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Author Topic: Wait, What Matters Again?  (Read 20021 times)
M. J. Young
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« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2004, 07:39:36 PM »

Quote from: efindel
Thus, in each of these four games, the Setting fact "fire giants are immune to fire" would mean different things -- because of the three different Systems.

I meant to include this in the other post, and overlooked it. I'd offer Multiverser as another approach. Under its rules, an immunity is a skill, and has to be rolled like any other skill. If it is successful, the target takes no damage from a successful attack. If it is failed, the damage is normal, although there might also be resistances (another skill to roll, generally reduce damage rather than eliminate it) or other defenses.

This is done this way so that the bias of the world can impact whether the immunity still works, and how effectively.

--M. J. Young
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2004, 09:55:59 PM »

Quote from: Marco
If setting, situation, and mechanics are the same thing in terms of system (and I'm not arguing they aren't--it's a fine way to look at it) then making up a new town is the same thing as adding critical hits to the damage system. You can argue that one's more effort than the other but the harder one is probably the town if it's detailed.

That would make drift as related to the utility of a game in terms of coherence very shaky since in practice one must make characters and situationa and setting in order to play (traditionally) anyway.


BL>  Well, some games have Situation totally built into the text.  And not just wierd hippy games.  You could argue that the Sitch of D&D is more important to the game than the mechanics (I don't know if this is true but, you know, its close.)  The Sitch of an Amber Throne War is way more important to the game than the mechanics.  Character and setting can likewise be built in.  John Wick made a living for a long time selling Setting and Color as "system."

Also, I'm not saying that sitch and setting and mechanics and meta-game social constructs are all the same thing.  No no no no.  They can all be used for the same purpose -- manipulating the shared imagined space -- but they aren't the same tools.  It's like: you need wood and nails and roof tiles and union laborers to build a house, but they aren't all the same thing.  They're just all "house-building tools."  Which is what I mean by "system" here.

Just to recap:  I am not saying that all these things are the same thing.  I am saying that they are all a part of a big thing called "system."

Further, I would propose that, given the incompleteness thereom that I demonstrated above, no game text ever offers a complete system and thus (whoa, this blows my mind) every game is somewhat drifted.

Whoa.

yrs--
--Ben
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2004, 10:15:43 PM »

Quote from: Paganini

Turn that around, though, and think about this: not all rules / mechanics are part of the system. A lot of times, especially in home-brew games, you'll see mechanics tacked on that, maybe, the designer liked in some other game, but didn't really understand the point of - with the net effect that the mechanic actually does nothing at all in terms of System. It's just kind of *there,* fogging up the works, but when you really look at it, it doesn't go anywhere.


BL>  Whoa.  That's interesting.  Can you give me a concrete example here?

Quote from: lumpley


There are three things your System has to coordinate. ("System" in the full implications of the lumpy piddle sense: the on-the-fly fully-negotiated mercurial real-people's-moods-and-habits process that you're using to negotiate what happens.)

It has to coordinate:
A) the wholly imaginary things and events in the "game world";
B) real-world abstractions and representations of those things and events: maps, numbers, dice, "hit points," etc.
C) the interactions of the actual human beings.


BL>  I agree with this, but have nothing meaningful to add to it.  Rock.

Quote from: Bankuei

I with you all the way except "System defines out of game situations"... Try, Social Contract defines everything, including System. System is everything specific to the game, and Social Contract is everything with everybody, including the game.


BL>  Did I say "system defines out of game situations?"  I don't think I did.  I didn't mean to say it.  What I mean to say was "out of game situation is a subset of system, which is to say that the out of game situation contributes to the contents and character of the SIS."

Cool?

Quote from: efindel


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
I have to disagree with Setting coming under System here. The lP states that "System is the means by which players negotiate the contents of their shared imagined space."

Setting is part of the contents -- but Setting in and of itself is not a means. It is among the objects being manipulated. Statements about the shared imaginative space are also not System -- they are not negotiating anything, they are simply stating a point of view about what's there.

