*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 01, 2014, 10:24:52 PM

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: 32 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: I learned about System from Munchkins  (Read 4380 times)
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 196

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« on: January 04, 2010, 12:43:04 AM »

My System suddenly grew big. By "big", I do not refer to the number of rules. Instead, I refer to layers of the Big Model.

I'm writing this post to see if I'm correctly understanding the place of System within the Big Model for the first time. In fact, I'm not entirely convinced that the existing definition of System as written in the Provisional Glossary is sufficient, given this critical observation. (At least, in my opinion it's critical.)

For the longest time, I quite sincerely thought System would be best placed within the Techniques layer, where a given system is simply a collection of techniques but doesn't necessarily define all techniques used in real play. It seemed to me that events such as the application of House Rules or GM fiat is a technique which supplements or violates the System rules, leading directly to a different kind of Ephemera than the players would have gotten otherwise. However, I've changed my mind with some recent thinking, and if I'm correct, it would open up a great new avenue to think, converse, and debate along. (Maybe for other people as well as myself!)

I'm working on a game that I haven't had a chance to work for months due to real-life issues, but I've started again fresh with ideas that cropped up in the interim. I won't delve into the details of the project, but basically the players really have to help make it work or it'll veer wildly off-course and be a complete meltdown. (That said, as long as they cooperate, I'm hoping it will be a brilliant game.) Critical to having the players help the system is having the players work well with each other. To that end, I intend to build rules that relate to group-building, -management, and -cohesion. These rules would be similar to what you'd find in a business executive's book on how to organize and run a group project effectively.

Anyway, so over the holidays I also spent some time with friends and played a few quick but really wacky games, including Munchkins, that involve rules that step into real life. The rule that is really memorable changes depending on whether the player, not the character, is male or female. (Actually we played this other one too which was pretty funny .. "Zombie Fluxx" where by one rule you had to groan like a zombie when one came into play.) I had utterly ignored Munchkins and the like as inspiration for my own game because mine is more serious in tone, like an adventure flick. However, those rules that extend into real life made me think of my own decision to build pure player-social rules. It's funny, but those wacky rules make the border between the SIS and real life very fuzzy. There is a "sort of SIS" in Munchkins, but it's very .. see-through? It's effectively transparent, though you can suspend disbelief a tiny bit. "Haha! I stole your boots!" (Obviously, a real pair of boots did not change hands.. err .. feet.)

In considering this, it occurred to me that my own social-management rules are very definitely part of System, since they're written rules and are important to the success of the game and the consistency of the SIS, but they just as definitely have absolutely nothing to do with the SIS directly. Where the heck does this fit within the Big Model? This was the breakthrough that finally convinced me beyond doubt that System should indeed be at the Exploration layer, and not within the Techniques layer.

I'd love to hear anyone's opinion on this. (I realize I talked more about the "Actual Play" rather than relating the Actual Play session itself, but I quite frankly can't remember any specific game of Munchkins. There's too much variation.)


PS   I have since started to wonder if there are a lot of games with rules outside the SIS, which are "unMunchkinly" and which I'm not aware of due to limited experience. I'd love to peruse them. Any suggestions?
Logged

Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Jasper Flick
Member

Posts: 161


WWW
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2010, 03:37:49 AM »

Could you clearly state what definition of "System" you base this on? I have the nagging feeling yours is quite different from mine. There's a big potential for miscommunication if we don't clear this up.

By the way, here's the glossary if you're looking for it.

Quote
I have since started to wonder if there are a lot of games with rules outside the SIS, which are "unMunchkinly" and which I'm not aware of due to limited experience. I'd love to peruse them. Any suggestions?

