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Author Topic: [Rifts] -- Rifts workable? Possibly, maybe...  (Read 4238 times)
Andre Canivet
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« on: May 21, 2010, 11:10:13 PM »

Hello again...

A while ago I posted (here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=29542.0) that I had joined a Rifts gaming group for the first time in almost two decades, and was a bit apprehensive about it due to negative experiences associated with that system.  With the assistance of the good folks here at the Forge, I had some profound revelations about those experiences, and how much, as a teenager, I had depended on gaming to fill a kind of void in my life.

Well, it's been two months, but we finally played our first game this past Tuesday and I thought I'd report the experience in light of those revelations.  The reason for the delay is complicated...  we meet every Tuesday night, but only for three or so hours at a time (due to a couple of members having far to travel).  Also, we're alternating each week between Rifts with one GM, and D&D 4e with another DM. 

Also, as was my experience with Rifts as a kid, it took the first two sessions (i.e. somewhere between 6 to 8 hours) just to create characters.  To be fair, only I and the GM had much experience with the system--and one player had almost no gaming experience at all--so it's possible it would go faster next time around.

And, I have to admit, the feelings were mixed going in.  On the one hand, all the little annoyances came back... like reading through rules details and OCC descriptions, etc., that state one thing at first, then contradict themselves in the next paragraph, or the next sentence.  And the massive and unwieldy skill list (seriously, Kevin, WTF?... separate skills for hunting, fishing, tracking & trapping animals, identifying plants & fruit, preserving food, skinning and preparing hides, AND wilderness survival?  isn't it likely that someone with one of those skills would also have the others?)

And yet, it felt good to be thumbing through those books again--which reminded me that my adolescent experiences were far from all bad.  There were a lot of good memories, too, despite the chaos of it all; and I miss regularly gaming with that crowd.

Back in the present, I was concerned with what type of character I would play.  All my munchkiny little habits from back in the day were returning, and I was looking to play an Apok from Wormwood, or an Undead slayer--something really tough that wouldn't have to worry about MDC armour.  But the GM wanted limits, and I realized that was probably quite wise.

In fact, he gave us a short list of allowable OCC's & playable races, and limited our equipment to basic / standard types of weapons (a basic energy rifle and pistol), no vehicles, and no power-armour or robots.  (Sorry!  No Shemarrian railguns for starting characters!)  So, already the tone of the game was likely to be different.

The characters we created were: a Wolfen Mystic, a (human?) Wilderness Scout, a True Atlantean Techno-Wizard, and another True Atlantean Super-Spy (played by me).  I was hoping to play a True Atlantean, but I didn't want to be a Ley Line Walker and couldn't be an Undead Slayer, so I wasn't sure what to go with.  The GM recommended the Super-Spy (out of the Mercenaries book; basically a spy with master psionics, magic, cybernetics, or super-powers), and so I took him up on that, despite being really hobbled in the skill department (only 4 OCC related skills & 4 secondaries)--but hey he's a master psionic!  I'd briefly considered a Cyber-knight, but figured the alignment & behavioural restrictions would be too much of a burden---plus, the Cyber-knight OCC in the main book is pretty weak, really... (or is it?)

---

And finally we started play: The techno-wizard's player couldn't make it our first actual play session, so it was just my Super-spy, the Scout, and the Mystic.  We had been living in a small village somewhere in Pennsylvania; cautiously avoiding an alliance with either the Coalition or the Federation of Magic, who were in the midst of their war.  There were a handful of Coalition deserters in the village, and a few d-bees living alongside humans. 

We had been off searching the ruins of a city for particular piece of pre-Rifts tech, but had had no luck.  The techno-wizard was off consulting with a local hermit, explaining his absence from play.  On returning, we found a few of those deserters dead, strung up and mutilated in a clearing, with obvious signs of a battle.  We made a lot of perception & skill rolls here, trying to figure out what had happened-- the coalition had found some of the deserters from the village, battle ensued, and the deserters and their travelling companions lost.  The event had taken place probably 36 hours earlier.

