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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Frank Tarcikowski on February 11, 2009, 02:35:04 AM



Title: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on February 11, 2009, 02:35:04 AM
Every once in a while I think back to this game I played in in 2004. At the time, everybody was talking about “cinematic” role-playing, where, at last, you got to actually be cool and kick ass. We were playing Liquid, a free German RPG that was mostly classic (though not bad) and proclaimed “cinematic” as the way to play. The setting was Wild West, Steampunk, Victorian age gentlemen, voodoo and zombies. Some people would call it pulp (I wouldn’t). Anyway, it was clear that it would be all about coolness.

So we played and we were posing and shouting and laughing and giving our best descriptions and in-character lines and sometimes rolling dice. Later, the GM admitted that he rarely bothered to figure out the correct result according to the rules, rather just deciding at wim.

These days I’m known to say that “style over substance” sucks, that coolness posing without risk may be entertaining for a short while but that in the long run it’s rather empty and meaningless. I can play a game of WuShu for one or two hours and enjoy myself but after that I’ll be fed up for months. The GM in the Liquid game back then, Sven, went on to become a big fan of WuShu and the game’s biggest promoter in Germany. He even translated it to German and put up a website.

But back then, we weren’t playing WuShu. We were playing a game with pretty standard task resolution and combat rules that had initiative and attack rolls and defence stats and damage. And when we rolled the dice, as players, it was fun. Sometimes the GM told us the target number and sometimes we even missed, or sometimes he didn’t tell. Sometimes they were in accordance with the rules and sometimes they weren’t. According to doctrine, I should have felt betrayed when he revealed later that he had been making most of it up. But really I didn’t. I remember that I thought he shouldn’t have admitted it. But I didn’t care much.

The game was much talked about for its over the top action and other stuff we made up. I was playing this very British lord who had his butler by the name of James (what else), and somehow James evolved to become the Uber-Butler with everybody contributing the most hilarious ways in which James would be omnipresent and omnipotent. When we were camping in the Great Plains, he would have a perfect English breakfast ready for me and even the London Times of today. When we were hacking our way through hordes of zombies he would be there with an umbrella to keep my tweed coat from getting stained with gore.

My favorite moment was a scene where some Steampunk monster tank was approaching us and I talking to another player, Markus, who played a vodka-addict Finnish weird scientist. In the most polite fashion, I inquired whether he might have some chemical substance at hand that might serve to destroy that monstrosity. Markus portrayed this drunk and a little fuzzy guy rummaging through his bag and producing things, holding them against the light and then shaking his head, stuffing them back, while the GM described the monster tank in great detail and how it drew nearer and nearer, firing grenades that struck ever closer to us. At the same time all the other players were shouting at Markus to hurry up, while I informed them that a gentleman will not be hurried.

When finally I mounted my horse with a bottle of nitroglycerine, nobody was surprised that it was “just in time”. Also, everybody looked at me expectantly and to I said, in a Roger Moore voice, “For Queen and Country”, and off I went. I think Sven even gave me a target number but in Liquid you also have a couple of “save the day” points and I burned one of them just to be sure, and blew up the tank. It was very delightful.

Now, this game was five years ago and in the meantime I’ve played games like WuShu or Primetime Adventures which, in theory, support this kind of thing much better than a “classic” game system based on task resolution and combat rules with only a few quirks to help you “be cool”. And yet for me personally, I have to say that the Liquid game was actually more fun. I have some thoughts as to why, but I would like to hear yours first.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 11, 2009, 06:02:22 PM
Magician shows are better when you don't know the rules of the illusion?

Here's a hard question - which is better - that 'awesome' game, or being able to see through the veils?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on February 12, 2009, 12:51:25 AM
Hi Callan,

It wasn’t really a classic magician show with the GM as the stage magician and the players as audience. We were all on that stage.

But seeing through the veil… I think that’s an important point, though I’m not sure it’s the best way to describe it. What’s true is that in the Liquid game, System at work is not nearly as easily assessed as in the other games I quoted.

Looking at WuShu, I think it’s just a bit too blunt, too sheepish. And looking at PtA, I personally have found it to usually devolve into rolling the dice early and then just doing a monologue, as opposed to this chaotic everybody shouting thing we had in the Liquid game. (I know that’s not mandatory but it’s the way it worked out in the PtA games I played in.)

It’s hard to really recollect how I felt about that Liquid game five years ago but I think it felt more valid, more connected, more substantial. 

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 12, 2009, 04:29:17 PM
Well, if your not sure of the System used in the liquid play, perhaps how do you know PTA and wushu are supposed to do the same thing?

Are you looking for evidence that discarding the ruleset is more fun? Using PTA and wushu as evidence?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: oliof on February 13, 2009, 05:25:53 AM
Callan,

I don't think the GM did use illusionism in the sense you're implying. My impression from Franks AP is that the group played mostly based on a thorough understanding of the „Genre“ (to borrow a word from literature), with the system as one way to influence the particulars of the evening. And playing always gains if the players have thorough understanding of the Genre involved. One of the traps with games like PtA is that without a sound genre foundation, play can deteriorate into something like what Frank described.

Frank, how would you compare the Liquid game to the boyband-roadmovie PtA session you ran at Nordcon? It seemed everyone had a blast at that (as far as I can assess from having been at the table next to yours). Was it really less substantial?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on February 13, 2009, 08:39:08 AM
Hey, it was stupid of me to throw that „I’ve made up my mind but I won’t tell“ out there. It seemed clever when I wrote it. ;-) I’ll just say what I think.

Harald, Jesus, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15544.0) is an excellent example as it was a successful PtA game for me in ways that other PtA games weren’t because the group was paying more attention to details and making less extensive use of stakes and narration rights than in other games I’ve played in.

My experience with WuShu and sometimes PtA has been that narration rights, especially when combined with a “style over substance” mindset, lead to a mode of play where people, for lack of a better word, neglect the Shared Imagined Space. They don’t care for details, they don’t care for consistency (whether based on genre conventions or “realism”), they don’t pay attention to what their fellow players establish.

I’m sure many people play PtA without neglecting the SIS. I hope some people play WuShu without neglecting the SIS. But I suggest that one merit often overlooked about good old-fashioned role-playing, where resolution mechanics strongly build upon already established SIS elements, is that it makes people invest in the SIS. It doesn’t help in making the SIS interesting or meaningful—at that, PtA is much better. But it makes the SIS substantial.

Now, why did I not feel betrayed when I learned that the GM had not even applied the rules most of the time? Were not the rules what made the SIS substantial? Well, no. It was our attention to it, our investment in it, that made it substantial.

