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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Walt Freitag on June 03, 2003, 01:43:07 PM



Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Walt Freitag on June 03, 2003, 01:43:07 PM
Split from the Beeg Horseshoe Revisited thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6663&start=60):

This topic appeared unresolved but it's tangled among other topics in the original thread. This is an attempted rescue.

Quote from: I
I agree that "fidelity to a set of rules" doesn't seem to have much meaning, yet if we're talking about the fidelity associated with exploration of system, it's where we end up... The problem is what sort of fidelity goes along with "exploration of system."

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I've never understood System as one of the five elements. If system is the means by which we determine what happens in-game, then it's all of play, and encompasses the other elements. So if the system says that color shall be thus and such, and the GM is responsible for seeing that it occurs, color is part of the system.

OTOH, I can see exploration of Mechanics, which is what I assumed was what Ron meant before he rightly defined System in it's larger role.

Ron can you clarify once again what you mean by Exploration of System?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Rolling to hit is a great example of Exploration of System. We have turned to some methodology in order to imagine what is happening in the game world. This methodology necessarily includes all the formal mechanics, but "formal" is often locally defined. In the case of rolling to hit, that local definition just means, "follow the written rule." Most of the time, I think, we can stick with this simple understanding.

However, that simple understanding isn't sufficient. For instance, a rule or method might be in the book, but the group ignores it (e.g. weapon's Speed Factor or whatever the hell it was called in my old AD&D books). That omission is part of System for that group. Similarly, just deciding that "he hits," without rolling or using other formal indicators, is System too, insofar as someone is designated as The Buck-Stopper (the guy who decides).

To say that System therefore applies to all moments of play is perfectly correct. I should also say that System can be highly, highly prioritized, and that's often the case when it's formalized through text, and when, for that group, that text's integrity is a big reason for why they're using it. As you know, GURPS included this idea as a big part of its marketing strategy back in the 80s, and JAGS, EABA, and Pocket Universe all provide (in my view) an improved and even more committed version of this strategy.

Does that help?

Quote from: I
...Does that mean all consensual use of System is exploration of System?

Gah. Wouldn't that make any functional play in any system Simulationist? In The Pool, I might know the perfect Premise-addressing thing to narrate, but the die roll says I don't get to narrate; using ( = exploring?) the system apparently has priority.

Quote from: John Kim
This doesn't seem right to me. "Exploration" to me implies learning. Thus, for example, if a D&D group goes through a dungeon module, they are exploring setting. However, if after they complete the module, they play it again, there is much less exploration going on. If they keep playing through that module twelve more times, there is really no exploration left.

Now, I can see some games being exploration of system, like say Rolemaster or Champions. Through play, you learn nuances of the complex system which you didn't before. However, I don't think that simply using the system constitutes exploration. For example, a hit roll in Call of Cthulhu is very cut and dried. After your first game (at most) of CoC, there is no longer any exploration of system in rolling for your attack.

Quote from: Ron
I'm using the definition of Exploration from my essay. This seems to have tripped you up a few times already in discussion, John. It just means imagining stuff in the process of role-playing.

Quote from: Jason (cruciel)
Funny thing about Exploration of System...I've got the same confusion over Situation (isn't all roleplaying about what happens?) So, to answer my own question, and maybe yours:

I think what I've forgotten is that all Exploration elements are present in play, saying you are prioritizing System doesn't mean it's your singular focus (like GNS would be), but instead it is saying that the player is committing more attention to how it influences the events in the shared imaginary space. For example, prioritizing Explore:System may be nothing more complicated than devoting more thought to how the movement rules work (System) than what the character looks like when running (Color).

Quote from: Mike
Except that by the larger definition, how you determine Color is via system. How you determine Situation is via system. How you determine setting is via system. I mean, if the system is that the GM is arbiter of the setting as he ususally is, then isn't the GM creating a setting detail like a palace just a use of system?

Better put, give me an example of using the system that's not also one of the other four. I mean if rolling to hit is a great example of exploring system, isn't that just altering situation as well? Or do we mean simply resolution systems, and not system overall?

If the group ignores a rule, haven't they just drifted to a new rule that says that this situation isn't covered by resolution mechanics? That it's covered by GM fiat, or something like that? Isn't that system?

I'm not getting it, Ron.

Quote from: Ron
The way I see it, if you have Character, Situation, Setting, and Color, then nothing happens. That's right, even if you have Situation. It's all frozen without System.

Quote from: Mike
Right. So either you explore System, or nothing happens. Which means that you are always exploring system in play. How can one prioritize system, if it's always already in use?

Quote from: Ron
"Use" and "prioritize" aren't the same things. I'm kind of puzzled, man. All of the five elements are "always in use." Prioritizing them is a matter of which causes which, or which receive more energy and attention than the others - not a matter of which get used at all and which don't.

I was under the impression that the Sim essay was pretty clear about that.

Quote from: Ralph (Valamir)
Ron I think the problem Mike is having is that this discussion seems to have inflated system into something that is no longer 1 of the 5, but rather above the remaining 4.

i.e. Instead of

[Social Context [Exploration of the 5 [GNS]]]

it now appears to be:

[Social Context [System [Exploration of the 4 [GNS]]]

Quote from: John Laviolette (talysman)
I'm betting Ron would say the same thing about any of the elements of Exploration... if you have Setting, System, Situation and Color, but no Character, you have no play.

Quote from: Mike
Ron, that's a semantic argument. Forget "Use". Insert your term. How does one prioritize system or give it more energy? If it's always given attention, then how can it have less attention given to it? Try examples. I really can't imagine what you're talking about if it's not resolution systems or mechanics.

