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Author Topic: Metagame mechanics  (Read 8797 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2001, 06:59:00 PM »

Ha! That reminds me of a friend in college, who was inclined to wear a sign around his neck saying, "To me," to indicate that any point he made was to have that phrase tacked on the end of it.

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2001, 08:04:00 PM »

Quote

P.S. Here's another question - does Simulationist game design ever need metagame mechanics? My current take is that such design is built, among other things, to facilitate and even enforce Actor stance ... which would seem that metagame mechanics would be decidedly out of place ....? Help me out on this one.


Only feel qualified/have time to address the PS at this point.  It seems to me the most important thing about metagame in a Simulationist game is that it must be "justified" in the simulation.  "Luck" is the easiest justification - you're not metagaming, or actor-stancing, this is just the realistic/appropriate allowance for luck in the simulation.

Now, this is smoke-and-mirrors - with any metagame mechanic (as I understand the definition), you are making a decision that (at some level) is outside the simulation.  And you could allow for that factor in your Simulationist design with a non-meta mechanic - so it does seem that a metagame tool "disqualifies" pure simulation.  But maybe I'm just stuck in my current "all simulation is smoke and mirrors (at some level)" assesment.

Gordon C. Landis
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: May 24, 2001, 05:46:00 AM »

I think we're pretty much in agreement about this one, Gordon. If we're off-base, maybe Mike Holmes or Gareth could help?

Best,
Ron
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Logan
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« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2001, 05:48:00 AM »

I think the whole metagame in simulation is another purity issue. There is undeniable connection between metagame mechanics and author/director stances. The actual use of that metagame is dependent on bias. Narrativists use metagame to make a better story. Gamists use metagame to get better results for their characters. Simulationists might use metagame to make the simulation more believable, but very little work has been done in this area.

I don't see the point of a distinction between metagame mechanics and meta-(game mechanics). Essentially, metagame mechanics reinforce Drama as a method of resolution. If the metagame mechanic is part of your core rules or tacked on the outside is just a matter of integration and design philosophy. Extreme Vengeance has a whole bunch of metagame stuff built into its core, but these are still easily recognizable as metagame mechanics. In that case, those metagame capabilities are part of the character's overall Effectiveness.

Theatrix uses plot points to fuel the metagame mechanic and provides a variety of methods for refreshing and increasing the supply of points. Obviously, there, the metgame mechanics are tied more closely to Resource.

To use the terminology we already have, the overall effect of a metagame mechanic will be tied to its Resource requirements and its degree of impact on the character's Effectiveness.

Best,

Logan
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Dav
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« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2001, 06:00:00 AM »

All right.  This is a bit of a digression from the current discussion, but I was thinking about as I read Ron/Gordon/Logan's posts.  Orkworld has a metagame mechanic built-in to it, Trouble.  Trouble is nifty, it can be used by players and by GMs.  One thing I am thinking right now, is that I can see a reason for metagame mechanic in the scope of GNS for the player.  The reason for allowing the GM to have this mechanic is... why?  I can see narrativist, but then, to my mind, it isn't too hard to justify a lot of things using a narrativist paradigm (to me, they can be anything or anyone, as long as they can see how it can be used to better the story).  In a gamist or simulationist POV, I see it as a bit more muddled.  It could said to balance power on a gamist side, but everyone knows the GM is god, so why bother?  

I'm not trying to say here that giving the GM a metagame mechanic is bad (Trouble is fun as hell), I'm just wondering at the justification for it in terms of a gamist or simulationist view.

Dav

[ This Message was edited by: Dav on 2001-05-24 10:10 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: May 24, 2001, 06:21:00 AM »

Hi Dav,

I'm getting a bit out of my line in RPG play and design to address your point, but here are my baby-step thoughts about it.

1) Gamism comes in sub-categories that we as a community haven't even begun to examine. One set of criteria I always mention concerns who is competing with whom - you might see GM as ref over competing players, GM vs. players, GM as ref over players vs. scenario, and maybe even combinations of these.

So metagame for the GM might be present specifically to empower that particular role in one of these categories. In fact, it's kind of mind-boggling to imagine a Core Resolution system that could accomodate in-game resolution AND support the GM's unique role as ref or opponent.

Of course, Robin Laws will probably invent such a thing next week, and there y'go.

2) In Simulationist game-designs of the early 1990s, one of the fundamental metagame "mechanics" (or component of the rules, anyway) is the ever-present "The GM may ignore [fudge] Fortune-based outcomes." Hence the carryover of the Gamist GM-screen (a necessary component in some modes of Gamism) to Simulationist design. In other words, many Simulationist game designs include a Drama-oriented metagame privilege ONLY for GMs - and I claim that this is because "story," in this mode of play, is wholly GM-based or metagame-based.

Is this broken, or inconsistent in some way with the ideals of Simulationism? Not if story is to be involved. There is no way, given Simulationist standards, that Actor-stance players can make/create story - so it has to fall to the GM, whether he is doing so by himself or relying on published metaplot. And in that context, he needs to the privilege to over-ride the usual resolution mechanic, and historically, it seems to be through the use of covert Drama.

If we're talking about a brand of Simulationism in which story is NOT involved (the E-thing, most LARPing), then the need for metagame mechanics for anyone goes out the window.