We quickly took the bodies down and hurried back to the village, but we followed a secret route.  The wilderness scout led the way with his nature-type skills, and eventually we came upon an area of broken trees and scorchmarks, signs of another battle; and it became clear that this had been between a technologically advanced party and a magically advanced adversary--a battle between coalition and federation of magic forces. 

We continued to the village, and found something similar--the village had been caught in a cross-fire between the two battling platoons of Coalition & Magic folks.  The place was pretty much levelled, but there were signs that someone had been searching for something.  The only obvious survivor we found was a creepy old dude who claimed to have ratted out the deserters for the bounties on their heads, and tricked the two armies into battling here so that he could search for whatever he was looking for.

Only the scout spoke to him (only he noticed the guy), and he didn't restrain the man, or inquire as to what he'd been looking for...  not sure why he let him go.  When the scout returned from talking to the man, my character rolled his spy skills and recognized the name of the man as a notorious spy / agent who liked to indirectly destroy villages like ours for fun & profit.

Curses!  Anyway, as we argued about this, a pebble struck my helmet, and I looked and saw a little girl (who had been living with the two magic users from Lazlo that had helped to run the village), hiding behind the Mystic.  Also, she had a Chameleon spell hiding her; which she theoretically shouldn't be able to do...  and...

It was time to stop.

An interesting and emotional session (those bodies in the clearing were really tortured before dying).  Notably, there was no combat encounter.  I think we made more skill rolls in this one three hour session than I made in my entire Rifts experience to date (but who wasn't bloodthirsty at 16?).

But, it sucks that in such a skill heavy game, I really don't have that many skills.  I took physical skills and robot combat skills...  not realizing there'd be very little armour or robots to speak of.  Alas, my character is geared to my old style of play--heavy on the combat, and not much else.

So, bummed about this, I took a look through the GM's copy of the core rules...  He has the updated "Ultimate Edition" book, which I don't own.   And the thing is: apart from the typical terrible organization, and a conspicuous lack of any statement of system changes in this new edition (or why I should care about it), there are lots of new skills, a few updated rules, and changes to some of the core OCC's.  Most importantly, the Cyber-Knight in the new edition doesn't suck!  Far from it, it's a pretty darn cool class, and had I known, I would have...

Sigh.  My fault for assuming not much had changed.  My cynicism and haste got the better of me, and now I have to wait for an opportunity to sub in a new character.  (You win this round, Kevin!  But wait'll I've read the book more thoroughly!  Your incoherence shall not save you then!)

But otherwise, it was a good time.  It really helps that the GM really knows the system and knows what he's doing.  He's very old-school---he was old-school when I was initially playing Rifts as a teenager.  When I met him, he said he'd played everything, but only named things like Iron Crown, Palladium, BRP, first & second ed. D&D.  He didn't mention any newer ones like Silhouette, Savage Worlds, Cortex, or anything I'm really familiar with since my Rifts days.  So, there's possibly a bit of a generation gap.  But I'm happy to learn how games were played in the early days, even if I'm learning with Rifts.

So, all in all, how do I feel about Rifts?  Well, with the right GM, it seems reasonably playable.  At least, so far.  We'll see if I still feel that way when we do some combat.  I still think system does matter, but hopefully in the case of Rifts, it doesn't matter as much as I thought it did.  It helps that I'm not trying to use this game to gain some sort of control over my personal life, too.

Anyway, if you've made it to the bottom of the post, you have my congratulations, and my thanks for hearing my rambling.

Cheers!

-A.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Hans Otterson
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2010, 12:05:52 AM »

Hey Andre, do you have any questions for us or any insight into Rifts? I recently traded a game I'll never play again for a bunch of the Palladium TMNT games (chalk it up to childhood nostalgia for the Turtles more than anything else), and I'm kind of curious about Rifts, especially since I've never played it and have heard nothing but bad things about it (and I'll have to corroborate those opinions with my reading of the TMNT books).

