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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: the purpose of system/rules  (Read 6181 times)
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2002, 11:34:35 AM »

Quote from: Emily Care
So a game may be mechanicless (have no written rules) but by definition it has rules, so it cannot be systemless.

I would say that system is the complete set of mechanics. So a game can be systemless, but still have rules. This would refer to those games that people play where the "rules" are that you just describe what you want, and try to be kind to the other players in terms of not trammmeling their characters, etc. (which has been termed Freeform occasionally).

Mike
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #31 on: October 11, 2002, 07:19:18 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I would say that system is the complete set of mechanics. So a game can be systemless, but still have rules.

That is not the conventional definition of "system" here on the Forge. Emily's definition is closer to the sense used in the GNS essay.
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #32 on: October 11, 2002, 08:18:49 AM »

Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
Emily's definition is closer to the sense used in the GNS essay.


True, Ron's definition is something like "The means by which in-game events are decided". But I've never really liked that. As soon as we got into the discussion of "Freeform" that defintion started to fall apart. I started having to say, "Freeforms are games where the system is composed of nothing but the Social Contract mechanisms".

But I think it's easier to think of these games as "systemless". The only rules are the social contract ones that all RPGs have. It gives value to the term system as something not quite synoymous with rules.

I'm fine either way, however. I could say, "mechanicless", perhaps.

Mike
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Emily Care
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« Reply #33 on: October 11, 2002, 10:28:24 AM »

What's the definition of a mechanic?

Or is this drifting into a new thread?
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #34 on: October 11, 2002, 02:51:33 PM »

I actually tend to adopt a rather extreme position, which is that "the game" is a social event. Any published material or formally adopted rules are a tool for the facilitation of the social event. As such, "rules," "system," and "mechanics" are all synonymous, and refer to the social rules applying to the event in question. There is no difference between a rule that says "Roll 2D6, add your skill, and compare the result to the target number" and a rule that says "The other players pay for the GM's pizza"; both are part of System.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #35 on: October 11, 2002, 10:16:58 PM »

While I agree sorta philosophically, Seth, there would seem to be a division in use. That is, some people like what is commonly called mechanics to be included as part of the rules of the game, and some do not. So, in order to make a distinction between these preferences, I'd like to have some sort of term that covers these things.

And mechanics surely does not refer to strictly speaking social agreements. That is, if we agree between us players not to use profanity, that's not a mechanic, is it? So, yes, mechanics fall under the set of "rules" agreed to by the participants, but they are a particular sub-set.

Further, I also make distinction between what I refer to as "Hard" and "Soft" mechanics. The previous mening a mechanic in which some actual arbitrary action is taken in response to a set of particular circumstances. For example, if a system calls for a roll when the GM says that there is a task needing to be resolved, that is a "Hard" mechanic. As opposed to a mechanic that says something like "The GM should monitor players during CharGen and ensure that they only create appropriate characters." Which is more suggestive than specific, and hence "Soft".

Mike
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #36 on: October 12, 2002, 02:33:03 PM »

Okay, I joined in *really* late and confess to reading about 1/3 of the posts and skimming the others, so if what I'm saying has been covered, shoot me.

I think that some of us--or at least me and mine--have systems because we like them. It's part of what makes it "a game." Storytelling is fun, but it isn't "a role-playing game" *to me.* It might be to someone else, and that's another thread.

To me the rules, the system, the character sheet, the dice, the tables and all the trappings are bells and whistles on a storytelling machine. They make it more fun (if they don't, then we throw them out). I know I'm not being too specific here, but that is the merit of a system to me. Does it make what I'm doing more fun? There'a wee bit of a gamist in me (Ron says I'm competive all the time) and I love a simulationist-style game engine (if it's "well done," which is, of course, completely arbitrary), and I love "narrativist" gaming...it's the camp I'm most firmly devoted to. But I have feet in other areas, and the system that a game has caters to these different areas in different amounts and ways. That's why we play lots of games and not just "our one favorite game"--because we hunger at times for degrees of those other areas that we may or may not know we actually like.