So I’m not saying PtA sucks. But I’m saying that one should invest in the SIS, and specifically, in Situation, moment-by-moment. Who’s there, what’s going on, what does it look like, sound like, feel like? In my experience, if you have a game system that works perfectly well without investing much in the SIS, people may tend to rush the story and their imagination of the actual in-game situation gets rather blurry. Such games still sound great in a write-up but to me, they’re leaving a bad taste, like reading a good book way too fast.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Paul Czege on February 13, 2009, 08:46:22 PM
Hey Frank,

Great question.

With the vast majority of games that apportion narration rights, play is about everyone gamely deferring to the mechanics and politely and supportively accepting contributions to the SIS. You know how the rest of the family claps and politely enthuses "good answer" on Family Feud, even when the answer is clearly pathetic? I think what you had in your Liquid game experience was social collaboration where quality mattered. Group dynamics and the expression of real, human authority determined what contributions made it into the SIS.

Your Liquid game wasn't made memorable by the way the resolution mechanics incrementally built the SIS; it was made memorable because the gateway to the SIS was dynamic, social assessment of creative contributions. Mechanics for the sanitary apportioning of narration rights can't compete with that.

Paul


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 14, 2009, 12:19:10 AM
Hi Harald,

If your ability to perceive the system your in is reduced, then there are blind spots where you don't know what's actually going on. That lends itself very easily to illusionism, even by accident.


Frank,
Quote
In my experience, if you have a game system that works perfectly well without investing much in the SIS
How do you mean 'works well'? Do you mean the next procedural step or the next options you can take are clearly presented in the text, regardless of how invested you are in the SIS?

As opposed to, perhaps, not knowing what procedure to do next or what options are available unless you really have invested in the SIS?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: oliof on February 14, 2009, 07:50:44 AM
Callan, I don't understand what you mean with blind spots. I guess you refer to the GM not using the system all the time but 'just rolling with it' when you talk about blind spots. That this is one part that makes up illusionism does not mean you have illusionism whenever you hit it.

My understanding of "a game system that works perfectly well without investing much in the SIS" is a set of rules that gives you spotlight irrespective of your involvement with the SIS.

Frank, players that don't invest in the SIS fall into the "lame" category as much with "good old-fashioned role-playing" as with games like PtA. I fail to see a difference in that regard. Care to explain?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: lumpley on February 14, 2009, 08:40:32 AM
In my experience, if you have a game system that works perfectly well without investing much in the SIS, people may tend to rush the story and their imagination of the actual in-game situation gets rather blurry.

In my experience too. Emily and I were having just exactly this conversation earlier in the week.

Callan: it's not a matter of not knowing what the next procedural step is, unless you've invested. Instead, it's that no procedural step makes any sense to DO, unless you've invested.

Raising and seeing in Dogs in the Vineyard is a small example. If I put forward a 6 and a 7 and say "I raise," you can't possibly decide what dice to put forward in response, until you first know what my character is doing. "So ... what so you do?" you'd say. We have to invest in the fiction in order for play to continue.

In a game where you CAN decide which dice to put forward in response without knowing what my character does - in a game where the concrete, specific details of what my character does DON'T have serious, consequential effects on the mechanics - you'll be putting your dice forward without caring where my character's standing, what's in his hands, whether he's sweating or cool, whether he's coming with an uppercut or a body blow or a knife or an axe handle.

Expand that idea outward and outward from this one little moment within resolution, and you've got what Frank's talking about (I'm pretty sure. Frank?). If the game's mechanics overall work perfectly well when nobody cares about concrete, specific fictional details, you overall get play without concrete, specific fictional details.

-Vincent


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Peter Nordstrand on February 14, 2009, 12:31:40 PM
Yes, this is the empty spaces I've been yapping about in the While We Were Fighting threads: The importance of procedures for the creation of fictional content through empty spaces in the design where players get to put in imaginary events and other details relating to the shared imagined space.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 14, 2009, 07:46:30 PM
Ah, now this is what I'm trying to check about "works perfectly well without investing much in the SIS"

For example, it's possible for me to stick my hand in a blender. But I wouldn't say sticking my hand in a blender works perfectly well.
 
Vincent, I think you've gotten the wrong handle on me. I disagree I can't possibly decide what dice to put forward. "Fancies his step sister, 1D8". There, done - I decided(I'm the one to tell you when I've decided something, right?). That's within the procedure, isn't it? I'm not breaking the rules and you'd be breaking the rules to stop me. However, I also agree with you. Doing that is like sticking my hand in a blender - it's possible, it 'works', but I wouldn't say it works perfectly well (well to be frank, it's not as unpleasant as sticking my hand in a blender, of course. I could put those dice forward without any pain or disfigurement. But basically it still just doesn't really work to do so - it's uncomfortable and awkward. More like sandpaper undies!)


Peter, by "works perfectly well" do you mean that it's simply possible to follow the games procedures without investing much in the SIS?

By 'empty spaces in the design' I'm making an educated guess what you want is where a group without an investment in an SIS does not know what to roll or follow next, in terms of rules. Perhaps it could be phrased that the rules no longer guide them at that point about what further rules to follow. The only thing that could guide them as what rules to use next is an invested in SIS? Without that invested in SIS, play cannot proceed? Am I way off?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: oliof on February 15, 2009, 01:59:05 AM
IMHO we are discussing two separate things her: a) What it is when the rules move from mandatory to optional and b) what to do when the mechanics are played instead of the game.

Callan: "Fancies his step sister, 1d8" does not yet form the SIS. When you put that d8 forward, your step sister may or may not be part of that particular raise (you might have rolled and put a d4 forward for the action where you earned the d8), and just reading out the traits is better than just putting dice forward, but it does not tell me why the step sister is important here, or why fancying her is important here and now, especially if everybody else is also mechanically using up their traits. This is a case of b), and I've seen it, and I don't fancy it.

But let's return to PtA, which Frank said some people play wrong. My protagonist has screen presence 3, and I have a scene where we play a bit, and then someone says, "let's have a conflict, time for the next scene", we draw the cards, I win or lose, I narrate or the producer does … The rules themselves, if used very bare, don't force you to invest into the story. You already have your 3 Screen Presence, the system tells you how stuff moves forward, but … the game system as engine isn't well oiled and the game creaks and most likely fails to entertain the group. Those people claim PtA didn't work for them.

And they're right.