All of the above is open for massive debate or refinement from people who are more emotionally connected to the subject than I am and more aware of its nuances. However, it does fit with my observation that highly-focused Narrativist game-designs have utterly abandoned the notion of "use the rules you like, discard the rest," or "ignore undesired Fortune outcomes." Games like Hero Wars, Zero, Sorcerer, and Extreme Vengeance are rather stern about their rules - fudging would be evidence of the group's inability to spin story out of constraint, and is definitely not encouraged or even mentioned in the texts.

Best,
Ron
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Dav
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« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2001, 06:30:00 AM »

Ron:

Ha!
"So metagame for the GM might be present specifically to empower that particular role in one of these categories. In fact, it's kind of mind-boggling to imagine a Core Resolution system that could accomodate in-game resolution AND support the GM's unique role as ref or opponent."

And, from a Gamist perspective (using the empathy we've been speaking about in the Sorcerer forum :smile: ), how, exactly, would you say Sorcerer doesn't do this?  (tee-hee)

Dav

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2001, 06:45:00 AM »

Dav,

You're referring to the GM's judgment of role-playing bonuses and penalties, right? I accept the implied compliment gladly - that is, that Sorcerer has already accomplished what I'm posing as a difficult design goal.

However, sadly, it does not apply. Sorcerer is an aggressively Narrativist game design, and the GM is neither referee overseeing others' competition, nor opponent on the other side of a competition. The GM is a co-author with specific, necessary powers within a group of co-authors.

I'm curious about whether there ARE equivalent Gamist mechanics that DO facilitate the two possible GM roles I describe. Could this aspect of Sorcerer design be 'ported to Gamist goals?  

Best,
Ron
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Dav
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« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2001, 06:52:00 AM »

Ron:

The GM, by necessity, represents the "other side" during conflict resolution.  The GM also, yes determines bonuses/penalties, but also does his/her best to stomp away at players.  Actually, less stomp away, more "complete the NPC agenda".  The PC's, usually, are "preventing the NPC agenda".  Mutual opposition, with the GM on one side, the PC on the other.  The GM tries to get the NPC the hell out of Dodge (or wherever).

I think that Sorcerer has a strong mechanic for Gamism.  Hell, I have a tendency toward competition and "winning" in some cases, and in combat when playing Sorcerer, I felt the burn.  It may be that you are focused upon the story, and seeing the wash of colors and action, but I'm seeing me (or more specifically, usually Elizabeth) beat the hell out of the opponent.  Murder mystery stories are always "us against them", and always facilitate competition, at least to my view.

I think, with the GM formulating the other side in terms of action/reaction, as well as granting bonuses/penalties, the GM is pitted, in many cases against the PC.  The roll vs. roll brings that conflict to the forefront.  I, as a sorcerer, am always rolling against the GM, who is representing the opposition.  I am never rolling against the "difficulty", or attempting to attain a certain number, I am trying to beat the GM.

You have a versatile system that needs no 'porting.  It is good to go for a Gamist (take it from someone who can get downright Gamist when the blood is flowing).

Dav

(So, I'm getting to thinking, another good aspect would be if you allowed someone else to play the demon of a sorcerer, especially if that demon were antagonistic in many ways to that sorcerer.  You would have a player on player conflict that is entirely gamist in theory, but would provide fun and interesting story for narrativists as well.  Anyway, just a thought... and this is way off subject here)

[ This Message was edited by: Dav on 2001-05-24 11:03 ]
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #24 on: May 24, 2001, 08:33:00 AM »

Quote

Orkworld has a metagame mechanic built-in to it, Trouble. Trouble is nifty, it can be used by players and by GMs. [...] The reason for allowing the GM to have this mechanic is... why? [...]In a gamist or simulationist POV, I see it as a bit more muddled. It could said to balance power on a gamist side, but everyone knows the GM is god, so why bother?


Actually, I found in my quick-and-dirty Orkworld run (which in retrospect was an adventure in gamism, as I think about it) that Trouble was precisely a balancing issue.  This goes back to my comment in the Actual Play forum about Trouble.  Ordinarily I'd say that a gamist GM has to be impartial, even in his administration of challenges.  After all, the GM does have infinite resources at his disposal and could screw players over for laughs.  That is right out for a true gamist.  However, Trouble deals with this problem magnificently.  So, in a gamist approach to Orkworld, I still must play the neutral arbiter of the rules and challenges.  But...  Within narrowly defined limits, I can screw over each PC royally.  I can invoke all sorts of problems (example list:  hive of zooms falling out of a tree, running into a bear (at the same time), sneezing at an inopportune moment...and those were just from the first session) but I am limited by the PC's Trouble score.  He decides how often he wants to be screwed over.  I only take advantage of the opportunity.

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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
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Mytholder
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« Reply #25 on: May 25, 2001, 01:19:00 AM »

Quickly leaping in when my name in invoked (and when did I become an expert on simulationism? I do 'em all in different games...):

Simulationism can't have metagame mechanics, but it can have "metasetting" mechanics. I shouldn't be able to save my character from certain death by spending a Plot Point, because there is no Plot-with-a-capital-p in simulationism. (Characters and NPCs might have plots, as in "evil plots to take over the world", but the interaction of characters and setting takes precedence over story.) It would break immersion.

On the other hand, if we're playing a game where there's some supernatural creature looking out for my character (say, a samurai game where the ghost of my ancestor protects me), then the player can use the ghost character as an "channel" or ingame justification for saving the PC.

It's all about not breaking immersion. A simulationist game should feel like it is giving the players a window on a living, breathing world.

(Of course, this whole thing breaks down when you start considering games like Feng Shui and other "simulations of fiction". I suspect Feng Shui is a complete mess in terms of G/N/S, but it works....)
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