*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 24, 2014, 07:14:27 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 29 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Trying to understand where color stops and system begins  (Read 2239 times)
Alex Abate Biral
Member

Posts: 24


« on: January 24, 2009, 08:55:32 PM »

Hello there people! I am writing again, this time about my efforts to understand the Big Model, applying it to some past experiences in RPGs. More specifically, I am trying to understand color and how it relates to some other elements of exploration. I have a few doubts about what color is and, perhaps more importantly, what it isn't. I was discussing some of my doubts with mister Ron through email, but I believe that posting in a forum might be better, as it allows everyone to post their own thoughts on the issue. I was reluctant to do so at first because I am sure the topic has been discussed a number of times, but if there is nothing new to be discussed in this topic, feel free to point me to other topics, people.

One of my first points of doubt was how color was related to system. Where does system ends and color begins. An analogy I found for color, situation and system is that situation and system forms a kind of skeleton, which supports and gives form to the color. Color can give emphasis or hid one or another part of the situation, just like, in a body, you can perceive the underlying structure, but not see it. Also, with the same bone structure, a lot of different body shapes are possible. I think this analogy could be taken a step further, where the system acts as a joint for the situation bones.  In other words, it gives support for the situation to move, to change, to evolve. The system would give support for a host of actions to be taken on a certain situation, and through the actions of the players, help determine how the situation develops (of course, system affects much more than this, like how characters are generated, but I was thinking about its role pertaining moving situation).

After that, I became confused about what is happening when there is no overt rules to deal with actions. I began to wonder if in this case, color took the place of system. For example, a long time ago, I used to play the old version of dungeons and dragons with a friend and his older brother. One of the fun things about playing with them is that his older brother, who was the GM, liked to pick on us for any kind of "mistake" we made. For example, we once decided to set up camp inside a dungeon. However, none of us remembered to douse the lanterns when we went to sleep. The GM, then, determined this attracted a wandering monster.
 
At first, I thought that this was simply color acting in place of system. There were no "hard" rules to deal with lights attracting the monsters. I thought this was simply a way of "painting" the game with a somber, dangerous tone. The dungeon is a hostile environment, and the GM was simply showing us this, by taking mistakes we did and turning them into consequences. However, after I read this: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/24/, I think that I understand it a bit better now. Although the system wasn't overtly displayed in the game (there are no rules about what not to do in a dungeon (at least in the basic module)), there was an underlying rule. If I was to state it, it probably would be something like this: "If the players take an action which the GM sees as foolish or stupid (anything which might bring disastrous consequences upon them), the GM should then determine those consequences using drama". In this case, the drama refers to the good judgement of the rule, in other words, applying it in a way that creates the desired color but do not make the players simply think the GM is unfair.
 
So, if I am getting this right, any game will have a part of its system hidden, simply assumed by the players. Common sense prevents a player from making his character fly simply by flapping his arms really fast in most (but not all) games. In most games, npcs will have more or less logical reactions to the actions of the players. If the players treat the king like trash, they may end up in the gallows. There are rules governing these actions, although they are not usually denoted in rpg books. What do you people think? Is this correct, or are there some muddled concepts in my mind yet?
 
Another thing that I came to realize was that, like the previously mentioned article explains, drama is used extensively in dealing with many situations in any game. While I never played a system that overtly used drama as a way to decide resolutions, all the examples of using drama on games I played, it was best used when it kept coherent color in the imagined space. Anyone who played games with more overt use of drama want to comment? I believe that the role of drama might be deeper sometimes, like maintaining the transcript of the story up to some standard. However, all examples I can think of that are basically railroading by the GM. By the way, I realise that drama usually refers to a way to deal with task or conflict resolution. But I see no reason the term can't be extended to other parts of the system where something is simply decided.
 
One final point I want to touch is that sometimes what start as color may end up becoming a system. For example, in an AD&D game I played, I decided to play an alchemist character. In order to do this, I created a normal magic user, but began to describe my spells as altering the material components to cause the desired effects. In time, I had began to list properties and processes one could apply to various materials.
 Obsidian, for example, was described as a material that had protective properties and was attuned to fire. This wasn't a formal system by any means, but in time it had some rules for what could or couldn't be accomplished with different materials. By the end, it became
an important part of the game system, affecting deeply how magic was cast. For example, bat guano in the fireball spell could be substituted by the fore mentioned obsidian to create a fire halo around the caster.

