makes 'authority' a missplaced term.

Instead players may be 'invested' in an idea. And that investment can be extended to other potential idea investments, via system dependancy. A classic example might be a player declaring their investment in the idea that their PC is 'Alive in his game world!'. Once they have declared that investment, the idea of armour can be sold to them and because their being alive has a systematic dependancy on armour rules, they are more than likely to extend their investment of 'Alive in the game world!' to the armour. Thus the armour becomes 'alive' in similar terms to his original investment. Thus if armour becomes an investment to the player as well (quite likely), it's because system assisted that investment spread. Have a bunch of these sorts of rules and the players one investment in his character being alive, brings an entire game world to life.

These new investments rest on the shoulders of the previous investments. Clearly if one stopped thinking one's PC is alive in the game world, then your not going to give a crap about armour.

Quote
Does this seem like a sensible breakdown of the ways that social expectation can be applied to the ways that people appeal to SIS-features for authority?

I'm probably being tangental and it doesn't change what your trying to say, but every time I read 'appeal to authority' it makes getting into this thread difficult. 'Authority' suggests something simply must happen. Bah. All you can say is 'Hey dude, your heavily invested in your character being alive...come on, invest in these armour rules to! You know because of the system here, it's the smart thing to do!'

If I look at someone talk about the idea of authority in the rules, what I see is someone who's invested in the idea 'the rules have authority'. As a player I can use this declaration to say 'Hey dude, your heavily invested in the rules having authority so do X because the system says so'. But ideas like the lumpley principle blew away my own personal investement in the idea 'the rules have authority' a few years ago.

I just see a different dynamic underlying the whole proposal. It may not make much functional difference. What do you think, Tony?
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!