As a corollary, I made a very similar experience with PtA (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15544.msg167225#msg167225) as he did with Liquid. We played a couple of very tense episodes in a very short time frame, because the majority of players had a very good understanding of how the story could or should move forward. The GM had a hard time coming up with conflicts because we generated the tension by our own, and after a couple of scenes the GM stopped mumbling "we, uuuh, would need a conflict here", and we'd roll the dice and go get cues about how to continue, and to find out when the unevitable would strike (like when the Don would find out one of his Torpedos was a traitor).

Aaah,

I'm rambling. The PtA rule set can also move into the background of the players' focus if the SIS is vivid and informative by itself, which works best if you have a high level of mutual investment. And if you're on that "good old-fashioned role-playing" vibe, you have the rules right where they belong, in a support role to help move the game along, and not in the fore and center where they may become a burden. This of course is a case of a), and my anecdote about the PtA game is used to illustrate that it doesn't always mean we're moving towards illusionism.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: gsoylent on February 15, 2009, 03:57:29 AM

My experience with WuShu and sometimes PtA has been that narration rights, especially when combined with a “style over substance” mindset, lead to a mode of play where people, for lack of a better word, neglect the Shared Imagined Space. They don’t care for details, they don’t care for consistency (whether based on genre conventions or “realism”), they don’t pay attention to what their fellow players establish.

I’m sure many people play PtA without neglecting the SIS. I hope some people play WuShu without neglecting the SIS. But I suggest that one merit often overlooked about good old-fashioned role-playing, where resolution mechanics strongly build upon already established SIS elements, is that it makes people invest in the SIS. It doesn’t help in making the SIS interesting or meaningful—at that, PtA is much better. But it makes the SIS substantial.

Now, why did I not feel betrayed when I learned that the GM had not even applied the rules most of the time? Were not the rules what made the SIS substantial? Well, no. It was our attention to it, our investment in it, that made it substantial.

So I’m not saying PtA sucks. But I’m saying that one should invest in the SIS, and specifically, in Situation, moment-by-moment. Who’s there, what’s going on, what does it look like, sound like, feel like? In my experience, if you have a game system that works perfectly well without investing much in the SIS, people may tend to rush the story and their imagination of the actual in-game situation gets rather blurry. Such games still sound great in a write-up but to me, they’re leaving a bad taste, like reading a good book way too fast.

I could not agree more. I found that to be a problem with octaNe and Mythic too. I was very excited by the idea of narration rights style mechanics when I first read about it. With simple but firm mechanics on one hand to provide rigour and a degree of challenge and on the other the flexibility and creative freedom to allow players to resolve issues on theory own terms it seemed like the perfect roleplaying system. What cold be better than that?

In practice I noticed the same exact effect, the games felt rushed and there was little investment in the current scenes.

In a traditional game players interact with the current scene as the primary means to get details from the GM's notes into SIS which can be leveraged later to solve or at least advance the plot. That, and the sheer escapist joy of it of course.

My, admittedly limited, experience narration rights style games is that it does tend to undermine the whole interact with the scene to learn stuff. The scene can become just an excuse to see who get's to narrate the next bit and you are even more reliant on players interacting in the scene for the sheer joy of it, which is great but of course if you already have a set of players who are all jazzed up and into their characters anyway, you can have a good game with any system.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: lumpley on February 17, 2009, 12:22:26 PM
I don't know how important the technical details of my Dogs in the Vineyard example are, but it's obvious I didn't make them clear enough. Let me try again:

Callan, you have a bunch of dice, already rolled, in front of you. I say "I raise. 13," and I push forward a 6 and a 7. You have to push forward dice of your own to match my 13, but how many dice you use matters: if you match it with 3 or more of your dice, you take the blow, and you take fallout; if you match it with 2, you block or dodge. (The rules for your rolling additional dice into your standing dice are outside my example.)

Until I say "I hit you in the head with my shovel," or "I dive out the window," or "I say 'she doesn't love you, you know,'" or "I put my arm around your shoulder," you don't know what I'm raising, so you have no way to decide whether to take the blow or block / dodge. Both narratively, and mechanically: taking the blow means accumulating fallout dice, and the size of the fallout dice you accumulate depends on the precise details of my raise. "I hit you in the head with my shovel" gives you d8 fallout, while "I dive out the window" gives you d4 fallout. Until I make clear the specific fictional content of my raise, the game's mechanics can't go forward.

Like I say, I'm not sure how much it matters, but it is an example of game rules where, for the mechanics to proceed, you need to invest in the stuff of the fiction.

-Vincent


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: oliof on February 17, 2009, 01:26:18 PM
Vincent,
some people might just announce the arena their raise is in, which is enough for me to know the kind of fall-out. This might be an extreme example of stripping content from mechanics, but I can imagine it happen someplace, somewhere.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 17, 2009, 01:58:41 PM
Vincent,
All I can see are two buttons - dodge or take the blow. I can't see how a lack of fictional context stops my hand from reaching out and pressing one. Yes, my choice would be largely random, but it'd still be my choice ("Take the blow sounds kewl! I choose that!"). I am still capable of choosing, despite no invested in SIS.

I'm trying to ask Frank if what he wants is, without an invested in SIS, there are no buttons there at - I can reach with my hand, but there are no buttons to press. I am incapable of choosing, having been presented with no choice/no buttons.

But if you see it as impossible to decide in your example as well, I'm pretty much screwed for a contrasting example and might curl up and leave it there.

PS: Not important to my point, but do you have to perfectly match the 13, or get a 13 or over? Just curious about the design.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 17, 2009, 02:14:01 PM
Oh, I should have noted
Quote
and the size of the fallout dice you accumulate depends on the precise details of my raise.
What you would say is based on the details of the raise, all I'd probably see is someone, by some rules (hopefully written ones) can simply decide the die size of the fallout. So again he could choose, largely at random, a die size for fallout - play (as in following the rules procedures) can continue despite there being no invested in SIS.

I can just never see it when people say 'The SIS/the details of the imagined space determines the value of X'. I can only ever see the matrix of player decision points beneath the veneer of the 'SIS determines X!', or I can see how someone is denying me the information that shows that matrix.

It's like being stuck on one side of a wall when everyone seems to be on the other, insisting the SIS decides/determines stuff.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 17, 2009, 02:24:05 PM
Callan,

For context, can I ask for a quick list of games you've played? 
And could you name the games you're currently playing right now (say, in the last four months?)


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 17, 2009, 05:29:49 PM
Hi Christopher,

You may ask. Perhaps in a private message?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on February 18, 2009, 01:26:05 AM
Hey all,

I don´t have access to a computer regularly right now, so I can´t contribute as much as I´d like, but please keep it coming.

