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Author Topic: Wait, What Matters Again?  (Read 19970 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2004, 06:35:16 AM »

Hey,

Be nicer, people. Jonathan, Ben really is trying to reach you (and be reached) halfway. Don't slap his hands just because it didn't work the first time.

On the point at issue, I dunno if this will really help, but I think of the SIS as including imaginary time, which is to say, the enactment of imaginary events. System is whatever brings time-passage/events into the SIS.

Therefore saying "There's a castle on the hill" isn't System if it's merely establishing that imaginary fact among the real people - everyone looking at a map, say, in which there may or may not be a castle illustrated on that hill.

But it is System if the person speaking is referring to characters seeing or learning that there is a castle on that hill. Now we're talking about in-game events and the passage of time.

Does that help at all? Otherwise, I don't have much to say beyond Ben's, John's, and Vincent's excellent remarks. The headless-oorog example seems like a keeper.

Best,
Ron
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #31 on: July 16, 2004, 06:54:51 AM »

Hello.

I for one, would like to apologize for being a bit too hasty with replies on this thread, especially today, which has been frustrating for reasons that have nothing to do with the Forge or RPG theory at all (at least, I hope they don't.)  In particular, Jonathan, that "armchair theorist" bit was really out of line, and I apologize for it.

I'm going to take a little while and chew on all this stuff -- particularly lumpley, contracycle, and mr analytical's posts -- then come back to this thread and see what has developed in my absence.

yrs--
--Ben
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MR. Analytical
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« Reply #32 on: July 16, 2004, 08:06:05 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
In particular, Jonathan, that "armchair theorist" bit was really out of line, and I apologize for it.


That's cool man... don't worry about it.  I apologise for being bitey.
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* Jonathan McCalmont *
Marco
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« Reply #33 on: July 16, 2004, 08:49:06 AM »

Ben,

I think I'm sorta with you here: everything that's done with a game during play may legitimately meet someone's defintion of drift (and I mean someone who's being reasonably fair and critical). Gamma Word, IIRC, did actually state that it, itself, was incomplete and would be made complete by the GM's scenario.

While that's only one way to look at it (another is that the system and setting details are a complete tool that is then applied to a use) I think it's a reasonably fine POV from a theorist standpoint.

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.


I wasn't quite as prescriptive as your making me out to be with the "must be"--but really--who makes the decision as to whether it is or not? Is it something two players might legitimately disagree on?

I once created a world and was told by a player that he wanted a cleric and didn't like any of the gods I'd made. The idea that they might not be suitable hadn't even occurred to me but it was a major impact for him.

If you can't easily say when 1 is the same as 3 then I think you logically have to adopt the position that any time you're doing one you may also be doing the other.

-Marco
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #34 on: July 16, 2004, 05:55:48 PM »

In case anyone missed my post on the bottom of page one, I'm going to reiterate that over in Sean's http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12012">Setting as Part of System thread I argued that this was correct. In brief, all five elements are fully integrated into each other. Consider this:
    [*]System is that which enables change within the shared imaginary space.[*]Setting is the entire description of the shared imaginary space.[*]Character is the people who occupy and act within the shared imaginary space.[*]Situation is the conflicts and events within the shared imaginary space confronting the characters.[*]Color is the feeling, ambiance, nuance of the shared imaginary space.[/list:u]It should immediately be apparent that the fifth listed here, color, is part of the other four; it cannot exist apart from the other four. Looked at the other way, system, setting, character, and situation are the content of color.

    But that's also true of situation. Situation is when character and setting interact through system, as nuanced by color. Character is also defined by setting, situation, system, and color. Since system is that which creates change, it is inherently part of setting--witness the recent thread in which Ralph derived the setting of game from its mechanics, because the system defines how the setting works.

