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Author Topic: The rule "'fiction' determines what rules can be deployed" - definition of murk?  (Read 7459 times)
Erik Weissengruber
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Designing "In this Sign, Conquer:


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« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2010, 07:33:12 AM »

Coincidence on the parralel use of the words 'fiction first', it seems.

On top of that odd coincidence - your specific example does not seem to be the fiction determining rules use ignoring the rules at all??

Yes, it might just have been parallel phrasing.  That said, folks might want to use that AP discussion in further discussions on this thread.  I don't have much to add on this score, just offering a possible point of reference for those folks who want to work on this definition.  Heck, even if everybody looks at this AP and says "right, that's what we DON'T mean" it will have been a useful point of departure.
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oculusverit
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« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2010, 10:26:49 AM »

It seems that we're arguing two different types of scenarios here.

In one scenario, the GM decides before the game starts that he "doesn't like those rules". This goes with Callan's earlier example of the GM that doesn't like the spiritual rules in Riddle of Steel. He decides they have no place in his "fiction" so decides to ignore them. However, I'm sure that either before play or during character creation, such a GM would have to state to the players, "We're not using those rules. They don't make any sense." Thereby, he's "house ruling"--we're playing a game that's like Riddle of Steel, but without the spiritual rules.

In the other scenarios, the GM creates "fiction" on the fly. "Well, let's see here, the ogre's pretty powerful. It would make sense that a hit from him would send this warrior character flying." So when the players says, "I attack," the GM rules, "No, you can't, you got knocked too far away." The GM did not make this decision before play with this rule set began, he did not announce to the players that ogre attacks would be ruled as capable of knocking characters too far. So here, he's created a house rule on the spot that wasn't included in the original game. The only way for play to continue and still "make sense", however, would be that the players accept this rule and play consistently like this from here on--ogre attacks will always knock you too far away to strike back immediately.

If the GM is creating this house rule for actual purposes of the logic in his head, then we can at least ascribe to him noble purposes. If, as often happens, however, the GM is creating this house rule in order to "increase the drama" (which is code for 'let's make this scene more interesting so that the warrior doesn't just plow through this thing and we can extend the conflict a little longer") then that's railroading.
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Kinch
Jim D.
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« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2010, 12:39:45 PM »

"oculusverit": (Sorry, did you ever provide a real name?  That seems to be what we go by around here.  You can change your display name or have it appear in your signature.)

Yeah, that's absolutely true.  Although I think your situations aren't as dissimilar as you think.  I argue that the quality of play in a roleplaying session is directly proportional to how clear and consistent a picture the participants have in mind of both the fictional situation at hand, and the rules in play at any given time.

In the ogre scenario, I don't think it unreasonable to suggest that the GM should've explained his ruling at the time it would've naturally occurred ("The ogre hits you so hard it knocks you flying!", immediately upon the successful attack roll, so that the player and his party knew it and could react to it), but if the GM can explain his reasoning and the player characters buy it, it's okay, as long as now the ruling does remain consistent.

In the other scenario, the players, by necessity, have it in their mind that the spirit rules are not in play -- of course, if the GM didn't announce this, and he simply never called for spirit combat or related checks, there would be fundamental ambiguity and lack of clarity, and the player who built a spiritual powerhouse would be (rightly) peeved!
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2010, 03:54:38 PM »

Jim,

Quote
The disinvited player example makes clear that we both believe the group comes first.
It may be disappointing, but no, the group doesn't come first. My expectations,  as originator of the game come first as in following these (presumably easy to follow) rules. Let me be clear, I'm not lining up for a bait and switch where I act like I'm all for whatever the overall group wants, but then try and train them my way. I don't try to train, I just wouldn't invite, much as I imagine Ron wasn't trying to train when he disinvited that guy. Though as much as I know most of the people I come across in Australia just follow the line, as best they can.