For example, do you mean to say that if I am the GM, and am describing the setting, that I'm prioritizing setting then?

Ralph, you are correct that I have a problem with that discussion, and what it entails, but it's based on this current problem in understanding.

Quote from: Ron
John wrote,
Quote
I'm betting Ron would say the same thing about any of the elements of Exploration... if you have Setting, System, Situation and Color, but no Character, you have no play.

And he'd win that bet.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: C. Edwards on June 03, 2003, 02:21:04 PM
As Ralph has said, the Challenge/Fidelity model seems to put System before the other 4 elements of Exploration. The degree to which a System solidifies (beyond internal consistency) and promotes the versimilitude of the other 4 elements in play corresponds to its level of Fidelity as perceived by a player.

This seems fitting to me, but I'm sure there are factors I'm not taking into account. That and a good deal of blood may have been shed in placing System among the other 4 elements in GNS and I'm not aware of the specifics of how it got there.

-Chris


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Walt Freitag on June 03, 2003, 09:00:33 PM
It's the Lumpley Principle that "inflates" (to use Ralph's term) System to be above the other four elements.

System itself can come under negotiation during play, but that's either unusual or dysfunctional. (And whatever determines credibility in such negotiations, it can't be the part of the system that is being negotiated.)

How can system be both the means for allocating credibility to assertions about a shared imaginative space, and an element of the space being imagined?

- Walt


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: clehrich on June 03, 2003, 09:11:31 PM
Quote
How can system be both the means for allocating credibility to assertions about a shared imaginative space, and an element of the space being imagined?

Seems to me the test-question here is whether a legitimate phrase can be found to fit the first part for any of Setting, Color, Character, and Situation, while still keeping the second part.  That is:
    How can Setting be both XXX and an element of the space being imagined?  (etc.)[/list:u]If every piece is necessarily both, then we simply have to set aside this hierarchical model.  If what Walt has proposed only fits System, then it is indeed at a distinct and discrete level.

    Unfortunately, to me all this Fidelity stuff seems to me primarily fidelity
to a conception of in-game reality that I still call Baseline, so I'm not really the person to answer the question directly.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: ADGBoss on June 04, 2003, 03:31:37 AM
Ok I am chiming in because I have a lot to say about why people play but reading this thread I may (or may not we shall see) have an answer.

It seems very chicken or the egg but strangely more like Chicken or the Chicken.

I think the key here is Exploration of... is DIFFERENT then Choosing.

During Social contract you CHOOSE the System to Explore and indeed how your going to tweak or change it, though this may also happen later on due to the experience of Exploration.

Once In-Game, System becomes one of the Five elements and can be prioritized as such.  Though I would say System is only prioritized in two circumstances:

1) The GM and/or Players are new to the System and want to focus on its nuances
2) The System or Meta-System has changed either internally (GM and or players making changes to Mechanics) or Externally( author(s) making changes via erratta or new essays / products)

One way to think about it is like this:
"Say Clark, lets go up the St Lawerance river."
"Ok Lewis, how do we want to do that? By land or by boat?"
"By boat."

System has been chosen but not explored ie They decide to go by boat but no nuance of the boat trip has been Explored yet.

as always just my 2 Lunars


Sean


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 04, 2003, 06:27:37 AM
Hello,

Well, the Gamism essay should be appearing at the Forge today or soon, and it contains a little section on this stuff.

I keep saying, over and over, that the five elements are not a five-headed hydra, and no one seems to be listening. They have distinct causal elements, and I now realize that I need to explain that the causality among them functions at two levels.

The first, primary level is the creative one among the real people. Which element(s) float the people's boat? Hell, if we're talking about Vampire 1st edition, I can tell you right now that it's the Bradstreet illo of the raging chick (Chapter 4, if I recall correctly) that does it for me - pure Color. Could be any of them, or any in combination.

The secondary level is the imagined, in-game-world one - the created, rather than the creators. At this level, it goes like this:

Characters exist in a Setting (or, if you will, the Setting contains Characters) - the interaction between these two things creates Situation. System introduces the time axis. Meanwhile, Color affects and glues together all of the above.

Think about it this way: you have to end up with the second level, period. It doesn't matter how the real people get to it, though - start with any emphasis of one or more of the elements in terms of most interest (recognizing that all five have to be there), and you can get to that second level with no problem through character creation and actual play.

I have no idea whether the above stuff actually helps anyone understand anything. But it seems to me that weird little sidelines and assumptions keep creeping into the discussion, especially when "prioritize" gets used in a sense which seems more like its use with GNS specifically, so I thought I'd share.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Wormwood on June 04, 2003, 07:02:47 AM
It seems reasonable and correct to claim that all exploration is an exploration of system. Of course the same can be said for exploration of setting. There is a definite lack of litmus test to distinguish the two. In both cases they are global sets of constraints, they can be violated or not. But the choice to say that a given constraint is present in system or setting, seems hollow. What is important is play constraints.

Even more broadly the relationship between character and situation seems equivalent, except with a definite leaning towards locality. Then color appears to be the most local of the bunch, changing view to view.

The question of exploration should not simply be confined to a set of catagories like this. Rather there seems to be a definite space of explored contexts. Readilly I can see two axes: locality and exceptionality.

For example, the context of setting, as most people treat it, is highly global (low on the locality axis) and exceptional. System on the other hand tends to be much more standardized, rather than exceptional.

The major reason I see this idea being important, is that system is simply a point on this space, you can easily place the "origin" there and explore both the closer and more distant regions, there's nothing in the space that needs be context other than system. However we can do the same with setting, or any other well known point in the space.