Still, I'm curious: what kind of feedback are you looking for here?
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2010, 01:23:43 AM »

Hi Hans,

I suppose I'm mainly posting a response/update to the previous linked thread, but if I were asking for feedback, I suppose it would be about two questions:

1).  Can a good GM make "system" (at least, system in terms of the game text & explicit rules) less important?  A unifying idea here at the Forge is that system matters.  I know that's been hotly debated at times; with many gamers arguing that the specific rules of the game are largely irrelevant, and my last post asked whether it was system, or players which/who were responsible for generating an enjoyable experience.  I suppose I'm really just trying to wrap my head around the idea that the game and the text are two separate things.  In other words: What is the "game," really?  It's not the text, but it's also not totally independent of the text.

2).  Is the supposed generation gap I mentioned between the 1st generation of gamers (who started at the beginning with basic D&D, etc.), and gamers who started the hobby with later games...  is that anything other people have noticed?  What I mean is, the GM of this game really loves the Palladium rules.  He says they're really innovative and flexible.  Whereas, my own experience with the game is that the rules are rather bizarre and idiosyncratic, at least when compared to a lot of other games that came along even a couple of years later.  I'm just curious about any thoughts that more experienced gamers would have on the matter.

As for insight into Rifts and TMNT, I guess it really depends on what you're used to.  Palladium's writing has never been very good--so it's hard to always know what Kevin Siembieda really means.  This makes the rules a bit ambiguous at times.  I find that a lot of other games (like D6 Star Wars, 2nd ed., or Silhouette, or Cortex) are much more coherent in presentation, if not actual playing experience.

The basic Rifts rules are pretty much the same as TMNT, except that Rifts introduces something called "MDC" or Mega-damage capacity; which is a scale of damage above the SDC rules.  1 MDC point equals 100 SDC, which is supposed to reflect really high powered weapons and devices, such as high tech tanks & power armour, energy weapons, and so on.  But it introduces a lot of problems, too--like, an unarmoured human still only has 50-100 SDC + Hit points, so a single shot from a basic 1D6 MDC laser pistol can easily vapourize the character it took you 6 hours to build. 

The setting, of course, is also quite different to TMNT.  Rifts is an "anything goes" sort of game; so you can play an ordinary human (with extraordinary equipment, MDC armour & weapons, etc.), augmented humans (like cyborgs & drug-enhanced Juicers), high powered magic users, super-heroes, or any of literally dozens of human & non-human visitors from different dimensions.  The main setting / meta-plot involves a war between the semi-Fascist / human supremacist Coalition States, and the power-mad Federation of Magic.

The game has some serious balance issues.  As I found in my first experiences with the game, it's quite easy for the power level to get out of control, and for players to become easily a match for the various Gods and Supernatural intelligences in the setting.  Or, as I'm finding in this new game, a GM who knows the setting and doesn't mind a bit of extra work can tone it down and play a low-powered game

So, Rifts isn't necessarily a terrible game, it's just that it takes a fair bit of work and dedication to properly resolve the rules, and reign in the power level.

Cheers,

-A.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2010, 07:32:41 AM »

Hi Andre,

I'll open by saying that your actual-play account is an excellent read, giving me a fair portrait of both yourself and play, as well as being simply fun.

Your final point in the first post, and then your second post, call for some theoretical detail from me. I'm seeing a deep mis-reading of the point that "system does matter," to the extent that I am going to criticize your conclusions. I'm offering what follows in the hope that you don't mind me taking a strong position about the ideas that I authored 11 years ago. I also hope that what I say is useful and interesting.

Many people apparently read the phrase "system does matter" as license to declare that a given game is bad and sucks, and to decry any play of that game as un-fun play. This reading has nothing to do with anything I've written. You've already identified the key error that this reading makes - to confuse system with textual rules. System is what we do at the table, which most of the time is strongly informed by textual rules which sit at or near the table too, but also most of the time, includes much more than is written there, and contradicts those written rules to some degree.