Thanks for reading this through, people. I will welcome any comments on these thoughts. If something is not very clear, please point out so I can try to explain myself.
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2009, 11:07:13 PM »

Hi Alex,

Interesting example! What's fiddley is this - in most D&D editions the GM can just declare a monster shows up, pretty much any old time. Somewhere the text often says 'And the GM presents the adventure' (or something equally, imo, vague).

Now if the system grants him the the power to make a monster turn up at any old time, then making one turn up when the lamps are left on is hardly departing from system, is it? That fits within 'any old time', perfectly.

But was he invoking system, or he didn't really give a crap whether the system says he has the power to make a monster appear? Like, whether it gave him the power or not, he would make one turn up (with his own reason being the lamps)?

So it's hard to say 'That's part of the system' if he was ignoring what powers system does and doesn't allow him, even if what he did pretty much matches standard system use.

Further, here's a hard question - did it matter to you at the time, whether the GM had the power to make a monster appear, or not? Why did you go along with it? Did it just seem right? And the really hard one - what if it had seemed right, but you latter found out it was against the rules? Does seeming right, make right?

For myself, I'd describe your concepts as perhaps muddled - because it felt right, you might be under the bias that there was a rule at all. Have you heard about confirmation bias? In a scientific test, people would make a hypothesis about what rule was behind a certain number sequence. The interesting thing is they only tested to see if their hypothesis was correct - they didn't try and disprove their own hypothesis. They only looked for evidence that confirmed their hypothesis.

Quote
If I was to state it, it probably would be something like this: "If the players take an action which the GM sees as foolish or stupid (anything which might bring disastrous consequences upon them), the GM should then determine those consequences using drama".
Have you tried disproving your hypothesis that there was a rule involved to begin with? It may not have been the case?

Hope I'm not being confusing :)
Logged

Alex Abate Biral
Member

Posts: 24


« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2009, 09:06:46 AM »

(...)
Now if the system grants him the power to make a monster turn up at any old time, then making one turn up when the lamps are left on is hardly departing from system, is it? That fits within 'any old time', perfectly.

But was he invoking system, or he didn't really give a crap whether the system says he has the power to make a monster appear? Like, whether it gave him the power or not, he would make one turn up (with his own reason being the lamps)?

So it's hard to say 'That's part of the system' if he was ignoring what powers system does and doesn't allow him, even if what he did pretty much matches standard system use.
(...)

I sincerely don't remember wether that specific version allowed the GM to act that way or not. What I do remember is that when I was the GM to the same game, monsters would only appear as the players walked into rooms with them inside (and when travelling long distances). Not that it mattered much, because the GM in question always took the books to be more of guidelines, rather than rules.

Further, here's a hard question - did it matter to you at the time, whether the GM had the power to make a monster appear, or not? Why did you go along with it? Did it just seem right? And the really hard one - what if it had seemed right, but you latter found out it was against the rules? Does seeming right, make right?

Nope, it didn't matter so much wether this was allowable by this by the rules. In the game instance that we played (no matter what the rules actually said), the GM had free reign to do a lot of stuff. I am sorry for not making it clear in my last post, but the main issue here isn't if the GM was outside of the rules of a normal game, but rather how some rules of the actual game aren't stated or overt, but rather based on how people act.

For myself, I'd describe your concepts as perhaps muddled - because it felt right, you might be under the bias that there was a rule at all. Have you heard about confirmation bias? In a scientific test, people would make a hypothesis about what rule was behind a certain number sequence. The interesting thing is they only tested to see if their hypothesis was correct - they didn't try and disprove their own hypothesis. They only looked for evidence that confirmed their hypothesis.

Quote
If I was to state it, it probably would be something like this: "If the players take an action which the GM sees as foolish or stupid (anything which might bring disastrous consequences upon them), the GM should then determine those consequences using drama".
Have you tried disproving your hypothesis that there was a rule involved to begin with? It may not have been the case?

