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Author Topic: Does System Matter?  (Read 26179 times)
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 10459

« on: November 22, 2006, 01:31:43 PM »

OK, of course I think system matters, and a lot. But...I just wanted to do a reality check for a moment on this.

Looking at, say, my HQ IRC play, I see a very coherent game. But HQ's rules are not coherent, particularly. People play it a lot of different ways, and I think that it takes a lot of careful interpretations to get it to play the way I get it to play. Or any other coherent way.

For instance, I actively interperet the resolution system in the game as conflict resolution, and, moreover, as pretty player optional. That is, I actually ask the players if they want to do particular contests or just get "automatic successes." This is technically by the rules as I make the decisions as the narrator. But the technique in question isn't in the book, nor even implied at it's most "about story" moments. I'm out on a limb with this particular technique.

To say nothing of all of the good Sorcerer technique that I employ - Bangs, relationship maps, etc. And other techniques that I've picked up here or playing with other Forgerinoes, etc. These things are all layered on the system.

Now, Ron's point from the original essay is that the system can be informative. But...at the point that you become more or less completely aware of how these things work - and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I'll say that I think I have a grasp of it - is the system really doing anything any more?

I mean, I have this notion that I could run a game of Hero System these days, a system that doesn't at all promote narrativism you'd think, and yet get narrativism. As the essay says, this would just be "swimming upstream." But...I don't think it's even upstream any more. Yes, even withtout drifting. And even using all of the HS rules and having complicated combats.

Maybe I'm just kidding myself.

But here's the question. Is a design like Dogs in the Vinyard really systematically promoting narrativism, or is it just that everybody who plays is a "narrativist?" OK, not the greatest example, but...I get the feeling that there are designs out there that don't really support X or Y much at all. But are touted by the crowd who plays this sort of game, simply because they've tried them successfully. The question is, if Ron plays a game and it goes off well, is it because Ron was playing, or the system is really helping? With Ron playing, can we really know?

John Wick once said to me, "You haven't really playtested a game until you've had stupid players play it."

If Ron is the only one who's tested it, or other well-informed people, is this really a good test of what the system produces? I found even Ron's play of D&D to be highly ideosyncratic from the AP posts. Despite his claim to be playing it in a way he claims is not his typical style. Even if so, since he knows the difference, if he's getting that does that even say that D&D is doing a good job with gamism? Or is it just Ron again?

Is my HQ game just me? Or is it the system in some way?

Again, this is a reality check to chew on for Thanksgiving. How much are the shared techniques we have here dominating the play of the games we play? And how much of it is "really" system?

Unfortunately most non-Forge tests of RPGs are by "experienced gamers." When one of these plays Universalis in a gamism manner (as in one disasterous actual play example where the system broke badly), we tend to blame it on them being inculcated to play the game incorrectly? Is that true? What would the objective case be? We often say that it's putting the game in front of a non-gamer, and seeing what happens. But how often do we get such tests? Maybe more importantly, are they important, seeing as this may never become an actual market for RPGs?

Put another way, if there's just us and them, and we play how we do, and they play how they do, no matter what's presented to them... does system matter?


Member of Indie Netgaming
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Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 336

aka Sean

« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2006, 01:55:33 PM »

Hi Mike -

This looks sort of like a theory thread to me.

I wonder if you're conflating system-as-play-procedures and system-as-explicit-mechanics. The latter are a subset of the former, one which most games spend virtually all their text and game designers virtually all their sweat on.

As a result most traditional RPGs don't have much system, or only a broad-brush implied system in the first sense in the rules. Where I think DitV, Trollbabe, and some others do noticeably better here is not in their unique solutions to mechanical problems but in their telling you what to do when you play. Which sections many trad gamers don't even bother to read because they're either not there or extraneous to play or useless or harmful in traditional game texts. And then they ask those questions where someone here has to answer politely or not "um, on page 3 I say this completely straightforward thing that answers your question or renders it superfluous."

For just this reason you're right in a sense that when you understand why system matters you also become free-er to run a lot of  traditional games in a lot of different ways, through drift. And this in turn helps to point to why so many people thought system didn't matter (like, say, me, before I found the Forge) for a long time, even though from another point of view it obviously does - because the old games are really just sets of techniques and ephemera, mechanical resolution systems and schemes for getting a limited and non-decisive set of imaginative elements into play - and as a result you can put just about any 'system' in the broader and essential sense you want on top of them, tweak the mechanics to taste, and run them with the CA of your choice. If you know or have guessed how to do it. The DM is the only one who has the power to implement these essential elements of system, so 'you have to have a good DM'. And so on.