So, going by this... the situation is a part of the shared imaginative space -- but it is not System. The methods by which situation is decided, and the methods by which it affects other things -- those are System, but the situation itself is not.

The fact that, say, a town exists in the setting is not System -- but the general social contract rule of "we do not contradict established fact about the setting" -- that is System.


BL>  Okay, but I really think that this is a distinction without a difference.  Check this out:

"I grab him by the head and throw him out the window."
"Dude, you can't do that.  Oroogs have no heads."
"Oh, oops."

In this case, I think its pretty clear that a piece of setting information (the headless monster type) is informing the negotiation of the SIS.  I mean, you could say that there is this rule that "we don't violate setting traits," but I think it amounts to the same thing, in practice, and that every game has that rule, more or less.  (I disagree with you about the dream thing -- that just means that "dream logic" is a setting trait.)

Quote from: John Harper

My lucky 20-sider is not process. The gaming table is not process. My emotional state is not process. All of those things can affect the process, to be sure, but they are not the process itself. Let's not confuse the hammer and the boards for the act of nailing the boards together.


BL>  Yes, but "system" is not a verb (at least not in any reasonable context.)  System is not a process.  It is a means.  Big difference.

Let me just take your "not a process" to its final extent: "My skill of +10 Hide is not a process.  The ability to cast spells is not a process."  Point is this: none of these things are process.  The process is negotiation.  System is a set of constructs that are constructs that are used in process.

In general, I am totally confused by you and John Kim here.  You're point is that, say "Fire Giants are immune to fire" is not system?  What is it, then?  How about "Fire Giants soak the first 25 points of fire damage in a round?"  Is that system?

yrs--
--Ben
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John Kim
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« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2004, 11:44:06 PM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
  In general, I am totally confused by you and John Kim here.  You're point is that, say "Fire Giants are immune to fire" is not system?  What is it, then?  How about "Fire Giants soak the first 25 points of fire damage in a round?"  Is that system?  

Speaking for myself, I am in complete agreement with everything that you just wrote.  My Fire Giant example was intended to convey the same point as your headless Oroog example.  i.e. fire immunity is a part of system, just as Oroogs having no heads is part of system.  This is a defined part of the game that will influence the outcome of events and thus determine what happens in the Shared Imaginary Space (SIS).
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contracycle
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« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2004, 01:29:13 AM »

Quote from: John Harper

System is the process by which the GM made the judgement about immunities and their effects in play. If the player complains, simply pointing at the entry in the rulebook isn't quite sufficient. The book says Fire Giants are immune to fire. So what? The book isn't playing the game. The GM has to engage System in order to get this element of Setting into the SIS.


Yes.  But that system may be no more than the statements that a) this RPG has a GM and b) the GM gets to read the Restricted sections and c) the GM is empowered to rule from these sections.  In most games, players have explicitly or implicitly agreed to these terms in order to sit down to play in the first place.  The system apportions credibility to the GM to make this intervention.

Setting and the SIS are not identical entities.  A change to the SIS that originates from Setting.  But:

Ben wrote:
Quote
In general, I am totally confused by you and John Kim here. You're point is that, say "Fire Giants are immune to fire" is not system? What is it, then? How about "Fire Giants soak the first 25 points of fire damage in a round?" Is that system?


The concern I imagine is that there is manifestly nothing to prevent a given resolution mechanism to another setting.  In another setting, the rule may be innapripriate or nonsensical; how then can this 'rule' be said to be a component of system?

It seems to me this view depends on the semantic conflation of all of system in the abstract.  System is a subset of social contract; so is setting.  Setting and the actual resolution mechanisms are both negotiated by players prior to play (usually), i.e. they usually agree to play a certain way in a certain place; they are both elements of abstract system.  This is not the same as saying that setting is the same as MECHANISM.