In the interest of hypo-test: this suggestion does imply that there should be a recognizable point at high locality, but high stanrdization. I'd strongly place experience in this area. Individuals routinuely explore this portion of context space when they become concerned about their actual experience  (which is as local and as standard as it is reasonable to find) matching the game elements. So the real question is, do people explore the conext of their own experience in RPGs? And if so do they do this differently, or at least with discernably different priorities than other well known contexts?

Based on my observations, I would have to say yes. But I wouldn't be posting here if I didn't want to hear alternative views on the matter.

    -Mendel S.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 04, 2003, 07:08:21 AM
Hi Mendel,

Parse, please.

Are you replying to some aspect of my post, or to some element of the summarized points Walt provided? I can't see how your point applies at all, so I figure I'm missing how it relates to the framework or points in action.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Wormwood on June 04, 2003, 07:19:51 AM
Ron,

Well, my original intent was to illustrate that considering system to be pre-eminent was both valid and non-unique.

I supose what ended up meaning is that while on one hand you can put key points at the more pupulated portions of the exploration space. On the other hand you can put emphasis on one point in the space. But ultimately the space is still the same.

Towards the end I realized I was suggesting something that would require some degree of test, and so attempted to place an implication of this theory that is distinct from the existing ones, in order to provide a reasonable way for people to claim the theory is either accurate or hogwash.

I apologize if it seems out of place, but I was merely intending to bring up an alternate perspective on matter which the majority of posters had already mentioned.

    -Mendel S.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Valamir on June 04, 2003, 08:37:53 AM
Quote
Characters exist in a Setting (or, if you will, the Setting contains Characters) - the interaction between these two things creates Situation. System introduces the time axis. Meanwhile, Color affects and glues together all of the above.


This is the part that's causing the hiccups I think.

Ok, I understand the Characters + Setting = Situation idea, I don't think I'm seeing it as being as profound as you do, so you might want to elaborate on this more.  It seems pretty mundane to say that a situation is people in a place doing stuff.

But the "System introduces the time axis"...means nothing to me.  I'm not comprehending what that means at all.  If we're going to adapt, and informally it looks like we have, the Lumply Principal as the description of what system is...I don't see where "time axis" is involved at all.

Seems to me that System ala Lumply is all of the various ways and means that: characters get established and recognized, setting gets established and recognized, color gets established and recognized and situation gets established recognized and resolved.  It thus seems to me to be operating on a level that encompasses the other 4 in the same way as the other 4 encompasses GNS.

I kind of see this.

System ---> Character + Setting + Color = Situation ---> resolution (according to GNS decision priorities).

Does that make sense, or am I missing some key concept?


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 04, 2003, 08:43:08 AM
So it seems to me that you're saying that "prioritization" only occurs in the text, but that all play is "balanced" between all these because the all occur constantly?

If so, what does it matter what the text prioritizes? If not, what does "prioritize" mean in this context (or substitute any term that speaks to relative importance)?

Mike


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 04, 2003, 08:45:28 AM
Hi Ralph,

What's being missed is that we have to be discussing real play. A character sheet is not an Explored Character. A notebook full of pages or a shelf full of sourcebooks is not Explored Setting. The five elements exist only as shared, imagined constructs in the communicative space among people.

Hence, System is what provides motion and time to the imaginative construct. Without it, as I said in the quoted passage above, the other four elements are "frozen" in that imagined space.

Perhaps I should clarify my position on the entire issue still further. Anyone is free to consider any of the five elements to "encompass" the others. I can make a case for doing so for any one of them, without strain. I am not saying you can't privilege System the way you and Mike are doing; I'm saying, "So what?" and shrugging, as the same point applies to each of the others.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Valamir on June 04, 2003, 08:58:27 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Ralph,

What's being missed is that we have to be discussing real play.


granted.  It makes a big difference and is sometimes difficult to grasp, but I think we're up on that part.

Quote
I am not saying you can't privilege System the way you and Mike are doing; I'm saying, "So what?" and shrugging, as the same point applies to each of the others.


Ok...well, I hate to throw down the glove, but...show me.

I'm unable to perform the mental gymnastics required to say that setting, situation and system are all contained within Character.  All contained with system makes sense to me.  All contained within one of the others...doesn't.  If you can make the case for it without strain, please do so.

In fact, given your equation of Character + Setting = Situation; I don't think its logically possible for that to occur.  I'm a little rusty on my sets math, but I'm reasonably certain that if setting and situation are both parts of the set Character, that you can't add Character + Setting  to get situation.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Walt Freitag on June 04, 2003, 09:59:34 AM
Play provides motion and time. System alone won't do it. Nothing happens until I pick up the die and roll it (or take the conch and narrate, or whatever).

Ron, aren't you using "system" as one-of-the-five-elements to mean "system put into effect by players," or simply "play"? If so, then from then on it's tautology. Of course play is a necessary element of play. Of course play encompasses, and is encompassed by, all the other elements of play.

But you're right about not needing to inflate system-meaning-play above the other elements. We don't even have to elevate play itself. None of the other elements are meaningful without play. But that's true of all the elements relative to each other too; they're all required, as you've been saying.

play = players x system
play creates, and introduces change to,
situation = characters x setting
color connects all
x = "acting within a"

All seven elements are required for any of them to be fully realized. ("Players" in this concept means "people who are playing right now," not the more common usage meaning "people who have been known to play from time to time.")

Four (color, situation, characters, setting) are imagined (explored) elements. Four (color, play, players, and system) are real. Color exists in both the real and the imagined; I don't imagine the picture in the book, but the picture in the book contributes to my imagining the color of the imagined characters, situation, and setting. Any or all of the seven can be creative draws on the primary level.

