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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Bankuei on January 16, 2002, 12:16:02 AM



Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bankuei on January 16, 2002, 12:16:02 AM
Inspired by the Shared Power thread, I started thinking, in every roleplaying game I've seen(except Rune), the rules were all intended with the idea that the GM is supposed to break or ignor them when suitable, but the players are not necessarily given that option.   Sure, the rules usually say,"Ignor them when you want to", but look at the standard use of them.

Players are forced to record their characters abilities, whereas the GM is not.  Players are looked down upon for cheating with dice, while the GM is expected to fudge.  How can you share power when one group is assigned a serious level of rules to follow and the other is freed of them?  The GM isn't even assigned different but equally restricting rules.

This situation is the perfect way to destroy any sort of mechanics, since the GM has the "backstage rewrite" option, to alter stats, plot points, or character motivations since they haven't been revealed to the players yet, and therefore doesn't exist yet.  Karma is useless as the GM has the option of changing stats, Fortune is useless since the GM can fudge dice, Drama is useless since the GM can constantly alter motivations or character concepts.

This isn't saying that GM necessarily has competitive interests in mind, or will abuse their freedom, or even that the benevolent dictatorship hasn't produced great games before, or the need/no need for dictatorship(go see Power Sharing), but how many people have thought about the relationship the rules play on the players that isn't in effect on the GM, or even that certain rules are expected to be ignored.  

What is the purpose of the rules in regards to actually dictating what occurs?  Are they designed for player vs. player conflict?  An accepted means of limiting Player control within a game?  With the GM as an "above the law" participant in a game, what purpose do the rules serve to them?  

Chris


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: hardcoremoose on January 16, 2002, 12:36:27 AM
Hey Chris,

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if a particular game instructs its players to "ignore the rules when they get in the way", that game is probably experiencing a GNS identity crisis.  And if a GM feels the need to "fudge" results too often, the system is either incapable of meeting its own goals, or the goals of the players differ from what the game is intended.

Not that fudging will never happen, but games whose mechanics support its GNS preference and goals, coupled with players who share those preferences and goals, should minimize that.  I say "should", of course, because although my experience with things like FitM have been very productive and yielded positive results, I'm still so new at most of this that I wouldn't dare make an empirical statement of fact about it.

Nonetheless, very simple things - like explicit FitM - do cut down on fudging of dice because they allow the players to do what they want to do without sacrificing challenge, conflict, adversity, verisimilitude, or what have you.

What are the purpose of rules?  Depends on the game and what it's trying to accomplish.  Gamist games are probably easiest to understand, and probably the most often fudged (by people without a true gamist bent): the rules are there to facilitate the challenge, and to fairly arbitrate what the pcs can do in relation to that challenge.  In narrativist games, I kind of see rules and mechanics as sort of an imaginative kickstart - they help provide direction, create conflict, drive adversity at the players, and illustrate the PCs protagonism (among other things, I'm sure).

I'll defer any discussion of simulationism to Mike Holmes or Marco or whoever wants to take up that call.

- Scott


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 16, 2002, 06:08:34 AM
Hi there,

I'm with Scott. "Confucius say, 'If game need house-rules, is broken game.'" [That's a quote from a friend, from a discussion back in 1994 or so about Magic.] My discussion of system-breakdown and social-contract-breakdown in a recent thread of Paganini's correlates with this outlook.

That is not to say that Drama methods cannot be part of a game, such that outcomes can be verbally delivered without other factors, or that Fortune or Karma outcomes can be verbally modified. These methods could themselves be rules, and are, in many games.

Now to forestall some possible misunderstandings.

It all comes down to what we mean by "rules." Ian O'Rourke surprised a number of us on the Forge by his assumption that the term "rules" only pertained to the direct and literal resolution mechanics. In this discussion, I am using rules to mean "what the game says about how to play, in any way, shape, or form." [Thus the Three Precepts of The Window are "rules," which, in this case, have an identity-crisis with its resolution system "rules."]

So, taking any and all material in a game text about how to play, from the crunchiest Strike Rank mechanic to the implication that you're going into a monster-infested dungeon, to off-the-cuff statements about "Of course, the GM can override dice rolls in the interests of [whatever]," ... all are rules, to me. Call'em guidelines if you want, doesn't matter. I'm talking about those.

I'm a hard-liner about these things. In my view, if they don't all make frigging sense with one another and promote coherence of play (in the sense that I defined in my essay), such that the likelihood of having fun is increased, then the game is, at best, problematic, and, more likely, just plain fucked.

Best,
Ron


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Paganini on January 16, 2002, 08:32:18 AM
Quote from: Bankuei

Players are forced to record their characters abilities, whereas the GM is not.  Players are looked down upon for cheating with dice, while the GM is expected to fudge.  How can you share power when one group is assigned a serious level of rules to follow and the other is freed of them?  The GM isn't even assigned different but equally restricting rules.


I think you'll find that this sort of application of the "ignore rules if you want to" idea is not commonly looked on with favor. I know lots of simulationists and gamists who *hate* the idea of GM fudging the rules. After all, the act of choosing a game implicitly indicates the decision to abide by the rules it contains. If you're just going to break the rules and do whatever you want, why play with a system at all?

IME, what this sort of thing actually (usually) involves is the throwing out of rules before the game starts. I saw a quote from the Project A-Ko RPG once that goes like this: "If a rule annoys you, ignore it." I like that... you shouldn't have to be annoyed while you're playing, so you can trash rules you don't like. This is not the same thing as fudging the system as you play.

By trashing certain rules up front, you're simply amending your social contract from "we'll abide by all rules" to "we'll abide by these specific rules," or even "we'll abide by all rules except for these specific rules that we've replaced with house rules."


Title: The Window
Post by: Paganini on January 16, 2002, 08:43:16 AM
Quote from: Ron

I'm with Scott. "Confucius say, 'If game need house-rules, is broken game.'" [That's a quote from a friend, from a discussion back in 1994 or so about Magic.]


Note that the the neccesity of house rules in a game will vary from group to group... that means, frex, that D&D3E might be broken for one group - the system does not do what they want without using house rules - but not broken for another group - they use every rule exactly as writen with no changes or additions.

I'd like to make the point that the brokenness of a game is not neccesarily a good reason for not playing that game. It's often easier to fix a broken game than it is to design an entirely new game. Witness the recent Dying Earth discussion. Everyone who's played it seems to think that it's marvelous in tone, and that the core system is exactly right for Vance's work. The complaints involve the magic system, and too many crunchy details. So, should you throw out a game that is in many respects perfect for its stated goal, just because the magic system is broken? I would say no, not if it's easy to add a fix to the system (as someone proposed in that thread).

So, you might correctly say that a game is broken for your group, because it needs house rules, and yet still go ahead and make those house rules, because after you make the rules, the game is no longer broken for your group. Does that make sense?