Now to the scenario in which a new location is added to the setting; is this the same as an alteration to mechanism?  IMO, no.  But it can be said to be an alteration to system IMO in the following way:  What if the new place we introduce is for example Ravenloft?  Introducing setting elements can indeed completely change the game being played; can actually be change the game to one to which the players did not consent.  That at least is a risk posed by the unilateral introduction of setting elements.  Similarly, I could introduce a rule to the mechanisms that completely undermined the coherence or intent of those mechanisms.

Setting and mechanism can conflict; they should support one another.  That is one way in which system, in the mechanistic sense, can and does matter.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2004, 01:40:31 AM »

Okay, everyone, but contracycle specifically.  Let's make some distinctions for the remainder of this thread between:

1) Total System (anything that can be used to define, create, manipulate, change or address the SIS.)

2) Textual System (all systematic elements, including setting, sitch, etc, introduced by a game text.)

3) Mechanical System (the mechanical rules of the game, a subset of 1, and possibly merely a subset of 2.)

contracycle, I can't tell which of the above three you are talking about in your last post.  I could make a guess, but let's clarify before we go off on a:
"Apples are red!"
"No, Oranges are orange!"
argument, because that just goes nowhere.
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MR. Analytical
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« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2004, 01:55:11 AM »

Over and above the excellent points made about what LS actually says do we not think that this is just definitional drift of the kind that gets the Forge a bad name?

Setting and System are 2 clear and distinct entities as understood by all gamers.  What Ben is proposing is that they're actually part of one larger category namely system.  As Marco pointed out that creating a town is now the same kind of activity as writinga new critical hit system.

To me that's counter-intuitive.  The meanings of terms are fixed by use not by theoretical convenience and when one says "system" one doesn't mean setting.  

If anything if the LS DID entail this about system then it striked me that Ben's discovered not a fact about system but a reductio of the LS giving grounds for rejecting or modifying it.

but yeah... the argument strikes me as:

system influences SIS
setting influences SIS
therefore, setting and system are the same thing.

Social contract also influences SIS, should we say that "system" now includes social contract?

To my mind analysis is dependent upon small categories clearly defined.  This ain't it :-)

If you DID want to move in this direction then there might be something to say for creating a larger umbrella term that includes setting and system and all the things that influence SIS (including social contract) but I think this just muddies the water for no theoretical payoff.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2004, 02:13:07 AM »

Quote from: MR. Analytical
Over and above the excellent points made about what LS actually says do we not think that this is just definitional drift of the kind that gets the Forge a bad name?

Setting and System are 2 clear and distinct entities as understood by all gamers.  What Ben is proposing is that they're actually part of one larger category namely system.  As Marco pointed out that creating a town is now the same kind of activity as writinga new critical hit system.

To me that's counter-intuitive.  The meanings of terms are fixed by use not by theoretical convenience and when one says "system" one doesn't mean setting.  


BL>  That's fine.  Let it be counter-intuitive to you.  Right now I'm tossing out ideas, trying to do analysis and arrive at some sort of meaning.  Lets dicker over terms later, shall we?

Quote

If anything if the LS DID entail this about system then it striked me that Ben's discovered not a fact about system but a reductio of the LS giving grounds for rejecting or modifying it.

but yeah... the argument strikes me as:

system influences SIS
setting influences SIS
therefore, setting and system are the same thing.


BL>  Apropos of my most recent post post, this makes very little sense to me, and I'm going to operate on the assumption that, by "system," you mean "mechanics."

In that case, you have my argument entirely wrong.  Entirely and completely.  Go back and actually read the post, taking the "system = mechanics" assumption and tossing it out the window, using instead my "system is a means by which the shared imagined space if changed" definition.  Clear now?  Notice that nowhere do I say that Mechanics and Setting are coequivalent, rather that they are both parts of the larger entity called System.

Mechanics and setting are two of many (perhaps five or six?) tools which can be used to influence the shared imagined space.  Since "tools which can be used to influence the shared imagined space" is the local definition of "system" (hey, see that Jargon Alert?  Yeah...) it seemed to me more convenient.

Quote

Social contract also influences SIS, should we say that "system" now includes social contract?