I think that a lot of us here are good examples of this kind of gamer. Mike and Ralph wrote Universalis--which seems to have very narrativist-minded goals, but love Rolemaster charts and Pendragon and sponsor Gamist Iron Chef contests.

We need it all, I think, in different amounts, and the system measures it out for us in large degree. We find a "favorite" game when we find the one that measures it the way we want it to without much tweaking...at other times we'll binge on what sounds good at the moment.

Okay, so I ranted.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #37 on: October 12, 2002, 06:39:27 PM »

Don't feel bad, Jake. I'm starting even later and I didn't even read your post. Gee I hope I'm actually adding something useful. But this struck me just now and I remembered this thread and thought it might be of interest.

To me, it seems that one of the purposes of rules/system/mechanics/whichever, I'm not going to untangle that knot, is when a player is unmotivated or otherwise not actively participating, the system carries them along anyway. At least this appears to be one of the purposes. A player can just mechanically roll whatever dice they're told and not think too heavily on what they're doing or even what they want their character to be doing.

I don't think this is at all what any game designer intends to happen when they write an RPG, but it is something that can and does happen, moreso in some games than others I suspect. It may have something to do with what some call a slavish attention to detail which covers every base so there's little left for the players to do. Well, maybe it's that. It could be other factors like maybe the GM's boyfriend should just watch the ball game in the other room like he wants instead of trying to play an RPG like he doesn't.

The effect, as I see it is a lot like movement on the Monopoly board. The pieces all move in one direction, so the players have no choice there, and how many spaces it determined by dice rolling, so there's no choice there either. The overall effect, in my mind makes the players redundant, unnecessary. A single person could move all of the pieces arounf the Monopoly board just as easily, rolling the dice and moving each piece in turn. There is, of course, more to playing Monopoly than that and hopefully there's more to playing an RPG as well. But I can see how it's easy to just mechanically throw dice, quickly make the decision to buy the property or not (or pay the rent) and pass the dice to the next player.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #38 on: October 12, 2002, 09:30:49 PM »

Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
As such, "rules," "system," and "mechanics" are all synonymous, and refer to the social rules applying to the event in question. There is no difference between a rule that says "Roll 2D6, add your skill, and compare the result to the target number" and a rule that says "The other players pay for the GM's pizza"; both are part of System.

Mike has already noted some of the distinctions that this blurs; I'm going to add that it eliminates the distinction between system and setting. There is a sense, certainly, in which "this game takes place on star ships in another galaxy" and "events in this game occur in medieval kingdoms" are rules; but they are a different kind of rules from the mechanics, and we tend to call them setting in contradistinction to system.

Further, even without the generic and universal systems, there is a tacit recognition among gamers that you can divorce a system from a setting, using the setting with another system or the system with another setting. Even D&D provided multiple settings, beginning with Greyhawk and Blackmoor, expanding to Krynn and Forgotten Realms, and then exploding into Planescape, Ravenloft, and many others. Many players buy game books to extract the settings for use with their preferred system. The distinction clearly exists. It may be difficult at times to find the dividing line ("Elves exist in the forests"; "Elves live from one to two thousand years"; "Elves are +1 with swords and bows"; "Elves may not be paladins"; "Elves may not advance beyond level six as fighters" are progressively more system and less setting), but this difficulty does not negate the fact that the distinction has meaning.

--M. J. Young
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Seth L. Blumberg
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Posts: 303


« Reply #39 on: October 15, 2002, 11:14:50 AM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
Mike has already noted some of the distinctions that this blurs; I'm going to add that it eliminates the distinction between system and setting. There is a sense, certainly, in which "this game takes place on star ships in another galaxy" and "events in this game occur in medieval kingdoms" are rules; but they are a different kind of rules from the mechanics, and we tend to call them setting in contradistinction to system.

Nah. Procedural vs. declarative information. Easily distinguishable, and in fact they appear to be processed in different areas of the brain.
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
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