Do you mean whether there are games with elements that do not directly represent anything fictional? Resources, rules, or procedures that aren't justified as simulating some part of the imagined reality? In that case, there are legion, and I don't know where to start.
Logged

Trouble with dice mechanics? Check out AnyDice, my online dice distribution calculator!
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 196

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2010, 01:43:17 AM »

By the way, here's the glossary if you're looking for it.
Thanks X-)



Could you clearly state what definition of "System" you base this on? I have the nagging feeling yours is quite different from mine. There's a big potential for miscommunication if we don't clear this up.

I'm referring to the picture of the Big Model, actually, linked to from the Provisional Glossary. In this picture, System is up at the Exploration layer as part of the formula [Color * [System * [Situation = Character * Setting]]]     We may indeed be using different definitions of System, my definition having recently been significantly changed. I'll state my "own" definition near the end of the post.

Quote
I have since started to wonder if there are a lot of games with rules outside the SIS, which are "unMunchkinly" and which I'm not aware of due to limited experience. I'd love to peruse them. Any suggestions?


Do you mean whether there are games with elements that do not directly represent anything fictional? Resources, rules, or procedures that aren't justified as simulating some part of the imagined reality? In that case, there are legion, and I don't know where to start.

No .. I am aware that there are indeed plenty of games where some rules don't directly simulate a part of the imagined reality. Any game allowing the player to reroll a bad die-roll based on some resource available to that player, where said resource has nothing to do with the character or the SIS, is an example of this. However, although this rule doesn't simulate anything in the SIS, it still "touches" the fiction, so to speak. It changes the outcome within the SIS and affects it's future. What I'm referring to are rules in the system which do not touch the fiction at all, even remotely. I was never before consciously aware of the fact that not all rules of game need touch the fiction of the SIS, for an RPG, and it was in considering Munchkins that I finally became aware.

Take, for example, the player roles as discussed in the thread, "Roles & Stances", begun by Laurel. (It's an archived thread.) In it, a few ideas are tossed around for defining player roles such as 'Host', 'Audience', 'GM', and even 'Music/Sound Director'. I'll add a few that aren't mentioned in the post, just to drive the point home. How about the roles of 'Transportation Planner' and 'Communication Coordinator'? In my own group, these roles are pretty much handled implicitly by our different players, as they are for a lot of groups I suspect. In other words, they make up a significant portion of the Social Contract and aren't dealt with explicitly in any of the gaming manuals we use.

Such roles aren't traditionally included as part of System, as it is defined in the Provisional Glossary, from what I understand. The relevant part of that definition is "System: The means by which imaginary events are established during play .." and as mentioned, these roles are more a part of the Social Contract than the System. However, for my own game, I want to define such roles (or at least some behavioural rules) in order to keep the game coherent. These rules will not touch the fiction at all, but will be integral to the success of the gaming experience, and therefore these rules may sneak into the existing definition of System rather discreetly.. or maybe not. In any case, by not touching the fiction, the rules of my System are outside the SIS and therefore cannot be contained within the Techniques layer of the Big Model.

Jasper, you'd asked me what my definition of System is, but I'd actually keep the meaning of the word as it is in the Provisional Glossary. I might, however, expand it as follows, so that it covers the above considerations. I'll try to stick to Ron's goal of minimizing circular references within the Glossary.

Quote
System: The means by which game play is performed, including but not limited to the establishment of imaginary events during play. Examples are the allotment of social roles among the players, character creation, resolution of imaginary events, reward procedures, and more. It may be considered to introduce fictional time into the Shared Imagined Space. See also the Lumpley Principle.

For further discussion, consider this to be my own understanding of System. This would need to include an "extended Lumpley Principle" along these lines as well.

Quote
Extended Lumpley Principle, the

    "System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to play the game, including but not limited to how events are imagined during play."
Logged

Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Jasper Flick
Member

Posts: 161


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2010, 05:00:23 AM »

It seems to me like you're trying to expand "System" to include the "Social Contract" (effectively, everything) as well. Why would you want to do that? It leaves a hole which the current definition of "System" perfectly fills.