BL>  Totally.  Not only that, I *do* say that in the first post.

Quote

To my mind analysis is dependent upon small categories clearly defined.  This ain't it :-)


BL>  Depends on the type of analysis now, doesn't it?  Mathematics and hard sciences (my background) are pretty dependent on larger classifications.  Honestly, so is literature.  And most social crit.  And really, well, everything.  I wouldn't light into you for this, but its a big misunderstanding about academic analysis that a lot of armchair theoreticians have, and it bugs the fuck out of me.


yrs--
--Ben
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contracycle
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« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2004, 02:37:08 AM »

Mr. Analytical, I did have qualms that by specifying the term mechanism I was duplicating exactly what the term system had started out describing.
That may or may not be a clarification that needs to be preserved; I'm not sure that it should.

Ben:
I'm suggesting that the conflation of 3 and 1 is semantic.  Marco is correct to say that introducing setting elements CAN be equivalent to number 3; but it is not correct to conclude that they MUST be.

That is, I can't really claim to be plying MERP if I change the setting to the Forgotten Realms, but I can claim to be using the MERP resolution mechanism. My actual game is now a different beast that merely uses the MERP mechanisms.  But this could be fatal if some element of MERP rules depended on assumptions implicit in Middle Earth.  The degree of change I would have to impose would approximate a homebrew system.

And yet all of this completely different to simply ariving at some small town that had not explicitly existed before.  We seem to be more interested in deducing the function from the category instead of the category from the function.

Some elements of setting are organic to the game in the broad, the specific SIS which will be constructed at the table.  Fire giants in a Norse mythology RPG may be very different to fire giants in a D&D-esque game and fulfill very different functions.  The former may be an expression of the settings metaphysical truths, the latter is a monster to slay.  You can't switch these setting elements without making a big change to the game.

IMO this feature is most often seen in magic systems; hence my dictum that you must decide on the metaphysics of your setting before you construct your magical mechanism. The failure to do so is what renders magic analogous to technology in most RPG's.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2004, 03:14:43 AM »

Quote from: contracycle

Ben:
I'm suggesting that the conflation of 3 and 1 is semantic.  Marco is correct to say that introducing setting elements CAN be equivalent to number 3; but it is not correct to conclude that they MUST be.


BL>  Okay, can I please ask that bitching about terms be delayed until we have hashed out whether we have actual, real disagreements of substance?  I am happy to use a term other than system for what I am describing but, frankly, I don't think its apropos to the actual god-damn point.

Can we please use my terms for the duration of this thread and stop talking about this now?

Quote

That is, I can't really claim to be plying MERP if I change the setting to the Forgotten Realms, but I can claim to be using the MERP resolution mechanism. My actual game is now a different beast that merely uses the MERP mechanisms.  But this could be fatal if some element of MERP rules depended on assumptions implicit in Middle Earth.  The degree of change I would have to impose would approximate a homebrew system.

And yet all of this completely different to simply ariving at some small town that had not explicitly existed before.  We seem to be more interested in deducing the function from the category instead of the category from the function.


BL>  Okay, I totally fail to see how the existence of a small town is effectively different from "fire giants are immune to fire."  Say you introduce this small town (okay, now a part of the setting) and then the GM later says "okay, you travel through the woods for four days without seeing civilization..." and you can totally say "dude, there was, like, a small town there last time!"  And the GM has to deal with that fact one way or another.

Okay, so we just negotiated the contents of the shared imagined space using a small town.  Sweet!

Let me put it more broadly:  Every element (town, character, etc) of the setting can be used for an assertation of its own existence, at least and, in that regard, can be considered a part of system (as defined for the purposes of this thread, thanks very much).

BTW: Do you have objections to things other than setting (like, say, who paid for pizza) being a part of the system, by the way?  Or is it just the setting that bugs ya?

yrs--
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contracycle
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« Reply #25 on: July 16, 2004, 03:25:28 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman

Can we please use my terms for the duration of this thread and stop talking about this now?


