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Author Topic: The rule "'fiction' determines what rules can be deployed" - definition of murk?  (Read 6869 times)
David P.
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« Reply #30 on: August 09, 2010, 09:13:42 AM »

Roger, maybe I'm missing something from your post, but I don't understand what the responsibility for the quality of play experience has to do with the arguement between conforming fiction to suit a ruleset or conforming a ruleset to suit the fiction. Could you elaborate for me, because I'm not grasping the connection.
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #31 on: August 09, 2010, 05:17:30 PM »

What I get from this, if there's any reason to throw another voice in this late in the game, is that Callan thinks its unfair for what I would call "in game content" (the shared understanding of what exists and what is happening within the SIS) to come before the rules. This is not to say that in game content should or should not determine how rules are applied.

Example: We were playing a D&D game set aboard a ship, and one of the PC's was playing a dwarf. The DM, in order to express the prowess of an NPC we were suppose to be scared of had this NPC push the dwarf over easily. Everyone thought, "okay" except for me. There are a hell of a lot of rules in D&D that say when and if someone can push someone else and how hard and how far, and some that specifically say that dwarves are harder to push than other people, but because the DM assumed/thought that having the PC be pushed down would make for better fiction, the rule was ignored. Now, I guess D&D has a 'rule 0' but this wasn't explicitly invoked...

So, Callan, is that play example one that was 'fiction first'?
 
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Callan S.
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« Reply #32 on: August 09, 2010, 06:09:50 PM »

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.
David, I'm not arguing one is true and one is false. I'm saying if for people who are into the latter one, perhaps consider trying out the former in terms of how you design. Just try it out, even if you go 'nah' and never try it again. Particularly if you don't want players to sit bored, but using the latter means they will. Try out the former.

Do I still seem to you like I'm arguing one is true and one is false, or do I seem to be simply describing the merits and faults of either approach? I'll grant I'm biased toward the former, but I'm not saying it's the true method. It's just a method I think is really great! My strong preference! Do we have an understanding on this? :)

I still think you should read and respond to Ron's, Gareth's and oculusverit's posts rather just talk to me. It's like they are all on one side, arguing with me they don't get the certain priorities I'm describing, then someone who practices those priorities is arguing with me about the other practice. Just turn and have a gander at each other. :)


Roger,

I think what you've tried to describe might be related to what I'm saying, but has a few degrees of seperation between it and the topic. I'll ask that your careful in how you describe it so as not to overload this thread (though start a new one if you wish, of course). Perhaps a good place to start is explaining why in one RPG the GM is responsible and why, in the actual written text of Lady Blackbird, no one is responsible like that. The textual distinction between the two. I hope I'm not being pushy in saying this.


Hi Nolan,

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Example: We were playing a D&D game set aboard a ship, and one of the PC's was playing a dwarf. The DM, in order to express the prowess of an NPC we were suppose to be scared of had this NPC push the dwarf over easily. Everyone thought, "okay" except for me. There are a hell of a lot of rules in D&D that say when and if someone can push someone else and how hard and how far, and some that specifically say that dwarves are harder to push than other people, but because the DM assumed/thought that having the PC be pushed down would make for better fiction, the rule was ignored. Now, I guess D&D has a 'rule 0' but this wasn't explicitly invoked...

So, Callan, is that play example one that was 'fiction first'?
It seems a very high likelyhood of being 'fiction first', where the integrity of the fiction (to some individuals mind) comes ahead of the ruleset. Indeed, to that individual, that's the procedure of play - rules follow this function, as David put it in his latter example.

But I'm not arguing 'it's unfair!'. I'm saying instead, in terms of certain design goals, using this process may fail to meet them (on a regular basis, even).

For personal disclosure, rather than 'it's unfair!' I'm inclined to see a text that resorts to this, or play where someone has forced this in and is clearly adamant on keeping it, and go 'Really done this all before, not interested, not for me, see ya'. It's like BDSM - being flogged isn't unfair in it's practice. That doesn't mean it's something I want to do.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #33 on: August 09, 2010, 07:05:48 PM »

No one is to post further to this thread until I moderate in my next post.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: August 11, 2010, 02:11:32 PM »

All right, that was delayed and took longer than it should have. My apologies for inadvertently closing the discussion, which was not my goal.