That's my take on the issue you're bringing up anyway. It's probably the case that starting in the late eighties traditional designs get harder to do this with, but I'm not going there.
Raedwald Bretwalda

Posts: 3

« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2006, 02:00:34 PM »

For instance, I actively interpret the [HQ] resolution system in the game as conflict resolution, and, moreover, as pretty player optional. That is, I actually ask the players if they want to do particular contests or just get "automatic successes."
is the system really doing anything any more?
Is a design like Dogs in the Vinyard really systematically promoting narrativism, or is it just that everybody who plays is a "narrativist?"

I played HeroWars after a break of about a decade of RPGing, which had previously mostly been RuneQuest. HeroWars changed the way I played and, I think, the way the other people I played with played. I didn't know about the Forge or any of its ideas. Now, our gaming group is not yet "narrativist", but we will be soon. The Pool was another influential game for us, I think. Quite simply, a particular set of games have changed the way we played, so I'd say those games (those systems) have done something.

Posts: 5574

« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2006, 02:14:39 PM »

Mike, are you not conflating "system" with "rules as written".

We all know, you especially, that "rules as written" is just one piece of "system".  So "System Matters" does not mean "Rules as Written Matters".

The difference between good design and bad design is IMO how much those two align with each other.  HeroWars / Quest suffers from the twin problems of 1) initially being a joint Greg / Robin design where neither vision was fully realized and 2) caving in to the vociferous demands of the RuneQuest grognard types.  As such I view it as one of the great moments of gaming history which all aspiring designers should be intimately familiar with...as much for all the things it did wrong and the lessons learnable in how NOT to design a game as for all the wonderful things it did right.

If Greg had decided to issue HeroQuest second edition and was determined to see the game designed properly he could have just handed the design reigns over to you and we would have finally gotten a look at HeroQuest the way it should have been done.  As it is now, we'll never get to see that, and HQ (as a printed rules set) will forever be one more wistful "what might have been".

But none of that has anything to do with "system mattering" because "system" is what you do when you play, not what we read in the book.


Posts: 1351

« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2006, 02:25:03 PM »


In addition to what Ralph said (that System is wider than Rules) I'd like to add that I run into this confusion a lot with people when I discuss the idea of Reward Cycle.  They seem to think that I'm talking about training a behavior in a player.  They seem to think that if I take a die hard D&D Dungeon Crawler who loves to customize his feats to find a better "build" and then throw him at Dogs in the Vineyard that the System will somehow MAKE him play Narrativist.

Uh, no.  What I'm talking about is when you take a player who is already looking for Narrativism and you give them a system like Dogs it will make it easy for them to match-up the game (i.e. rules, dice, etc) decision with the fiction decisions.  The town creation rules make it EASY to create morally complex scenarios.  The choice of whether to resort to violence is embeded in the rules.  The ability to flavor your actions with your character is embedded in the rules.  The ability to immediately identify the character impact of a conflict is in the rules.  It makes all the stuff a Narrativist wants to do easy and explicit rather than in addition to or despite the presence of other rules that have nothing to do with addressing a Premise.

That's why System Matters.


Posts: 17

« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2006, 03:15:26 PM »

I recently had this discussion while developing the game I'm currently working on. In a fit of pique I wondered aloud if it was worthwhile having a system at all. In many cases, the answer for me is no. Most of my convention gaming has been systemless with a die roll thrown in here and there for dramatic tension. Many of the games I have read over the years offered nothing compelling that made them a better choice than a narrative flair, creative players and a D6 or two. The games that got my attention were the ones that offered mechanics that helped create a unique gaming experience. I'm still catching up on what's out there now but back in the day systems like Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon and Paranoia encouraged a play style that suited the setting. You can tell a CoC story without a system but mechanics like the Sanity roll added something special to the experience so I prefer to use them.

Alex Gray
Jon Scott Miller

Posts: 21

« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2006, 04:43:56 PM »

Is part of the issue the extent to which the CA of the game is facilitated by the rules as written, versus the extent to which it must be facilitated by other factors? The success of the rules as written in facilitating the CA is likely to be a matter of degree. But perhaps even if the rules as written perfectly support the intended CA, this is still not a sufficient condition for that CA being achieved in play. There are other factors which are also necessary conditions.