Of course, this has nothing to do with the GNS identity crisis in The Window, which is what I'm going to ask about next. :)

Quote from: Ron

Thus the Three Precepts of The Window are "rules," which, in this case, have an identity-crisis with its resolution system "rules."


This is interesting... I've always been a fan of the Window, just because it was my first introduction to a different style of gaming. I'd never read anything like it before. I've since moved on to other things, because I don't like the underlying math in the system. I'd like to hear more detail about how it has an identity crisis between the precepts and the resolution system.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 16, 2002, 09:01:06 AM
Paganini wrote,
"I'd like to make the point that the brokenness of a game is not neccesarily a good reason for not playing that game. It's often easier to fix a broken game than it is to design an entirely new game. [snip good example] So, should you throw out a game that is in many respects perfect for its stated goal, just because the magic system is broken? I would say no, not if it's easy to add a fix to the system (as someone proposed in that thread)."

I totally agree with you. My frustration arises from what is, essentially, shoddy workmanship that has cost me or anyone else money, and from the widespread distribution of such shoddiness. I also think that in many games that the "fix" is far more laborious and requires more session-to-session maintenance than in others, and those would be the games I'd call "fucked."

Best,
Ron

P.S. As for The Window, let's do another thread. Probably in the GNS forum, I'd think. Start it up as you see fit.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Paganini on January 16, 2002, 09:44:16 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

I totally agree with you. My frustration arises from what is, essentially, shoddy workmanship that has cost me or anyone else money, and from the widespread distribution of such shoddiness. I also think that in many games that the "fix" is far more laborious and requires more session-to-session maintenance than in others, and those would be the games I'd call "fucked."


Agreement, although I think I'd use less... pointed... terms. :)

Quote

P.S. As for The Window, let's do another thread. Probably in the GNS forum, I'd think. Start it up as you see fit.


Gonna do it right now.


Title: Rules and Economics
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 16, 2002, 01:44:03 PM
Bit of a tangent here, but still (best as I can tell) on-topic - I think "rules" also fit into the economic situation of RPGs nowadays, where the generally-accepted wisdom is you need to keep selling add-on product.  Sure, adding more and more setting is good, but what you need in order to REALLY hook the consumer is more and more RULES (alternate explanation - you need setting AND rules so you can hook both Gamists and Simulationists).  That may come off as a bit disparaging, and I guess I do mean it to be - but only a bit.  Looked at as "raw materials" for manufacturing your own game/gameworld, this method has produced some great stuff over the years.

My concern is that by making "raw materials" that masquerade as complete solutions, you actually aggravate the "house rule" problem.  By "pretending" (or not realizing, failing  . . whatever) to provide a complete solution that, in reality, requires house rule patching to provide an enjoyable experience for folks, you make the patch process more difficult/problematic.  If you were up front and direct about the raw material nature of your product, it would be clear that house rules were needed to complete it, and you'd have a chance at clarity as to where they fit into the system, how they are communicated, and etc.  Sorcerors' lack of an "established" definition of Humanity is an example here - to play the game, you need a defintion.  The game doesn't provide one.  Therefore, Humanity must always be "house ruled", but since the game's is up front about it, that becomes a strength rather than a weakness.

AS AN EXAMPLE (please, the Forge is the last place I want to get into a debate on the DETAILS of  WotC/d20), it's an openly stated goal of the d20/OGL system (in at least one of its' forms) to leverage the "add-on's" produced by third party suppliers into Player's Handbook sales for WotC.  But neither the Player's Handbook nor its' d20-licence equivalent, the System Reference Document available on-line, are true raw materials books, providing a detailed breakdown of the basic components of the system.  In fact, the license (again, in at least one of its' forms) forbids you from altering those things.  What's the problem?  None, really - obviously lots of folks are able to make this work for them.  But  . . .

It seems like there's a formula much more likely to produce good GAMES (if not neccessarily good income) - make the "base document" a true Raw Material.  Explain what your analysis and playtesting revealed about, e.g., "balancing" Classes, and let folks use that to make their own.  Provide a real "build your own d20 game" toolkit.  Economically, this might be absurd.  Hell, the whole thing might be absurd.

But that's where I went when thinking about rules, how they work, why they get house revisions, and etc.

Gordon


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bankuei on January 16, 2002, 02:58:16 PM
Back in the Sorcerer thread this exact topic of rules being used as an excuse for supplements or "booster packs" of classes, skills, spells, & powers is something I brought up, and that Sorcerer stands out as being one of the few games that don't follow that design theory.  The theory of not giving players the skinny from the beginning to push out supplements has kept Palladium games doing business for a long time.

In this case, though, my specific interest is in the difference between having rules for the players, different or subset rules for the GM, and of course, the ability(granted within the game or the social contract) for one to be able to ignor the rules as opposed to the others.

Chris


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bailey on January 16, 2002, 05:21:05 PM
Players should be able to edit the rules in the exact same way that the GM does, though I must admit to being gamist in this regard, by consensus.

The rules exist as a contract with the group.  They agree to play in X setting with X rules in a game that explores X theme.  Changing the rules without notice is a violation of the contract.  However, the contract is negotiable by anyone involved.

The gambling house rules for Tinker's Damn are fun, but they require everyone to be on the same page for the game to work.


Title: Rules and Economics
Post by: Paganini on January 16, 2002, 08:24:39 PM
Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

It seems like there's a formula much more likely to produce good GAMES (if not neccessarily good income) - make the "base document" a true Raw Material.  Explain what your analysis and playtesting revealed about, e.g., "balancing" Classes, and let folks use that to make their own.  Provide a real "build your own d20 game" toolkit.  Economically, this might be absurd.  Hell, the whole thing might be absurd.


It sounds a lot like you're describing FUDGE or Epiphany. FUDGE has a fairly large following, so I wouldn't call it absurd. I actually prefer Epiphany, although it seems to have been less successful. Part of that may be that the rules are unclearly writen.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 16, 2002, 11:46:57 PM
Quote from: Bankuei

Back in the Sorcerer thread this exact topic of rules being used as an excuse for supplements [. . . ]

Ah . . . perhaps that explains why it was on my mind.
Quote from: Bankuei

In this case, though, my specific interest is in the difference between having rules for the players, different or subset rules for the GM, and of course, the ability(granted within the game or the social contract) for one to be able to ignor the rules as opposed to the others.

Got you.  I'd say that in THEORY, allowing different rules (and rules about how "serious" to take the rules) for player and GM is OK.  The player and the GM can have different kinds of roles/activities within the game, so having different rules for different roles doesn't strike me as a fundamentally broken idea.

In PRACTICE, the way general "GM can fudge - but not the players" rules have been implemented has tended to support the "control of everything" (including story creation) by the GM, and thus is bad for Narrativism (and probably other play preference).

hmm . . . I'll think on this a bit more.  Maybe "good" and "bad" (good/bad in the context of goal, of course) ways to allow different rules for different roles can be identified?