Callan, I get your point about what works "perfectly well". How about "allows play to continue" without investing in the SIS? As an aside, I know a bunch of people who really seem to not mind if the details of the SIS are totally blurry, as long as there are conflicts and decisive moments and punchy one liners. The way they play has been characterized as "story workshopping" in previous discussions.

Vicent, I agree with you, but I think using Dogs as an example may be misleading because the dynamics of a Dogs conflict are quite unique.

Paul, you summed it up perfectly, as usual.

I´ll be back on Sunday.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 18, 2009, 02:03:46 PM
Basically, by "allows play to continue" you mean you can still follow the rules procedures without investing in the SIS?

It's an interesting distinction and I thought it worth noting. Not sure what name you might give to 'allows play to continue' and 'what the next options are are unknown if there is no invested in SIS'.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: lumpley on February 20, 2009, 09:12:31 AM
Frank: I'm seeing that! I'll try again, no Dogs.

I can just never see it when people say 'The SIS/the details of the imagined space determines the value of X'. I can only ever see the matrix of player decision points beneath the veneer of the 'SIS determines X!', or I can see how someone is denying me the information that shows that matrix.

Well...

First of all, obviously it's people making decisions. The game's fiction doesn't have any REAL momentum or causative power.

But then, neither do dice. Here, look at these two possible rules:

1. The player rolls 1d6 and adds her character's weapon damage bonus, from her character sheet. That's how much damage she does.

2. The player rolls 1d6 and adds her character's weapon damage bonus, from her character sheet. Furthermore, if her character's been in the presence of the King Wolf within the past 24 fictional hours, she adds 2. That's how much damage she does.

The number on the die, the number on the character sheet, the character's in-fiction position and history: they're all equally available to the rules, all equally available as a basis for the players' decision-making.

To bring it back to Frank's comment:
In my experience, if you have a game system that works perfectly well without investing much in the SIS, people may tend to rush the story and their imagination of the actual in-game situation gets rather blurry.

In games without any rules of the #2 sort, without rules that depend distinctly upon details of the character's in-fiction position and history, play can collapse into a mechanics-only, rushed, blurry, play-in-summary mode.

-Vincent


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 20, 2009, 03:13:17 PM
Yes, but who decides if they have been in the presence of the wolf king? Where does the buck stop? Who has the final say? No wonder you need/have to be invested in an imagined space to keep playing, because there is no printed rules procedure to follow (in your example) if there is dispute about the imagined space. It's like needing to stay on a tight rope because there is no safety net. That's a very compelling rule reason to stay on the rope (or as you say, you must be invested in the SIS). The imagined space must be harmonised amongst all participants. Otherwise play immediately grinds to a halt, in terms of printed rule procedure following - there is nowhere to go upon dispute, the buck stops at no one. It's harmony or die.

I'm contrasting and comparing this against rule sets that 'allows play to continue'. Which, if you'll forgive further analogy use (I can hear Ron snoring in the background) are rules that have a net your allowed to fall in (allowed to just collapse into pure number crunching), but just clamber up the little ladder and be back on the rope in no time (ie, try to again start working the numbers in reference to a fiction, rather than pure working the numbers, asap).

Quote
In games without any rules of the #2 sort, without rules that depend distinctly upon details of the character's in-fiction position and history, play can collapse into a mechanics-only, rushed, blurry, play-in-summary mode.
I can't help but think that play doesn't just collapse like that, but instead those participants just don't care about a highly invested in imagined space. They may have invested in the other ruleset, but that was at risk of fucking the harmony up and having everyone fall of the highwire when there is no net.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: lumpley on February 23, 2009, 09:25:03 AM
Yes, but who decides if they have been in the presence of the wolf king?

I don't understand. I mean - if it happened in play, nobody has to decide it. It happened, same as looking down at the 6 showing on the die. Or, to put it another way, the group decided, back when it happened, in play; nobody has to decide it anew.

Or if it definitely didn't happen, same thing.

If it didn't happen in play, but might have happened anyway, then you just write your rules to account for that case. For instance: only things that happen in play count, mechanically. Or: the GM decides based on what she considers most likely. Or: the player in question decides, because we should give her the benefit of the doubt. Or: the group votes. It's not hard, there are a zillion possible solutions, it's just a matter of deciding which suits your game.

Frank, I may be kind of haring off after Callan here in your thread. On-topic check me?

-Vincent


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 23, 2009, 03:17:06 PM
My hypothesis is that the liquid/PTA difference is to do with what I'm talking about. So I'd say I'm on topic, but I understand it may be too blue sky theory/it isn't practical for some reason to include it here.

It happened, same as looking down at the 6 showing on the die. Or, to put it another way, the group decided, back when it happened, in play; nobody has to decide it anew.
Well the human imagination/agreement matrix isn't like the six showing on the physical die. With physical dice, if a 6 is showing on the top then a 1 is showing on the bottom - nobody has to agree to that, for it to actually be the case. But in the imagined space, if in the past your character watched the wolf king go by in a parade, the GM (or whatever player) who described the parade certainly agreed a parade went by. But that doesn't mean at the time he agreed to the additional ramification that your character was in the presence of the wolf king.

Just because something would seem to be a logical ramification of a described fiction, doesn't mean that person agreed to that ramification. The group may indeed have decided something, but that doesn't mean they decided/agreed to every possible ramification of it.

To make it even clearer, taking the dice example but lets say it's an imagined die now. The player narrates that it rolls and shows a six at the top. That player certainly agrees that a six is showing. Does that mean, by logical ramification, a one is showing at the bottom? The answer is no - because he hasn't agreed to that. The only thing agreed to is that a six is at the top. That's the only thing agreed to. It makes sense there is a one showing at the bottom. It may seem clear cut. But you have no agreement on that piece of fiction at all. And without that agreement...well, you know.

While with a real six sider, yes, if you see a six at the top, yeah, there is a one showing on the bottom. It happened. It really did. But in the imagined space it did not happen. Only the six was agreed to.

So what happens when you have logical ramifications but no agreement in terms of them? AND someone wont at this moment agree to the apparent ramification? Ie, when describing the passing parade they didn't agree you were in the presence of the wolf king and even when you state it now, they wont agree a passing parade means you were in the presence of the wolf king?

Well, either you have a safety net or have a group really, really invested in the SIS.

Quote
If it didn't happen in play, but might have happened anyway, then you just write your rules to account for that case. For instance: only things that happen in play count, mechanically. Or: the GM decides based on what she considers most likely. Or: the player in question decides, because we should give her the benefit of the doubt. Or: the group votes. It's not hard, there are a zillion possible solutions, it's just a matter of deciding which suits your game.
These are all designing in safety nets, as I put it. Now imagine deliberately leaving them out, because that means people will really have to invest in the SIS because they literally have nothing else to turn to in the face of disagreement.