    When we speak of one of these five things, we are indeed recognizing a discrete element of exploration; but it is more akin to examining a single facet of a gem than a single gem on a ring. It is what it is because of its relationships to the other four facets.
    Quote from: Jonathan 'Mr. Analytical' McCalmont
    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.

    Ah, but are they really understood by all gamers? I know this is going to sound snobbish, but I think there are a lot of things that "all gamers know" that aren't exactly true. For example, how many gamers realize that what the rules of the game are enabling is a distribution of credibility between the participants? Most gamers think they're playing "according to the rules". What credibility distribution means is that they're actually playing according to that understanding of the rules held by whoever has the credibility to declare what the rules mean, whether that's an individual or a corporate ability. Few if any role playing games are so structured as a Monopoly game in which it's always dictated in the rules what can and cannot be done, and how to handle it. Rather, they provide rules for who decides this, and then stand as an authority to which to refer when in doubt.

    So although I agree that system and setting are distinct (and yet intertwined), I'm not sure that all gamers really could tell you where the lines are. In fact, I think there are examples in this very thread in which we can't tell where the lines are, because the two are so connected. To borrow a theology argument, we've been arguing for centuries whether humans have spirit, soul, and body, or whether rather a soul is the combination of a spirit in a body, and what parts of a person are which (are my emotions part of my spirit, my soul, or my body?), because a person is so created that these things (however many there are) exist as one. My hand is clearly part of my body, but what of my fear? When you look at the obvious cases, we know what's what; but when you get near the edges, they blur.
    Quote from: Ben Lehman
    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.

    The incompleteness theorem runs into a problem of definition. I'd say that Universalis is a complete game that is never "drifted", because the point of the game is to create the shared imaginary space. If the "incompleteness" theorem were correct, it would mean that every game is drifted because when you play it you create characters and situations and resolve them; thus the only game that was "complete" by that definition would be one in which all possible play had already been played and recorded and was never repeated or altered--patently absurd, because such an entity would not be a game at all.

    Similarly, Multiverser provides a structure within which there is a rule of one sort or another for everything you can imagine doing. It may require that the referee interpret player character actions in matching them to system treatments, and that can result in two games handling the same action differently, but that's written into the game as an acceptable part of play.

    --M. J. Young
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    efindel
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    « Reply #35 on: July 17, 2004, 05:34:22 AM »

    I'd like to comment on a few bits here....

    Quote from: M. J. Young
      [*]Setting is the entire description of the shared imaginary space.[/list:u]


      I don't agree with this.  The shared imaginary space can include metagame constructs which are not part of the Setting.  For example, suppose that another player and I have decided that if our characters meet, they will immediately take a dislike to each other.  This is not a part of the Setting -- it hasn't happened yet, and indeed, might never happen!  However, because we have agreed on it, it is part of our shared imaginary space.  All sorts of potentialities can be part of the SIS, but not part of the Setting.

      Second, metagame elements such as Plot Points can be part of the SIS, but yet not be part of the Setting... at least, as I understand SIS.

      Thus, since the SIS seems to me to include things that are not part of the Setting, Setting is not a complete description of the SIS.

      Quote from: M. J. Young
      Since system is that which creates change, it is inherently part of setting--witness the recent thread in which Ralph derived the setting of game from its mechanics, because the system defines how the setting works.


      Part of Setting, certainly... but System is not the whole of Setting.  To me, it's the difference between a database and the methods used to manipulate it -- knowing the inputs and outputs of those methods will tell you some things about the database, but not everything.  Knowing the contents of the database, you can guess what some of the methods will be, but not necessarily all of them.

      To put it another way... to me, the existence of orcs in D&D is not part of D&D's System.  Now, from D&D's System, we could easily guess that monsters have to exist, since they're referred to many times.  We could guess that monsters will vary in power level, and some sort of fairly low-power monster could be useful.  We could even guess that some higher-power monsters might want to use lower-powered monsters as cannon fodder, and that it would be convenient for some monsters to be humanoid in shape.