Perhaps only the four imagined elements are being explored, or perhaps all seven are being explored. But I see no basis for picking out system as an explored element without also including players and play.

- Walt


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 04, 2003, 10:31:48 AM
Oh, man ...

OK, Ralph, let's see. Bear in mind that these are possible approaches that you or I don't necessarily cotton to - my only claim is that they're possible, and that I've met people who swear by them.

1. Setting "makes" character; characters and situations are imagined as aspects of setting or they don't work. System and Color proceed from there, as you have to have components before they can do anything, and according to this outlook, both of these reference Setting in order to "fit."

2. Character - as above, just reverse the setting/character part. This outlook claims that setting only matters insofar as the character's psychology or makeup in some way gets justified. Similarly, System is considered to be "character in action" and that's it.

3. Color is arguably the best grab-factor in the process, and one might logically say that the glue actually provides more structure and context than what it glues together. ("I like green women with big breasts; OK, there's this planet, see, and ...")

4. Situation - well, as people will see in the Gamism essay, Situation is the "central" node of all five elements, imaginatively speaking. It's not hard to see that being extended a bit further into the role of "inclusive" given a preference for play that absolutely demands Situation in your face (e.g. much Gamism).

All this is secondary to my big point, which I hope you didn't miss, which is that it's OK to privilege System as Mike has described. I'm not arguing against doing that.

Walt, that was a real honker. I'm still blinking, so let me mull, K? Anyone who wants to respond to it, please do, because it's easier for me to understand something when it's coming from two or three angles rather than one.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 04, 2003, 11:21:14 AM
Walt, I think that Ron addressed this all by saying that there is the textual emphasis, and then there's the elements in action. Which is play. So I think you're only reiterating what he said.


Ron, the question isn't one of privileging these things. I really don't care about that. People keep saying that's my goal, and it's not.

There has been a taxonomy that people have been using for a while now, that seems nonsensical to me given certain statments. For example, people have said that play of Game X results in more exploration of system than anything else?

Is that statment sensible to make? If so, what does it mean? Can you compare these elements to each other relatively in play. If you can what does it mean? If all the elements are always happening in play, can play be more "about" one than another? Does it form a useful taxonomy for play?

Mike


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: ADGBoss on June 04, 2003, 11:25:02 AM
Walt,

I do not see where Play and system are the same thing. From my perspective one is the Choice or Decision to drive and or the act of driving but the other (system) is the very basic transmission or engine of the drive.  You play a Game. You drive a car.  The analogy is not perfect (10 chicken mcnasties are still digesting and using all of my blood) but I think its clear.

I do agree that Play encompasses all 5 elements, which I think is where I am coming from.  Play is NOT a necassary element of system anymore then the choice to drive across town is a necessary component of the engine, though the car is superfilous if there is no desire to drive (or play as the case may be.)

Thats my take anyway.

Sean


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 04, 2003, 11:45:33 AM
Hi there,

H'm, Mike and Sean have helped me understand Walt's point better, I think, but I think I need a bit more replies to go by.

Back to the central thread-point, Mike wrote,

Quote
There has been a taxonomy that people have been using for a while now, that seems nonsensical to me given certain statments. For example, people have said that play of Game X results in more exploration of system than anything else?

Is that statment sensible to make? If so, what does it mean? Can you compare these elements to each other relatively in play. If you can what does it mean? If all the elements are always happening in play, can play be more "about" one than another? Does it form a useful taxonomy for play?


The issue revolves around the term "more," doesn't it? More of what? When I use the kind of phrasing you're describing, I'm talking about imaginative effort and attention given to each, as well as which of the elements I'll use as a touchpoint in order to evaluate some problematic aspect of play. So, just to pick an example of play ...

The last time I played GURPS, the setting was Cynosure and I was playing an undead necromancer woman. We'd found ourselves in a wild-west dimension, and we'd been transmogrified to be consistent with it, so I found myself playing a witchy squaw armed with a few sticks of dynamite (the nearest equivalents to my character's blast'em fire-spell).

Anyway, all this is just to say that I pulled a classic 3d6 whiff, and blew the crap out of my character when she badly failed a "toss a stick of dynamite" roll. Note that she was using a Throw default, not her Spell skill (which was mighty high), because according to this system, if the character is throwing something, you use the Throw skill, case closed.

Here was my thinking about it at the time. It seemed to me that, given Cynosure as a setting, the characters are "equivalents" in different dimensions, such that the squaw's competence with throwing her dynamite should be the same as the necromancer's competence with hurling her fire-spell back home in Cynosure's magic areas. But it seemed to the GM that GURPS' resolution system was "the bedrock" of play, and that using Champions-style Special Effects logic was very wrong in this new game. A Throw is a Throw, with the numbers for throwing right there in the book, and Magic was over here in this other part of the book, and that's that. See how System overrode Setting?

Fortunately, we didn't have any sort of disagreement about it during play, but I was very dissatisfied, in that something about System's relationship to Setting didn't seem right to me. Bear in mind this wasn't really a deprotagonism issue, as I was OK with the disaster for the character as an event, just uncomfortable with the relative roles of System and Setting as applied by the GM that brought us there.

It doesn't seem problematic to me that playing GURPS requires more attention to System as such than playing, say, Munchkins, or that when in doubt, one turns to System as the arbiter in playing GURPS. And this isn't a Sim issue, either - I could say the same about how playing Otherkind requires more attention to System than, say, Soap does.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: ADGBoss on June 04, 2003, 11:49:10 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

There has been a taxonomy that people have been using for a while now, that seems nonsensical to me given certain statments. For example, people have said that play of Game X results in more exploration of system than anything else?