My essay System Does Matter identifies this difference and calls for writing textual rules which actually help the group carry out a system (for play), rather than impede it. I wrote the essay in defiance of an extremely well-entrenched claim to the contrary, that system does not matter, which as I saw it, endorsed poor rules-design and overlooked the fact that a group which "ignores the rules" is effectively creating its own system and cares deeply about that system's qualities. To summarize, I suggest that well-written rules make a functional system more possible, or at the very least, less aggravating to implement. I also suggest that well-written rules can expand people's notions of functional systems rather than continually entrench them into comfort zones, which is definitely what badly-written and constantly-derivative rules texts do.

I think this distinction alters your conclusions to an extent. None of your conclusions contradict anything that I wrote in my essay or have discussed since. First, one can play Rifts and many other role-playing games, and although various textual rules may not stand up well for what you want, you can "kick the tires" as a group and end up with a functional system at your table. In fact, I suggest that this is absolutely necessary for many published games. I've written about it extensively regarding Champions, for instance.

Second, to my knowledge, no one here at the Forge has ever been permitted to get away with the fallacious claim that a given set of textual rules is immune to such tire-kicking, such that the game is utterly devoid of playability, i.e., irretrievably sucks. That would again be committing the same text/system error, in the bizarre belief that somehow the book exerts such pull and power that the group haplessly must apply textual rules that they do not like or want. In some groups, people use such logic in order to wield social and creative power over others (the negative form of "rules lawyer"), but in most, the group simply changes the way they play, often without realizing it.

I think this point also alters your conclusions, or re-colors them. When you say, "So, Rifts isn't a terrible game," you're not refuting any standing point from our discussions here. No one said "Rifts is a bad game" in any sort of definitive or argumentatively-solid way. Furthermore, the very fact that that you identified the specific group-based qualifications that were necessary to make the Rifts rules usable by your group, you're validating the concept that system does matter. I also want to stress that when you say "properly apply the rules," that is a very group-specific, very personal claim to the word "properly." Another group may find maximum fun in competing regarding who can generate the most power-effective character, and call that "properly," and regard your specifications with horror and disdain.

Let me know if anything I'm writing here makes sense - or even more importantly, whether this is where you want to go in this thread. I do not want to impose my response in such a way that it defines the discussion, and if you prefer, I will consider this post to be "logging my point" and sufficient in that.

Best, Ron
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2010, 01:11:59 PM »

Hi Ron,

It certainly makes sense and I don't disagree with any of it.  I think the issue is really that I haven't really mastered the discipline of precise speech used here at the Forge (although I am eager to learn!).

Let me clarify that I didn't mean to say: "I had fun playing this unplayable game, so system must not really matter after all," or to draw (or challenge) any theoretical conclusions.  What I meant was that system with this new GM & group is very different to system with my group in high school, even though the textual rules haven't changed at all.  The social contract, approach to gaming, attitudes of the players, and so forth are all entirely different.  So, in the end, I suppose it's not much of a revelation that the "system" as distinct from text, and the play experience, should be quite different as well.  It's just odd to play a game that caused so much frustration all those years ago, and suddenly find it enjoyable again.

Theoretically speaking, that's the part that's so surprising--not that system is different from text, but how very different it can be, and how unspoken so much of it often is, and how the game flows from that.  It's like... I've read the theory, and now I'm seeing it in action, and I've only scratched the surface.  It's taking some time to get my head around.

When I said Rifts isn't so terrible, I was mainly expressing surprise at my enjoyment of it and refuting my own earlier feelings about it out loud--which is perhaps a bad habit.  In the 2nd post, I was mainly responding to Hans where he said he'd heard nothing but bad things about it.  By "properly" and "playable" I didn't mean to suggest that my criteria for playability were the only possible or correct ones; only that the game required more work than others to interpret in any direction, due to the writing style---(i.e. Rifts seems to need more tire-kicking, no matter what you intend to use it for)---but that's only my own opinion.