I have never played HeroQuest, but based on Mike's description, it sounds like there is some incoherence in its design. If this is true, then the rules as written are partially working against a Narrativist CA, in which case the other elements may become relatively more important in trying to attain that CA. But in that case it still seems like system (in the sense of rules as written) matters--they are a road block that the players have to leap over.

I suspect the heart of the debate, though, is just how much the rules as written matter with regard to achieving CA, in comparison to the other techniques that have been mentioned. Someone might think that the rules as written do matter, but still think that they are hardly ever the most important issue when trying to produce functional play.


Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.

« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2006, 11:36:08 PM »

But here's the question. Is a design like Dogs in the Vinyard really systematically promoting narrativism, or is it just that everybody who plays is a "narrativist?"...I get the feeling that there are designs out there that don't really support X or Y much at all. But are touted by the crowd who plays this sort of game, simply because they've tried them successfully. The question is, if Ron plays a game and it goes off well, is it because Ron was playing, or the system is really helping? With Ron playing, can we really know?

Unfortunately most non-Forge tests of RPGs are by "experienced gamers." When one of these plays Universalis in a gamism manner...we tend to blame it on them being inculcated to play the game incorrectly? Is that true? What would the objective case be?


I get what you're saying here. Here's my take on a sort-of answer: how much of this is a failure by games to define "How to Play This Game" in the text?

I've noticed many designs are more-or-less like the automotive guide you get with your car, which tells you all about the various parts of the vehicle you have and their function, and even how to use them, but doesn't state anywhere in the text how to actually drive the car. They assume you know how to drive, or that how to drive will be obvious from the function of the parts, but neglect/assume the rules of the road.

Frex, Ron has stated in the past that Sorcerer does not tell you "how" to play the game, because it was written for a group of people he assumed was already looking for the experience Sorcerer's rules provide, and so would know what to do with it when they used it. I like Sorcerer a whole lot, but that design decision has caused me numerous headaches over the years, because I am not the target audience -- my "rules of the road" assumptions are different than those assumed by the text.

Of course, this is all part of System. If System matters, we should be paying more attention to this aspect of it in the design, and not just the crunchy rules-bits that help support our play goals.

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Posts: 170

« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2006, 12:46:03 AM »

I'm going to simplify things a little bit and talk about why I think "rules as written" have a major impact on the way I play. Lets take, Dungeons and Dragons as a for instance, when I play D&D I'm playing in a world where things work the way they say they do in the book. If I ignore, for instance, that mechanically my character's scythe is inferior weapon to some other character's long sword, yet I want to portray my character as a competent fighter, than all of the sudden my character concept has come in conflict with the world. This is to a great extent because D&D's rules are not based on anything but older additions of D&D rules and to lesser extent, real life and various fantasy tropes, but power level, ability to function in such-and-such way, etc... do have an effect on character concepts that incorporate ideas that clash with the game's ruleset. Now, if I were playing Tri-Stat, where I build my attack's characteristics from the ground up, than my scythe can be as potent as the points I'm willing to expend.
Maybe that's a little off topic, but things like that seem to make a big difference. In a very real sense, to whatever extent your gaming group agrees to use the Rules as Written, the rules of a game make up the "physics" that the character has lived with and experienced all their life. Its often frustrating to try to ignore these things to be more "in character" because ignoring them may well clash with your ideas on how effective your character is in various fields.
Also, some games explicitly or through implication, have character motivation built into their mechanics. We are told in no uncertain terms that are characters primary motivation in Pendragon is to achieve Glory. In Dungeons and Dragons, mounds of text imply that are motivation is to amass power, and its partner, wealth. In the most "narrativist" of games it seems that the emphasis is being placed most firmly on firmly establishing the goal of the game, be it specific (like in My LIfe with Master) or more simply, to tell a good story.

Nolan Callender
Filip Luszczyk

Posts: 746


« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2006, 04:28:17 AM »


I haven't played your version of HQ nor observed the actual play, but from the discussions I've seen on Indie Netgaming I get an impression that given what you change/omit, you could just as well write your variant down (including the "driving instructions") and call it a separate game.