Is that statment sensible to make? If so, what does it mean? Can you compare these elements to each other relatively in play. If you can what does it mean? If all the elements are always happening in play, can play be more "about" one than another? Does it form a useful taxonomy for play?

Mike


While waiting to see what Ron would say I got to thinking about this and wanted to respond a bit as best I could.  Mind you my understanding of it all is still not anywhere complete as others but here goes.

I think an example might help a bit in all of this.  Anyone who has played RoleMaster I think can agree to a certain extent that exploring the myriad charts and optional rules and nuances of that SYSTEM can be quite consuming within the conext of Play. This is not a bad thing, I love role Master and I feel like I could plug it into many worlds and use many Situations and Characters.  

However, I think that System may be the quickest piece of the puzzle to get a handle on and thus it will shift the empahsis.  The reasons I say this is that once a system is known, one of the other elements may become more prevalent.  

This could change though, with the injection of outside influence or group decision to Alter the system.  Thus since System is altered, once again it finds empahsis.

This could happen with any element though.


Sean


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: John Kim on June 04, 2003, 12:05:06 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
  Hence, System is what provides motion and time to the imaginative construct. Without it, as I said in the quoted passage above, the other four elements are "frozen" in that imagined space.  

OK, it seems to me that people are using "System" at different levels of scope, which is common given the variety of RPG usage.  I realize that you have a particular usage in mind, Ron.  I just want to point out how confusion arises.

I'd like to make some concrete examples of variation in published systems.  In HarnMaster, the setting is predefined by the published system.  In GURPS, it is not.  In Traveller, the system includes rules for generating random star systems and planets.  By a similar token, Universalis (as I understand it) also includes creating setting as part of its published system.  In all these, what is nominally considered "system" varies.  

By a similar token, published systems vary in terms of how much of the character they define, and in how the character is generated.  Some people see character conception as being outside of the system -- i.e. the player conceives of the character, and the system is only there for writing that character up in game terms.  However, other published systems generate character -- for example, random-roll and lifepath systems.  

It seems to me that a clearer definition of what is included in system is needed.  The "time and motion" suggestion seems to not include character creation and world creation as part of system, for example.  

Specifically, using Ron's GURPS example, he saw System as overriding Setting.  Here the setting (Cynosure) is seen as something defined outside the system (GURPS), which the system can thus clash with.  But again, the scope of the system varies.  If he were playing in another systems (say, Theatrix), then what is covered by the system might be different.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 04, 2003, 12:11:09 PM
Hi John,

That's an excellent point. My reading of it suggests to me some support for my point that one cannot automatically consider Setting, Color, Situation, and Character to be contained in a Venn box labeled "System," but rather that the five elements are best understood as having many, many possible relative degrees of emphasis, and left all in the same box. With, perhaps, a tag stuck on it to say, "Emphasize and interrelate to taste" in terms of both play and design.

Am I applying your point correctly, or am I doing any violence to it?

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Jason Lee on June 04, 2003, 12:25:19 PM
John did an exccellent job of bringing up what I think is the problem here.

I see Exloration as a pie chart, values indicating how much focus to give to an element.  Saying you prioritize Char just means the slice of Char is bigger than the other ones, but they are all there.  I'm not convinced anyone disagrees with this (let me know if I'm off base).  But, if System is not a piece of the pie, but instead a magic marker you draw over the pie with - the model doesn't make any sense.

So, I guess I'll just ask the question flat out:

What is meant by "System" in the Exploration context?  Is it synonymous with "rules and/or mechanics used to apportion credibility"? Or something else?


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Walt Freitag on June 04, 2003, 12:45:18 PM
Quote from: Mike
Walt, I think that Ron addressed this all by saying that there is the textual emphasis, and then there's the elements in action. Which is play. So I think you're only reiterating what he said.


Mike, you might be right. I was speaking entirely within the context of play, not at all about textual emphasis.

Quote from: Sean
I do not see where Play and system are the same thing. From my perspective one is the Choice or Decision to drive and or the act of driving but the other (system) is the very basic transmission or engine of the drive. You play a Game. You drive a car. The analogy is not perfect (10 chicken mcnasties are still digesting and using all of my blood) but I think its clear.


That play and system are not the same thing was exactly my point. I'm arguing against Ron's claims that during play, "System introduces the time axis" and "System is what provides motion and time to the imaginative construct." (emphasis in original)

The car doesn't drive itself; the system doesn't do anything (it certainly doesn't provide motion and time to the imaginative construct) until a player acts. Perhaps that goes without saying, as Mike appears to be implying; we can take it for granted that if play is taking place, players must be taking actions. (But then, why can't we also take the system for granted? Or take all the elements for granted, since they must all be present to have play?)

Now, perhaps I'm erring in referring to "players taking actions within a system" as "play." It's certainly a requirement of play, but it probably doesn't represent the totality of play. Maybe it should be given a different name, like "play-action" or "application-of-system" to distinguish it from the totality of play. That avoids the circularity of having play be one of its own elements. But whatever we call it, it's that process, not the system itself (as we normally define it) that creates change in the explored space.

Quote from: Sean
I do agree that Play encompasses all 5 elements, which I think is where I am coming from. Play is NOT a necassary element of system anymore then the choice to drive across town is a necessary component of the engine, though the car is superfilous if there is no desire to drive (or play as the case may be.)


