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Author Topic: fiction-based rule use (one fun option)  (Read 5082 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #30 on: October 06, 2010, 02:41:31 PM »

I'm actually up to a bit in my current play by post game where I don't feel particularly inspired fictionally and would like some sort of rules to have been there to just carry the game, generating new events that might inspired something, until I just happen to be inspired. One of the players dropped a huge post in, and while it got to a point, in my head I'm like 'well, you wrote alot. but that doesn't mean I want to jump, let alone ask how high'. Maybe I'm reading that onto it, but it seems like I'm to respond with something - but I'm not particularly inspired. Felt the post was a bit self focused, which is fine (if I read it in a book it wouldn't be dreadful and would explain some things). But in terms of generating new events...well for me it didn't inspire.

So what do I do here? Force myself to be inspired? Work for the sake of the game? Or turn to the procedure which...exists about as much as I've written it! The game system (Rifts, btw), provides it in the usual traditional way, as in as much as a stack of listed skills or the option to go to combat does. Ie, not at all. You can't choose a skill at random without it being just random and not inspirational (You shot down the village houses with explosive rounds cause your turning evil...roll your dance skill! Maybe that'll inspire me! No? Perhaps 'forrage'!?).

Of course, for fictional time/the fictional tale (being invented and told) to move forward merely on a mechanical basis is perhaps anathema. For the machine to speak into the campfire story (and take the weight of the lul in inspiration) is oh horrors of horrors. Yet the machine speaks into the story so often already (barring fudges and rule zeros(though rule zero is actually machinery...)) - it's just that people get upset of it speaking overtly, as if it were another person itself sitting at the fire. "The machine speaks into the story just in it's own voice? What? We humans are trying to achieve something here!!!", to paraphrase one of the forge essays.  Or maybe it's not a big deal for people. But certainly the 'hardcore' is fussed about in the gamist essay, as if turning to mechanics only for any amount of time somehow needs it's own seperate, distinct, 'not what we do' name. Of course it gets a seinfield like 'But there's nothing wrong with that!'. Except the seperate naming is so as to seperate it from the idea of 'just playing'. Indeed I'd propose the opposite - that organic only is 'the softcore' and the supposed hardcore, to any degree, is just playing. One way normal play can go and still just be normal. Indeed ironically, trying to never go to just hard rules use for any time leaves this inspiration gap. The irony being you start working for the game/the machine by forcing yourself to be inspired to fill the gap the activity has in it, rather than the machine working for you.

Well, that's enough dread litany! Just looking at the brief AP account of mind, It'd be nice if I already had rules so play goes on. And not some sort of whimsy card thing, which only affects game currency if, again, I feel so inspired to make it do so.
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David Berg
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« Reply #31 on: October 08, 2010, 09:27:41 AM »

Hi Callan,

Interesting distinction you're drawing.  Thinking about it now, here's how I see those moments of terminal inspiration stall:

1) Having no procedures to fall back on sucks.  Groups/players coming up with their own ways to "work for the game" is risky.

2) Having a set of procedures that tells you to force inspiration (i.e. work), but then also how to take that and get back to a point of being inspired and letting the game work for you, is fine by me.  This wouldn't be my favorite part of roleplaying, but every activity I enjoy has a part that's not my favorite.

3) Having some mechanics to "use until inspired" strikes me as a good alternative to #2.  If the mechanics are well done, this way is probably better; if the mechanics are poorly done, this way is probably worse.  This strikes me as a hard thing to do well, but I don't really know.

4) Some activities are demanding and require breaks to recharge.  I have no problem with a game that eventually tires me out.  I'm happy to chill for a few minutes, chat, and then come back to it. 

However, I think there's a big difference between (a) the exhaustion that comes after a prolonged period of fun and successful creativity and (b) the confusion and anxiety that comes from not being sure what you have to do and are allowed to do to something as complex and nuanced as RPG fiction.  The PtA example is easily overcome by a group that talks out the ground rules and can easily relate any individual case to them.  Maybe that's ideal; I don't know.  But it certainly isn't a mechanical procedure with currencies, and I'm curious how that alternative would look.  It might have downsides of being obtrusive and distracting, but it might have upsides of being more foolproof and reliable.