So as to avoid play which pretty much stays in the safety net the whole time, ie mechanics-only, rushed, blurry, play-in-summary mode.

That's what I'd say is contrast between the liquid actual play and the PTA actual play. And I leave that for reflection and potential use. I'm happy to try and clarify any of the details/evidence that don't make sense, but basically it's all just so I can leave it at that description of what the difference between the liquid and PTA play might be. If those clarifications are too messy, it could go to PM instead. Though I do really like my imaginary die example I made up, hehe.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: lumpley on February 24, 2009, 07:56:37 AM
Aha.

These two rules are very different in their effect on play:

1. The player rolls 1d6 and adds her character's weapon damage bonus, from her character sheet. Furthermore, the group votes: should she add 2 or no? That's how much damage she does.

2. The player rolls 1d6 and adds her character's weapon damage bonus, from her character sheet. Furthermore, if her character's been in the presence of the King Wolf within the past 24 fictional hours (with a vote to resolve ambiguous cases), she adds 2. That's how much damage she does.

They're very different all by themselves, in their small ways. Then, place them appropriately within coherent systems and they're very different, pervasively, throughout play.

-Vincent


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on February 25, 2009, 08:45:22 AM
The whole notion that anything can be valid just because "the buck stopped" with someone and they "decided" it was so puzzles me. Or rather, it doesn't work for me. That's exactly my problem with these narration right type mechanics. In traditional role-playing where I play my character and the GM plays everything else and rules are task resolution based on some notion of causality or probability, you don't just say something is so. Even if you are the GM you don't. You have to respect the SIS that is already there. As it will be complex and detailed, you have a lot of context to pay attention to. Or, put in a positive way, you have a strong foundation to build on. And then you as a group have a shared understanding of how the SIS works, often promoted by the rules that say what a character can and can't do. So you know what can and can't happen. And that's how you establish stuff.

The presence of the wolf king thing, then, is a matter of interpretation. Everybody is clear about what happened, now you need to interpret that in the light of the resolution mechanic. And this very interpretation means further investment. It means further validating the SIS. Sometimes you fail. But that's just a sign that you as a group don't have as firm a grip on the SIS as I'd like you to if you were my group. This is the very thing I'm talking about. To continue play even though the content and/or meaning of the SIS is not actually shared, or even there, that's what I meant by "neglecting the SIS". That's what may happen if someone just gets to "decide" how it is because the rules say the "buck stops" with them.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: oliof on February 26, 2009, 02:15:38 AM
I imagine a line that goes from investing in the SIS heavily, using the game mechanics as creative constraints, and neglecting the SIS and using the rules as something to twiddle mechanically "because they're there". My sweet spot is in the second to third fifth from the left of that line.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on February 26, 2009, 02:35:02 PM
Hi Frank,

Just for contrasting purposes, how I'd describe that for myself is that that isn't failure. What I'd describe it as is people not agreeing. Perhaps it's a glass half full/half empty thing, but I don't see people politely disagreeing as a failure. I mean, it's nice when everyone agrees - really nice! But disagreement/no immediate consensus is like situation normal/the average and agreeing is like good. Rather than disagreeing being failure and I don't know, agreeing being what is considered as standard?

Quote
But that's just a sign that you as a group don't have as firm a grip on the SIS as I'd like you to if you were my group.
When you refer to the group, do you mean including yourself? Or looking at the group without you in it?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 02, 2009, 04:34:39 AM
Hi Callan,

I have a feeling we are not communicating well. I’m not talking about immediate consensus. Agreeing on something can happen at once or it can be arrived at.

The situation which I referred to as “neglecting the SIS” (I apologize if you feel offended by the term, I couldn’t come up with a better one) is a situation where agreement on the content and meaning of the SIS is not only momentarily absent, but no longer even strived for. Where no one even thinks about what the actual situational details are. And then if something is needed it’s just put in there by the one who happens to have the “narration right” and no one even gives a thought to where it comes from.

Concerning your last remark, I am part of the group, of course.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Valamir on March 03, 2009, 09:35:08 AM
Frank, let me see if I'm following this correctly.

There are some games that give definitive rules on where-the-buck-stops, who-has-the-ball, however-we-want-to-phrase-it; and other games that don't.

1) Games that have such rules allow play to progress mechanically forward with the rules sytem being being engaged to resolve stuff in the fiction, even when all of the players are not completely engaged with that fiction.  They permit people to introduce elements into the SIS, because they have the authority to do so, even if those elements don't stem naturally or causally from previously established fiction (or reasonable conjecture about the fiction).

2) Games that don't have such rules don't allow play to progress mechanically forward in this way, because since no one has the authority to just introduce smoothing elements into the SIS, the group as a whole has to remain engaged with and fully utilizing the SIS or the game just mechanically...stops.  Thus, when the game is functioning, all players are engaged with the SIS in a way you find very enjoyable.

Is that the distinction you're drawing?

If so its one I completely understand, but I'm a bit nervous that definitive procedural rules might be being held to blame for what is essentially just lax / sloppy / poor play. 

In #1 type games the definitive procedures allow the games to progress even when the player's aren't engaged and playing well, which I consider to be a feature, not a bug.  In contrast #2 type games just tend to crash and burn when player's aren't engaged and playing well.

What I'm seeing is a description of some #2 type play where everyone was playing well being compared to some #1 type play where the group was being a bit lazy (or perhaps just overexcited by The New and plunging forward too eagerly).  Of course the former is going to deliver a better more fulfilling time than the latter.

I think a truer comparison would be some #2 type play experience you had where everyone was NOT playing well.  and whether that experience was still better than the lackluster #1 type play experience.

I suspect what you'll find is that both types of play bring the awesome when people are all firing together, but when the people are not all firing together, #1 type play at least works and provides entertainment (even if not the best time ever) while #2 type play produces much less enjoyable "bad" experiences.  i.e. Less than great #1 type play will generally be more fun then less than great #2 type play, although both will be less enjoyable than great play of either type.

Am I in the ball park?


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on March 03, 2009, 02:58:46 PM
I think, and I may be wrong, Frank might see that crashing and burning in #2 as a feature and not a bug, as well. Either your fully engaging and investing in the SIS, or your not playing at all (crashed and burned) - no inbetween. The SIS only ever gets high levels of engagement and investment - it never gets lacklustre levels. It's a feature that it only gets high levels, or play isn't happening at all. This is, as said, a heavy priority on the SIS, perhaps like an artist might heavily prioritize the creation of their artwork over all other things at that time - either that, or they stop creating completely. The art never compromises for anything else.