Sure, a system text on the shelf exists whether it is played or not, just as a character can exist as a character sheet or a setting can exist as a sourcebook, but system, like those other elements, is only "fully realized" (as I put it before) through play.

In fact, having thought further about the question, I'm expecting Ron to tell me that "system" as one-of-the-five-elements doesn't mean system as a set of procedures in the abstract, but system as an active process, almost (but not quite) a verb form of the word ("systeming"). In other words, that "system being put into effect by players' actions" is exactly what he meant by "system" all along. There's no doubt that system in that sense can only exist during play.

- Walt


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: John Kim on June 04, 2003, 01:11:41 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
  That's an excellent point. My reading of it suggests to me some support for my point that one cannot automatically consider Setting, Color, Situation, and Character to be contained in a Venn box labeled "System," but rather that the five elements are best understood as having many, many possible relative degrees of emphasis, and left all in the same box. With, perhaps, a tag stuck on it to say, "Emphasize and interrelate to taste" in terms of both play and design.

Am I applying your point correctly, or am I doing any violence to it?

Well, sort of.  I don't think you're getting how use of the word "system" differs.  "system" can refer to what is covered in the text of the rulebook.  This isn't the same thing as "System" in the lumpley principle sense (i.e. how consensus is reached).   Moreover, the scope of system changes drastically in different rulebooks.  For example, Puppetland has a rule which make it illegal for players to talk out-of-character, and has a rule on how long the session can go in real-time.  Both of these are not considered as part of the system in, say, GURPS.  

The Lumpley Principle, I think, refers to "System" to mean "all possible things which could be specified in a rulebook".  

For example, many rulebooks can and do specify Setting.  This also means that Character can be a part of System.  Consider this: Trollbabe restricts PCs to a narrow choice of character.  Imagine a system which restricts the PC even further to a particular set of individuals -- the RPG equivalent of Commedia del Arte.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 04, 2003, 01:16:25 PM
Hi there,

Walt wrote,

Quote
I'm expecting Ron to tell me that "system" as one-of-the-five-elements doesn't mean system as a set of procedures in the abstract, but system as an active process, almost (but not quite) a verb form of the word ("systeming"). In other words, that "system being put into effect by players' actions" is exactly what he meant by "system" all along. There's no doubt that system in that sense can only exist during play.


Ay-yup. That'd be right on the money.

John wrote,

Quote
I don't think you're getting how use of the word "system" differs. "system" can refer to what is covered in the text of the rulebook. This isn't the same thing as "System" in the lumpley principle sense (i.e. how consensus is reached).


You're right in that I haven't been clear about it. I do understand the distinction, however, and I'm now realizing that Vincent first proposed his ideas regarding the rules, and it's been co-opted, through usage and without intent, to apply to "system."

Whether this is a problem or not, I don't know. So far, I think the thread has done a pretty good job of clarifying some of the confusions, and I'm willing to take a slow and listen-to-one-another approach in case we need to revise anything. So chime in, everyone, and wait before hammering at the keys ... slower is better in this forum, especially.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Jason Lee on June 04, 2003, 01:48:33 PM
Quote from: Walt
I'm expecting Ron to tell me that "system" as one-of-the-five-elements doesn't mean system as a set of procedures in the abstract, but system as an active process, almost (but not quite) a verb form of the word ("systeming"). In other words, that "system being put into effect by players' actions" is exactly what he meant by "system" all along. There's no doubt that system in that sense can only exist during play.


Call me a monkey man, but all I'm getting out of that definition is 'system isn't system, it's system'.

I pound on the obsidian monolith in impotence. :)


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: M. J. Young on June 04, 2003, 09:23:34 PM
Quote from: In response to when Ralph 'Valamir' Mazza
But the "System introduces the time axis"...means nothing to me. I'm not comprehending what that means at all. If we're going to adapt, and informally it looks like we have, the Lumply Principal as the description of what system is...I don't see where "time axis" is involved at all.
Quote from: Ron Edwards
System is what provides motion and time to the imaginative construct. Without it, as I said in the quoted passage above, the other four elements are "frozen" in that imagined space.

I might be able to provide some perspective to this.

Because of my time travel materials, I periodically get letters from people telling me that time doesn't exist. What I have to explain to them is that time is the medium of change. This might have been clever had I thought of it before Kant, but the fact is that in reality nothing changes apart from time.

In a relativity example, were you to achieve the speed of light, time for you would come to a complete halt, and you would thereafter never age or die--or do anything else, either, as you could not move or think, having been stripped of the temporal dimension that enables anything in the next moment to be different from it was in the previous moment.

In a game, real time doesn't really matter. What matters is that there is a system which determines how things are permitted to change. You have setting, character, color, and situation, but, as Ron says, these are static--they can't do anything apart from the "time" that is created by system. It is by system that we can say that the character does anything, that the situation or setting changes, that the color is altered.

In the beginning of a Sorcerer game, you've got a character, a setting, a situation--the kicker is a big part of the situation--and color. The kicker means that the something has just happened to which the character is forced to respond. How does the character respond? By engaging the system to alter the situation. The system is that which allows change in the other elements; it is therefore the functional equivalent of "time" within the game. In a sense, all of these elements are part of "system", because their ability to change is entirely contained within system, and change is the only way they can be used in play--otherwise they're like models in the glass cabinet, pictures in a photo album, posters on the wall, frozen snapshots of things to see that don't do anything.