Several things need moderating. Callan, they all have to do with you.

1. Quit whining about how you're so persecuted and misunderstood. You get plenty of attention and respect, in this thread and at this site.

2. You've invented enemies. According to your posts, other people explicitly advocate this whatever-it-is you're calling fiction-first. You've used the phrases "Some people around here" who apparently intensely support it, or that "people at the Ramshead forum would" fight irrationally to support it. This kind of phantom opponent talk is beneath you. You seem determined to call people out on a logical fallacy or at least some particular unacknowledged factor in their play and game design. Since they're so explicit, call them out, chapter and verse, names and claims. If I'm one of them, as you keep hinting, then that's OK.

3. You're dodging the call for some kind of understandable, specific example that really happened in your experience. None of your excuses hold any water and this lack is making people guess. Never mind what anyone else posted as possibilities. Freaking do us the respect of talking about your role-playing experiences.

The following isn't a moderation point, but an addition to the discussion if anyone is interested. After the traits discussion a year or so ago, I have kept an eye on the issue of how traits are "called in" during play across several groups and games. I decided the before/after distinction doesn't hold. Exactly how traits are "called in" in a logically-coherent fashion, I am currently not sure, or if it's logically-coherent at all. So the points raised by Markus remain open as far as I'm concerned.

The discussion is not being closed or even under threat of being closed. It's interesting stuff to read. But #1-3 are needed to make it actually valuable.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #35 on: August 11, 2010, 06:47:28 PM »

Ron,

If someone told you to quit whining, you'd take it as a mark of respect? Assuming your aren't hypocritical and would take it as respectful, I don't. That's wreckage to me. By my culture your just being rude here (I would expect an apology, but that'd probably be imposing my cultural expectation just as much). I'll be continuing in spite of it rather than because it gets my nod of valid social interaction.

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2. You've invented enemies.
And you've invented this as being my primary issue, when it isn't. I've had a look and I think I talked about over reactions 'from people' in my first post only. That's as a pre notification that I'm not in a 'believe everything/every responce I hear as something to take to heart' mode in writing it. Read it as my first priority and your just renumbering my priorities. It's a mudguard, plain and simple.

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You seem determined to call people out on a logical fallacy or at least some particular unacknowledged factor in their play and game design. Since they're so explicit, call them out, chapter and verse, names and claims.
David P. pretty much understood what I'm saying, if I'm reading him right. And he, as he describes quite aptly in his posts, goes by the process where fiction decide what rules are used.

Is anyone else reading his posts? Is anyone else reflecting whether they go by the same process and is willing...I don't want to use the word 'admit'. But willing to claim it as what they do?

Other than that I can't 'out' people on the matter. It's up to them to come forward.

No one wants to? It applies to David and no one else at all, ever? Then the post just floats to the bottom of the screen.

I would get onto the actual problems with it, but I've only got one person so far who acknowledges it as what they use, and that seems by chance for him to come along. I'm thinking of just rolling back to just suggesting it's a process, as identifying it AND discussing it's merits/flaws seems to much at once.

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3. You're dodging the call for some kind of understandable, specific example that really happened in your experience. None of your excuses hold any water and this lack is making people guess. Never mind what anyone else posted as possibilities. Freaking do us the respect of talking about your role-playing experiences.
I've posted the link to the warhammer mollases thread previously. I'm pretty certain there were many instances where 'what makes sense' drove what mechanics were deployed, if any.

If you want specific instances where I really truely know it was the intention to use that process...if you believe you can definately know someones intent from gross physical evidence, then freakin' prove that to me! I don't think you/anyone can and if that doesn't hold water with you, then it must be really easily to prove you can figure someones intent on a matter, so hit me with it. Your possibly moderating me on a fantasy you have that you can really determine their intent to use a particular inner process when you have as little idea as I do. How do you determine it, because I don't know it? I'm serious in asking that - I'm not trying to dodge, I really don't know how to do that, and I really think you don't know either. Am I wrong in some way - I'm willing to listen to methods and see if I can apply them to my previous actual play.