Or am I way off, Frank? Hope I'm near the target, anyway!


For my own preferences, I'm strongly inclined towards Ralph's #1. Though I wouldn't call it sloppy, poor or lazy to not invest on the SIS. Despite how much causality and 'Of course X would happen!', in all the AP accounts I've seen how the SIS grows is hardly a scientific progression. It's always artistic - an act of artistic creation, no matter how much someone asserts 'Of course X event would happen next!' as if it were a scientific principle (and I would quickly compare this assertion to 'Of course my character X does so and so next!' - which is also clearly an artistic expression on the speakers part, no matter how certain they are the character would do that).

If someone isn't inclined to make an artistic expression, either in general, or at the current moment, I wouldn't call that poor or sloppy. They're just not inclined towards doing art. For the person who doesn't care to at the moment, the clear procedures are great, because there's nothing worse (in my mind) than "Be creative right now!". Maybe latter on they will spark up, and that's great! And for the person who doesn't care about doing art in general, well, their just not interested in the artistic endevour. It's a bit sad, but that's people! And probably roleplay is more vulnerable to this since with music bands, the guys have practiced using musical instruments before being invited into the band. So clearly they are interested in musical art (even if their crap at it, they are interested in artistic expression, which is the main thing). With roleplay you might invite someone and find they have no interest in using an artistic 'instrument', only once play has commenced. A bit like inviting someone into a band and then they just stand there, arms folded, not touching an instrument in front of them. To be honest I think calling it poor or sloppy might be a hold over from playing in #2 games, since I'd also say most traditional RPG's, especially early D&D, were procedurally (ie, the lack of it) squarely in #2 territory. And we all played them, alot. But that's alot of conjecture and assertion on my part :)


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 04, 2009, 02:24:43 AM
Ralph, you’ve paraphrased my point correctly. I fully agree with you that comparing poor play of one fashion with awesome play of another is a bad habit. It happens in many a discussion about many a play style and it leads to no good.

Let me start by stressing that I’m not saying that your #1 inevitably leads to people neglecting the SIS. My point is more that especially when playing a game that has your #1 type procedures, players should remind themselves of paying attention to the SIS because in my experience it’s quite easy to get carried away with progressing the plot, the conflicts, character development etc. It is tempting to no longer bother with situational details once you get really excited about the larger plot arc.

On the other hand, while your #2 type procedures are no prerequisite for maintaining a firm grasp on situational SIS details, I wanted to point out how they do facilitate it, something that I believe may sometimes be overlooked.

Recently, I have played some very good sessions of The Pool, which falls in your #1 category, in which the SIS was extraordinarily detailed and dense, description and acting was very strong, and the experience was as intense as role-playing of any kind has ever got for me (some would have called it immersion). So I fully realize that there is no contradiction here. It’s just a lesson that I’ve learned in playing PtA and some other such games the “blurry” way, that personally I need a strong image of what’s going on in the SIS, moment-to-moment, to thouroughly enjoy play.

Therefore, I don’t really see it as a merit if a game is able to continue even though the SIS is all blurry and agreement is lacking. That’s like, I dunno, putting a ton of reverb on a bad singer’s voice. Sure, it sounds better than without, but I’d rather he just stop.

Callan, I’ll have to ponder that last paragraph of yours.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Valamir on March 04, 2009, 05:43:10 AM
Cool.

So you'd rather the game just come to a (potentially rocky) end, rather than continue on luke warm.

Interesting.  I've always been an "even bad sex is pretty good and better than no sex" kind of guy myself.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 04, 2009, 09:04:47 AM
Yeah, I'd rather suffice to myself, if ya know what I mean. ;o)

But I think this may cause the wrong impression now. To be clear, shallow play is possible in many variations, and we've probably all seen games that were only concerned with getting SIS details right, but to no end as nothing meaningful ever happened. That's not what I'm after, I want the whole package of details and meaning. Only I'm saying that even the potentially most meaningful choices in a roleplaying experience feel empty and invalid to me if the SIS is nothing but a blurr.

And personally, I'd always start with getting the details right before I get to the meaning, not the other way round. That's probably the point where we differ, plus maybe the amount of detail and consistency we prefer.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 05, 2009, 03:51:50 AM
Callan, I agree with you that it’s not science. I would probably just have called it “creative contribution” rather than “artistic expression”, but we mean the same thing. However, if someone’s creative contribution violates the inner logic of the SIS, e.g. because it is in clear contradiction to already established SIS elements, then it’s a bad creative contribution because it fails to connect with the others’ contributions. What’s worse, if it gets accepted into the SIS, it invalidates the former contributions. As the bits and pieces no longer fit together, the whole picture doesn’t make sense any more and you no longer have any foundation for significant choices at all.

Another point you’re touching is that you can’t be creative on command and some people just aren’t, at all. I’m not sure I understand what your point is, here. While different modes of play require different forms and degrees of creativity, I think that a player who does not make any creative contribution should not play. However, no creative contribution happening was not what was going on in the “blurry” games I mentioned. It was more that the creative energy was solely directed at the larger story arc and not at the current in-game situation and how it evolved; the situation, blurry as it was, instead being ignored or sloppily retrofitted to follow the plot along.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on March 05, 2009, 04:50:36 PM
Well, this is getting onto another subject (a related one, but still another subject).

That 'inner logic of the SIS' is, in my words, just an artistic expression as well. It's quite possible for one person at the table to see some violation while another just shrugs. I take that as evidence the person who see's the violation is actually making an artistic expression themselves. Everyone who sees 2+2 = 5 can see an error - how come one guy is shrugging at this alleged game world logic violation but the other is adamant? That's because its just the other guys artistic expression. There is no real logic being broken here - there is only an artistic expression (the expression being that logic) that someone elses contribution is not forfilling.

Which basically says "My art is above yours and your art should conform to it". Well, usually it avoids any ownership clause by the person refering to the SIS, rather than my artistic contribution. Indeed I think it's often put that way in a dream like way, rather than deliberate, like one might act upon a dream world while sleeping, not as if it is the artistic creation of ones sleeping mind (which is it), but if it is THE world* and something that is nothing to do with ones own artistic expression (creative denial?).

