Trying to figure out the anatomy of challenges I like

Started by ThoughtBubble, March 07, 2010, 08:17:06 AM

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Of course, no gamew world really exists.  But you can treat it as if it exists.  In addition, anything that has been established to exist can be defended by appeal to the social contract.  If a thing has been established in the SIS< and that is known by the group, then contradiction of that thing can be prevented; you will, in short, get called out for doing so.  This can be extended further to things that are only probabilities or potentials on the grounds of "reasonable expectation" or extrapolation from our own, objectively existing world.   The IS exists in the same way that rules do - by our awareness and consent.

"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

Callan S.

Hi Gareth,

looking at this with some scientific rigour, beyond just strong assertion from any party, can you provide evidence for your assertion that you are aware? I'm not looking to open that up as a subject in this thread - I am saying it because I am not acknowledging your point at all at this moment, but neither am I just ignoring it because of my own strong assertion. I really am willing to look into some evidence. But otherwise no, I think your unaware.


Hey Callan,

Are you doing this to try and get a reaction out of me? Are you trying to understand what I'm saying?

I ask, because it seems disingenuous to say that I'm not talking about what goes on at the gaming table. Take a look at my prior examples, like the Test of Agility and the Mob Boss's little brother. If that' not what you're looking for, then I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to put up an AP example that does illustrate what you're talking about.

If the existence of the SIS  this is something you'd like to talk about, I'd be glad to discuss it with you. But I need you to do something first. I need you to acknowledge a few points.

a) A SIS can exist
b) People who use and acknowledge a SIS are not crazy, stupid or delusional
c) My viewpoint on this is potentially helpful to you.

If not, there's really no point to trying to discuss SIS with you, no matter what angle I come at it at. 

But, In terms of a brief reply, a thing doesn't have to be real for us to build a model of how it works. To use your example, If I talk to my little sister about how my giant imaginary bunny is blue, and then later about how it's red, she'll call me on it and say that it was blue because that's what her brain has built into it's predictive model.

Everyone else, hold of on bugging Callan for a bit?

Callan S.


At the forge we aren't like alot of other forums - on other forums if someone says something to the contrary, you totally have to engage it or lose some sort of intellectual turf. You don't have to here. My post was supposed to be a wrap up post, kind of like a post it note tacked on, which I honestly estimate most people will ignore anyway. But also at the forge it's not considered rude to politely disagree.

And everything else I'm biting my lip on. Maybe someone else would know how to respond in a genuine engagement. I don't. Maybe I'm wrong but it seems like it's going sour to me. Pretty much everyone else will take it, to use your own words, that the SIS exists. So don't worry about one voice disagrees but who's said he's not going to post further anyway.


Hey Callan,

Thanks for the feedback!
I'm honestly trying to engage an interesting question you brought up. "Why do people believe in and use a SIS?" Because I think engaging you in the topic would be an interesting direction to take this thread, particularly since the SIS is important enough to take up 3,4,6 and a bit of 1 and 5. It's central to what I'm trying to accomplish.

However, since doing this would require the amount of effort that goes into a (very small) research paper, I wanted to make sure that it was going to work out. Hence my rather draconian list of demands. Since you've made it clear you weren't attempting to engage me in conversation about the SIS, I'll let it drop. Thanks for the participation in the thread, I found it pretty helpful.

Ron Edwards


Through no one's intention, this thread got effectively hijacked. Let's dial it back to the middle of the first page, not in the sense of ignoring what's been said since, but in the sense of what the thread's directly addressing. Daniel, if you want, feel free to write a one-sentence mission statement for it, or if you think you've done so already, quote yourself here.

Best, Ron


Ron, I guess my goals for the thread have drifted a little as well.
Mission Statement: Help me understand encounters that get levels of engagement like The Challenge of Agility.
I feel like I'm still missing a couple of social factors to the whole thing.

I guess I have two sub goals as well. I want to:

  • Understand what I need to do to craft 'fun' encounters
  • Understand what/how game systems can make this easier or harder

Each of those might have to be its own thing though.


Something occurs to me about patience vs "challenge"; there are many real life challenges where you can try to get something one way and fail, say a ball on a roof. In fact I remember seeing a situation with two kids trying various things to get it off. They kept failing at different methods, but I could see that they would very likely eventually get the ball, even if it meant having to wait and get their parents to phone the park-keeper.

In this situation what made it fun or not fun was the fact that failure at a specific task wasn't the end; they were getting a bit despondent, until me and some of the other people walking through started providing them with multiple alternatives that they could try out. As the idea of victory (as opposed to dead stop) began to become a conceivable possibility, they started cheering up, and trying bigger sticks, looking for ones with built in hooks etc.

So inevitable victory and total failure can be fine, so long as they can keep trying alternatives until their patience runs out.

An important part of what made this real life situation have that property is that they could keep expanding the scope, bringing in other elements and working out how to deal with the complications that might introduce (angry dad?). Also the more the scope expanded, the more likely complications were to be long lasting (although not always).


Hang on, I thought I'd posted a response to your other examples before, must've lost it.

So digging that up from memory:

I notice your definition of an enjoyable challenge is quite self-less: You enjoy your players enjoying it, which is nice. It also suggests to me that to make an all categories good challenge for you will require a toolbox long term, as you come across players with different styles. At the same time, I imagine that there is a portion of the task that can never be simply reduced to "are the players having a good time?", instead there will be things about it that will be uniquely interesting to observe or do when setting up the challenge, and if we can find that, awesome, because you'll be able to put that in the intro to games you run as a sort of introduction/specification.

To get there we will need more examples of challenges that were crap, unfortunately, although I'd much rather talk about good ones. Have you had some challenges that you didn't like but your players did?

On the successful challenges:

You cover a lot of what I notice in your current specification, but I also notice that one feature all the good things share is overlayed objectives/purposes, criss-crossing over each other in the same space. Sometimes these are sub-strategies with players in large scale agreement, sometimes these are but an important thing is that the teamwork isn't too rigid; there's no real command hierarchy, and there is also no conflict between players, instead you have overlapping and partially assisting attempts by the various players.

One thing that makes this happen is that mucking about is resolutely allowed; there's no time limits requiring people to be businesslike, and there aren't any scarce resources they must judiciously guard (or are there? I get the impression you were mostly using "at-will" type stuff).

Secondly, and related to the first, organised cooperation is not required for survival, only success. That stops people reacting with fear when other players muck about and the overlapping stuff becomes fun instead. That's not to say there isn't danger, but people can focus on mitigating danger and do so, even if it makes them a bit useless for a bit.

Then finally when players do cooperate success is not a matter of "assist rolls" but the sort of "reasonable effect" power use you've referred to before.