If you could give me even a clunky hypothetical example of a currency system to turn the purely creative "decide that it's time for the conflict mechanics" (or any other suitable example) into a mechanically motivated decision, I'd be happy to work with it and refine it.  Alas, I'm still not fluent enough in the ideas you're expressing to do it myself.

Ps,
-David
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Callan S.
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« Reply #32 on: October 08, 2010, 08:23:44 PM »

Hi David,

One thing that struck me the other day relates to #3 strongly. It's that if you go back, people who played early D&D strongly enjoyed wargaming. With all it's strictly mechanical play. They loved that. So when they play early D&D, they either love the purely mechanical play, or they love when suddenly they apparently hit this imaginative layer (which is made up, but lets just call it a real layer for now) and stat engaging with all the fiction that up till then they merely thought affecting somehow. They loved both things.

But then at some point it became fashionable to decry those wargamers 'Were not wargamers you know, were ROLEplayers!'. It became fashionable not to love the mechanical play, and actively decry it. As a sort of intellectual turf statement of superiority. Side thought: with the advent of world of warcraft, I'm wondering if it's triggered a movement toward mechanics use love, again. Particularly in the desing of 4e. The raid has brought back the wargaming roots.

Or alternatively theres a sort of bipolar reaction 'Yeah, I love wargaming and boardgames (points at roborally on shelf or such like), but that's not what I do roleplay for'

In terms of your #3, my point is that it's been done before - many years before, early in D&D's history. Those guys could have gone to a early D&D session, played something which was entirely a wargame with corridors and no imaginative layer (perhaps what Ron calls 'the hardcore') and been happy. Or they could turn up, prepared to do that, but also hit the imaginative layer and enjoy that as well.

Have we lost that today? The capacity to do either and come out happy?

In terms of writing those rules for #3, for someone who's above wargaming, or someone who's bipolar (either boardgame totally or no boardgame at all), CAN you write for them? Or are they stuck, both thinking they can make new ways to play, yet finding no joy in raw rules and so have no way to actually, enjoyably shape their play in a new direction by the rules they could write? That joy in the rules use can transform into joyful fiction. Heck, I do this during monopoly "I dunno what my guy likes doing that puts him in jail all the time, but he sure likes doing it". I've read posts by Ralph Mazza about how he makes up fiction about chess games he plays in, as he plays. But you gotta have joy from just playing the rules for it to rise into joyful fiction. Once you do, you can change the ways the fiction plays out, by changing the rules a game uses.

So it's not just up to writing rules that can do #3.

Indeed the funny thing is, your average non gamer, Joe off the street is probably quite inclined towards either enjoying a full on boardgame session AND enjoying it if it hits some sort of imaginative layer.

Quote
If you could give me even a clunky hypothetical example of a currency system to turn the purely creative "decide that it's time for the conflict mechanics" (or any other suitable example) into a mechanically motivated decision, I'd be happy to work with it and refine it.
The most primative one yet overall powerful effect is to simply attach a beginning, middle and end spine to the session. Perhaps at a hundred spine points, the game session is over. How do points increase? For this example lets say each minute that passes increases the points by one.

Now, is this going to inform your choices? Are you going to be working on some slow burn build up at 90 spine points? Heck no, that's not going to work out! In fact where you are on those points will likely inform every decision you make, to some degree. Or so I think -  here I talk about one I applied to a game I'm running, and I reference it constantly, thinking of the overall structure.

As to what mechanical choices you might make, making up those is the next step.

Make much sense, or am I just preaching without really giving technical details? I'm kind of working in the overall sense here.
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #33 on: October 18, 2010, 11:58:07 AM »

Hi Callan,

Have you ever played the boardgame Cranium?  It asks players to compete at a variety of tasks: acting, indirect verbal clue-giving, sculpting, drawing, spelling backwards, and knowing trivia.  Every time I've played it, someone has been forced to do an activity that they don't enjoy.  The energy has sagged while the person who likes acting and trivia has been forced to draw or sculpt, and that person has opted out of future play.  Eventually, we've wound up with a small number of people who like the challenge of Cranium's variety, and a larger number of people in drawing games, or spelling games, or trivia games, etc.