I'm starting to see why Ron put emphasis on the 'right' in 'the right to dream'. It determines who's art comes first. Which, I think, isn't so bad if you decide it in advance with some ruleset. It's not terrible to say your art is above someone elses and they have to conform their art to yours, if you can point out some rules they agreed to and understood (when reading it) that these rules determine who's art is above who's.

As I said, more of a side topic. I hope I've granted legitimacy to using pre agreed rules to put one art above another is okay. I just have to write it out because for years now, in lots of actual plays, I see people pushing their subjective artistic expression above someone elses as if it were pure logic, with no actual rule granting them such a lofty position (to put it politely). As roleplay culture is, I need to make a bit of a stand against that rather than remain silent about it. But I hope it's clear I'm not stamping on the idea completely - with pre agreed rules about who's art comes first, it works fine. I'm just being pedantic.

Quote
Another point you’re touching is that you can’t be creative on command and some people just aren’t, at all. I’m not sure I understand what your point is, here.
That was kind of off topic, just in responce to Ralphs comment. And it went on for awhile, for what was supposed to be a side note. Oops!


*  Heh, I still remember the time I crashed a car in a dream then assured everyone by saying "It's okay, it's just a dream". I think I have trouble really entering into a dream. Though I did find it important, ironically, to assure people who were just figments of my dream. I think they were going to get really upset, otherwise...


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 06, 2009, 01:14:46 AM
Ah, I see. Well, I fundamentally disagree. I think it’s open to judgement whether something makes sense or not. I think if no clear judgement is possible about whether something makes sense, in the context of already established SIS and maybe some presumptions based on genre, source material or the likes, then Exploration is not working. If there is no common ground, if you need a “buck” to “stop” because you cannot make a convincing argument otherwise, then you’re out of bounds.

The associated Big Model term is Credibility. It’s obviously just my personal technical preference, but to me, Credibility that’s exclusively derived from procedural rules is worthless. Credibility needs to be earned. This is not a point about Simulationism, although I’ll grant that I do like to play Simulationist and the Liquid game certainly was. But I also do like to play Narrativist and even Gamist sometimes and in all modes I feel that way about Credibility.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 06, 2009, 01:31:17 AM
P.S.: And this is SO on topic, as we are finishing the loop here! In the Liquid game, the participants were actively judging and approving what happened the whole time, that was what validated the creative contributions and lent Credibility to those who made them. Therefore, the correct application of the resolution mechanics was not required as a validation and I did not feel betrayed when I learned the GM had sometimes just rolled the dice for show.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2009, 10:59:51 AM
Well, I drew a conclusion from my main point, that you might disagree with that conclusion. But my main point was that to judge someones artistic expression, is just artistic expression itself. That it 'doesn't make sense' is just an act of the imagination on the beholders part. Who's art comes ahead of the other art? As before, I note that everyone can see that 2+2=5 doesn't make sense, but it's easy to find accounts of people at a gaming table where someone sees a big violation of game world logic, but another person at the same table finds it plausible. If it were a logic violation like 2+2=5 is, that surely couldn't happen.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 09, 2009, 03:46:02 AM
Callan,

(...) it's easy to find accounts of people at a gaming table where someone sees a big violation of game world logic, but another person at the same table finds it plausible.

Yeah, I know that and I call it dysfunctional play and failure at Exploration. I don't think it is made any better by a rule that gives a "final say" to any one person. Do you enjoy play where the participants do not find each others' contributions to the game appropriate?

- Frank


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Callan S. on March 09, 2009, 04:14:59 PM
What can I say? I'm gamist inclined. As long as I'm winning, or losing but it'll be a merciful death (not a long, dragged out one - and I aught to have researched that in advance myself, anyway), I'm happy. Everyone finding each others contributions always appropriate is icing on the cake. Or perhaps more like a second layer added to the cake - not just cosmetic like icing, but even without the second layer there's still cake to be enjoyed. And those final say rules are the precise reason why any cake remains, even if the second layer becomes absent.

I'm not even sure it's because I'm gamist inclined - I think it's also because I'm a rules first imaginer. As opposed to imagination first, then using rules that fit the imagined content. I use rules (or observe others using them) and then use the results/that inspires my imagination in funny little ways (like one might start making up a little story in chess, from the purely mechanical moves, or start thinking what it was like for the character to win the beuty pagent in monopoly, after a purely mechanical card draw). That inspiration, I find, starts to build up a second layer of cake. Heh, we still talk about the time the dwarf fighter critted for the very first time with his axe - for a subdual attempt! Purely mechanical, but we still talk about how that guard must have been put in a fucking coma by that massive critical! SMACK! It still inspires me...

Although I'm probably a rules first imaginer because I'm gamist inclined. But it doesn't require a gamist inclination to do rules first imagining, I'd say.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: JoyWriter on April 03, 2009, 07:32:10 AM
My experience with WuShu and sometimes PtA has been that narration rights, especially when combined with a “style over substance” mindset, lead to a mode of play where people, for lack of a better word, neglect the Shared Imagined Space. They don’t care for details, they don’t care for consistency (whether based on genre conventions or “realism”), they don’t pay attention to what their fellow players establish.

Interesting you should say that. My experience of Wushu is that the "say what you like + veto" thing doesn't stretch you as much. Perhaps in a game like liquid it's like playing a strategy game with points values, and then just passing the limit because of one cool unit. So there are rules and restrictions, but only to a specific level of accuracy, say the nearest 10, and the leeway is there for plausible, unlikely but amazing actions.

I like the idea of empty space, or "ask a player". it reminds me of "man in the loop" in some systems design. You just have a blank space where the system gives no clue what to do next, and in that (sometimes scary) place, people can come up with stuff. I wouldn't do that too often though, as it is actually more tiring than many other methods, even ones that ask the same questions in advance. Now for this to work the result coming out the other side needs to depend on what happened inside the box, as with Vincent's game. This means that you need to have a very clear and flexible way of assessing what that turns into, without descending into "obvious choice" game theory. There is something about black box theory in there, with the idea that the player reaction should be an "uncorrelated variable" which in other words makes it effectively random if you don't know the player and their character.

So probably one thing to watch out for is some kind of mechanical or resource based over-investment, or on the other side of the spectrum affirmation "do you like this person's creativity" voting. Because these pre-decide the reactions of the players, which is a danger that can happen in D&D4e; "it's a skill challenge for loot, of course you want to do this" and in wushu "how do I say I didn't think that response was cool without offending that person?".