As for the issue of rules supporting play, I remember sessions of traditional systems in which we had loads of fun despite doing exactly the opposite of what the designers would want us to do (e.g. our L5R 3rd edition sessions that boiled down to constant combat, creating mechanical comboes that were absurd in the context of the setting, and ignoring the whole cultural and political depth the game is supposed to have, setting consistency and even *gasp* character's honor issues - it's almost hard to believe we could have had fun with so heretical play ^^). Although "indie" games tend to be more focused than the traditional ones, it doesn't change the fact that the same rules set can often support different kinds of play depending on its interpretation. Actually, even with the "driving instructions" followed, I don't believe two groups can play the same game in exactly the same way and get exactly the same results - it's more about the degree of variance from the designer's goals, and how much of it can still be considered playing that particular game.

Reading Forge and related sites, I sometimes have a feeling people are kind of paranoid about the whole "playing by the book is bound to produce such and such effects" concept, to the point of ignoring other possibilities that the book gives. I think sometimes going against the designer's vision can produce fun and fully functional play.

System Does Matter - that's for sure. But it's not only about following the rules as written, and not even about sticking to the "driving instructions".


Posts: 650

« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2006, 07:00:23 AM »


Um... which system are we talking about? Are we talking about the mechanical rules system in the book, or the lumpley principle system around the table?

Because the whole "System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play" falls right into what Mike is talking about.

While well designed rules are a help, and a great one, I think one of the points Mike is driving towards is that under that lumpley definition of system YOU are part of the system. So when Mike plays HQ, or Sorcerer, or Dogs... Mike is part of the system. Sometimes, even in well designed and coherent games, Mike may well be the biggest part of the system.

So, on one hand I agree with everything that Jesse says about Dogs. OTOH, I've heard of Dogs play in the local area that didn't get anything close to Nar play (or even fun play) because the folks at the table had such a different idea of what gaming was in their head that they were unable to get that point where the rules in the book and the system at the table line up and produce celestial harmony.

Or, even more pointedly, Ron has sometimes said that HQ (or Hero Wars?) is one of the systems that best supports Nar play. However this hasn't always been my experience, and certainly hasn't been the experience of a lot of thie historical simmers that I know who use HQ rules. I would say that HQ opens the door to lots of types of play and then Ron, for example, fills that door with his GrandMaster level Nar-fu and thus the lumpley principle system at the table becomes perfectly Nar supporting.

None of which is an argument against making good, coherent rules. Those are still neccisary for good design. But there also comes a point at which I think we have to step back and admit that no matter what we design the game is not a system until people around a table are doing things with it. And at that point they are more part of the system than anything we wrote. All we can do is support them as best we can.

- Brand Robins
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2006, 07:59:53 AM »


Brand, I'm getting pretty tired of people invoking my name as a club or power-word, whether to support their argument or to signify how they're defying mine - especially when what they call "Ron says" is made up by them.

Here's what I've really said: Hero Wars strongly supports (-ed) Narrativist play, and that HeroQuest is distinctly incoherent in comparison, despite its superior organization. For anyone who's interested in why, compare the text passages from HQ I used in my Narrativism essay with the examples of resolution in the same book; they don't work well together. I don't think saying "People play HQ all Simmy so Ron is wrong that it's Narrativist," and flagging it by saying "more pointedly," is either honest or decent.

Mike, I think this thread suffers from two things.

1. You pose a question in the title which leads people to want to answer it. But then you answer it in the first sentence or two of the post, which is confusing especially since it's a "yes." Why not start with saying "System does matter, I agree," instead of this backwards thing? It's like positioning yourself against so-called Forge dogma to get attention, then saying "oh but I agree" when people are paying the attention.

2. There's just not about enough actual play. What actually happened in a game, or across games, that leads you to ask or assert something? And what is that something actually? 'Cause what you say after that seems to be clearly resolved by distinguishing between "rules as written" and "system as played."

Finally, I don't know what to make of what appears to be a tacit attack. Are you're saying that I, specifically, have been consistently uncritical of assessing the rules-set vs. assessing my own imposition of my preferences onto it? 'Cause that ain't so. Whether I've been successful or not in keeping them separate in my mind or presentation on-line, I flatly say "you're wrong" if you are saying I've been inattentive to that issue.

Best, Ron

Posts: 650

« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2006, 08:14:55 AM »

Here's what I've really said: Hero Wars strongly supports (-ed) Narrativist play, and that HeroQuest is distinctly incoherent in comparison, despite its superior organization.

