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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 88 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Player ignorance, Lumpley Principle, and Setting  (Read 6313 times)
John Kim

Posts: 1805

« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2004, 08:02:10 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Rather the distinction I see being made (and I tend to agree with it) is that nothing enters the SiS without passing through one of the players acting as gate keeper.

In all three of your examples above it was the GM providing that role of gatekeeper.  The GM is submitting the item for approval, the players (through active assent or silence) approve it.

OK, I'll buy that we're agreeing here.  But now let's move into details.  

Let's say that someone proposes that we play a game set in Tolkien's Middle Earth.  The other players agree.  We use Decipher's Lord of the Rings RPG.  Each player has already read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and furthermore reads at least a fair amout of the rulebook.  At this point, I would say that there is now a huge amount of material within the SIS.  Each of us is picturing a huge amount of stuff in common with the others.  There are infinite details still to define, but there was also a ton agreed upon at the start.  

Do we agree on that?  Because I often get the impression of an alternate picture where even though we agree on a setting and rules, none of it enters the SIS until it is directly verbalized in play.

- John

Posts: 5574

« Reply #16 on: July 27, 2004, 05:18:23 AM »

Yeah, this is where it enters dangerous waters.

A fully functioning Shared Imaginary Space has to be...shared.  Meaning that within acceptable tolerances (defined by the individual and group) the content of the imaginary space must be shared by everyone at the table.

If we assume that not only has each player read the books, but we've all discussed them amongst ourselves and have a pretty mutual understanding of them (frex we all agree that the real story of the book is that of Sam and Frodo, etc.) then yeah, submitting "lets play a game set in Middle Earth during the War of the Ring" and the subsequent acceptance probably does bring alot of material into the SiS all at once.

However, if I think the real story is Sam and Frodo and you think the real story is the fall and return of Isiludur's line then we are probably putting very different emphasis on different parts of the books and so what I assume to be part of the SiS might be different from what you assume.

This is even greater if instead we're going to play during the 2nd age and all I've read are the books and you've made a detailed study of the Simarillion.  Our individual imaginary spaces aren't going to overlap as much as they probably should to be truly considered shared.

Same if you've read the Decipher take on things and I haven't.  Might have different ideas about various important elements (like how magic works, etc).

I think this is the reason that there is emphasis on material being added to the SiS as it is directly verbalized in play.  Because that increases the likelihood that the imaginary space is indeed shared pretty thoroughly.

The key, I think, is getting everyone on the same page.  If you can be reasonably certain of accomplishing that with a mass info dump I don't see that as a problem.  Its just another technique.  The only problem is in situations where a group makes the mistake of assuming everyone's genre expectations are the same.

Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 10459

« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2004, 10:42:59 AM »

But John is right in principle. In fact, all communicative means invlove packages of meaning that carry more symbologically than just a few words might seem to allow. That is, if you say, "The sky is green," in four words you've said only so much. But if you say, "Let's Play Middle Earth," you convey a lot more in the same space. This is no different than saying, "It's like Modern Earth." Either way you're creating a lot of meaning with a small amount of signal.

Yes, the more you shortcut, the more potential there is for interference in the channel. But some shortcutting has to occur, because one cannot deliver an entire world in short order (short enough to play in). So, using something like an established textual world is often as effective as you can get. Sure, anything will be more clear with more communication about it. But it's always a matter of the ratio of information that's attempted to be communicated over the channel, vs. the size of the communication.

Note, I use the term channel from communication theory here because it's appropriate. Often these days, I communicate things about the SIS via email or other channels. I daresay that modes other than verbal are common. Pictures, of course, have been used since the beginning with more or less success (remember "graphic typoes," however?).


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M. J. Young

Posts: 2198

« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2004, 10:25:10 PM »

I'm posting mostly to say that Ralph has expressed my position accurately.

I have argued in the past that there may be elements within the shared imaginary space to which I have implicitly agreed without knowing what they are--they are known to at least one player, and will be revealed in time, but by social contract I've already committed to accept these. The simple example is that in module play, I've agreed that whatever the module says is in room 27 is what I will find there.

On the other hand, whatever is in room 27 is going to be expressed by the referee, and at that point it becomes known to me--presumably when I enter or otherwise observe that room. However, it still remains possible that there are things in room 27 unknown to me--the secret door on the west wall, the hidden panel in the desk, the invisible pixie watching from the top of a cabinet. There is a degree to which I've accepted the presence of unknowns, and so made them part of the shared imaginary space without knowing what they are.

So I'll concede that not everything in the shared imaginary space must be communicated verbally, nor even universally known among the players in all forms of play; but the only way anything gets into the shared imaginary space is via the minds of those doing the imagining, and their interactions, even if it comes from some external source.

I'm hoping this makes sense, because I'm too tired to be doing this right now and have several people trying to talk to me about several other subjects, all of whom I am attempting to politely ignore. My apologies if this is incoherent.

--M. J. Young

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