If you like.  Although I did nearly include the claim that this problem was purely one of insufficiently rigorous use of jargon IMO and I'm not sure much will be gained from it in that context.  But soldiering on:

Quote

Okay, I totally fail to see how the existence of a small town is effectively different from "fire giants are immune to fire."  Say you introduce this small town (okay, now a part of the setting) and then the GM later says "okay, you travel through the woods for four days without seeing civilization..." and you can totally say "dude, there was, like, a small town there last time!"  And the GM has to deal with that fact one way or another.


Yes fair enough.  The GM has to deal with it in some way.  This is not NECESSARILY going to have any impact on the agreements people entered into in order to play is the only point I'm making.

Quote

Okay, so we just negotiated the contents of the shared imagined space using a small town.  Sweet!


No we didn't.  We negotiated the SIS using language and suasion; the town was the subject of conflict.

Quote

BTW: Do you have objections to things other than setting (like, say, who paid for pizza) being a part of the system, by the way?  Or is it just the setting that bugs ya?


As I tried to point out, incorporating setting into system does not bug me at all; in fact I'm a proponent of the idea.  Who paid for pizza can  certainly be a part of the social contract, and thus a part of system in the broad.  All I'm trying to point out is that the significance of setting elements differs, and hence the significance of changing them differs.  It CAN be that a change to setting makes in effect for a different game, but not every change to setting carries this potential.

Edit: Hamlet can be Hamlet whether the personal weapons in the specific productions are rapiers or phasers, but Hamlet can't be Hamlet without the general situation and setting.  Shakespearean playes are often set out of period, and these changes make little to no difference to the execution of the narrative.  But some care has to be applied; in a recent production of Henry V, set in a modern period, Henry gives a dramatic speech that should have been delivered to a large crowd in a big voice, but was actually delivered to small group huddled behind cover.  This completely spoiled the pacing and tone of the speech, IMO.

The point again is: there are  changes and ther are changes.  Not all setting elements are created equal.
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efindel
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« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2004, 04:25:52 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Okay, but I really think that this is a distinction without a difference. Check this out:
 
 "I grab him by the head and throw him out the window."
 "Dude, you can't do that. Oroogs have no heads."
 "Oh, oops."
 
 In this case, I think its pretty clear that a piece of setting information (the headless monster type) is informing the negotiation of the SIS. I mean, you could say that there is this rule that "we don't violate setting traits," but I think it amounts to the same thing, in practice, and that every game has that rule, more or less. (I disagree with you about the dream thing -- that just means that "dream logic" is a setting trait.)


But consider this:

Quote
"Yeah, but if you look at the third paragraph of the Oroog description, it says that a throw 'by the head' should be considered to be grabbing its trunk and throwing from there, since that's where its sensory organs and brain are."

"Okay... so you're throwing it by the trunk.  Why didn't you just say that?"

"Because throwing something by the head gives a 15% chance that its sensory organs are damaged..."


"Oroogs don't have heads" is a Setting fact.  How that affects what can be done is System.  To give a classic (if somewhat dysfunctional) example:

Quote
A: "Okay... now that we've got the guard to take his helmet off, and I'm behind him, I'm going to hit him in the back of the head with my mace and knock him out!"

GM:  "You can't do that."

A:  "What?  Why not!?"

GM:  "There's no rule for it."

A:  "You're kidding me!"

B:  "Nope, he's right.  This game doesn't have any called shot rules."

A:  "Well... is there at least a chance that I'll hit him in the head, where he's not armored?"

GM:  "Nope.  There's no hit location rules either."


So here's an instance where a Setting fact is agreed on -- that the guard has no helmet on now -- but the System being used doesn't allow that to make any actual difference.  We could make up further examples, where, say, removing the helmet lowered the guard's armor class by one point, or there's no called shot rules, but if you roll the head as the hit location, then armor has no effect, or where there are called shot rules...