Anyway, thanks for your kind response, Ron.  I hadn't realized I was coming across the way I did, and it's a good reminder to be more precise in my writing and thinking. 

Warm regards,

-A.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2010, 06:42:09 AM »

I've been trying to reply for days! Anyway, without the link I was looking for (the thread exists but searches aren't working well due to server hassles) ...

I see! Many thanks. We are in full agreement about Rifts, in that tire-kicking - and a lot of it - seems absolutely required. I think this was very common among the more well-known 1980s games, including the first three editions of Champions, Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest of that era, and to a very great degree, AD&D2. I think that (Andreas' Rifts thread; I'll add the link later) offers a good example of how much tire-kicking of a very different sort was applied to the same or similar rules text, for different goals of play.

I was especially struck, in your first post, about how when you were younger, you role-played in order to fill a void in your life. I don't want to know the details, but I do think that was the case for quite a few people attending this site. It would be useful one day to see an Actual Play thread in which people compared that phenomenon.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2010, 12:33:39 AM »

Hi Andre,

I'd like to offer a second opinion that's very different. I would say not only to keep seeing text and behaviour (here called 'system') as the same, but also strongly advise against seperating the notions. Weve a long history with board and card games where text and behaviour/system are identical and mirror images of each other. Where they aren't identical, it's either called cheating, or the technical phrase for it is 'a fuck up'! Smiley I'll give three examples, the first a non gamey one, because this extends well beyond gaming as it applys to alot of self correction.

1. I was watching a competative cooking competition on TV (blame my woman for that), and they had footage of one of the contestants slowly but surely spooning the entire contents of a jar of mustard and putting it into the mix. They cut to an after interview and she said she genuinely thought the recipe asked for an entire jar, when the recipe asked for a teaspoons worth (or some much smaller and fixed amount).

Now, if an observer of her were to say she is inventing a new recipe, or that she was inventing a system in doing that, that observer is incorrect and is actually colouring the result. It's actually the observer who is inventing a new recipe, if they 'see' a recipe being invented. It's the observer who is inventing a system if they 'see' a system. She isn't inventing anything - it's a fuck up. Not a recipe, not a system.

2. Way back, playing the underground RPG, my friend Dan got it into his head that you can do as many attacks as you want, but you just take a penalty to hit on each one. He genuinely thought this was part of the 'recipe' so to speak and was doing this in play.

If an observer of were to say he or the group is inventing a system there, that observer is incorrect and is actually colouring the result. Again, it's simply an error. It's the observer who is inventing a system if they 'see' a system. There's no system here as much as when someone has an epileptic fit, they are not inventing a system to their bodies movements, they simply spasm.

3. A more recent game, rifts perchance. Chris and Dan were adding two points of megadamage from the fencing skill, when he attacked with his MD vibroblade. Now I was looking at them wondering if they just fucked up, because it only gives 2 extra normal damage in the text. But I ended up asking and Chris (GM at the time) said, in a quietened voice (I wonder about that?), that nah, were making it that fencing gives 2 extra MD when using an MD melee weapon.

In this case it is a system, but I will argue that having told me this, I now have a text in my head on the fencing matter, the exact same text Dan and Chris have in their heads. Basically again text and behaviour (we all add the +2 megadamage) are identical, as it has been for thousands of years of boardgames and cardgames which use written text. And where a discrepancy between text and behaviour emerges, it's either called cheating or a fuck up. There is no middle ground - that is the self corrective method: that there is no middle ground. Trying to draw a distinction between text and behaviour is attempting to make a middle ground, which by it's nature throws that self correction method out of the window (and the real issue is, that no replacement for the self correction is made).

Alot of talk from me. What I'd say is to look for where your GM is damn sure he's following some sort of rule, but textually he isn't (his behaviour does not match any text present and/or any text he claims to be following). In those particular cases, you have identified an absence of system. What can actually be present isn't anything a human invented, in the same way as a human can have an epileptic fit, yet not have invented the actions of that fit. The woman with the mustard was can do all the many fine dexterity actions of spooning a whole jar of mustard into the pot, without actually inventing a new recipe. And so on.