Hope I'm not being confusing :)

I am pretty sure there was a rule governing how the game went by. Maybe it would be easy to chalk it up to simply play-style. However, since the GM functions determine a lot of how things happen, how rules are applied and what is or isn't possible, the play-style of whoever holds these function will change how the SiS work. I agree with you that it is possible that the rule I inferred is incorrect. Since I haven't seem that GM in question for many a year, I probably will never know.

However I am quite sure that there is a rule. What is or not possible, what can or can't happen, the way you determine how things happen, that will vary a lot from person to person. So, when the system says that the GM must decide something, it opens up the rules for the inclusion of various rules that form the common sense employed by the GM. If you disagree with this, then please, explain further. So, what I am trying to decide is wether these covert rules, which change a lot based on who is applying it, should be considered part of the system of a game instance or if they are best described as color. It seems they affect color a lot, but I don't think they are color per se.

By the way, sorry if it seemed I was rude anywhere in this text. I think I didn't express myself very well, probably because I decided to put so many points in my post rather than making a point per post. I think I understood you perfectly (but if it is not the case, please, point out what I misunderstood!), but I am afraid I myself wasn't very clear in my last post. Thanks a lot for replying!
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2009, 06:34:05 PM »

I saw no hint of rudeness at all?

Quote
So, when the system says that the GM must decide something, it opens up the rules for the inclusion of various rules that form the common sense employed by the GM.
Well, first we have to remember as you said yourself that "Nope, it didn't matter so much wether this was allowable by this by the rules".

The system doesn't 'open up' anything, if your ignoring what the system says you can and can't do.

But lets call that situation A and focus on a situation B right now, where the GM does follow what the system says he can and can't do (because he thinks it's fun to follow the system (or fun to just try following it, the first time he plays)).

As I understand it, the GM is not including 'rules', he's making little restrictions for himself, that the system does not require him to forfil. Like, even if you doused the lanterns, it would be perfectly valid system use to make a monster appear, even though that would go against his little restriction that it takes lantern light to make a monster appear. (I'll just quickly note, these little restrictions can be quite fun to stick to)

Do you really mean rules when you say
Quote
various rules that form the common sense employed by the GM
Or do you mean personal restrictions, which the GM could go against and he wouldn't be breaking any rule? I mean, he could go against it but most likely he wouldn't, because these are his personally chosen restrictions (it's like a vegetarian eating meat - possible, but most likely the vegetarian wouldn't).

I would totally agree with the following wording (and have designed games with this very principle in mind)
Quote
So, when the system says that the GM must decide something, it opens up the rules for the inclusion of various personal restrictions that form the common sense employed by the GM.
Totally agree with that wording and not only that, I see it as a wonderful potential!

As it is, if it's situation B and the rule grants the GM power to make a monster show up at any time, I can't see any evidence to show there is a rule involved when he makes the monster show because of the lamp light. I currently can only see a personal restriction being observed?

BTW, 'personal restriction' is a bit of an awkward name - if you have a better name that comes to mind, I'm happy to switch. Convictions?

Quote
So, what I am trying to decide is wether these covert rules, which change a lot based on who is applying it, should be considered part of the system of a game instance or if they are best described as color. It seems they affect color a lot, but I don't think they are color per se.
Well, from the evidence I've given it seems not part of system, nor of color. There may not be a name for it, currently?
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2009, 07:57:57 PM »

Hi Alex,

System is whatever that group uses to get things done through play. As a rule of thumb, if fictional time passes, then whatever dialogue or procedures were employed to make that happen, is system.

As Vincent Baker put so well, "System is how we agree on what happens in play."

It's important to distinguish the system of play from two things.

1. Many formal procedures are often used in play, for instance, rolling dice to see whether your character hits an opponent. Any and all of this is part of system. They are techniques.

2. The rules in the book are often referenced or used as a guide for play. However, they are never the system of play itself. They may inform it, they may account for some of it, they may be ignored or misunderstood, or anything of the kind. But as text they are not the system. What you do is the system.

It's best to think of Color as rarely found on its own, and best recognized as a modifier of something that can be identified as character, setting, situation, or system, or any combination of them.

