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Author Topic: [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show  (Read 10015 times)
Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #30 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
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Valamir
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« Reply #31 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?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #32 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 :)
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #33 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
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Valamir
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« Reply #34 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.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #35 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
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #36 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
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Callan S.
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« Reply #37 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...
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #38 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
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #39 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.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #40 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.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #41 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
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Callan S.
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« Reply #42 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.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #43 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.
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Silmenume
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« Reply #44 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
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Jay
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