I actually dislike the 'it's that one guy who done wrong' idea - why, because it's that one other guy making an accusation of it, if you follow the pointing finger not toward it's target, but towards the pointer.
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As far as I can tell, the GM in this case has a desire to shift a group's dynamic entirely in his favor by playing another system, when the group wants something else.  It's a more extreme version of the disruptive player situation above.
I mean, who would be calling this one player disruptive? The group or...you, as a single player yourself?

But I'm going off topic - I don't use this method or the 'what the group wants' method.

Now I'll admit there are plenty of times I've caved in on my own principles - like one time a player in D20 modern was jumping between buildings and made a nat 20 on his skill check. IIRC, nat twenties don't do anything special. But the player said 'Aww, come on' and everyone else looked and it'd save time and look up on the jump rules for what would likely be a pass anyway...so I caved. No, I don't think this is a good thing - it drives me to work out rules I'll actually stick to rather than something like have this extreme end of the random spectrum result and still not actually know if that's a pass or not right away (I had table location and look up to do).


Gareth,
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Well, this emphasis on "use of rules" is new, I think, and I have not had that perception that this was what Callan was arguing against before, and I'm frankly surprised to see Callan accept the idea that a public statement (narration) turns fiction into sufficiently concrete material that rules can be activated or affected by it.
Was that said by epweissengruber? For a start, he doesn't describe rules being activated or affected as far as I can tell - the rules were just being followed regardless of fiction or not. Or atleast as far as I can tell. The +2 isn't a rule activation if you get it - you might be confusing that. If you get dealt an ace in poker, the ace rules aren't suddenly activated, they were always there whether your delt an ace or not.
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Then when my turn came, I picked up that bit of fictional detail to justify a +2 to my next attack.

I used the publicly articulated fiction to justify a bonus.
I kind of meant to comment on this but forgot.

I don't know if epweissengruber meant 'justify a bonus' as in he should get the +2 or someones breaking the rules or breaking SC or breaking something or other, or whether he means justify as in made it sound like a good idea (and things being a good idea doesn't mean it's wong not to do that thing).

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But now I also don't know what it is that Callan is objecting to.  I thought the ankheg face-barb example was precisely the sort of thing to which he was opposed.
HOW it's done is what I'm opposed to (on the principle of avoiding absurdity).

Someone trying to say "Look, my staff is totally in his face - your a big cheat or a big understanding breaker or something if you don't give me +2!" I'm opposed to for absurdity reasons and more.

Someone operating from the idea "Hey, my staff is in his face - sounds like +2 would be good! But obviously by the rules it's up to you to decide - you could flip a coin and give me +2 if it's heads, and that's valid by the rules and SC weve got between us. Whatever way you choose is valid" works and I think is the only way it works.

Perhaps I'm reading the latter into epweissengruber's example when it doesn't apply - I'll admit that's possible. But definately your reading an approval for something into my comments which is just your own invention. I described in fine detail the idea of rules telling the GM to listen to the spoken fiction, to contemplate it, but then it's up to him whether he hands out the +2. The GM could consult chicken bones or call his great aunt and it's valid by these rules. I don't know why your reading some concrete element into that idea? I described those rules in fine detail and your kind of ignoring the rules regardless - I have no real capacity to disinvite someone to a thread here, but if I could I would as I described above.

And I'm quite tired of this 'unspecified actual play account' from a number of people. Ask for something a bit more specific, like "were you ever in a game where the spoken fiction had you in a field and enemies far away" - that shouldn't be hard to do. This whole barked 'you put more effort in cause I judged you should...no, I'm not going to put in any effort, you do it all' is just a one sided talking at me affair (that even Ron participated in last time).
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Callan S.
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« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2010, 04:41:09 PM »

oculusverit,

If I understand you, I think your reading something into it I used to read into it - ie, he's tacking on a new house rule.

A house rule is the pure mechanical assertion that we follow this rule because hey, we follow the mechanics.