Here's why I think you would want to do that:

What you might be implicitly assuming is that "System" must be written down. And, conversely, that anything written down must be part of "System". Neither is the case. Whether anything is written down, formalized, or ad-hoc is completely irrelevant to the model.

Having said that, do game texts talk about stuff that doesn't "touch the fiction" at all? Sure they do. You will find that quite a few game books devote words to the stuff at the top of the Social Contract. Could it be you missed it, because it is not written in a "thou shalt" form, but in the form of general advise?

Quote from: D&D 4e DMG, page 14
Food: Come to a consensus about food for your session. Should players eat before arriving, or do you eat together? Does one player want to play host? Do you all chip in for pizza or take-out? Who brings snacks and drinks?
Logged

Trouble with dice mechanics? Check out AnyDice, my online dice distribution calculator!
lumpley
Administrator
Member
*
Posts: 3656


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2010, 05:57:07 AM »

Daniel, right on.

The candle ritual in Polaris is another example.

-Vincent
Logged
Jasper Flick
Member

Posts: 161


WWW
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2010, 07:01:06 AM »

Is my understanding correct, that lighting the candle is part of system, but deciding at whose house to play is not? I simply lump the candle ritual with rolling dice, filling in the relationship diagram, taking turns in order, and so on. But I leave the social level stuff like planning the meeting, buying snacks and generally behaving socially functional out of its scope.
Logged

Trouble with dice mechanics? Check out AnyDice, my online dice distribution calculator!
lumpley
Administrator
Member
*
Posts: 3656


WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2010, 07:52:38 AM »

Jasper: In Polaris you're right, but that's just Polaris, not any theoretical bounds. There's no reason why whose house you play at, or who buys the snacks, or how people behave, couldn't be specified by a game's rules.

My game In a Wicked Age specifies that you should play it with some of your bravest, most creative, and hottest friends, and that you play it for multiple sessions on a regular schedule. If you play it with your dullest friends instead, or without having committed to an ongoing game, you're playing by a different system than I designed.

-Vincent
Logged
lumpley
Administrator
Member
*
Posts: 3656


WWW
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2010, 08:52:04 AM »

I'll say a bit more. When you design a game, you design it for a certain particular social context (Ben Lehman's term), inevitably. You have a choice:

1. Leave your intended social context implicit, and hope or expect that the people who pick your game up will already have the social context you've designed for. "Hope and expect" means marketing, or luck, or fat chance, depending on how savvy you are and how common your intended social context is in the wild.

Funny story! Someone once wondered whether I'd ever played my game Poison'd with women in the group (because of shocking subject matter delicate sensibilities something something, I guess). I was quite taken aback - it plain hadn't occurred to me that anyone might play the game in a men-only group. I mean, bleh, what would be the point of that?

2. State your intended social context upfront and leave it up to the eventual players to create that social context for themselves. For instance, In a Wicked Age tells you to have hot friends who can and will commit, sight unseen, to an ongoing game, but it doesn't tell you how to make such friends.

3. Include rules in your game that create the social context you've designed for. This can include rules that reach right straight into the eventual players' purely social interactions, like Polaris' candle ritual.

Now, so: system is what actually happens in play. It's within social contract, a subset of social contract: everything in a game-in-action's system is part of the group's social contract, but the group's social contract includes much that isn't system. That's plain Big Model. This idea of social context, though, means that any particular element of social contract - whose house you play at, who's hot for whom, how you schedule your game - is available to system. It might be part of system, or might not, depending upon the particular needs of the particular game.

Which is precisely Daniel's insight. So right on, Daniel.

-Vincent
Logged
Jasper Flick
Member

Posts: 161


WWW
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2010, 10:42:15 AM »

I never considered the requirement that you should play with some of your bravest, most creative, and hottest friends to be part of System. I considered it part of the Social Contract, in this case codified in the game's design, and System manifests from that. Mulling it over a bit, I believe it's a chicken-egg thing, so saying it's part of System to begin with works too. So I can just flip my mind, and...