Gordon


Title: Rules and Economics
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 16, 2002, 11:53:03 PM
Quote from: Paganini

It sounds a lot like you're describing FUDGE or Epiphany. FUDGE has a fairly large following, so I wouldn't call it absurd. I actually prefer Epiphany, although it seems to have been less successful. Part of that may be that the rules are unclearly writen.

Yeah, Fudge is definetly a step in this direction.  I don't know Epiphany - looks like time for a Google search . . .

Gordon


Title: Rules and Economics
Post by: Paganini on January 17, 2002, 07:42:26 AM
Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

Yeah, Fudge is definetly a step in this direction.  I don't know Epiphany - looks like time for a Google search . . .


Epiphany is from BTRC: http://www.btrc.net

It's very nicely done, IMO. You can get it from Hyperbooks for about $10. The game is intended to be open-ended set in Hyperboria. It has a very interesting randomless mechanic that can be placed with dice if you feel like it.

The open-ended ness comes into play because only the most basic things are defined. The goal of the game was to have the net community create material for it, which would then become "official" and archived on the main Epiphany website.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bailey on January 17, 2002, 03:38:58 PM
Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

Got you.  I'd say that in THEORY, allowing different rules (and rules about how "serious" to take the rules) for player and GM is OK.  The player and the GM can have different kinds of roles/activities within the game, so having different rules for different roles doesn't strike me as a fundamentally broken idea.

In PRACTICE, the way general "GM can fudge - but not the players" rules have been implemented has tended to support the "control of everything" (including story creation) by the GM, and thus is bad for Narrativism (and probably other play preference).


This sort of control is what having a GM is about.  If you don't want someone to have the authority you shouldn't have a GM.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: joshua neff on January 17, 2002, 03:54:32 PM
Bailey--

Having a GM is all about having one person in control of "everything"? Including story creation? That's what a GM is for?

Hm. I'm not so sure. Sounds a bit too simplistic & absolute to me. Seems to me it can be one thing a GM is for, but not the only thing. I certainly don't think a GM is meant to have absolute control over where the story goes. When I GM, my players & I don't give the GM that authority--we all have control over the narrative & where it goes. That's why we play RPGs.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: John Wick on January 17, 2002, 04:14:59 PM
Quote from: hardcoremoose

Hey Chris,

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if a particular game instructs its players to "ignore the rules when they get in the way", that game is probably experiencing a GNS identity crisis.  And if a GM feels the need to "fudge" results too often, the system is either incapable of meeting its own goals, or the goals of the players differ from what the game is intended.


I find the latter to be much more true than the former.

The fact of the matter is this: If you, me and Ron all ran a game of... oh, let's just say D&D... we'd run three different games. This is because GM styles differ so wildly that no game can adequately meet each group's needs.

The roleplaying game is a unique model. I can't think of any other game where the rules differ from group to group, from player to player. It isn't a G/N/S problem, or a problem with the game.

As a matter of fact, I don't see a problem with it at all.

Take care,
John

"There is no right answer. But some answers are more right than others."

- The Tao of Zen Nihilism, A Self-Hurt Book


Title: All-powerful GM
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 17, 2002, 05:23:42 PM
Bailey,

What josh said.  All-powerful GM is one model - it seems to me there are TONS of variations between that and "don't have a GM".  In my experience, the All-powerful GM is ALWAYS curbed in his power by social forces in the play group.  All-powerful - as longs as it makes sense, or All-powerful  - as long as you're true to the genre, or All-powerful - as long as you give us what we want (which can EASILY become quite disfunctional) . . .

Now, if what you mean is "if you don't give SOME control to the GM - even complete/final control, in some situations - you might as well not have one" . . . sure, I can agree with that.

It still seems to me like this thread could get real . . . meaty if we started discussing specifics - ah, so many threads, so little time,

Gordon


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 17, 2002, 05:31:02 PM
Quote from: John Wick

The fact of the matter is this: If you, me and Ron all ran a game of... oh, let's just say D&D... we'd run three different games. This is because GM styles differ so wildly that no game can adequately meet each group's needs.

The roleplaying game is a unique model. I can't think of any other game where the rules differ from group to group, from player to player. It isn't a G/N/S problem, or a problem with the game.

As a matter of fact, I don't see a problem with it at all.


"Problem" is a slippery word.  I guess I'd just say that I do find this to be an issue worth discussing, as I'd really like to know which game and GM are most likely to give me the play experience I want.

Though I bet either Chris, John or Ron would be a ton o' fun to play with, reagrdless of whether it's D&D or not.

Gordon


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bankuei on January 17, 2002, 09:55:33 PM
You're quite right John, no set of rules is going to work for everybody, or work the same.  My question lies not in generating a "standard" for everyone, but why is the expection of sticking to the rules different for players than for the GM?  Players are expected to follow the rules, whereas the GM is often not, and in fact encouraged in most rulebooks to cheat, fudge, or not follow the rules.  I'm really interested in what would happen if players were given the same power as the GM to ignor rules when convient, or perhaps just a little more power.

In the Actual Play forum, my Forgotten Fist playtest experience was incredibly different than anything else that I've done before.  It lays all the resolution narration in the hands of the players.  The players have the power to create new characters, locations, items and scenes, and while certainly no rules were placed on the GM, I definitely felt, not restricted, but definitely no longer "the Hand of God" anymore.  By explicitly laying the power on the players in the rules, I had implictly pulled back the "GM is God" scheme.  In this case, as a GM I was forced to follow the rules, since they were followed by players.  I couldn't fudge dice, change character power levels behind the screen, but I could still alter current events, or add elements as I saw fit.  But everything I could do, the players had it in their power to undo, or alter, or do themselves.  

Instead of disempowering the players by forcing them to follow the rules and the GM to be able to skip them, these rules empowered the players and enforced the rules on all sides, by the players and the GM, and yet, were not restrictive in any sense.  In no case did I feel it could have run better by ignoring the rules, skipping them, or altering them.

On the other hand, there's many systems where to actually create a character is so time-consuming, that GM's never actually build a character, or even have rules defined for a minimal-detail character, they just fudge it.  Or certain rules(encumberance, movement rates, etc) that may require calculation, that again, the GM certainly can't use in a general purpose.  So why are the players expected to follow these rules?  

What indeed is the purpose of those rules?  Instead of actually being used to facilitate play, are they merely used to limit player power(No player can just declare,"You're dead", but the GM can)?  Or perhaps justify the results of the GM's will("You fail, so I can decide what happens...")?  Can it be said that certain rules and mechanics encourage railroading?  Or is it simply the unspoken rule that GM's can break any and all rules that encourages railroading?  

Chris


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: contracycle on January 18, 2002, 03:16:29 AM
I think its just division of labour.  We know the player are going to be seeing the world from an individual perspective, but to mediate the world to the players we need someone who sits outside of that immediate perspective and has an adequate overview and is therefore in a position to passed INFORMED judgement from occassion to occassion.