It is certainly equally true that system is part of setting, along with character, color, and situation. In that sense, the rules of change are one of the constraints of the setting, which we call system. Ron has been through the others as well. Each of the five elements is contained within the other four, and contains the other four within itself--they are that tightly related. Yet in theoretical discussions we can distinguish them, and sometimes we can see them distinguished in play.
Quote from: Sean had a point when he
I think that System may be the quickest piece of the puzzle to get a handle on and thus it will shift the empahsis. The reasons I say this is that once a system is known, one of the other elements may become more prevalent.

I want to thank you for writing this. Some time back, Ron wrote that Multiverser was simulationist exploration of system, and I'd been wondering why for some time. The answer might be right there.

In Multiverser, play proceeds by moving you from one universe to another when you die. (One reviewer somewhere said it might be the first game in which referees really do want their players' characters to die, and I know one referee who says that the game has really liberated his killer instincts, because he doesn't have to worry about killing them.) As you move between universes, you have to discover what's going on in those universes; but this, from the first page of the introduction to the game, is instructive.
Quote from: In Multiverser, I
This is a harder game for players, because more than anything else this system is about rules that change. It provides instruction for how the rules change and when they change, but the player is challenged to discover the new rules. By contrast, most RPG?s have the same rules throughout, adventuring in variations of the same world with the same kinds of skills. Multiverser® changes all of that. Now the rules themselves change, and the player must adapt.
There is a sense in which you could argue that the rules never change--the setting changes, and with it the bias values and blocking and other features that control what is "possible" within the universe. But particularly in view of the interfacing rules (the ability of Multiverser to drop its players into other game systems as player characters in those other game worlds, of which the player is not necessarily going to be informed), I'd have to agree that there's a strong emphasis on exploration of system--of figuring out how things work in this world.

Let me contrast that to exploration of setting. We could play a Star Frontiers or Star Trek or Star Wars game in which we travel to new "worlds", that is, new planets. We could don appropriate gear and wander around these planets looking at things. However, we aren't likely to discover suddenly that the locals can throw fireballs because they're wizards or priests drawing supernatural energy from a supernatural realm; nor are we apt to discover that our blasters don't work because technology doesn't work well on this planet. Multiverser goes way beyond that sort of "exploration of setting". Sure, there will be exploration of setting going on, as you move between completely different worlds; but you'll also be trying to figure out what you can and cannot do in each world, what works well and what's impeded, in essence what the rules are now.

I suspect that in including GURPS in that same list (exploration of system), Ron had something similar in mind--the way in which the supplements modify the system to fit new settings. It's a bit different, of course (in Multiverser, all the rules are rules, they just interact in ways that change what you can do; in GURPS whatever are the rules of the setting are the rules, and any other supplemental rules are irrelevant). But that's probably where you'll find the big emphasis on exploration of system--games in which the system itself changes, particularly if it changes during play, or games in which the system is so complex that you'll spend years grasping the nuances of its interactions.

--M. J. Young


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 05, 2003, 06:44:58 AM
Quote
A Throw is a Throw, with the numbers for throwing right there in the book, and Magic was over here in this other part of the book, and that's that. See how System overrode Setting?


Every example I can think of is one like you mention here. When you say System in terms of exoploration, I see "mechanics" or "resolution system". I do not see the Lumpley Principle which is much wider and includes "the GM is last arbiter" and all such rules.

This is why previously I used the term System in the very sort of way that John Kim is talking about. To mean the mechanics of the game as a whole. In that way it totall makes sense to me to say that one can prioritize system. If we use system to mean the Lumpley Principle, which is all encompassing, then I see no way to prioritize system, as system is play. You either play or you don't.

So, yes, this is me pushing hard for a separation of terms here. It seems to me that System should either be narrowed to it's mechanical meaning, in which case, the Lumpley Principle should refer to the totality of the rules, and not be called System; or System ought to mean the Lumpley Principle, in which case, what's called System in the elements of exploration should be called Mechanics, or somesuch.

This is a problem that I've seen for quite a while, actually.

I now prefer (in a total change of opinion), that System mean the Lumpley Principle. Because then, and only then can we say that freeform, a game with a lack of mechanics, is an appropriate System for the people who employ it.

Mike


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Emily Care on June 05, 2003, 07:01:10 AM
Hello all,

As far as Vincent's Rant (Lumpley Principle) and system exploration, it might help to remember that it is descriptive about what rules do i.e. help/hinder group concensus, and doesn't primarily address "what system is".  The basis of the principle as I see it is that the authority for what gets chosen to happen in play rests ultimately with the group of human individuals playing. System is expanded in so far as it can be seen to be more than just the rules and mechanics, also consisting of all the interpersonal interactions that go on all of which contribute to formation of concensus.  But the main point to take away from it is that rules aren't necessary to populate the shared imaginary space, rules don't make anything more true--unless they've been given authority to do so by the folks playing.

So where's the confusion coming from based on this? What does it mean for system exploration? One helpful addition it makes to common understanding is that exploration of system can consist of lengthy free-form discussion equally as well as in depth reference to charts/die rolls etc.  

Try this: if we look at the four in-game elements (color/setting/situation/character) as the contents of the shared imaginary space, and then look at system as simply what may be used to determine what of configuration of the others is accepted into play, then system isn't the larger set containing all. Instead it's a set of interactions or procedures that tell you something about all the others.  

--Emily Care


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 05, 2003, 07:50:08 AM
Hi there,

I'm the source of the problem. Vincent originally wrote about "rules," and I seem to have extended his point, historically, to "system." I can't even isolate the thread in which this occurred, although I am suspiciously squinting at my Sim essay as the culprit.

It seems to me now most fair to say that the Lumpley Principle is about the rules, but clarifies that they must be subject to and expressive of System, which (of course) is an aspect of Social Contract. Which means that the intermediate level between [Rules] and [Social Contract + [System]] is [GNS], which makes sense.