Quote
The following isn't a moderation point, but an addition to the discussion if anyone is interested. After the traits discussion a year or so ago, I have kept an eye on the issue of how traits are "called in" during play across several groups and games. I decided the before/after distinction doesn't hold. Exactly how traits are "called in" in a logically-coherent fashion, I am currently not sure, or if it's logically-coherent at all. So the points raised by Markus remain open as far as I'm concerned.
Were the traits textually and explicitly seperated at the table into before and after? Or they weren't and you were watching for some sort of pattern of one trait being used the same way repeatedly over many instances?

If the latter, I don't understand - did you originally propose 'before and after traits' just as a biological process, like a tap on the knee initiates a reflex process?

Practically all rules are an imposition upon the biological process - assuming the latter investigation method, I'm not sure why we'd just look at what people would organically and naturally do in instances where no mechanical rules structure is imposed on them?
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contracycle
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« Reply #36 on: August 11, 2010, 07:19:37 PM »

I've posted the link to the warhammer mollases thread previously. I'm pretty certain there were many instances where 'what makes sense' drove what mechanics were deployed, if any.

If you want specific instances where I really truely know it was the intention to use that process...if you believe you can definately know someones intent from gross physical evidence, then freakin' prove that to me! I don't think you/anyone can and if that doesn't hold water with you, then it must be really easily to prove you can figure someones intent on a matter, so hit me with it. Your possibly moderating me on a fantasy you have that you can really determine their intent to use a particular inner process when you have as little idea as I do. How do you determine it, because I don't know it? I'm serious in asking that - I'm not trying to dodge, I really don't know how to do that, and I really think you don't know either. Am I wrong in some way - I'm willing to listen to methods and see if I can apply them to my previous actual play.

Well then hang on a minute.  If this is all based on "intention", then of course its hard to identify, and hard to spot, and may not even exist, because as you acknowledge both here and up-thread intention is only a guess you make as to what's going on in someone elses head.  So I don't get how this fits with the rest of your stuff.  Eityher there is a specific behaviour to criticise, or there isn't.  But anyway, I have tread your Warhammer mollasses thread, and although I see you saying that there was a problem, I don't see a clear description of what that problem is.  To the point that it doesn't even necessarily seem to jibe with the content of this thread.

FWIW, yes I've read Dave P's posts but I'm not yet convinced you and he are describing the same thing until we can get a clear demonstration of the issue.  Plus,. that seems to be heading in a "matter of taste" direction that doesn't much like your initial claim that this was a sort of error. Again FWIW, I once ran a game that had no written or discussed rules at all, and was done entirely by GM fiat.  Is that putting the fiction first?  I'm still not sure.  I'm not saying that is a style I'd recommend, but it seems to me that it is viable in it's own right.
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #37 on: August 11, 2010, 08:22:01 PM »

Wow, this thread seems to be bring up some bad blood, but maybe it can be salvaged.

Callan, if its not too forward of me  to say so, I think you're being too precise in your criteria. Can you give us an example of an instance of play where you think that was the intention of the other person/people to put 'fiction first', based off their actions and what you know about the players in question. We can all agree that maybe thats not what they meant, but I'm pretty sure in the D&D example I gave, its a fair guess that 'fiction first' was what was happening there. If it was, or we can agree to treat it as if it was, then maybe the discussion could move forward to addressing what are the pros/cons of that play style or whether or not it even is a separate phenomena.
I think this idea is really interesting, and I think the hypothetical 'ogre knock back' example is something that I've encountered before and that really upsets my sense of fun during a game session, so I would love to be able to identify this behavior and address its ramifications.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #38 on: August 12, 2010, 01:04:57 AM »

Callan, none of this has anything to do with intention. I despise intention-based arguments and I think the others posting do too. For instance, my reference to railroading was not an intention issue, because I think that behavior is an observed, identifiable thing. Nor am I demanding that you demonstrate anyone's intention. I'm talking about observable behavior only and most crucially, I am not demanding actual play as proof but rather for a touchstone so everyone can communicate.

You're still twisting and dodging. I'm not talking about your intentions here either, but about your words in your post. For instance, you're creating false claims to fight, such as this notion that I said that the "some people said" is your first priority. This is silly posting on your part and I can't fathom why you're doing it.

Gareth (contracycle) isn't fighting you either. He's trying to understand what you're saying. Why don't you work with him instead of defending and striking back?