It is possible to distribute the authority to overide the rules in a number of ways, most of which have been explored by narrativists.  This is largely becuase of the write-permission type problem I mentioned elsewhere - we don;t wan't to get ionto arguments about whether or not there is a fishing village on a certain spot on the coast or not.  The ability to ignore rules necessarily implies distributed authorial power.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: joshua neff on January 18, 2002, 07:12:18 AM
Quote
I think its just division of labour.


Yes! Exactly. Ding!

Every group agrees (or hopefully agrees, assuming they're all on the same page) that certain things need to be dealt with during game play. Who deals with what is all part of the social contract. It's not the GM's job per se to deal with it, but it can make things go faster if there's only one person to deal with it. But Fang's put forward some really good thoughts about who does deal with it & when. Sometimes, having one person (the GM) handle it all can make things go faster & more smoothly. Other times, splitting up the labo(u)r can actually make things go faster.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bailey on January 18, 2002, 02:34:25 PM
Quote from: joshua neff

Bailey--

Having a GM is all about having one person in control of "everything"? Including story creation? That's what a GM is for?

Hm. I'm not so sure. Sounds a bit too simplistic & absolute to me. Seems to me it can be one thing a GM is for, but not the only thing. I certainly don't think a GM is meant to have absolute control over where the story goes. When I GM, my players & I don't give the GM that authority--we all have control over the narrative & where it goes. That's why we play RPGs.


Well, as a simulationist I'd say that largely it is the GM's job since the GM is in control of the outside world.  Stories that focus on the relationships between the player characters could get some minor interruptions by the GM but nothing serious.  When I play narrativist I don't usually have a GM.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: joshua neff on January 18, 2002, 02:43:48 PM
Bailey--

Except I pretty much exclusively play in a narrativist fashion, & I often have a (or am the) GM. Narrativism & GMs aren't mutually exclusive at all. As Gareth pointed out, it's all about division of labor.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: erithromycin on January 19, 2002, 03:07:20 PM
Quote from: Bankuei

What is the purpose of the rules in regards to actually dictating what occurs?


Rules are physics.  They constrain how a character acts upon other entities within the gameworld, and how other entities act upon the character. Though they can do more than that.

Quote

Are they designed for player vs. player conflict?


By the above, no. Character vs. character yes, but player vs. player is a negatory, good buddy. Those would be, um, play-rules, not game-rules. Hang on...

Quote

An accepted means of limiting Player control within a game?


No, that'd be, ok, I'm running out of terminology, and I'm not sure there is any. Stay hanging on...

Quote

With the GM as an "above the law" participant in a game, what purpose do the rules serve to them?  


None, if, right, hang on. I'm going to suggest something, so feel free to rip it apart. This, by the way, is what you've hung on for.

There are sets of rules, presented here in levels:

GAMEWORLD

Character rules: These are the 'physics' by which a character is constrained. These govern actions, set the realms of the possible and impossible and so forth.

Translation rules: These are the 'metaphysics' by which a character is controlled. Most games don't have these, though many create their own ways of dealing with this when they're playing characters of differing abilities to their own.

GAME

Interaction rules: These are the rules that govern interaction between players, what they are allowed to do to each other and the game, and probably basic codes of conduct and, hopefully, hygiene. :)

GMing rules: These are the rules that govern how a game is run, what the GM is allowed and is not allowed to do. Some of this is rules of thumb, a lot of this expresses itself as styles.

WORLD

Right, I know I'm coming into this thread late, but hey, sue me. These are the rules I think there are [or should be], and this is what I think they do [or should]. Anything else is gravy. Adaptation of the rules is a weird thing, but I think levels affect other levels up and down the 'play-chain'. Woo. I'm trying to create terminology here too. Yay me, and stuff. :)


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: lumpley on January 20, 2002, 06:54:56 AM
Roleplaying games only ever have one 'physics,' and that's the consensus of the gamers.  Your PC never skids on the ice because the mechanics say she does, only because you all agree that she does.

Agreeing in advance to abide by mechanics (instead of using more everyday techniques, like arguing) is one way to achieve that consensus.

Having a GM, which is to say, an arbiter and a final authority, is another way.

Saying that the GM can ignore the mechanics just means that the GM has a privileged position when it comes to creating consensus -- which we knew already.

Right?

It's all about credibility.  The rules of a game are (almost exclusively) about whose word you have to take for what.  Traditionally, you have to take the GM's word for everything, and the game's mechanics have been all caught up in enforcing, mitigating, and sugarcoating that.

(Some of the games we're designing around here, though, the whole point is to distribute credibility in different ways.  Director Stance for instance says: If it's about my character, even if it's not something my character has under her control, you still have to take my word for it.)

I'm coming late to the thread too.  It's drawing us in, I guess.

-Vincent


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 20, 2002, 07:24:48 AM
Hi Vincent,

Fuckin' too right on that post about "rules." People sure stumble over that word, don't they? It's like balance or realism.

I'm totally boring about my use of "rules" - synonymous with "design," as far as I'm concerned, or even "text." Hence all the suffering about what is or isn't a rule (or heaven help us, a "guideline" whatever that is) becomes irrelevant.

Best,
Ron


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: erithromycin on January 20, 2002, 02:34:37 PM
Quote from: lumpley

Roleplaying games only ever have one 'physics,' and that's the consensus of the gamers.  Your PC never skids on the ice because the mechanics say she does, only because you all agree that she does.


That's the 'playing experience'. Right. What I was trying to say is that rules affect different things, like the world that the characters inhabit [gameworld], the game itself [that is, I suppose, the people playing - what they can and can't do], and then there's plain old reality.

Quote

Agreeing in advance to abide by mechanics (instead of using more everyday techniques, like arguing) is one way to achieve that consensus.


Well, yeah.

Quote

Having a GM, which is to say, an arbiter and a final authority, is another way.

Saying that the GM can ignore the mechanics just means that the GM has a privileged position when it comes to creating consensus -- which we knew already.


But is that right, or fair, or good for the hobby? Why should the GM get to ignore the rules of a game? Or am I being overly simulationist/gamist [I'm not sure it matters in a narrative system, because IME physics tends to be less of an issue in those]

Quote

It's all about credibility.  The rules of a game are (almost exclusively) about whose word you have to take for what.  Traditionally, you have to take the GM's word for everything, and the game's mechanics have been all caught up in enforcing, mitigating, and sugarcoating that.


No, I dispute that. I say the rules of a game are about how things work. Allowing the GM to ignore them is a flaw in the structure of how the game is played by the players, not how the game works on the character. They aren't the same thing.

Quote

(Some of the games we're designing around here, though, the whole point is to distribute credibility in different ways.  Director Stance for instance says: If it's about my character, even if it's not something my character has under her control, you still have to take my word for it.)


I don't have an issue with that, what I've got an issue with is that it's somehow OK to make things different for the GM. Why shouldn't he play by exactly the same rules with a different stance, or a little more power within the same rules as everyone else?

