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Author Topic: Purpose of rules  (Read 25917 times)
lumpley
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« Reply #30 on: January 20, 2002, 04:58:48 PM »

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

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

How what things work?  In-game events?

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

Is that what you're talking about?

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

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

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

--

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

-Vincent
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« Reply #31 on: January 20, 2002, 06:12:55 PM »

Thanks Ron for breaking off this thread as its own thing...

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


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

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

Chris
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James V. West
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« Reply #32 on: January 20, 2002, 06:39:37 PM »

I think the purpose of rules with regards to metagame power is completely woven into the game's overall purpose. Like I said before, a game like DnD relies on near-total GM control to be effective as-written, whereas a game like SOAP clearly does not.

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

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

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

(oh yeah, and thanks for tolerating my many gross typos in these posts ;-))
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erithromycin
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« Reply #33 on: January 21, 2002, 01:27:56 PM »

Quote from: lumpley

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

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

How what things work?  In-game events?


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

Quote

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

Is that what you're talking about?


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

Quote

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


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

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

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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


But isn't that what mechanics are?

Quote

There's people sitting around a table, talking.


But isn't that what roleplaying is?

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

Quote

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


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


Quote

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


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

drew
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my name is drew

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: January 21, 2002, 01:41:58 PM »

Hey,

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

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

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

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

Best,
Ron
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erithromycin
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« Reply #35 on: January 21, 2002, 03:00:14 PM »

I think, Ron, that your point is a valid one. I wasn't clear. What I meant to say is that most fudging comes from frustrated narrativists in non-narrative systems, IME. In narrative games, the point is to let the dice tell the story. I think it's a philosophical thing. Anyway, there you go. You still haven't answered my 'Completeness' query though, oh GNS guru...

drew

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

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lumpley
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« Reply #36 on: January 21, 2002, 04:03:08 PM »

Well, Drew, either you're not explaining yourself well, or you're explaining yourself well enough and I disagree with you.  It's hard for me to tell.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #37 on: January 21, 2002, 04:12:15 PM »

Hi Drew,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #38 on: January 21, 2002, 06:04:17 PM »

In the heat of the moment I can be a real jerk.

Hi, Drew.  Pleased to meet you.  I'm Vincent.
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contracycle
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« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2002, 02:20:50 AM »

I don;t think Sim-GM fudging occurs because the GM is a furstrated Narrativist - it occurs because the GM is a frustrated Simmer.  No mechanical system can accurately Sim the real, material world; not even a computerised model coulod do it even theoretically.  We all know the rules ar5e abstractions, and sometimes we are obliged to sacrifice the abstraction for the sim.
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erithromycin
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« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2002, 04:41:15 AM »

Quote from: lumpley

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

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

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

Oh, and hiya vincent.

drew
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my name is drew

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joshua neff
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« Reply #41 on: January 22, 2002, 07:26:01 AM »

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

(This conclusion came about while talking about game balance & the idea that all characters had to have the same number of starting points, when I think it's much more important for player contribution to be balanced than for the player-character skeleton. GURPS, for example, has systems for making sure all PCs are the same starting "level" by having them built with the same number of posts. Not being all that familiar with the game, does it also have mechanics to ensure that each player has equal contribution to the game? Or is that left to pure social contract between the players?)
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lumpley
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« Reply #42 on: January 22, 2002, 09:39:21 AM »

At the risk of pulling myself into every damn argument in the book, I'm a GDS Selfish-Immersion Simulationist and a GNS Narrativist.  Plus I play banned-word styles like diceless and rules-light, and jargon-word styles like GM-distributed.

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

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

-Vincent
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Bankuei
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« Reply #43 on: January 22, 2002, 09:49:24 AM »

Josh, I definitely see your point in the use of "metagame", what would be a good term to use meaning rules that take place outside the gameworld but still within the game rules?

Chris
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joshua neff
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« Reply #44 on: January 22, 2002, 09:54:50 AM »

Chris--

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