For this thread, I'm not talking about making Cranium.  I'm talking about making a game that offers one fun activity, the act of experiencing and affecting a SIS.  If there are currencies involved, they should exist to make that act more fun.  This is why I like your "introduce ex-girlfriend 1d4-3" example so much!  The mechanical values act as structure and constraint for "how do I affect the SIS right now?"

"Play stops in 100 minutes" is also interesting.  Do you want to go on to the next step and posit some specific mechanics? 

Again, I would love to see mechanical ideas that end and begin scenes, as I think that's one of the least structured procedures in games I've played.  By "begin a scene" I don't necessarily mean a hard cut in the fiction; any leap forward in situation counts ("Now we're in a new place faced with new surroundings and choices!").

My hope is that with a clear mechanical system to guide imaginative play, terminal inspiration stall can actually be avoided altogether, so we won't need a specific patch for it.  The solution could be just, "roll on your list of items like 'ex-girlfriend'."

Ps,
-David
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Callan S.
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« Reply #34 on: October 18, 2010, 07:06:02 PM »

I remember years ago people would say "What do these characters want?", and people on the forge would remind them that the characters do not exist. Your dealing with the player, not the character.

Back when the idea of a SIS was brought in, I thought it was good because people were often treating their activity with other people as if they were dealing with real things when they talked about spoken fiction. And the idea of an SIS would seperate them from this. But instead the idea of an SIS has become a surrogate for this sense of something existing.

There is no SIS to affect or even experience as an existant thing can be experienced. As far as I can tell, the idea of an SIS was instituted merely as a crutch to aid from the transition of thinking there is something there, to understanding your simply dealing with players directly. If the idea of an SIS wasn't brought in as an intermediary crutch by it's author(s) and instead as an 'existant thing', then I'll retract any credibility I may have appeared to have given their spoken idea at any given time.

At best people have private, seperate hallucinations, stimulated not by drugs but by words. I'm not even against humouring that hallucination for fun, or obviously I wouldn't be here. But treating the hallucination as something that can be affected, or that is genuinely replicated in other peoples minds, or that can be experienced like a real thing? Treating it as if it's an act, rather than a self inflicted mental condition?

Well, I engage in that. I have to apologise, as I can only part with you at that juncture. Sorry! :( My 'girlfriend' suggestion comes directly from treating the activity called roleplay as largely containing a practice of word induced hallucination (there's a new acroynm for ya - WIH!). Why I focus on currency and procedure so much is because it forms the base 'chemicals' of the many hallucinations at the table. I see no other way of changing the hallucination (perhaps there is a way - but I am unaware of it). Without procedure and currency, without system (as I'd use the word), the hallucination defaults to whatever it defaults to. You can try changing settings, or removing orcs, but you'll pretty much default to roleplaying the way you always roleplay with a certain group. If that's not in a satisfying way, that's how it stays (unless you change the people to fit the activity, as I warned about before).

Or long post short "I'm talking about making a game that offers one fun activity, the act of experiencing and affecting a SIS.", to me this activity doen't exist to be forfillable. I know, it flies in the face of how this sub niche hobby is assumed to work. Thanks for checking out my posts, David.
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David Berg
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« Reply #35 on: October 19, 2010, 08:13:24 AM »

Callan,

I figured "SIS" was useful shorthand here.  I guess not.  How about if I rephrase the fun activity as "people talking to each other"?  And then clarify that what they're talking about is the stuff they're making up?

I thought we were discussing procedures/mechanics/currencies to support that.  You still up for that?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #36 on: October 19, 2010, 05:41:21 PM »

Fair enough clarification, David. But even further, what I'm describing is larger than supporting the activity. Instead the procedures and mechanics are the very origin of the activity. They aren't like an add on to your talking to each other. Instead they are the reason your talking at all.