This isn't what the riddle of steel guy is doing. His idea of 'what makes sense' gets first priority. That's the procedure he's running under. They aren't house rules, they are the decrees of 'the fiction', which is just that GM's own personal whim, whether he recognises its his own whim and not some galactic standard on 'sense' or not.

Imagine this - you flip a coin. If it's heads, you use the spiritual attributes. Tails you don't.

Is the coin making a house rule? No.

Now the GM has forced in the rule that 'what makes sense' decides what rules will or wont be used. As much as the coin flip decides. Is he making a house rule any more than the coin did? No.

Actually I'll kinda agree - if there is no rule in riddle of steel that says 'what makes sense' decides what rules are used, when he forces in the rule that 'what makes sense' does indeed decide, he is forcing in a house rule. But after that he's not making any more house rules when he effectively drops spirtiual attributes. It's interesting to note that the current playtesting document of blood red sands (not related to riddle of steel, though) does actually have this 'what makes sense (addition by me: to the supposed) group is what mechanics can be used' rule in its text.

Quote
If the GM is creating this house rule for actual purposes of the logic in his head, then we can at least ascribe to him noble purposes.
If I understand you, I used to think this. That people were designing. No, they are not - they are working from the principle of what makes sense determines what is done. This isn't designing, it's...exactly what's on the tin - what makes sense (to them) is what's done.

Anyone else thinking they are making house rules or designing, like I did for quite some time, is mistaken.

You might think they are making a house rule. But have you just assumed?
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Anders Gabrielsson
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Posts: 100


« Reply #20 on: August 06, 2010, 04:10:05 AM »

Callan,

I'm not sure I understand your position so I'll try rephrasing it. This isn't meant as an attack or a barb or anything other than an attempt to figure out what you mean, so if I'm wrong, please correct me.

"Murk is when you change the rules without that being explicitly permitted by the rules."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2010, 02:08:35 PM »

Hi Anders,

Not really, as the process isn't changing rules, it's putting one control rule ahead of them all, which turns them on and off like a lightswitch (it's as much changing rules as turning a lightbulb on is changing a lightbulb) - were looking at an additional rule being added, essentially, like I spoke with oculusverit about - the rule being something like if the GM thinks another rule 'doesn't make sense' to use, he does not use it. He switches it off.

With the addition of this rule, 'what makes sense' can pretty much veto every other single rule that exists. Because it's placed before all other rules.

The thing is, 'what makes sense' is just in the persons head, and there is no guarantee what's in their head will get the game going anywhere, like in my mollases example. Rules can get the game rolling, but if they are vetoed by 'what makes sense' well then they are vetoed and wont.

Do you get what I mean - say rule X would make your game great, but you have a rule that says if it doesn't 'make sense' to use rule X, you don't. With the corresponding result that 'making sense', if it so determines rule X is not to be used, makes your game not great. It would make your game miss out on the great rules.
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oculusverit
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« Reply #22 on: August 06, 2010, 04:55:05 PM »

So Callan, how does this Rule "X" that says "You may ignore any rule that does not 'make sense', or at your whim" compare to the earlier mentioned "Rule Zero" which is found in nearly all mainstream games that states "If your particular gaming group finds that any of these rules don't work for them, you can ignore those rules for the purposes of the fun of your group"? Or are they the same rule?
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Kinch
Callan S.
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« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2010, 09:10:38 PM »

So Callan, how does this Rule "X" that says "You may ignore any rule that does not 'make sense', or at your whim" compare to the earlier mentioned "Rule Zero" which is found in nearly all mainstream games that states "If your particular gaming group finds that any of these rules don't work for them, you can ignore those rules for the purposes of the fun of your group"? Or are they the same rule?
Yeah, good question.

The thing is someone who ceases to use rule zero(of which there are many words, I'll note) or ceases to put it in games they design , even if they've stopped using rule zero they haven't stop using 'fiction/what makes sense decides what rules can be used'.

Indeed your very point that they are similar adds weight to this - what's the point of giving up rule zero when your still implimenting another process which is practically the same thing?