An example of Color: when we were playing Hero Wars, the characters were traveling on some mountain roads. I described a dragon's skeleton that was embedded in the rock of the mountain's spur. Dragons in this game are very big, and the characters spent a little time simply looking at the little bit that was exposed in awe. Nothing happened. No one sought anything. I hadn't prepped anything. It was a feature of the landscape which was thematically striking for this setting (Glorantha), which is notable for its concepts about dragons. That is Color modifying and enriching Setting.

Another example: in the same game, one shaman character engaged in a terrible physical battle with another shaman, an older woman, but very strong. He gained the advantage and held a rock over his head, as she lay prone. In this system , your outcome in combat involves how you invest points, and the way the dice turned out, his character was empowered to win in any way he wanted. The player hesitated briefly, then looked around all of us at the table and acted out the physical action of his character, bringing the rock down hard and with a kind of pantomime impact that created an imagined sound for all of us. That is Color modifying and enriching System - in this case, System as we played it while referencing the text's rules.

Another example: in the same game, as we began a scene in which the characters met some NPCs in a formal situation, I began to describe how the NPCs reacted. One player (same guy as above) interrupted me to insist on how his character made his entrance. I wanted to know what he meant - did he want a conflict of some kind? "No," he said," I'm including a little Color, that's all." This is Color modifying/enriching System - in this case, System that is not described in the book, pertaining to scene framing.

Best, Ron
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2009, 10:15:17 PM »

Hi Ron,

What if you don't agree with the 'lantern draws a monster' example, specifically? You find it agreeable and that it makes sense to you, but what your really agreeing to is that the GM can drop in a monster at will? Agreeing 'the GM can drop in a monster at will' is part of the system. But if the lamp had been doused, there would have been no monster attack. That's a fair change and yet apparently outside of the system/agreement method. Where does that lie?
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2009, 04:29:14 AM »

Hi Callan,

All I can do is tell you how I interpret it.

1. We're talking about scene framing, specifically a combat scene in this case if I'm not mistaken. Everything about the discussion is now System, period, because scene framing is a technique.

2. How it's done are sub-techniques. In this game, encounters come in two types: planned (i.e. mapped) or relatively unplanned. A well-known sub-technique for the latter is the wandering monster roll. In this group, as the DM saw it, "I say so because of what you did" was another sub-technique.

A final point: I bolded how in my statement of the Lumpley Principle on purpose. You are apparently focusing on the "agree," like many people mistakenly do, and interpreting the statement as support for informal consensus. The Lumpley Principle actually challenges the very notion of informal consensus by saying we never use it, but instead we use a system of some kind, in order to play successfully.

Another way to look at it is to say "Play without system is impossible." Or, as I put it, "System does matter."

Agreement, in this case that Alex describes, does not mean happy enthusiastic consensus. It means acquiescence or even obedience to authority, which I've written about in some detail earlier, and won't go into here except to say it was problematic for them. That changes nothing about the basic point. We could discuss what sort of Social Contract might be involved, or puzzle over the long-standing absence of scene-framing rules from game texts, or anything we like, but there's nothing mysterious about what System and Color were doing in that bit of play.

Alex, you're interpreting Color as "anything that's not covered by a rule." You're also confounding textual rules with System. In your example, dousing the lantern isn't Color. It's an action, resolved through Drama (i.e. no roll was necessary, no score or other on-the-sheet feature was consulted). It's still System. Color could modify it by some description of "the light flickers briefly, and goes out." Whether the book says anything about it or how to do it, is irrelevant.

I recognize that you as a player, at the time, thought of it as Color regarding your characters' going to bed. But the DM, just as you described and I'll paraphrase, took pleasure in interpreting any and all actions as the opportunity to scene-frame. Your character's action was System to him and, as was often the case in playing that game, the DM ruled over System in an autocratic fashion, so that "agreement" was defined as obedience.

We can talk about that disconnected understanding between you and him, but as I said to Callan, there's no reason to consider what you described as anything not accounted for in the model.

Clearly, I'm dealing with stereo confusion in this thread. To shift analogies, dealing with these posts is like trying to dribble two basketballs at once. The only hope for getting anywhere is for one of them to stay quiet and see what happens with the other. Callan, this is Alex's thread, so that means you. Please don't consider yourself excluded; my point is to settle Alex's issues and then see where you're at.