Anyway, if I'm gratuitously missing the point, do feel free to tell me. I just think there's something here, really, but I could be the only one seeing it.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 20, 2002, 03:28:14 PM
Drew,

I think you're missing that Vincent is not speaking about "what's best" or "what works" or anything like that - he's simply providing the most global concept that could account for the concept of "rules."

You're addressing a subset-issue: what framework of rules, especially in terms of the social contract to abide or not abide them, is most functional? I think to address this well, we have to specify further into the goals of play.

After all, say I'm playing in a Simulationist fashion in which the scenario events are pretty well set, and my goal of play is to enjoy its details as they are revealed and have impacts on my character (and to role-play the results with gusto). This happens to be exactly how I play in Call of Cthulhu scenarios (Explore Situation, mainly).  When this happens, frankly, I'm kind of glad that the GM (who happens to be Doc Midnite) acts as a filter between dice/rules outcomes and "what really happens." He essentially makes sure that the system doesn't mess with our fun (which is by definition divorced from metagame concerns), and "the rules" (tacit or otherwise) give him that role.

It's not my personal favored style of play, but for many people it is - and I suspect that their enjoyment is enhanced by the GM's privileged relationship to "the rules." These sorts of players, I have found, are among the most vocal about "You have to have the right GM in order to role-play," and I suspect this is a function of the necessary role of that GM-privilege.

Then, when you take play toward my most favored style, which is Narrativism with a strong Character(s)-derived Premise, such a GM privilege would be terribly destructive toward the goals of play.

So I do see your point, but I think it would help to distinguish your needs and goals of this discussion, as opposed to a larger-scale, more philosophical examination of "what rules are."

Best,
Ron


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: James V. West on January 20, 2002, 04:41:30 PM
One of my pet peeves has always been games that actually say to ignore or fudge results if they hinder the game. This is probably the main reason I've never played FUDGE, even though I bought the original printed version and fell in love with the whole concept...I just didn't like the "fudging" aspect. Years before any of this talk of GNS met my ears I knew that it was bullshit for a game to do that. I mean, if the game works like its supposed to, why would you have to do that? (and by working like its supposed to, I mean the rules actually produce results in harmony with what's being touted in the game's text).

I think the GNS identity crisis argument menitoned earlier is valid. WW games seem to have this going on, from what I gather. The premise of these games is strongly in the camp of Narrativism, but they still have a system of rules that defer to old school modes of thought. So much that they are forced to into the old "ignore the rules if they get in the way" statement (I don't have a copy of Werewolf handy right now, so if I'm wrong about that, please someone correct me..I'm going on [beezelbub help me] memory). And DnD does the same thing, although the goals are more vividly written as Gamist.

The game Shards of the Stone (Fuzion rules) has a huge amount of back-story and setting details and states explicitly that the goal in playing it is to create epic fantasy stories. I'm not very familiar with the Fuzion rules, but it seems like they don't have a lot of tools that actually support this Narrativist statement.

But I'm dragging things too far off topic, I think.

If I'm playing in the classic DnD style, I want the GM to have the power to bend the rules. I certainly don't want that power myself. The fun of that game and that style of play is to experience things, figure them out, defeat foes, and find cool stuff that you can't identify. The fun of that experience is magnified by having one person who Knows All--even if he's making half of it up. Don't ask, don't tell.

But if I'm going to play The Questing Beast, I don't want the GM to do that at all. I want him to be sympathetic to what I'm trying to accomplish with my story. I want him to be a fair arbiter with a sense of drama and playfullness. I want him to have plenty of cool stuff to pull out of his hat on a whim, while being perfectly content to sit on all that cool stuff if bringing it out would interfere with my storytelling.

If I'm going to play Sorcerer it seems like I'd want a GM with a great sense of style, pacing, and a sense of where the "edge" is. I'd want him to keep a hawk's eye on me so that if I'm shying away from that edge, he can give me a hard shove right over it.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: lumpley on January 20, 2002, 04:58:48 PM
I said,
Quote
It's all about credibility. The rules of a game are (almost exclusively) about whose word you have to take for what.
Erithromycin (Drew?) said:
Quote

No, I dispute that. I say the rules of a game are about how things work. Allowing the GM to ignore them is a flaw in the structure of how the game is played by the players, not how the game works on the character. They aren't the same thing.

How what things work?  In-game events?

"I walk across the frozen pond."
"Okay, roll DEX ... nope, sorry, you slip and slide."

Is that what you're talking about?

Compare:
"I walk across the frozen pond."
"Nope, sorry, you slip and slide."
"The hell you say."

Agreeing to abide by the mechanics doesn't mean that you're agreeing to abide by the physics of the game world (an absurdity all around).  It means you're agreeing to not argue with the GM.  In return, the GM agrees to rule in favor of your character some fraction of the time (defined, in my example, by how specifics of the mechanics work with your DEX rating.)

There is no 'how things work' in the game world.  There's people sitting around a table, talking.

--

That said, I think that having rules that the GM doesn't have to follow but the other players do is a bad idea (unless, like James playing D&D, that's what you signed on for).  But the solution is to throw out the bad rules, not to make the GM abide by them too.  (I don't actually know if that's what you're suggesting, so if you aren't, take this bit rhetorically.)  Look at games like The World, the Flesh, and the Devil or yes, The Questing Beast.  Why would the GM ever want to or have to or like to fudge those rules?  Why would anybody?

-Vincent


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bankuei on January 20, 2002, 06:12:55 PM
Thanks Ron for breaking off this thread as its own thing...

lumpley said:
Quote
Look at games like The World, the Flesh, and the Devil or yes, The Questing Beast. Why would the GM ever want to or have to or like to fudge those rules? Why would anybody?


Which is sort of my point.  Most games have the,"If you don't like the rule, then dump it" somewhere in them, but the social contract states that the actual application of that rule only occurs for the players when the entire group pushes it or the GM rules it so.  Meanwhile the GM has that rule at his or her disposal at any time.  In effect, the player characters are bound by the "physics" or what have you of the mechanics while none of the gameworld around them is...  

I suppose the actual issue isn't the purpose of rules with determining action, but the rules in specific to the control of metagame power.  In this case, the GM has absolute control of metagame power, director stance with unlimited use of it, while players do not have any metagame power outside of how they spend their points/skills,etc or whatever is granted by the rules.  So perhaps I should restate my question as,"What is the purpose of rules in regards to establishing control of metagame power?"

Chris


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: James V. West on January 20, 2002, 06:39:37 PM
I think the purpose of rules with regards to metagame power is completely woven into the game's overall purpose. Like I said before, a game like DnD relies on near-total GM control to be effective as-written, whereas a game like SOAP clearly does not.

So, if a person has a problem with the fact that the GM seems to be able to do anything while the players have to work within a framework of rules, they might be playing the wrong game. Or, perhaps they would benefit in altering the rules in such a way that it will change the experience for all involved, which would require some serious revisions in the contract. I'd opt for just choosing a different game.