But to describe a difference, I guess the main difference is conciously recognising what process one is applying. I haven't heard many people actually apply rule zero in game (even though the possibility hangs in the air, I grant). And when they do, everyones abundantly aware of rule zero being clubbed about.

But people thinking you can't use rule X because certain sound waves were made at the table, even though by the text its procedurally valid, it's rampant, yet seemingly invisible for how I point at the elephant and eyes scan all around it.

I'll grant, once you can see it, it's practically the same as rule zero.

But if you can't see it - well, rule zero is a big, clumsy and obvious process, while this 'fiction decides what rules can be used' is seemingly an invisible process to folks?

Does that describe an adequate difference?

I'll disclose that I thought it was rule zero application, same as you might be doing - till I realised they seem to genuinely believe that certain spoken words/sound waves mean that certain rules can't be invoked or applied. Walking through a desert is the spoken fiction/sound waves, apply a swimming check or drown? Impossible to do they say. While to me it just seems a bit boring to do but well within the rules of many a traditional RPG's.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #24 on: August 07, 2010, 01:05:36 AM »

I'm not going to get distracted by other issues, metaphoirs, or anaologies.  So:

HOW it's done is what I'm opposed to (on the principle of avoiding absurdity).

Someone trying to say "Look, my staff is totally in his face - your a big cheat or a big understanding breaker or something if you don't give me +2!" I'm opposed to for absurdity reasons and more.

Someone operating from the idea "Hey, my staff is in his face - sounds like +2 would be good! But obviously by the rules it's up to you to decide - you could flip a coin and give me +2 if it's heads, and that's valid by the rules and SC weve got between us. Whatever way you choose is valid" works and I think is the only way it works.[/quote]

Fine.  However, I don't see how the difference between these two constitutes "putting the fiction first".  One is attempted blackmail or bullying, the other is not.  I think we can all agree agree that this is A Bad Thing.  But in both cases, it is what is imagined in the fiction that inspires either the attempted blackmail or the polite request.  Decision arose from the game fiction.

So whatever distinction you see between these too, describing that difference as "putting the fiction first" doesn't seem to really illustrate the issue.

Quote
And I'm quite tired of this 'unspecified actual play account' from a number of people. Ask for something a bit more specific, like "were you ever in a game where the spoken fiction had you in a field and enemies far away" - that shouldn't be hard to do. This whole barked 'you put more effort in cause I judged you should...no, I'm not going to put in any effort, you do it all' is just a one sided talking at me affair (that even Ron participated in last time).

Look, you wrote us an essay, and I am telling you that you didn't get your point across becuase I have no idea what it is that you are criticising.  If you give us a clear and unambiguous example of the problem, instead of trying to tell us why it is a problem, that would be useful.  Indeed, it would be useful to you, because you're the one who wants to communicate this thing, right?  Now, I've read your OP, and I've read the post in which you first raised the issue (which contained no actual AP so I still don't what this thing is), so it's not as if I've made no effort.  But this whole exercise is pointless if you don't in fact care whether you are understood .

Again, you discuss the TROS "not-using-SA" thing and this only confuses matters.  You're describing a thing that happened before play began, but if I use the term "fiction" on this board I'm specifically referring to the narration-established contents of the shared imaginary space.  Some guy deciding to use this or that rule is irrelevant to fiction in this sense, because there is no game being played, and hence no fiction has been created.

So perhaps the label you have applied to this thing is actually an impediment, because it seems to have nothing to do with the game fiction at all, as far as I can see.  And therefore, I really don't know what you meant by "fiction first" - so can you provide an illustration of the actual happening of the problem as you see it?
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"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."
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David P.
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Posts: 14


« Reply #25 on: August 07, 2010, 09:28:20 AM »

I've started through this thread before, and just read through the whole thing today. I decided I would give the whole thing a look before I made any comment. But the more I look at it, the more I feel that either people are missing an underlying point to the matter, or I'm imagining it.