(masqueradeball), there is no bad blood here. I am fully committed to getting Callan's points into the light, which begins with me making sure that I understand them. I think his foundational claim is correct. What I don't think is correct, is that either a number of newer game designs or the discussion participants he's hinting about subscribe to what he's criticizing. However, both "I thinks" have to be subjected to rigorous thought. I cannot say I understand that foundational claim yet. And maybe he is correct about the game designs and/or the attitudes of specific participants, including mine.

To pick one useful example about the designs, maybe successfully playing Blood Red Sands does rely on the thing he's talking about. I do not know. It would be good for people who've played it, or who are playing this particular version, to participate here. Also, since it's a game currently in active playtest, and since I'm well aware of how Ralph's games in deveopment tend to go through cycles of including ideas then field-stripping them, the game itself might well benefit from that. Or maybe a close examination of this version in play would show that Callan's reading is incorrect, and again, my experience has shown me that reading alone is a terrible way to understand a game.

I'm being very patient because talking about RPGs at this level is an emotional issue, and the internet medium lends itself to excessive private complications for all participants.

And finally ...

Callan, this site is moderated. Like it or not, when I say you're whining, and for that matter, flinging provocations, that's the moderator's social and intellectual judgment and, regardless of whether it's right or wrong to you, you either modify the way you're posting or you have to make a choice about where you want to spend your internet time.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #39 on: August 22, 2010, 03:52:35 AM »

Ron, being a mod of a web forum doesn't mean your incapable of being rude or that somehow you have a right to be rude to someone and they only get to decide whether they turn up for more or not. If your moderation can't be said in an objective way and only relies on an emotive word, it's probably BS to begin with. You want specific technical qualites to what's written, cool, I'm listening - but 'whining' is not a technical word. Or not one I'm aware of. I'm saying that as a partial concilliatory - I hope I'm joined in it. I'm skipping the 'what I actually said' stuff.

Getting back to the workbench...
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For instance, my reference to railroading was not an intention issue, because I think that behavior is an observed, identifiable thing.
How is it observed and identifiable? You just 'know' when it's railroading? The guys take the left for in the road, it's washed out - then it has bandits, then bigger bandits. I'm recalling an account Kevin Sembieda gave in the rifts adventure guide, IIRC. He said it was railroading - but how did he know? Perhaps it was set up like this?

So what's the mechanism, the objective measure for determining whether it's railroading? And I can use that.

Looking back to my warhammer example, in terms of when rules were actually initiated by the GM, I think it was the combat rules that were eventually brought up. When were they initiated? You can see in the example I try to say 'lets go' and we...don't go. Indeed even if we did go, we started with the spoken fiction we were in a city, then after the hiring, to a coach in, then after that, more spoken fiction of traveling. Even if we did go, from the spoken fiction of the city we would have just hopped to the spoken fiction of the coach inn. Here, any actual structure to the game rules waits on whether it makes sense to start using rules like the combat structure. And even in combat, because it doesn't make sense a certain rule cannot be evoked 'I sling a stone at him' 'you don't have line of sight'. If it makes absolute sense and seems no issue of note that you can't use the 'sling stone' rules when 'there is no line of sight', then you can't see how much of a practioner of this process you are for how doing it so reflexively. Note: In D&D 3+ you can determine line of sight on a battle grid with a piece of string - this is an entirely non fiction based determination, just to seperate the two LOS's determining procedures.

Particularly here
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Even just crossing a room with mini's and a grid - I think I moved my mini (not in combat) across a room and we then had to go into everything that happened before that
I can't even evoke the rules on movement until things fall into place or some such, spoken fiction wise.

"See, you could have said that example before"
No, none of this proves the intent to use a process, as much as really you can't prove it's railroading, above. I'm describing a situation where a certain intent to use a process could be happening - I cannot definately describe a situation where it's happening (unless the person comes up and says that's how they play). That's what you keep asking for.

I think the warhammer link counts as an example, yet I can't really point to a particular point and say 'yeah, definately there what I'm saying was how the GM was thinking'. But you keep asking for those definate points, as far as I can tell (am I wrong in reading that?). So I still have no idea what to point out in it, except to say 'hey, do you think this intent to use process X could have been happening at one or more points in my warhammer play?'

Does it? What to look for - there's a rule in the text. But whether it's evoked or not is determined by whether it 'makes sense' to the GM (or someone).