Right on, Daniel!

Thanks, Vincent (that's your second thanks for 2010). I really begs the questions whether the Glossary should be updated to more "modern" terminology.
Logged

Trouble with dice mechanics? Check out AnyDice, my online dice distribution calculator!
lumpley
Administrator
Member
*
Posts: 3656


WWW
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2010, 11:05:46 AM »

Should schmould! The function of the glossary is to get people prepped to participate in the conversation, not to keep track of every most current development or opinion.

This is a live topic in the ongoing conversation, right here.

-Vincent
Logged
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 196

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2010, 05:07:16 PM »

Just skimmed the 'Ritual and Gaming/Game Design' topic .. mind = blown!!
Whole new avenues in my mind, for the creative process of this game..


Thanks gents, especially for the example Vincent
Logged

Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Joel P. Shempert
Member

Posts: 484


WWW
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2010, 12:11:16 AM »

As I read the opening topic, I too was thinking of Polaris...it's not just the candle, it's also the "take breaks between scenes and discuss how you're feeling" bit that reaches right down from Social Contract and plunks a shiny gem into System. It's not "deciding whose house to play at" but it's close!

Magical Land of Yeld includes the assignment of duties--mapmaking, calendar tracking, sidequest records, etc. to different players. Yes, that reaches into the SIS, sort of, but it's really more about who does the bookkeeping rather than what happens fictionally. And hey, old-skool D&D does it too!

These (and yes, the wine-and-sexy-friends clause) are great baby steps in this direction, but I'd love to see things get even more crazy-wild in terms of arranging Social Context explicitly. Ron talked about setting up group buy-in for a game on the basis of Color and Reward in this thread about my failed Sorcerer game. That's a HUGE Social Context thing (plugging right in to System and the SIS, natch) that it'd be great to see game texts tackle head-on. My friend Julian's storyjamming method utilizes short autobiographical monologues generated through a creative prompt, to bring out to make a space where the players are emotionally invested, or to rekindle investment mid-story. Similarly, for the game I'm tinkering with for Fairy Tales about adolescent trauma, I want to lead off with players' personal stories about teenage awkwardness. How to best facilitate that is a big question!

Peace,
-Joel
Logged

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2010, 05:39:31 AM »

Can there be rules that govern behaviour?  Sure.  Can such rules then be organised into as system which informs the IS?  Sure.  Does this mean anything of much significance?  No IMO.

Here is a common, although AFAIK never-discussed-in-any-text behavioral rule: you agree to be bound by the outcomes of die rolls.  It's a behavioural rule, and one that extends far beyond RPG's, mainly in gambling.  We learn this behavioural rule very early and I've never seen a game text discuss the matter.  So far so normal.
Logged

http://www.arrestblair.org/

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Caldis
Member

Posts: 392


« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2010, 01:40:13 PM »


I think it does have quite a bit of significance and there are games that do talk about dice rolling.  Lots of games specifically mention the GM ignoring dice rolls if it doesnt suit what he wanted out of the game (there was lots of talk about the new Dragon Age game recently).  I think it's pretty significant if players are playing a game and expecting their characters fate to be governed by the dice but in reality it all comes down to the GM's decision.  This is a huge change in system.
Logged
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2010, 10:28:51 AM »

Sure.  And people have been known to refuse to accept the outcomes of gambling games too, with far more serious consequences.  The point about gaming textx explaining why it's ok to reject a die roll only confirms that its a thing we learn long before we start RPG as a rule.

My point though is that I don't think this changes anything.  System has always reached into the "behavioural" realm, but that doesn't turn any and every behaviour into system.  I don't see anything novel here.  Nor am I convinced that any behaviour specified in a game text can really be regarded as a component of system.  Attributing more and more stuff to system makes it less and less useful as a term or tool.
Logged

http://www.arrestblair.org/

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Pages: [1] 2
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!