That 'inner logic of the SIS' is, in my words, just an artistic expression as well. It's quite possible for one person at the table to see some violation while another just shrugs. I take that as evidence the person who see's the violation is actually making an artistic expression themselves. Everyone who sees 2+2 = 5 can see an error - how come one guy is shrugging at this alleged game world logic violation but the other is adamant? That's because its just the other guys artistic expression. There is no real logic being broken here - there is only an artistic expression (the expression being that logic) that someone elses contribution is not forfilling.

Which basically says "My art is above yours and your art should conform to it". Well, usually it avoids any ownership clause by the person refering to the SIS, rather than my artistic contribution. Indeed I think it's often put that way in a dream like way, rather than deliberate, like one might act upon a dream world while sleeping, not as if it is the artistic creation of ones sleeping mind (which is it), but if it is THE world* and something that is nothing to do with ones own artistic expression (creative denial?).

I can understand that in limited areas this can be a problem, and is where rules-lawyers or narrative-dissonance defenders pop up. I would say that the rules system and setting should specify to what extent the game follows normal physics, or other tropes, and people agree at the start, and put inventive or unexpected use of ramifications down as a natural "risk" of working with clever human beings.

You've also talked about what extent the game should "force" you to be authors, and whether it should also just rumble on through the dispute. This reminds me of the old rule we had for interpreting dubious situations in warhammer: roll for it, biased by level of agreement (allowing you to concede your point was weaker), and then stick by that rule for the rest of the game, and argue about it later. It works ridiculously well, because it auto-creates house rules that everyone has agreed to. It holds the game together, not by ignoring a section of the table as "the dodgy part" where something may or may not have happened, but condenses that uncertainty into one roll and does away with it. In addition, the fact that you try one side gives you shared experience to help decide the rules in future. "How did it work out?"
A similar but different rule applies when people get to a part that doesn't interest them; they can randomise their own choice, as people do in situations like character design when they just want to get into play. Why not extend the process! In terms of the same black box theory, the rules detail has not been reduced, so a system that runs on a high level of detail cannot be derailed if it has such "creativity aid" systems built in. Of course, this is a cop-out and not as smooth as other approaches, but it maintains the integrity of a detail and logic heavy game system.

In other news, a few months ago I invented an alternate version of wushu that makes it have more respect for setting, by design, I'll post it up some time, if you like.


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Silmenume on April 07, 2009, 01:21:16 AM
Hi Frank!

I read through this thread of yours and can say that my current gaming experiences are nearly identical to yours differing only in the specifics of the setting.  That the GM does not roll out everything or even just floats through most of the evening is exactly like the game I play.  The motto regarding dice rolling is “dice add spice.”  Mechanics are definitely a background kind of thing taking second or even third chair to the SIS and the process of interacting with it.  There are no mechanics for direct input into the SIS.  In fact input to the SIS is more nakedly “the Lumpley Principle™” in action because of the near total removal of the mechanics abstraction layer.  IOW everyone is making those credibility apportioning decisions directly in real time all the time.  The criteria by which those decisions are made is found in the accumulated SIS, the source material and whatever experiential the players are desiring to celebrate.  It seems in your case that the source material was Wild West, Steampunk, Victorian age gentlemen, voodoo and zombies.  All this material was to be celebrated in a “cinematic” fashion.  As a point of theory I would say that the “manner of celebration” would be what is called Color.  Within the SIS there is no “color” – everything can potentially be put to use.

I believe and have argued that the type of resolution mechanics you mentioned are not so capricious as most people seem to believe.  There is a huge amount of interpretation of the “structures” or “logic” of the established SIS as well as the original source material that is not “just” fiat.  Everything must fit, or even better, must be an acceptable and creative extension of what has been already established.  Now if you can do all that AND be cinematic about it, then you're cooking with gas!  In order for this to function one must be deeply invested in the SIS or it simply cannot work.  There are many times when randomized outcomes can be anywhere from not necessary to outright nonsensical.  The GM as adjudicator must be just as invested in the SIS as everyone else at the table.  He cannot just judgments without regard to the history of the SIS; he too is required to respect the SIS as tightly as any player.  No set of mechanics can replace the “what-do-you-do-next” precisely because of the primacy of the SIS and the fluidity of its ever evolving history over all other concerns.  This means mechanics can only run in a supportive role; which brings us to Callan's tightrope metaphor.  The players are either all working in harmony and are all walking that tightrope or are not working in harmony and everything hits the floor and the game either does die – or it should.

This means that players do need to bring in a certain set of skills a priori or they will function well in that game.  Again I steal from Callan using the analogy of the practiced musician.  And yes, in my experiences there are many players who are not used to being “...creative right now.”  This is a problem and can mean the difference between a player fitting or not fitting in with a group (with the attendant falling of the tightrope – dysfunctional play).  If one cannot be “creative right now” or have no inclination for it then they are not an appropriate match for that particular group.  This is also true if a player cannot or is not interested in keeping the SIS front and center and in sharp focus.

Frank I also agree with you regarding the acceptability of a particular piece of player input - if no clear judgment is possible then Exploration has failed.  I also agree with you that credibility needs to be earned.  In the game I play in a new players needs to prove their “chops” before they are granted credibility via the agency of continued invites.  I should also note that above and beyond all others at the table the GM absolutely must have earned credibility.  For this kind of play to function the players must trust the GM precisely because of the secondary role of mechanics (and mechanics must be secondary or the primacy of the history and the current state of the SIS will be lost by definition) or the game will fail utterly (again falling off the tight rope).

A side note to this is that what mechanics there are flow from the source material and the SIS, not the other way around.

So.....that you were not troubled by your GM not admitting to using resolution mechanics very frequently (or at all) makes perfect sense.  His input must “fit” the SIS as much as any other player at the table.  If his input was found acceptable ala the Lumpley Principle then it doesn't matter whether his input was “dictated” or “regulated” by mechanics or not.  That his input was found acceptable means that his input also followed from the SIS and was found to be an acceptable addition to it.  Paul Czege had the right of it.

The process can be called bricolage.  It is how Sim functions.

I hope that I've said something helpful or interest.

Jay


Title: Re: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on April 07, 2009, 06:34:55 AM
Hi Jay!

Sure, I follow you, up to and including your mentioning of Bricolage, though it’s probably best to let that sleeping dog lie.

However, I do not see it as a feature unique to Sim. Sure, the Liquid game was Sim, and your group plays Sim, too. But my take is that within the Big Model, we are talking Exploration and we are talking Techniques and how they relate to Exploration. Naturally it’s problematic to keep Exploration and Sim apart, that’s a structural problem of the Big Model.

But I do think that there are “High Exploration” styles of Nar and Gam play to which what I am saying also applies. Evidence: Vincent agrees with me! *smirk*

- Frank