How to give a contrasting example...hmmm...take Capes or Spione. Now I'm pretty sure both have a complete procedure, from what I've read (I may be wrong, but I'm 95% sure). Now imagine instead someone in capes goes 'It just makes more sense for captain X to save the hostages - so going with that' and skipping the conflict rules (can't remember the right name - conflicts, right?), or in spione, they just know how it'll turn out from the spoken narration, so they just bypass this fiddly card thing?

"It would just 'make sense' for X to happen, so really why apply rules that get in the way of what makes sense, hey? That doesn't make sense to do!"

That's the motto of fiction first, as I call it.

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To pick one useful example about the designs, maybe successfully playing Blood Red Sands does rely on the thing he's talking about.
I don't understand how you could say 'maybe' - it's in the rules that you must do this!? You will do it (or your ignoring the rules)
Quoting from the current rules text
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During the game there will be times when another playerís actions just donít feel right. Maybe you think a particular tactic is dirty pool, or a particular action is a cheap shot. Most of the time when a move feels cheap or lame or uninspiring itís because it was not properly embedded in the fiction.

When you have the right lead in, the right foreshadowing, the right justifications, then that very same move will feel right. It will feel like it belongs, like itís a natural next development in the story.

When it doesnít feel right, Rise Up and Challenge it. You canít Challenge the move, after all itís a competitive game and your opponent can act as he likes within the rules. But you can Challenge the fiction surrounding the move. Itís a rule of the game that every player is responsible for embedding their mechanical choices in the fiction according to the story aesthetic appropriate to your group. Failing to do so not only produces lame play, itís against the rules.
Bold mine.

There can't be a 'maybe' in 'successfully playing Blood Red Sands does rely on the thing he's talking about'. Your either doing it, or your not actually playing the game. If the rule somehow doesn't 'embed' in the fiction, you can't use the rule (someone will challenge you and if it hasn't embedded right, the challenge will be backed - you have to choose some other rule to invoke). That fiction comes ahead of the rules use. All of the other rules.

If the process I'm describing sounds ambiguous, it might be easier to just play blood red sands. You will be doing one version of the process I'm describing (or you wont be playing BRS). BRS's text is actually a very well written out procedure for doing one version of the process I'm refering to, as far as I can tell.

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Or maybe a close examination of this version in play would show that Callan's reading is incorrect, and again, my experience has shown me that reading alone is a terrible way to understand a game.
I don't understand chess by any means, but I do understand it's procedure and can even look a few moves ahead, from reading it. I don't think not understanding a game means one hasn't read it correctly.
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David P.
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« Reply #40 on: August 22, 2010, 06:12:46 AM »


Quote
During the game there will be times when another playerís actions just donít feel right. Maybe you think a particular tactic is dirty pool, or a particular action is a cheap shot. Most of the time when a move feels cheap or lame or uninspiring itís because it was not properly embedded in the fiction.

When you have the right lead in, the right foreshadowing, the right justifications, then that very same move will feel right. It will feel like it belongs, like itís a natural next development in the story.

When it doesnít feel right, Rise Up and Challenge it. You canít Challenge the move, after all itís a competitive game and your opponent can act as he likes within the rules. But you can Challenge the fiction surrounding the move. Itís a rule of the game that every player is responsible for embedding their mechanical choices in the fiction according to the story aesthetic appropriate to your group. Failing to do so not only produces lame play, itís against the rules.
Bold mine.

There can't be a 'maybe' in 'successfully playing Blood Red Sands does rely on the thing he's talking about'. Your either doing it, or your not actually playing the game. If the rule somehow doesn't 'embed' in the fiction, you can't use the rule (someone will challenge you and if it hasn't embedded right, the challenge will be backed - you have to choose some other rule to invoke). That fiction comes ahead of the rules use. All of the other rules.

I'm confused as to what you're getting at with this. The way I understand what you're saying is that the above section is an example of Fiction coming first, but my interpretation of that section of rules seems a bit different from what you're saying.

What I'm taking away from that is if your move is challenged, you're not forced to use a different rule, but rather to change the fiction until it allows the rule to be 'successfully' embedded, which seems to be completely counter form what you're saying.