It's a frightening notion to internalise for people who have gone to these experiences for years and years. A bit like trying to suggest to a guy with $2k of whitewolf books on his shelf there might be something wrong with his investment.

Further, on your questions
Quote
I suppose I'm really just trying to wrap my head around the idea that the game and the text are two separate things.  In other words: What is the "game," really?  It's not the text, but it's also not totally independent of the text.
I think it's a question of what is AND WHAT IS NOT the "game".

There has to be some method of rejecting certain behaviours as not being "game", else any old thing seeps in and is treated with dignified respect as 'game'. The traditional method, used by board and card gamers for centuries, is for behaviour to match the text - which is the very reason (above) I'm warning against trying to seperate text and behaviour from each other, as doing so is chucking out the only corrective method present and the actual terrible part, not replacing it with another corrective method.

1. Do you see yourself as your own authority on what is, for yourself, a 'game' and what behaviours have ceased to be, for yourself, a 'game'? If so it's simple, you yourself decide how you determine what is a game and what isn't. You might like to draw on boardgame culture for how you measure it, since that way your using a method that matches hundreds of thousands of people and has that benefit (mostly people outside 'gamer' culture though, sadly). But maybe you'll decide some other method for yourself.

2. If you don't see yourself as the authority on the matter, who do you see as the/an authority?

3. Or do you see the answer as to what is 'a game' as a physically existant thing, like the distance between two cities is not something an individual is an authority to decide for themselves, they instead physically measure it?

I hope these questions don't seem far out - I'm asking them because instead of pretending to be an authority who will tell you what is what, I'm punting the role of authority on to you, and asking as your own authority for yourself, what have or do you decide on these questions? I'm not going to say there are any wrong answers on the matter (except to take authority for oneself and treat it as also having authority over other peoples choices on these questions).

Quote
2).  Is the supposed generation gap I mentioned between the 1st generation of gamers (who started at the beginning with basic D&D, etc.), and gamers who started the hobby with later games...  is that anything other people have noticed?  What I mean is, the GM of this game really loves the Palladium rules.  He says they're really innovative and flexible.  Whereas, my own experience with the game is that the rules are rather bizarre and idiosyncratic, at least when compared to a lot of other games that came along even a couple of years later.  I'm just curious about any thoughts that more experienced gamers would have on the matter.
is that anything other people have noticed?
In terms of generations, not really. If I undestand you right, I do think I see it simply at the individual level - guy X thinks innovative and flexible, guy Y thinks bizarre and idiosyncratic. At the individual level, yes I have noticed it - I've noticed it so much that it has even, over time, lead to this slightly extensive post.

But I'm interested in reading your answers to 1, 2 and 3, if I can, thanks Smiley
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2010, 10:54:52 AM »

Hi Ron--I know what you mean about difficulty posting!  Smiley

My experience with 1980's games is limited to Rifts and AD&D2, but that's how it has felt to me as well.  Also, although I think you touched on this in one of the core essays, the vast majority of that tire-kicking seems to be done by the GM.  So system is quite often more a creation of the GM rather than the whole group, which tends to make his or her authority fairly absolute.  System in that case can become kind of a stick to bash the players with---especially if they are less experienced with the game in question.  Normally it doesn't get that far, but when there's a dispute, things seem to polarize---the GM gets a bit tyrannical, and the players start rules-lawyering. 

With regard to games filling a void in people's lives; I think it comes down to having some sense of control, and looking for it in a virtual world when the real world is lacking.  Heck, it doesn't even have to be teenagers playing RPG's.  How many people decide to move or re-decorate their homes, or maybe get a little treacherous at the office, when some part of their personal lives is out of control?

In any case, I would also be interested in an actual play thread where these experiences in gaming are compared.  I would certainly contribute to one.