This also seems to point to the idea that the term "GM" has a million facets. Traditionally, GM is god. His word is law. But that's not true in all games. Sorcerer talks about a shared vision, and the GM of such a game would have to share some power. I refrained from using the term Game Master in The Questing Beast because the person running that game is clearly not the master of it. He's the Guide.

Doesn't the whole idea of GM-as-dictator stem from the very roots of rpgs as we know them? That's how DnD did it from the start, so there's an unconscious habit of following suit in many games.

(oh yeah, and thanks for tolerating my many gross typos in these posts ;-))


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: erithromycin on January 21, 2002, 01:27:56 PM
Quote from: lumpley

I said,
Quote
It's all about credibility. The rules of a game are (almost exclusively) about whose word you have to take for what.
Erithromycin (Drew?) said:
Quote

No, I dispute that. I say the rules of a game are about how things work. Allowing the GM to ignore them is a flaw in the structure of how the game is played by the players, not how the game works on the character. They aren't the same thing.

How what things work?  In-game events?


By the way, yeah, hi, drew. Left it out my last few posts. Oops. Yes. In game events. It might just be the odd place I don't know how to express through GNS that I exist within as regards it. I treat my gameworld as a simulation, I think, or at least um, dammit, terminology fails me. Consistent, that's the one. I like it to be consistent.

Quote

"I walk across the frozen pond."
"Okay, roll DEX ... nope, sorry, you slip and slide."

Is that what you're talking about?


Um, no and yes. If it makes sense for them to slip, they do. Or if the metagame means that's the kind of thing that should be tested for, they do. Rules can only be applied to characters through the other levels, really. Um, I'm confusing myself a little here, but what I think I'm saying is that the way you work the rules is defined by metagame issues. If the game is the kind where crossing the pond, rolling dex, and failing causes you to fall, then you do.

Quote

Compare:
"I walk across the frozen pond."
"Nope, sorry, you slip and slide."
"The hell you say."


That's bad playing and GMing, I think. Um,

"I walk across the frozen pond slowly, looking for patches that are rough, or snow covered to provide some traction."
"You slip a little, and come close to falling on a couple of occasions. You find yourself making good time/taking longer than you expected. You reach the other side/do you want to go faster?"

Gah. I'll leave that alone. Um, social contract. In this case, in a narrative system, unless the metagame and the [ohgod] metametagame allow it, either the GM has the power to do that within the 'rules' or within the group.

Quote

Agreeing to abide by the mechanics doesn't mean that you're agreeing to abide by the physics of the game world (an absurdity all around).


It does if that's the way the mechanics work. Your character exists within the game world, and should be constrained by them, because otherwise you're going to be fudging stuff left right and center. Is there a term in GNS or the like for, um, completeness or somesuch? Ron?

Quote

It means you're agreeing to not argue with the GM.  In return, the GM agrees to rule in favor of your character some fraction of the time (defined, in my example, by how specifics of the mechanics work with your DEX rating.)


No, that's group dynamic [metametagame?] and social contract stuff. Which is, I think, a kind of rules.

Quote

There is no 'how things work' in the game world.


But isn't that what mechanics are?

Quote

There's people sitting around a table, talking.


But isn't that what roleplaying is?

I don't think I'm explaining this clearly enough, which is my fault. If this doesn't help, do tell me.

Quote

That said, I think that having rules that the GM doesn't have to follow but the other players do is a bad idea (unless, like James playing D&D, that's what you signed on for).  But the solution is to throw out the bad rules, not to make the GM abide by them too.  (I don't actually know if that's what you're suggesting, so if you aren't, take this bit rhetorically.)


I think what I'm saying is that a game should legislate [literally, by making rules] for the way its creator [either ultimately, or at the GM coalface] wishes it to be played. Look at kreigspeigel. It's the game it is because of how you play it. Oh. In case you didn't know, and sorry if this is insulting, Kreigspeigel is how the Prussian [or possibly early German, I forget] Army used to train officers. It's played on three chess boards, with two sets of pieces. There's only black and white on the centre one, and the only person who sees that is the adjudicator. Each player only has his full set of pieces on the table in front of him, and must play against an invisible opponent, with the adjudicator to tell him when moves are impossible, illegal, or result in the capture or loss of pieces. I think there are variants where you don't even get to know if you took a piece, you only see your own disappearing. It's a little goofy, but it seemed to work for them.


Quote

Look at games like The World, the Flesh, and the Devil or yes, The Questing Beast.  Why would the GM ever want to or have to or like to fudge those rules?  Why would anybody?


I think a lot of fudging actually comes from attempts to meet narrative goals. I know that's why I tend to do it, and I'm sick of it. It all really depends on what kind of game you want to play, and how you want to play it. So, um, that's what I think.

drew


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 21, 2002, 01:41:58 PM
Hey,

This is only a little tiny post about one thing, rather than a summary or response to all the issues at hand, but I think Vincent's point about fudging is being misread a little.

His reference to (say) The Questing Beast is not that "it allows fudging." He is saying, rather, that fudging has no place in tjat game. I say the same about Sorcerer - you can look up and down and never find a word about "if you don't like the rule, ignore it." (I do qualify my alleged expertise re: GMing at one point, but that's it.)

My point is that games with overtly Narrativist-facilitating rules tend not to encourage fudging. The dice are raw meat, or the cameraman, if you will, to be acted upon in terms of getting the events established. (This is related to Fortune-in-the-middle.) To ignore them is nonsensical; it's like making a key scene in a movie by turning off the camera. It's also why dice are not used to help resolve all and sundry actions, just conflicts that interest us.

Well, I'm not sure if Vincent's post was even being mis-read in the way I think it was, so this might have been an entirely unjustified little interjection. But on the off-chance, here it is.

Best,
Ron


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: erithromycin on January 21, 2002, 03:00:14 PM
I think, Ron, that your point is a valid one. I wasn't clear. What I meant to say is that most fudging comes from frustrated narrativists in non-narrative systems, IME. In narrative games, the point is to let the dice tell the story. I think it's a philosophical thing. Anyway, there you go. You still haven't answered my 'Completeness' query though, oh GNS guru...

drew

[edited to correct my damn spelling, and to put my real name in.]


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: lumpley on January 21, 2002, 04:03:08 PM
Well, Drew, either you're not explaining yourself well, or you're explaining yourself well enough and I disagree with you.  It's hard for me to tell.

I said
Quote
It means you're agreeing to not argue with the GM. In return, the GM agrees to rule in favor of your character some fraction of the time (defined, in my example, by how specifics of the mechanics work with your DEX rating.)

And you said
Quote
No, that's group dynamic [metametagame?] and social contract stuff. Which is, I think, a kind of rules.


All mechanics are group dynamic and social contract stuff.  There is nothing else to a roleplaying game than group dynamics and social contract stuff.  The game arises entirely out of group dynamics and structured social interaction.

When you roleplay, you have the game text (sometimes), some record keeping texts (sometimes), and social interaction, and that's all.  There's nothing else for the mechanics to work on.  And I think you'd agree that the texts are not where roleplaying happens.