However, if you were arguing that it was an example of the mechanics first, then we're on the same page, and I simply misunderstood what you were saying. Could you clarify which is your stance?
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Alfryd
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« Reply #41 on: August 22, 2010, 01:00:52 PM »

The problem with this concept is that it's so completely subjective.  It feels like the "fiction first" quandary, as you phrase it, is rooted in the same nebulous decisionmaking as the "+2" debate from a couple of months ago.  Ron's got a point, I think, when he says that using "fiction" to railroad your players or make the action go the way you want is bullshit.
It's possible I'm jumping in too late here, but I think that Callan may be conflating two entirely different priorities here.  I mean, the initial examples that Callan gave with respect to, well, maintaining some modicum of respect for in-world plausibility seemed to be plain-and-simple maintenance of Exploration or suspension of disbelief (and, if that's your topmost priority at all times, Simulationism.)
But the later example given here seems to contradict that substantially.
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Example: We were playing a D&D game set aboard a ship, and one of the PC's was playing a dwarf. The DM, in order to express the prowess of an NPC we were suppose to be scared of had this NPC push the dwarf over easily. Everyone thought, "okay" except for me. There are a hell of a lot of rules in D&D that say when and if someone can push someone else and how hard and how far, and some that specifically say that dwarves are harder to push than other people, but because the DM assumed/thought that having the PC be pushed down would make for better fiction, the rule was ignored. Now, I guess D&D has a 'rule 0' but this wasn't explicitly invoked...

So, Callan, is that play example one that was 'fiction first'?
It seems a very high likelyhood of being 'fiction first', where the integrity of the fiction (to some individuals mind) comes ahead of the ruleset. Indeed, to that individual, that's the procedure of play - rules follow this function, as David put it in his latter example.
I think the 'integrity of the fiction' in this case refers, rather, to a given individual's (i.e, the DM's,) conception of 'how the story ought to turn out', and has nothing to do with maintaining in-world plausibility.  AFAICT there's nothing about the hypothetical situation, considered in 'real' terms, which wouldn't allow the dwarf PC a fair chance to resist being pushed, so breaching the rules which model that would actually undermine suspension of disbelief. 

Now, this example might well be largely harmless, if the DM didn't take particular advantage of the dwarf PC being knocked down, but I think this definition of "fiction first" conflates Sim priorities with whatever metagame agenda (Positioning?) the players might have.  Of course there's nothing wrong with metagame per se, but "fiction first" here seems to amount to 'ignore any rule that interferes with 'fun''.
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #42 on: August 22, 2010, 06:43:32 PM »

I don't think the question is about railroading or about CA, I think its about procedure, which has president, the RAW or the fiction. Its not the same as railroading because its not about GM limiting player authority, and its not about CA because it could be used to support or detract from any. It seems like its a basic social contract issue: How much do I have to "narrate" my use of the mechanics into the story before I'm allowed to use them and how much power does Player X's vision of the narrative allow them to override the mechanics (when interpretted in their most simple or direct way, that is to say, is the in game narrative that decides if the "spirit" trumps the letter of the law). If this isn't understood as part of the Social Contract, than its really hard to identify because where the fiction:mechanics split happens is entirely within a given players head.

I'm sure Callan will tell me (and everyone) if I'm not getting his point.
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Alfryd
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« Reply #43 on: August 23, 2010, 05:48:36 AM »

I agree with Nolan that this is a basic problem of procedure, but I'm not certain this can really be separated from railroading.

This is why I mentioned the 'golden rule' of white wolf games- as Ron observed, it's a covert way of saying that the GM may ignore any rule, or any player who invokes it, that interferes with his or her idea of what should happen.  Oh, it all sounds very well-intentioned- who in their right mind could object to "fun"?- but the problem is that it gives no useful guidelines for mediating disputes when two or more players disagree about what constitutes 'fun' in a given situation.  Given the GM often has the most power at the table, s/he is most likely to get his/her way.
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #44 on: August 23, 2010, 12:32:04 PM »

Alfryd: probably the GM isn't necessarily the GM. Though I'm sure he's the most likely culprit. Plus the GM could be allowing the fiction to trump the mechanics to give the players what they want, or to open up there options, which would still be "Fiction First" but wouldn't be railroading. Also, I could use game mechanics, without consulting the fiction, to railroad my players. This is actually a classic bad-GM tactic, penalizing the players with the rules as harshly as possible when they don't do what the GM wants.
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