Good to know. That's why I put in the question mark -- I thought I remembered you saying something to that effect, but couldn't find the thread in question.

I don't think saying "People play HQ all Simmy so Ron is wrong that it's Narrativist," and flagging it by saying "more pointedly," is either honest or decent.

That isn't what I was saying, so that's okay.

I was saying that even games that support Nar play (an important point that many people miss, games are not Nar, they just support Nar) can be played non Nar. This is true even of games that do an excellent job of supporting Nar play, because in the end the system that actually comes out has a lot to do with the players at the table and not just the rules set.

Which in no way means that you mididentify your play, nor what the ruleset supports. It means, however, that I think that when you say "this game strongly supports Nar play" you are saying a different thing than others when they say "this is a Nar game."

In short, I think that a lot of people still say "system matters" without understanding that the "system" isn't just the thing in the book.

- Brand Robins

Posts: 650

« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2006, 08:54:34 AM »

P.S. Ron, you're right that I shouldn't have brought your name in as an authority appeal. I could have made the point just as clearly another way. So, sorry on that point.

- Brand Robins
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 10459

« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2006, 02:58:23 PM »

Believe it or not, I rewrote the original post three times trying to get it right. And I knew it was a disaster even when I posted it. But what's gone on above, will help me restate at least so maybe we can get something out of this.

First, Ron, it's not an attack on you, but perhaps on the process of analysis. It's like the Heisenberg principle (or the similar media observation) that a thing observed is affected by the observation. Is it even possible for you to remain unbiased about your own reporting of your own play. In any case, I used you merely as a well-known example. I could have talked about Vincent just as easily. Again, not saying that anyone is being in any way inattentive. Just that the conclusions may be incorrect.

Such conclusions being stuff like, "The rules of DitV support narrativism." And I'm not saying that this statement is incorrect, either. Just that I question whether or not in the cases in question we can trust the validity of the reports when I know that the ephemera and techniques of how people like you, me and Vincent play have a strong effect on the results of play.

Further, I'm really only looking for how much effect these things may have in proportion to each other. That is, if you're comfortable saying that the rules that we use are...50% of what causes the styles of play that occur to occur, I'm fine with that. That's what I'm asking.

Ralph, I'll assume that your post is about clarifying this thread for others, because I know that you know that I know that system isn't just textual rules.

But let's try to state it more clearly. Yeah, the thread title was just to grab some attention, and it's not the question at hand. The question is:

Given a group using a system, which is informed by many things - including the textual rules of the game as they've adopted them, and the techniques and ephemera that they bring to play that are not informed by the text (two things amongst potentially many more) - which of those things is most important in forming the creative agenda for how the group plays? Do some things overshadow others? Can we as designers create text that makes a difference to how people play in terms of agenda, or does previous play experience, tradition, preference, and knowledge of particular techniques tend to overshadow even that which we do adopt from the written text?

Now, there's another part to this. I'm glad we had some new posters, and I'll ask them to follow up on the next part:

If you're cognizant of these issues, especially if you're very cognizant of them like I am, does this understanding tend to make it more likely that your personal proclivities will come through?

A lot of Ron's most effective work has been in creating and enumerating the use of techniques that work to reinforce the narrativism agenda. And I've studied them a lot. So if I'm taking and using them to create narrativism in play, to what extent can the rules that I use from the text be said to be causing the effect, if at all?

Filip, my first instinct is to reject your claim whole. In point of fact, I'm a bastard stickler for sticking to the rules of HQ. I have maybe three house rules that I have that contradict the text. Maybe. A problem in figuring this out is that I do a lot of "interpretation" of the text so that the play that I do can be seen to be following the rules as written. I do this in part because if, in fact, I was really playing a completely different game, then it would be hard for me to help other people who play HQ - something I enjoy doing a lot. Now we can say that if my interpretations of the text are creative enough that I'm actually making up new rules. That's fair. But, the interesting fact is that even when I tried to say that my ideas might be heretical, I was told by Greg to post the ideas and say that they are not, in fact, heretical. You can read what I mean here: http://www.glorantha.com/support/na_heresies.html

Now, the problem with this is that Greg's notion here may not be so much that my interpretations are correct, but that everybody's interpretations are correct, so long as they work. So this might invalidate my case to some extent if you claim that HQ is incoherent, intentionally so, nobody knows the intent of the rules, so everyone is playing HQ as long as they're saying they are (well, you get the point, anyhow). The thing is that I think that most RPG texts are pretty "interperable." You can read most of them to say most anything you want with regards to agenda I think.