The social contract is overtly about (among others) how often the GM will rule in favor of your character.  The mechanics are covertly about the same thing.  There is nothing else for them to be about.

I hate it when I sound strident, but I guess I don't hate it enough to know better.  I'm sorry.  And I'm totally open to counterexamples.

I think that the kind of simulation you're talking about still simply must be built out of and on top of group consensus.  Roleplaying can never be like kreigspeigel (I didn't know, thanks for explaining or I'd've been totally lost, I'm not insulted a bit).  In roleplaying there isn't a board with pieces, and even in the few cases where there is, they don't tell but a fraction of the whole story.  There's not a concrete reality being described, which has physics or even rules like chess's; when something happens to a character, or a character acts on something else, the only place it happens is in the imaginations of the gamers.  

You want the imagined events to be as similar as possible -- this is part of what I mean by consensus -- and those sorts of physics-esque mechanics can help get you there (at some expense, as I've said).  But that's all they can do, that's all they are.

So (to try to make this at least a teeny bit relevant to your concern, which is GMs fudging) why do you want the GM to follow the same rules as the players?  For better Sim?  Nice, go to, probably it'll work.  I even think that you're probably right that GMs who fudge are mostly frustrated Narrativists, since why would a Simulationist fudge a good simulation?

-Vincent


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 21, 2002, 04:12:15 PM
Hi Drew,

C'mon man, you hand me metametagame and then expect me to process some other question?

"Completeness" is one of those awful words - right up there with balance, realism, etc, which doesn't really mean anything across different speakers. A couple of old discussions concern that.

But reading your post, you provide enough clues that I think I can get at your question. If I'm right, you're asking, "Don't rules have to account for whatever happens to the character, or whatever the character does? Don't they anchor him into the imaginary world?"

Well, it depends. If by "rules" you mean what I mean, then yes. But that's me and Vincent, for whom "rules" mean any and all game text that helps the group come to those agreements he was talking about. Task resolution, or DEX rolls, or whatever, are just one subset of that kind of text.

If by "rules" you are referring only to task-resolution and saving throws and similar things, then no, I'm afraid that "completeness," in the sense that such "rules" need to keep us secure in the knowledge that they "cover everything," means very little to me.

In practice, given the style of play I favor, I've found that "FBI agent" as a Sorcerer Cover provides a better coverage for playing such a character's abilities, then does the carefully pruned and point-cost-counted constellation of agent skills provided in (say) Agent X or GURPS Black Ops. In other words, there's completeness on paper, which is basically a description of the contingencies your character can deal with, and completeness in play, which is basically the group's competence to make decisions about what he can do, as they arise.

I shall go on to state that the Cover solution of game design (based on Over the Edge, and to a lesser extent on very old Champions, pre-4th edition) is also more reliable in play, toward reaching agreements and mutual enjoyment, than "GM says" as an ongoing rubric. Again, with the qualifier that we are talking about a particular style of play.

Best,
Ron


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: lumpley on January 21, 2002, 06:04:17 PM
In the heat of the moment I can be a real jerk.

Hi, Drew.  Pleased to meet you.  I'm Vincent.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: contracycle on January 22, 2002, 02:20:50 AM
I don;t think Sim-GM fudging occurs because the GM is a furstrated Narrativist - it occurs because the GM is a frustrated Simmer.  No mechanical system can accurately Sim the real, material world; not even a computerised model coulod do it even theoretically.  We all know the rules ar5e abstractions, and sometimes we are obliged to sacrifice the abstraction for the sim.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: erithromycin on January 22, 2002, 04:41:15 AM
Quote from: lumpley

All mechanics are group dynamic and social contract stuff.  There is nothing else to a roleplaying game than group dynamics and social contract stuff.  The game arises entirely out of group dynamics and structured social interaction.


What gives them shape is the game itself though, isn't it? That and the expectations of the players and stuff.

Quote

When you roleplay, you have the game text (sometimes), some record keeping texts (sometimes), and social interaction, and that's all.  There's nothing else for the mechanics to work on.  And I think you'd agree that the texts are not where roleplaying happens.


I suppose what I'm getting at is that I picture an 'in-game' where everything works according to the rules. Might be a legacy of how I play and run. Sort of a consensual hallucination thing, maybe. I like to have a Gameworld organised by the GM that Characters run by players live in, and interact with. That's where my whole levels thing came from. So, I think what we're really getting into is a difference in philosophies as to how games work.

Quote

The social contract is overtly about (among others) how often the GM will rule in favor of your character.  The mechanics are covertly about the same thing.  There is nothing else for them to be about.


Without wanting to be a GNS pointy finger guy, you're a Narrativist, aren't you? With Gamist tendencies, or the other way round. See, I always thought the social contract was about ensuring that everyone had fun, and that the rules were adhered to, and if one negatively affected the other changing things until it worked.

Quote

I hate it when I sound strident, but I guess I don't hate it enough to know better.  I'm sorry.  And I'm totally open to counterexamples.


I think I've addressed that, but we'll see.

Quote

I think that the kind of simulation you're talking about still simply must be built out of and on top of group consensus.  Roleplaying can never be like kreigspeigel (I didn't know, thanks for explaining or I'd've been totally lost, I'm not insulted a bit).  In roleplaying there isn't a board with pieces, and even in the few cases where there is, they don't tell but a fraction of the whole story.  There's not a concrete reality being described, which has physics or even rules like chess's; when something happens to a character, or a character acts on something else, the only place it happens is in the imaginations of the gamers.  


I'm not arguing that it's concrete, what I'm saying is that it's shared. Perhaps this all stems from what I'm doing at the moment, which is trying to turn a game with Philip K. Dick style precogs into a reality. I'll stick it in indie game design when I'm done, but I'm a fan of whole-process gaming. I want everything to work towards the goals of a game, from mechanic to layout to names for things.

Quote

You want the imagined events to be as similar as possible -- this is part of what I mean by consensus -- and those sorts of physics-esque mechanics can help get you there (at some expense, as I've said).  But that's all they can do, that's all they are.


Yeah, I know. Hang on. Am I being consistent now? I don't know.

Quote

So (to try to make this at least a teeny bit relevant to your concern, which is GMs fudging) why do you want the GM to follow the same rules as the players?  For better Sim?  Nice, go to, probably it'll work.  I even think that you're probably right that GMs who fudge are mostly frustrated Narrativists, since why would a Simulationist fudge a good simulation?


I think I want the GM to follow the same rules to enhance the social contract, and because, I think, it implies that the game is a poor tool. If you have to fudge the game to get it to work, it hasn't been designed for the way you wish to GM, and I'm of the opinion that a good game should account for it. I think that we're starting to see it with the move towards 'bonuses' for 'good-roleplaying', but I'd rather see that mechanistic reward replaced with a 'metagame' device that allowed greater player control when it deserved rewarding.