That point would be that by saying that there should never be a time when fiction comes before rules is essentially saying that rules are infallible on strength of the fact that they are rules. It is saying that any given rule is always right, even if it doesn't 'make sense' despite the fact that the rules are there for the purpose of 'making sense.'

'Making Sense' is basically affirming structure of the narrative. Rules exist to give structure to a narrative. If a rule isn't affirming the structure of the narrative in a given instance, shouldn't a ruling that goes in line with said narrative supplant the rule?

Perhaps I'm not grasping the issue at hand though. I just fail to understand why "What makes sense" shouldn't be first priority.

Basically my viewpoint is that the assertion that Fiction should not determine Rule is flat out wrong. Rules exist as a service for Fiction, not the other way around.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #26 on: August 07, 2010, 10:40:24 AM »

Gareth,

Well, I said from the start epweissengruber example seemingly to me wasn't a good one.

I think I've given you unabiguous examples already. The problem is this is discussing the persons intents and process of thought they go through before they act, but you judge the persons intent by their actions, and your sure your judgement is 100% correct. You judge by their actions and your sure their intent is blackmail or bullying, or you judge by their actions are are sure their intent is just using this or that rule.

And your not the only one - Ron before said the guys railroading - he looked at and judged the actions and is 100% sure he knows the intent from it.

I'll quote from the blog of an author I like
Quote
The primary problem, it seems, is that we judge ourselves according to our intentions, and others according to their actions. So everybody literally sees everybody else falling short of what they would do, were they in that situation. And of course, research has shown that we are rarely so generous, upstanding, what have you in act as we are in intention.

So are you seeing what the persons intent and process of thought really was, or just how they fall short of what you'd do?

I'm trying to suggest there's another possibility beyond the judgement you or Ron made, a possiblity to perhaps consider right next to your own prior conclusions if you'll humour it for awhile.

It's that the intent and process in the person is that they really believe their own reaction to the spoken fiction must come before written rules. Looking at this example.
Quote
Because if your character in my game is a mile away tied to a stake buck-naked, then the fiction says you can't contribute dice even though the rule says you can, and you can't for what should be obvious reasons
Now, I don't know the intent and process here 100% certain myself, of course. But I hypothesise the process is that fiction, ie the 'tied to a stake a mile away' and more specifically that persons reaction to that spoken fiction comes before the rules which say you actually could contribute, from what I'm seeing in the text.

So as not to single out anyone with examples, here's something from the current text of blood red sands
Quote
You canít control what actions your opponents choose to take, but you can require them to frame their actions firmly within the fiction. If they do so in a way that makes the action feel more appropriate and alleviates your concern, great, if not, Challenge the fiction until they come up with something the majority of the group can enjoy (or, if they canít, until they decide to do something else.)
It's actually made the intent and process I've described into a hard coded, written rule.

There - either stick with your own certainty on what the persons intent is from you judging their actions alone, or stick with it but briefly humour this secondary hypothesis of what it might be. The BRS rule text gives a pretty explicit, unambiguous version of what I'm refering to.

Peoples intent and the processes they think by are largely a black box that can't be shown unabigously.


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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: August 07, 2010, 11:21:02 AM »

Hi David,

Well, I'm thinking more you should dialog with Ron about his giant knocking away the character - I mean, a giant! Would it make sense to be hit, yet not budge an inch? And dialog with Gareth's(contracycle) notion something is bullying or blackmail, when the staff was just described right in the pincers of the creature, etc.

Maybe if you'll dialog with each other, you'll realise your working with different underlying intents and processes from each other when it comes to written rules texts.

Honestly, when I say a bunch of gamers seem to think what I'm saying - well, your post, coming out of the blue, is perfect evidence of it! I think there are tons of people who operate from what your post succinctly describes. You'd probably agree there are tons of people who do to.

And yet I try to describe the elephant in the room, and eyes scan all around it!?