Best, Ron
Logged
FredGarber
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2009, 04:54:27 PM »

First, for me, it's easier to point to my own example, rather than try and analyze your experience.
second, I'm going to footnote this where I use a lot of Forge Jargon, so that I don't ramble or confuse the thread.  Alex, don't be confused by the footnotes.

I had, in a D&D(****) game, a halfling, that I determined was called Etienne, and spoke with a flourish and a Outrageous French Accent. 
My friend Randy called his halfling Milo, and he spoke entirely in 3rd person (*): "Milo wants to sleep now."
We had predetermined that they were cousins, also. 

Now, this accent was Color.  The fact that we had two different speaking styles didn't affect Setting:
We didn't establish that all Halflings speak one way or the other, and the "explanation" for the accent was only worked far down the line into the Setting because I like to Lonely Play (**) that sort of thing.

The fact that Etienne's accent was French didn't affect Character:  He didn't adopt any particularily French stereotypes, "French" habits, or anything like that.  He had a strong "Halfling" racial identity, but that had nothing to do with the Frenchness.

The fact that he had a French accent didn't affect System: I didn't get any bonuses or penalties because I was "French" or a "French Halfling" nor were any of the rules of our Social Contract affected (***).

So that was Color - It was the ephemera that didn't matter, but was one of the things that made Our D&D different from Other People's D&D.

And yes, Color can bleed into System or Setting or Character if your group lets it, like with the Obsidian instead of Guano: As soon as your GM allowed that, he allowed what used to be Color into the System domain.  In fact, if your GM had you meet other Alchemist NPCs, or go to Ye Olde Magicke Shoppe and pick up Alchemical Spell Components from the same bin as Wizardly Spell Components, he had altered Setting to fit your Color.  (*****)

-Fred

(*) He spoke that way with Immersion: It wasn't Randy describing Milo's actions, it was Milo describing Milo's actions and having trouble with the first person singular pronoun
(**)  I like to come up with detailed bits of setting that either provide background for my character, or things that only matter to me about the setting.  That's Lonely Fun: The things you do associated with Role Playing that aren't actually at the table (like painting figures, etc)
(***) The Social Contract is the rules your group plays under, spoken and unspoken.  For Example: "Aaron has no girlfriend, so his character always makes a big deal about his sexual relationships.  Ignore that: it's just Aaron." or "If Heather or Cass show up, self-edit out all the raunchy bits. There's no need to edit for Amy."
(****) Which flavor doesn't matter here, does it?
(*****) Since some versions of D&D have Alchemy as a skill or an established part of the Setting in a different way than you and your group played it.
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2009, 06:00:06 PM »

Hi Ron,

In the same way you bolded 'how', I was careful to use the words 'at will'. I haven't refered to using group consensus, only the GM's will and his will alone, in exactly the same way one chess player decides which piece he moves by his will alone. Now if the GM busts out an ouija board as his way of deciding his will, that isn't how I agree events happen. How I agree to what happens in play is that I agree to his choice, not how he arrives at his choice. Yet how he arrives at his choice clearly affects gameplay (in gamist play, second guessing your opponents way of deciding his choice is paramount, for example. Yet how he chooses is not part of any agreement system). Whether he uses an ouija board, a notion of scene framing + "I say so because of what you did", or a Twoface style coin flip, it's not something I'm agreeing to in terms of how things turn out - what I agree with is that he can make a monster appear at his own will. I'm taking it an individual human will is outside any system of agreement, yet at the same time the procedures and nuances of how that will decides the choices given to it, obviously effects the game. As much as will is outside the system, those procedures and nuances of choice making are outside of system/are not part of the system. Twoface in Batman is a good way of illustrating it - the coin isn't part of any particular system, it's part of his will.

I'll hold off (btw, you asked me as the author of the BM, right, rather than moded?), but I think this is worth keeping in mind during any following discussion, rather than dismissed as a mere reference to group concensus.
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2009, 09:59:07 PM »

I see your point, Callan, and yes, it also shows me that you weren't confused (as I wrongly stated) ... but I want to stress that we're not talking about you. We're talking about Alex, regarding that particular play experience. And as far as I can tell, "DM says" and "I agree" were synonymous for them, with the only alternative being a wearying, stubborn argument with everyone having zero fun. That was their System for scene framing.

Best, Ron

Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!