      None of that tells us that orcs specifically exist in D&D -- we can guess that something like orcs will probably exist, but we won't know the exact particulars.  Deriving the existence of umpteen different kinds of "goblinoids", and what specifically each one is like, would be impossible.  Certainly we could say that such a thing is possible, but nothing in the System implies that they must exist -- one could go the Warcraft route and have "orcs all the way up and down", instead of several different "species" of humanoid opponents.  Or you could have several different unrelated species of humanoid opponents, rather than the "goblinoids".

      Going to the reverse side of things, from a description of, say, Greyhawk, we could derive quite a few things about the System... but some things would be impossible to derive.  Nothing in the Greyhawk setting would tell us about D&D3's "Rule Zero", for example.  A mechanical description (i.e., giving all the game stats, but not the rules about them) would allow us to make a lot more guesses... but some things would still be unclear.  A non-mechanical description of the setting would obscure even more -- deriving the exact skill list and feat list, and the mechanics of advancing skills and gaining feats, for example, would likely be impossible from a non-mechanical description of the setting.

      Setting and System are certainly intertwined... but to say that one includes the other seems to me to be going too far.
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      Frank T
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      « Reply #36 on: July 28, 2004, 12:56:44 AM »

      Mainly, this discussion seems to be about what Ben called "textual system" earlier on. That makes perfect sense to me. However, I can't see a point in fussing with anything beyond that. I liked the "set of tools" metaphor. Aren't these tools what can be set up by the designer, what can be playtested and judged in an abstract manner, what can be established in different groups in the same way? Like setting and genre, or advise on creating setting and genre. Like situations or advise on creating situations. Like advise on how to describe things, on how to portray a character. To refer to these things as part of the system makes sense to me, since they are means of establishing and re-establishing the SIS that are deliberately used.

      But the lucky 20-sider? Who's had a harsh day? Who's had a fight with whom? Who ordered pizza? These aspects sound like classical social contract issues to me. We are not at the point that system is the social contract, are we? My 2 cents.
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      Frank T
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      « Reply #37 on: July 28, 2004, 04:19:30 AM »

      Reading my post over, it sounds like "it's social contract, it can't be system." That's not what I meant. What I meant is that if system is a means to establish something in the SIS, then this requires the intent to use it with the goal of establishing something in the SIS.

      Okay, bribing your GM with pizza could be used with exactly that intent. Yet the real means by which the desired statement is established in the SIS is not the pizza bribe. It is the authority of the GM, which in itself is not affected by the pizza bribe. So I don't go: "If I bribe the GM with pizza, my character will find the antidote." I go: "If I bribe the GM with pizza, he will decide to use his authority and make my character find the antidote." In my view, this is an important difference.

      If the LP is about system distributing credibility and authority, does it also state something about the motives of the players? Is the reason why authority is used part of the system? If so, then literally anything that randomly affects the process of play would be system. I can't see the sense in that.

      Sorry if I misinterpret anything, I'm new to this stuff.
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      contracycle
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      « Reply #38 on: July 28, 2004, 05:25:45 AM »

      Quote from: Frank T

      Okay, bribing your GM with pizza could be used with exactly that intent. Yet the real means by which the desired statement is established in the SIS is not the pizza bribe. It is the authority of the GM, which in itself is not affected by the pizza bribe. So I don't go: "If I bribe the GM with pizza, my character will find the antidote." I go: "If I bribe the GM with pizza, he will decide to use his authority and make my character find the antidote." In my view, this is an important difference.


      OK.  What if I posit you have ommitted a final step?  After you go "If I bribe the GM with pizza, he will decide to use his authority and make my character find the antidote" is there not the unspoken addendum that "... and there's nothing Bob and Sue can do about it because they, like me, have agreed to obey the GM's decisions."?
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      Frank T
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      « Reply #39 on: July 28, 2004, 05:46:38 AM »

      Well, I don't want to get carried away with that example. I can pick another one that's more obvious: The GM is mad at Sue cause she's flirting with Bob the whole evening and not paying attention. Therefore he gets her character ambushed. The obvious system part is "the GM establishes the situation" (quite a classic). Now, is Sue's flirting with Bob also part of the system? It was not intended to affect the SIS, but it certainly did.