To me, this is all part of why System Does Matter.  Some systems can only reflect certain settings very poorly.  Others handle certain situations very poorly.  Choosing the right system for any setting and/or situation you have in mind is important.

However, this does not mean that System is the only thing that matters!  Yes, Setting and Situation have an effect on play.  It seems to me that part of what I'm hearing here is "Setting and Situation affect play, so they matter... and since System matters, that means they must be part of System!"  As if people are hearing an unspoken "... and therefore nothing else does," tacked onto "System Does Matter."

To pick up something another poster mentioned -- if everything is to included under System, then why bother having a separate term at all?

And as a final thought from me... a formal definition of a common term ought to match the general usage of the term as much as possible.  System as embodying only the means, and not the things those means act upon, seems to me to match up much better to common usage than a definition where System includes Setting and Situation.
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Rob Carriere
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« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2004, 05:18:22 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
The point again is: there are  changes and ther are changes.  Not all setting elements are created equal.
This is absolutely true. But it is just as true that not all mechanical elements are created equal. If I inspect your character sheet and go `Dude, you completely forgot  about your shield, you're AC 50, not 49!' that's not very likely to have much impact on a game of orc-bashing. So I'm not sure why significance tests should be applied only to setting stuff.

On a completely different tack, I agree with everybody who has pointed out that it is a category error to call Setting a process. But, that Setting did have to enter the SIS first ("I want to play Dark Sun." "Cool") and that is definitely process.

SR
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lumpley
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« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2004, 05:29:20 AM »

The problems with the fire giant, the Oroog, the called shot, what-have-you, they all go away if you break 'em down into my A (the imagined stuff), B (real-world representations and tokens) and C (the interacting human beings).

Seriously.  When you try it, be sure not to leave out C.

-Vincent
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MR. Analytical
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« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2004, 05:44:42 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
BL>  Apropos of my most recent post post, this makes very little sense to me, and I'm going to operate on the assumption that, by "system," you mean "mechanics."

[snip]


Since "tools which can be used to influence the shared imagined space" is the local definition of "system" (hey, see that Jargon Alert?  Yeah...) it seemed to me more convenient.

[snip]

 Depends on the type of analysis now, doesn't it?  Mathematics and hard sciences (my background) are pretty dependent on larger classifications.  Honestly, so is literature.  And most social crit.  And really, well, everything.  I wouldn't light into you for this, but its a big misunderstanding about academic analysis that a lot of armchair theoreticians have, and it bugs the fuck out of me.



First bit : No... that's not what I meant by "system".  I think there's a point to be made here of confusing what system does and what system is but that's for anothyer thread... I was basing myself upon the glossary definition of ther term "system".


Second Bit: "The means by which imaginary events are established during play, including character creation, resolution of imaginary events, reward procedures, and more. It may be considered to introduce fictional time into the Shared Imagined Space. " is quite different to your definition.  And this, I suspect is the bone of contention that many forgites here have with your argument.  You're operating under an interpretation of this definition but it's not necessarily the correct one... it's even a slightly strange one.    To me it seems that you're confusing the content of SIS the means by which that content is agreed upon.  

As others have pointed out this is the diference between a fact about a setting "Orcs are weak in daylight" and how that is mediated and established for group consumption "orcs get a -4 to all to hit rolls when they're in daylight".  

Maybe my argument makes more sense to you now.


Third Bit : *rolls eyes* Thanks for the condescension (starts singing "Are you GMS in disguise?") So a scientist wouldn't want to look at matter and ask what it's composed of and what properties the component parts of matter are?  You're confusing classification with the generation of covering laws.   If science really was about getting larger and larger categories as you seem to think you wouldn't have any laws of physics beyond "stuff does stuff when stuff happens".  I'm being facetious here but I'm really pretty sure that you're confused.

As I said, if you wanted to invent some new unbrella term for all the stuff that influences SIS in whatever way then sure... then you could generate generalisations about all the entities in that category but you're not doing that... you're looking to expand one category of entity in order to make it include some other category of entity which was previously thought to be causally related to it but a distinct type.
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