Now, some clarifications
Quote
That point would be that by saying that there should never be a time when fiction comes before rules is essentially saying that rules are infallible on strength of the fact that they are rules.
I've not handed out any proclamation on what people 'should' do. I've said, consider as a second option, not putting 'what makes sense' ahead of rules. Just consider it as another valid option. Particularly if 'what makes sense' would make the game fail to meet your goals (like if your design goal was to not have someone sit there, doing nothing and bored, then if your 'making sense' is cutting them off from contributing, using the process of 'making sense' comes ahead of rules is failing to meet your design goal. That simple).

And there are some notes I'd give on personally taking responsiblity for the rule set one applies (much like taking responsiblity for the condition of a car one drives), but I'll leave that undescribed for now, unless asked, cause it takes up space.
Quote
'Making Sense' is basically affirming structure of the narrative. Rules exist to give structure to a narrative. If a rule isn't affirming the structure of the narrative in a given instance, shouldn't a ruling that goes in line with said narrative supplant the rule?
Quote
I just fail to understand why "What makes sense" shouldn't be first priority.
Quote
despite the fact that the rules are there for the purpose of 'making sense.'
Are they?

But there I go again when really I think you should chat with Ron and Gareth - they think as a practitioner of the process you describe (important caveat: assuming I'm understanding you correctly), you don't exist or something and that I'm ambigious on what I mean.

While you seem to have grasped what I've said quite clearly enough to throw a succinct counter point to me. Ironically you have a counter position to my own, yet you understood what I'm saying with far more clarity than others are. Thanks for your post :)
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David P.
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Posts: 14


« Reply #28 on: August 09, 2010, 05:38:38 AM »

To me it seems like this is basically just an argument of Form Follows Function, and different people have different ideas about which is form and which is function.

To some people, it's quite obvious that Rules are Function, as they determine how events unfold. So thus, Fiction should seek to follow the rules.

To others, it's quite obvious that the Function is the act of creating fiction. Thus, rules, are simply products of that function and are treated as form.

It's basically an argument such as this:
Did man begin to stand upright in order to reach higher things without climbing? Or did man begin standing upright, and as a result become to reach higher things without climbing?

Both are potentially valid interpretations (for sake of this hypothetical, as I don't want to get into an argument about the evolution of man,,, or lack thereof).

It's basically a chicken or egg argument.
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Roger
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« Reply #29 on: August 09, 2010, 08:58:19 AM »

Upon further review, I don't think this has anything inherently to do with "the fiction" at all.

I would suggest it rests on two factors:

1.  Responsibility for the quality of the play experience

2.  Faith in System


Responsibility for the quality of the play experience:  The classic approach is that this responsibility falls entirely upon the shoulders of the GM.  It's written write into the job title:  Game Master.  If there is some failure in the quality of the play experience, it is necessarily a failure of the GM.  One of those failures of quality can be a failure in the quality of the fiction, which is the scenario originally presented by Callan.  However, any quality of the experience that is considered important by the play group can be subject to failure.

This is relevant insofar as the greater the responsibility and pressure here, the harder it becomes to have:

Faith in System:  This lies at the heart of the problem.  I don't use Faith lightly here -- this really is about a blind leap of trust based on little-to-no evidence.  Does the group have Faith that a System like RoS' Spiritual Attributes will result in a successful play experience?  Do they have Faith in PTA's narration mechanics?  Do they have Faith in hit points?

Making the GM ultimately responsible for the quality of the play experience is asking him to make this leap of faith over a chasm.  The  consequences of misplaced Faith quickly become unacceptable for many people.


In my experience, this has been one of the unexpected joys of taking new games out for a test drive.  Our group decides, hey, let's give Lady Blackbird a whirl, and there's no responsibility placed on anyone to ensure anything about the play experience.  Maybe we have a great time, maybe we fail with spectacular misery.  System becomes a safety net across the chasm -- it's not we who failed, but the rules.  Faith becomes a virtue.


Cheers,
Roger
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