Even in traditional gaming, even though say GM's and even players might learn how to nulify a mechanical roll by (bluntly) asking for more rolls or (more subtley) downplaying the result, some of these mechanical results get past the 'story before book!' goal keeper (so to speak) and to a small extent people will be talking because of what the roll resulted in. Not as a support to their talking, but the actual foundation stone. It's a pretty pivotal difference! I think plenty of my own play history is partially (a small part, sadly) derived from rolls/mechanics use in traditional (read: D&D) type gaming. I'll talk about Roche the Corde, my hated nemesis, being dead, not as a support to my talking with others, but in part, because of mechanics use having previously happened. My talk stems from the mechanics - I'm not talking with some help from mechanics, I'm talking because of them. But generally, because of BS like the golden rule, as well as the laze fair model of 'assign whatever difficulty number or monster ya want, GM! Oh, and describe the result as you will, as well!' design, it's usually dead easy to nullify mechanical input - and it's only the odd occasions that get past the nullifying goalie that create this origin effect. Ironically, I think people really enjoy the way certain mechanics can give certain effects when it sneaks through. Some other ways are perhaps repulsive enough though that once bitten, twice shy.

As a support - well, you see as a support the mechanic is basically beholden to whether someone actually initiates it. It's pretty clear that a mechanic can not change the way you play if no one initiates it. And by making it merely a support, it's making it valid gameplay to not use it, as it's just a support.

I think as a support, sometimes it can get initiated, and then sometimes it'll get past the goalie (if any). And then people will talk because of what the mechanics resulted in, then they'll get a little excited about how it altered/augmented the way they game to something they otherwise wouldn't have done if they had just talked. Possibly the excitement we all felt when we first gamed and our imagination for the very first time took a right turn we didn't even think of (we never imagined it there) and our imagination sailed on into previous uncharted waters. I'll grant that can happen - but it's a little chancey to me - it has low odds of happening.

So, fair enough clarification (forgive me, my last post could apply in regards to many gamers), but a support is just too...wobbly, for me. Heck, I could describe something as a support to you and you could say 'but what if I didn't use it' and I'd have to both  A: concede that since it's merely a support, it's optional, so you not using it is valid and B: that it obviously wont have an effect then.

To me, support isn't enough to definately get a result from designing. I guess I didn't say that to begin with, but I only realise that detail of my approach in discussion here so I'm kinda stuck that way!

What do you think?
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David Berg
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« Reply #37 on: October 20, 2010, 05:18:00 PM »

Crap, now it's an issue with the term "support"!  I didn't mean to say that a mechanic would be like an optional bonus to the primary activity of roleplaying.  I just meant that, when designing mechanics, and asking, "What do we want this mechanic to accomplish?  What's our goal?" the answer would relate to talking about imagined stuff.

RPG design with mandatory and encompassing rules sounds appealing to me too!  But only if, as a player, I spend most of my game time talking and imagining. 

I can imagine this being the case!  Your ex-girlfriend example seemed to me to be a move in that direction: a low handling time mechanic, player decision based in large part on aesthetic judgments of the fiction, mechanical options that add fictional content, and currency that makes the process of talking and imagining more concrete, purposeful, and game-like.

I can understand that you don't want to put a lot of thought into a mechanics example of the type I've requested only to have me write back and say, "Ew, I don't wanna play like that!"  All I can say is that if, in conceiving mechanics, you do your best to relate it to the stuff that we agree on (yay currency-fiction synergy!), then I will too in responding.

Ps,
-David
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Callan S.
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« Reply #38 on: October 20, 2010, 07:22:29 PM »

Hi David,

I think I have concieved of mechanics here, like the girlfriend one, and said them. I'm not sure what else you still need? Except perhaps that your focused on a goal of talking about imagined stuff.

With my girlfriend example, talking about imagined stuff isn't the primary goal, it's simply a means to getting to the goal of the thorny (or perhaps hot? (just to be possitive for a change)) issue of ex girlfriends. It's perhaps a secondary or tertiary goal to talk about imagined stuff.

Are you trying to grasp the idea of currency-fiction synergy in relation to just continuing talking about imagined stuff?

You might be, but I'd be willing to bet money the ex girlfriend thing sounds interesting to you because it's outside, seperate from and beyond 'talking about imagined stuff'.