Then again, I hate using systems, though that's a LARP thing.

Oh, and sorry ron. What I meant by metametagame was the goals of the metagame, in other words, what the part of the game that deals with how the game works intends to achieve. In some cases, it's greater player control, in others it's accuracy, or adhering to the tropes of adventure cinema/greek myth/monkey boxing. My bad.

Oh, and hiya vincent.

drew


Title: meta-meta-metagame
Post by: joshua neff on January 22, 2002, 07:26:01 AM
Ron & I were talking last night & I came to the conclusion that "metagame" is the wrong term. It refers to rules "outside of the game", but what it really refers to are rules that apply "outside of the game world". All of the rules of an RPG are part of (& inside of) the game. There tends to be a thought that "inside the game world" & "outside the game world" are two separate places, & so rules work & apply differently (or rules that apply to "outside the game world" aren't really rules), but I don't think they do. Inside, outside, backside, jamside, it doesn't matter. Whether the rules apply to the GM, the non-GM players, the characters, some of the above, or all of the above, it doesn't matter. It's all rules.

(This conclusion came about while talking about game balance & the idea that all characters had to have the same number of starting points, when I think it's much more important for player contribution to be balanced than for the player-character skeleton. GURPS, for example, has systems for making sure all PCs are the same starting "level" by having them built with the same number of posts. Not being all that familiar with the game, does it also have mechanics to ensure that each player has equal contribution to the game? Or is that left to pure social contract between the players?)


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: lumpley on January 22, 2002, 09:39:21 AM
At the risk of pulling myself into every damn argument in the book, I'm a GDS Selfish-Immersion Simulationist and a GNS Narrativist.  Plus I play banned-word styles like diceless and rules-light, and jargon-word styles like GM-distributed.

Quote
I suppose what I'm getting at is that I picture an 'in-game' where everything works according to the rules... Sort of a consensual hallucination thing, maybe. I like to have a Gameworld organised by the GM that Characters run by players live in, and interact with.

Lovely.  I've got no problem with that a-tall.  I just think you'll get there by focusing on the consensual part, not by focusing on the according to the rules part.  Because whatever happens in 'according to the rules' has to go through 'consensual' to get into the game world.

-Vincent


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Bankuei on January 22, 2002, 09:49:24 AM
Josh, I definitely see your point in the use of "metagame", what would be a good term to use meaning rules that take place outside the gameworld but still within the game rules?

Chris


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: joshua neff on January 22, 2002, 09:54:50 AM
Chris--

Does there need to be one? What's the difference between rules that apply to the characters & rules that apply to the players? Rules that apply to the players (like, say, the usage of story points) have impact on the characters. Rules that apply to the characters have impact on the players. So I'm not sure why there needs to be a distinction.


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Paul Czege on January 22, 2002, 10:13:31 AM
I came to the conclusion that "metagame" is the wrong term. It refers to rules "outside of the game", but what it really refers to are rules that apply "outside of the game world".

Whooah! Shlooow down! You just destabilized some long-standing RPG terminology.

And with Ron negotiating his IICE/IIEC terminology in another thread, my reality is feeling disorientingly soft.

Y'see, I think there really is meta-game. Ten years ago, when I rolled into an AD&D game with a group of guys I barely knew and managed my character into being one of the two most significant in the campaign in under two game sessions, that was meta-game. It was intangible in the context of the game rules. I did it by being charming, by the way I interacted with the other players and with the GM, and by the aggregate of choices I made for my character. I did it through personal mojo.

Where the confusion arises is with games that implement "metagame mechanics" to regulate player mojo metagame, to formalize and distribute character significance in ways that minimize my ability to exploit being a nice looking guy into game-related significance for my character.

And so "metagame mechanics" are equivalent to metagame mojo and the term is saved for continued use! "Metagame" isn't "rules outside the game" or "rules outside the game world," but influence external to the character.

Whaddya think?

Paul


Title: Purpose of rules
Post by: Skippy on January 22, 2002, 03:03:47 PM
Patience, please for this Johnny-come-lately to the discussion but...

IMO, it is hubris for a game designer to think he has produced a game that is inviolate, or tamper-proof.  Now, there are games that have very well designed systems, such that the method of tampering is merely "personalization", but it is still going to be monkeyed around.  Hell, I can't play a game without changing things here and there, or trying something new.  I tend to stick to the core mechanics, but nothing is sacred.

Why?  Because it's my game, damnit.  Once I pay for the game, by God it's mine.  If I want to muck it up, I will.  Whether I shell out ten bucks or two hundred, if I want to change things, I do.  Even straight-out board or card games get modified.  How many variations of poker, or rummy, or chess have been created?  House rules for Axis and Allies?

That being said, another comment essentially said that people like me are frustrated narrativists (those who fudge systems, rules, etc.)  To tell you the truth, I don't know how to classify myself anymore, given the recent discussion on the GNS threads.  Since I, as a GM, consider myself primarily responsible for story, with limited metagame power provided to players, I am probably a sim-explorer of story/character/setting, occasional situational override, with a half-twist of narrativism, Jupiter in the seventh house, and a side of fries.  I like 'em french-fried pertaters, mmm-hmm.  

However, for years, I GM'd Rolemaster with tweak upon tweak and folders full of customized charts, tables, spell lists, skills, blah blah blah.  My play style was not closet narrativist, nor was it frustrated sim.  I just liked to customize things to suit my world, my desires, and the way I felt it should be.  I think there's a tendency to classify behavior according to the model that simply doesn't have any place there.  And, in my humble humble opinion, a GM or player who wants a level of customization that isn't readily available within his game system, but who still enjoys playing that system for the other reasons, is not suffering from GNS-itis.

I am, nowadays, in favor of systems that provide less detail, and rely more upon the good judgement of the players to agree upon what is important in game play.  Ron is spot-on for me, in that "FBI agent" is much more meaningful than a list of skills describing those talents.

I also agree with the majority of Lumpley's statements regarding the social contract and "da rulz."  Some of this may be unspoken with a familiar group, but in the broadest sense, the social contract encompasses everything, from an understanding that we won't throw beer bottles at each other, to the fact that some die rolls may be more, um, fluid than others.  

However, I do understand that some players (including GM's) tend to prefer mechanics that do not cross over into the Dark Side too often.  By that I mean the nebulous areas outside of the explicit rules-set that players invariably enter, no matter how well-designed the game.   I don't think this has anything to do with GNS, or comfort-levels, or security, or even trust.  It is just a preference, and nothing wrong with it.  I tend to be more seat-of-the-pants, not because of GNS, or laziness (maybe a little), or lack of prep; I prefer it, because I find that my players prefer to follow tangents, and discover new elements of story, or do things that are more fun than I could have planned.  I am, however, still the GM, and I do most of the cheating.  I am also the primary author, with little shared authorship, which pretty much rules out Nar.

Anyhoo, just wanted to chime in from the corner.  I'll put my pointed hat back on, now.

Skippy