      If I got Ben right, he would say, "Yeah, sure as hell buddy, that's system, too." Even given the definition from the LP, I don't think that makes a lot of sense. I'd say system represents what is supposed to affect the SIS, not what actually affects it. Doesn't the word "system" sound like something pre-designed rather than something random?
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      Tim C Koppang
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      « Reply #40 on: July 28, 2004, 06:01:29 AM »

      Quote from: Frank T
      Doesn't the word "system" sound like something pre-designed rather than something random?

      What you're really getting at is intent.  Does system include only intentional forays into the SIS?  Consider however, that even if Sue didn't intend her flirting to affect the SIS, the GM surely intended to allow the flirting to affect the SIS once it annoyed him.  As soon as a participant decides to bring something into the negotiation, then you have System in action.
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      contracycle
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      « Reply #41 on: July 28, 2004, 06:12:21 AM »

      Quote from: Frank T
      Well, I don't want to get carried away with that example. I can pick another one that's more obvious: The GM is mad at Sue cause she's flirting with Bob the whole evening and not paying attention. Therefore he gets her character ambushed. The obvious system part is "the GM establishes the situation" (quite a classic). Now, is Sue's flirting with Bob also part of the system? It was not intended to affect the SIS, but it certainly did.


      The point I was trying to make is that the example procedes on the assumption that the GM does in fact have the power to impose that ruling, even if the means by which the GM was persuaded to do so were "unfair" or similar.  In the second scenario you give, the GM is imposing a sort of punitive sanction.  This scenario assumes too that the GM is empowered to do so.

      But it is not a given that a GM role is even necessary.  So when the group sat down and agreed to appoint a GM and to defer to the GM's authority, they went through a process of agreeing this.  So when the pizza bribe is offered, it is offered in the knowledge that all the players have conceded to the GM this authority - and THEREFORE the GM will be able to live up to their end of the bargain.

      So, the GM's authority is still illusory.  Yes, the GM's authority brought the antidote into being - but that action on the part of the GM is dependant on the tacit consent of the other players.   The other players could revoke that consent at any time and walk out.  The GM's authority exists only so far as the other players agree that it should exist.  If the players accept the GM's sanction against Sue, then it is still the case that that ambush was introduced by the GM, supported by the social contract, in a systematically sound way.
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      Frank T
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      « Reply #42 on: July 28, 2004, 06:20:41 AM »

      Yeah well, if that's the way to look at it, then please somebody explain to me the difference between system and social contract.
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      TooManyGoddamnOrcs
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      « Reply #43 on: July 28, 2004, 06:27:54 AM »

      OK, I suppose I'll take a shot and use the words of countless posters before me:

      System:
      Player: "I rolled an 8, therefore you take 2d6 HP damage"
      Social Contract:
      GM (Thought Balloon: Barry still owes me twenty bucks): "I'm gonna rule that the gun jams because BARRY hasn't PAID to have his gun serviced during the past few sessions and IGNORING DEBTS HAS CONSEQUENCES."

      You can play entirely through social contract "calvinballing," narrating through skill rolls "does the door have a poison trap, what about a magical trigger, can I see the trigger...?"

      You cannot play entirely through system and have it be a tabletop roleplaying game.  Roleplaying Video Games that are not Multiplayer can be seen as an attempt to give system without social contract.

      Am I missing anything?
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      Paganini
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      « Reply #44 on: July 28, 2004, 07:14:34 AM »

      There is no difference between social contract and system, except that system is not the entirity of social contract. System is a (sometimes codified, sometimes not) subset of Social Contract.
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