The whole point of the Principle is that rules do not provide inviolate parameters for Social Contract, GNS, or System (as I define System). But I confess to being awfully fuzzy about this in the past.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: lumpley on June 05, 2003, 09:11:51 AM
Right here: Pervy Sim, Points of Contact, Accessibility: an example game (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=4416).

I was suffering the same System confusion as everybody is now, and Ron you said to me: Vincent, System is just what you were ranting about.  And I said, oh!

What you said precisely is: System is the Lumpley Principle in action.  By "the Lumpley Principle" here you meant the principle that nothing happens in the game until everybody agrees that it does, my rant.

So "the Lumpley Principle" became shorthand for "System is the process ('in action') by which the players come to agreement about what happens in play."

-Vincent

Edited for clarity.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 05, 2003, 11:20:19 AM
So where the hell does that leave us now. I'm more confused than when we started.

Mike


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 05, 2003, 11:21:06 AM
Hi there,

I was sort of hoping that my post at the bottom of p. 2 would do the job. Vincent, it's your call.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: lumpley on June 05, 2003, 11:27:37 AM
My call?

I'm fine.  I was just pointing to the thread.

I think we should press on, boldly.  System means the actual process in actual play, the Lumpley Principle remains the Lumpley Principle we know and love, not whatever its roots once were.  I surely didn't mean to be confusing.

-Vincent


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Jason Lee on June 05, 2003, 11:38:02 AM
Quote from: lumpley
So "the Lumpley Principle" became shorthand for "System is the process ('in action') by which the players come to agreement about what happens in play."


So then, is this the answer to what "System" means in the Exploration context?

If so, I'm missing how you can prioritize the process by which players come to agreement about what happens in play.  If System is a lower priority then, you're what, disagreeing more?


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 05, 2003, 11:49:41 AM
Hi Jason,

No, it's what I described to Mike on the previous page: more attention and effort. It takes work to apply System when you play GURPS, in order to find and apply various modifiers. It also takes work to do it in most so-called System-less (i.e. Drama-mechanics) games, in order to negotiate where the buck stops this time.

As a related point, none of this has anything to do with what people call "System-heavy" or "System-light." It has a lot to do with what I used to call Vanilla vs. Pervy, but now gets discussed as "Points of Contact." The whole issue is whether the System itself becomes a subject of attention. Think in real-people terms of attention, discussion, usage, and stuff like Search and Handling Times.

I suggest that yes/no on this issue is not a matter of good or bad, but rather is very significant for any mode of play. Thus, one may see Vanilla Gamist play or a wide variety of Pervy Gamist play; Vanilla Sim play or a wide variety of Pervy Sim play; Vanilla Narrativist play or a wide variety of Pervy Narrativist play.

To repeat some of my earlier points about that, "Vanilla" of one mode does not resemble and represents no sort of combination with any other mode. Some people in the past thought I meant Sim/Narr hybrid by Vanilla, but they were very mistaken.

Best,
Ron


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: lumpley on June 05, 2003, 12:05:10 PM
One player says "[let's imagine that] an orc jumps out of the underbrush!"

What has to happen before the players as a group agree that, indeed, an orc jumps out of the underbrush?

Sometimes, nothing.  The right player said it, everybody goes along with it, no discussion, no negotiation, no process needed.  "Dude!  An orc!  Battlestations!"  Low Exploration of System.

Sometimes, just a little.  "Really?  An orc?"  "Yep."  "Huh.  Well, okay."  Slightly more Exploration of System.

Sometimes, mechanics.  "...Okay, if you make your having-an-orc-show-up roll.  Throw down!"  "Ha!  57!"  "Orc it is."  Exploration of System, with mechanics.

Sometimes, a whole heck of a lot.  Debate the likelihood of a lone orc in the underbrush way out here, make a having-an-orc-show-up roll, a having-an-orc-hide-in-the-underbrush roll, a having-the-orc-jump-out roll, argue about the modifiers for each of the rolls, get into a philosophical thing about the rules' modeling of orc-jump-out likelihood...  That's a whole boatload of Exploration of System.

That's my take.

-Vincent


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Jason Lee on June 05, 2003, 12:30:27 PM
Ron,

Ok, the Vanilla/Pervy thing flipped a switch.  I read your post about eight times, then I went and re-read the first post in thread #4 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=4299).

Either one of two things has happened:  either I get it or I have confused myself beyond the ability to express my confusion.  Either way...time will tell.


Title: Exploration of System (split)
Post by: Walt Freitag on June 05, 2003, 12:58:55 PM
In all of Vincent's examples, though, the change in the world state (the addition or repositioning of the orc) is the same.

So "system as the causation of change in the imagined space" is equally manifest in all those cases.

While "system having attention paid to it and being explored" varies depending on points of contact.

So we're still dealing with different shades of meaning of "system," (we can also throw in system-as-abstract-set-of-rules), which has been the problem all along, but we can work around it. This all makes sense if exploration of system is "attention and effort applied to points of contact." Time and motion in the examined space is driven by system, but that process does not necessarily have exploration of system in the forefront because the system may or may not have high density of points of contact.

Silly but actually apt physics analogy: the difference between heat and temperature can be confusing. The key is understanding heat capacity, which is the ratio between the two. Heat capacity varies between different materials. "Heat" is system-in-action, "temperature" is exploration of system in play, "Heat capacity" is (density of) points of contact, a characteristic of the play heavily influenced by the system-as-abstract-set-of-rules.

Points of contact is the key. That works for me.

- Walt