And this is the "problem," I think. Consider that almost all RPGs have substantial amounts of player judgment calls as part of the flow of play. For instance, in framing a contest in most RPGs there's first an all-important question of when a contest should be called. Most RPGs give guidance like, "Don't roll if it's just crossing the street, or tying your shoes." First, that's just advice, and doesn't really preclude rolling in those cases. But even if dilligently followed, one still has so much leeway on when to do contests that just in that alone, one can adjust the CA tremendously.

For instance, it probably isn't a violation of many RPGs rules to not do a contest if you don't feel it's dramatically important. It might be pushing the example a bit far, but I think I've even seen D&D advice saying it's OK once in a while to skip a combat if it's not an important one. Well, that could be interpereted as "Important" meaning "dramatically important." And you're off and running towards narrativism. Though there's still a ways to go, if you keep on making this sort of interpretation I think you'll get there.

Maybe even more importantly is the effect of the Golden Rule - even where it's not actually in a game text, I think that lots of people assume it's part of all RPGs. HQ is interesting in that I once ranted against MGF (Maximum Game Fun) as a Golden Rule, and was told that it's not such. In other words, the HQ text is interperable either as having the golden rule or not. Any game that says "The GM is final arbiter or the like is asking for such interpretation."

Now, of course we have texts like MLWM. Which are far more rigorous. But even then I've seen room to go in multiple directions. I can imagine very gamism versions of the game being played - heck, I felt I was doing that at times myself.

Sean hit on this with the "good GM" observation. It's non-controversial that with an incoherent set of rules that the techniques used by a GM to make it coherent are what's really creating the CA. The question is whether or not there is any rule set that actually can be more important than the role of the players in using their techniques and such. Or even informative? Especially if the group is already, well, informed?

Any clearer?

So, for an actual play example to ensure both adherence to forum policy, and for good reality checks, let's look at my HQ play (if it's not going to have the same problem I state above about self-refreretiality). In HQ, the rules state that there's three kinds of contests:

1. Automatic Success
2. Simple Contest
3. Extended Contest

The difference between the latter two is irrelevant for the example, it's the automatic success rule that I'm interested in here. The rule states that it's an automatic success if the situation is one in which "no self-respecting hero would lose." Talk about your leeway.

Now, I do this all the time, but to give a specific example, in the last session of play I asked Chris Weeks whether or not he wanted to have a paricular contest, and he said no. Sorry, can't remember more details. Chris? In a similar case I recall more about, Chris Wotton was trying to have his character mind-control Fred Volke's character, and things Fred said then at previously set off alarms in my head that he was definitely not cool about this sort of PVP seeming operation. So I asked Fred if he was OK with it, ready to say that he Automatically Succeeded with his resistance, if he said no. And I can argue that it's within the rules because I could be sure that Fred would back me on it bieng a contest that "no self-respecting hero would lose."

Basically I interperet that rule so "loosely" if you will, that I can get in a ton of narrativisim supporting technique (or whatever it is, let's not argue that at this point). Now, I'm also quite sure that I'm one of a handful of people who play HQ this way. Far more people playing the game interpret it in a much more standard format meaning something precisely equivalent to the whole "Shoestrings and Street Crossings" method of determination of when to use contests you see in most games. And I can't say that they're wrong and I'm right. Oh, I can point to a lot of advice for narrators that makes me think that it's the right thing to do as a corollary to said advice. But I'm also pretty darn sure that Greg and Robin don't play the way I do, but much more like the traditional method. So I can't even rightly be said to be playing to the intent of the rule in question. Just the letter of it, if that.

That's the point, however. If the text in presenting itself as rules can be so...maleable...in interpretation, can these "rules" ever have an effect comparative to the strength of technique, and just player preference?

Two things, this is just one example of the sort of problem - there are many others. Let's not get hung up on IIEE as the only place that texts have problems transmitting CA. Second, as we've mentioned it could be HQ's designed incoherence, so let's also think about examples from MLWM play and games like that which are, "better" as somebody said above. I mean, playing that game I've reported more than once feeling that I was competing with the other players to "win" by getting to kill the master first. Not Pauls intent, I don't think, but I think an interpretation of the rules that's not at all misreading the rules.


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