---

Callan:

Thank you for pointing that out, as it is a really good point.  If I may, I'll try to synthesize your and Ron's views: There really is only a system when it's somehow explicit / agreed to by social contract, and even though it may be unwritten, it still constitutes a "text" of a sort, which behaviour is expected to
follow.  Random mistakes and misinterpretations aren't system---unless of course, everyone agrees that these behaviours are "canonical" and appropriate.

Also, ironically enough, you've brought up one of my questions for this new GM...  I've written up the preliminaries for a Cyber-knight using the Ultimate Edition rules, with the fencing skill (which in this version seems to add +1D6 to sword damage).  Does that bonus apply to the knight's psi-sword?

But not to get off topic, I'm bound to run into areas where my ideas of system conflict with the GM's.  In this case, our systems are "implicit" in that I have one, and he has one, and presumably the other players have their own, and yet we haven't yet had occasion to resolve the differences in these ideas and expected behaviours.  We play again this tuesday, and I'm sure it'll come up---especially since we'll probably use the combat rules this time.

In response to your questions, they don't seem far out at all.  In fact, I'm afraid my answer may be a bit far out.  When I was asking what the game actually is, I was grappling with the idea that the game is this phantasmal thing--a kind of living imaginary process that resides strictly in the minds and the conversation of the players.  The written text of the game---even the unwritten "text" or system, and things like maps, miniatures, artwork, dice, etc., can all represent and interact with the game... but they are not the actual game. 

It's like music.  A CD or an MP3 file isn't music; lyrics aren't music; sonic vibrations aren't music; only the experience of music in the mind & body of the listener is the music.  The music might be generated by all these other things, but is not identical to them.

It's a little different to a board game.  When I play a game like Monopoly or Risk; I'm absorbed in the physicality of the game--the board, the tokens on the board, the dice, the cards, etc.  Even the rules, as you point out, are generally unambiguous in a board game and point directly to acceptable behaviour.  At least, that's how it is for me.  I've never really asked my friends where their attention is when they play, but perhaps it's time I did.

I don't know if that answers your questions, really, but it's kind of what sprung to mind when I read them. More directly:

1 & 2) I do consider myself an authority on my own experience, and for me the experience of a role-playing game is an internal and ephemeral one, whereas a board game is much more external and material. 

3) In the case of a board game--yes, it seems to be (mainly) a physically extant thing.  For an RPG, the answer is "not really" or "sort of."  A board game is sport, an RPG is fiction...  if that makes sense.

I'm certain there are many other ways of experiencing these things; that's just how it seems to me Smiley


Cheers,

-A.

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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Hans Otterson
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Posts: 17


« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2010, 10:54:48 PM »

When I was asking what the game actually is, I was grappling with the idea that the game is this phantasmal thing--a kind of living imaginary process that resides strictly in the minds and the conversation of the players.  The written text of the game---even the unwritten "text" or system, and things like maps, miniatures, artwork, dice, etc., can all represent and interact with the game... but they are not the actual game. 

It's like music.  A CD or an MP3 file isn't music; lyrics aren't music; sonic vibrations aren't music; only the experience of music in the mind & body of the listener is the music.  The music might be generated by all these other things, but is not identical to them.

It's a little different to a board game.  When I play a game like Monopoly or Risk; I'm absorbed in the physicality of the game--the board, the tokens on the board, the dice, the cards, etc.  Even the rules, as you point out, are generally unambiguous in a board game and point directly to acceptable behaviour.  At least, that's how it is for me.  I've never really asked my friends where their attention is when they play, but perhaps it's time I did.

Andre, way cool. I love this kind of discussion, though I don't think there's any real answer to it, so I won't blabber on and on about how everything is ephemeral & postmodern. I post here just to say: I don't think it is different in a board game. What's the game? The rules aren't, they're just the rules for how to play the game. The board & cards & pieces aren't, they're just the medium for the game, same as talking & mutual confirmation of what's said & any pieces are the medium in rpgs. The game is just an after-effect of what happens when you follow the rules and interact with the medium. So I guess I do have an answer after all. Hopefully this is helpful to your thinking.
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