I'm thinking maybe if your goal, as in goal, is to  talk about imagined stuff, then I can't really explain this currency-fiction thing to you, only give more and more examples of it. And I'm kind of hitting a writers block  on that - actually, it kind of feels like GM burn out.

Other than that I'm not sure what else you still need to be able to extrapolate your own ways of doing it? Sorry :( It's been a long thread - perhaps I've forgotten something in a prior post on that?
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David Berg
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« Reply #39 on: October 21, 2010, 10:28:49 AM »

What I'd like is an example of mechanics that end and begin scenes.  By "begin a scene" I don't necessarily mean a hard cut in the fiction; any leap forward in situation counts ("Now we're in a new place faced with new surroundings and choices!").

I'm picking this because I think it's a good example of a situation in which all of the RPGs you and I have played have left us to make this decision without reference to currency.  I'd love to see what the alternative might look like.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #40 on: October 21, 2010, 03:44:24 PM »

Quote
I'm picking this because I think it's a good example of a situation in which all of the RPGs you and I have played have left us to make this decision without reference to currency. I'd love to see what the alternative might look like.
Well, I've described an alternative - one where scene framing is optional at any point and yet gameplay continues towards session end (or even campaign end), rather than scene framing  being crucial for any gameplay to advance at all. I'm not trying to give some sort of definate instructions for scene framing - my approach is to ensure that the game, as in the physical boardgame like element, continues to tic along instead of freezing until a scene is made up. So I've made scenes optional. I'm imagining people would do scenes because they are inclined to and one has occured to them as they continue to play the game - not because they need to think of a scene in order for the game to continue.

So I agree that games have left me or GM's I've played with without much idea as to what to do next/what scene to do next in order to keep playing. The way around that I decided on was to make scenes optional. Scenes will either come to you or wont, and either is okay. Be creative when it just comes to you, rather than because half the group is sitting bored and it's 'be creative now!!!' time.
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #41 on: October 21, 2010, 06:20:54 PM »

Well, I've described an alternative - one where scene framing is optional at any point and yet gameplay continues towards session end (or even campaign end), rather than scene framing  being crucial for any gameplay to advance at all.
Maybe I missed that.  Which idea are you referring to here? 

If it's the one where you get 120 minutes of real time, I thought we agreed that that would need to be developed further before fiction/currency synergy was achieved.  Maybe if you could invoke mechanics to slow down/speed up/pause the clock...

I'm not trying to give some sort of definate instructions for scene framing - my approach is to ensure that the game, as in the physical boardgame like element, continues to tic along instead of freezing until a scene is made up.
Gotcha.  Sounds like a sensible approach.  Should I infer that you're not interested in trying to give definite instructions for scene framing?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #42 on: October 22, 2010, 01:06:51 PM »

Quote
If it's the one where you get 120 minutes of real time, I thought we agreed that that would need to be developed further before fiction/currency synergy was achieved.  Maybe if you could invoke mechanics to slow down/speed up/pause the clock...
Well, it already changes the fiction - compare a totally freeform session and a freeform session but with this 120 minutes of time on it. The fiction will be different for the mechanics - if at the very least the latters fiction cuts off after 120 minutes! Though I'm sure the fiction would change more in a way that tries to fit within the window.

I might have given the wrong impression - it doesn't need to be developed further, so much as adding more fiction/currency mechanics is the way the author would get at something that they felt other games had not gotten at. Right now it's like a pizza base without any topics (not even sauce yet!). Though edible all the same.

Quote
Gotcha.  Sounds like a sensible approach.  Should I infer that you're not interested in trying to give definite instructions for scene framing?
Well, what I've done is either a scene comes organically or if it doesn't, that's fine, the game goes on at a mechanical level. So, for me and my purposes, I'm not interested in trying to give definite instructions. If you want to start a thread in first thoughts on it, I'll read it and try and figure something out for your purposes - though (and strangely on topic) I obviously can't guarantee I'll have an inspiration on the matter. But I'll give it a try!
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David Berg
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« Reply #43 on: October 24, 2010, 04:04:44 PM »

Cool, here's a stab at it, partly inspired by your "see a church" example.
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