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Author Topic: Vanilla and Pervy [thread #4 of the Five]  (Read 25241 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2002, 10:56:41 AM »

Hi Mike,

It's just back to the definitions, I guess. Maybe I think too abstractly to be able to explain myself well, I don't know.

Exploring System = needing to imagine more in order to get X done, as laid out in procedural steps (rules).

Maybe the problem is the focus on narration at the moment. Does it help if I clarify that narration is one, isolated aspect of resolution, which itself is one, isolated aspect of System? I chose it because I think it's a good example of how most role-players get Pervy and Vanilla backwards.

Maybe then it would be good to present an example of something which we do, habitually, understand as Vanilla or Pervy. Let's look at metagame mechanics.

1) In Over the Edge, you accumulate bonus dice as play progresses. You can use them, once each, during play to add to your dice pool. No in-game reason or imaginative step has to be involved in doing this. If you want to, you do it, and that die is "gone" for the session; if you don't, you don't.

2) In Prince Valiant, of several available metagame mechanics, you can earn a Certificate during play with some instructions on it. Later, you can spend that Certificate to insert its instructions into play, replacing the regular resolution system. Typical instructions are "Knock someone senseless," or "One person falls in love with another."

I think of the Over the Edge system as fairly Vanilla and the Prince Valiant system as fairly Pervy. In the latter case, the player's actual Stance is forced, specifically to Director stance, and the Certificate represents a whole new dimension of System for event resolutions, not merely a little add-on to the same dimension as in Over the Edge. One Explores System more during PV play, even in deciding not to spend the Certificate.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2002, 01:43:08 PM »

Still seems the same to me. That is, the Prince Valiant example seems more accessible because it limits you. Whereas the OTE example seems less accessible because you have to intuit what the bonus dice are for, and when is appropriate to use them.

I think it comes down to the idea that some people are more comfortable with more guidance, and some with less. I have no problem with the idea that it's "Pervy" to like guidance. I just think that means that most non-gamers are Pervy by this definition, then. That is, the average person has no problem with Monopoly's, Roll dice, move spaces, do whatever the space commands. But as soon as you say, "When landing on Baltimore ave, play out a scene from the Bowery," that's when people will get lost.

What does that mean? How do I accomplish it?

It's almost like you're saying that system doesn't matter. That players in the absence of direction will just be able to intuit what to do. That just seems unlikely to me. Isn't it this lack of direction on how to play that caused all the Incoherent and dissatisfactory play that your essays are said to be about. Isn't it true that any functional play had to come from a drift in the rules in many games which was essentially people deciding who said what, and who had final say over things?

I still agree with Walt. A middle ground approach seems to me to be most accessible, especially if the rules are designed specifically to ease play along.

I can see your point if the rules involved are specifically put into the game to make play complex. That's different. Rolemaster is obviously Pervy in that no mundane is going to get it without a lot of work. But fromwhat little I know of Prince Valiant, the rules do not make play obscure. Much less the rules on Narration from Dust Devils.

What are the only rules to charades? An amazingly accessible game. They deal with how the players can communicate. Who says what. Would it be easier to play if players just had to guess how this part worked?

Mike
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2002, 01:45:06 PM »

Quote from: Ron
Maybe the problem is the focus on narration at the moment. Does it help if I clarify that narration is one, isolated aspect of resolution, which itself is one, isolated aspect of System? I chose it because I think it's a good example of how most role-players get Pervy and Vanilla backwards.


I was confused by this too. It appeared in the main article that you started out by describing many many dimensions of possible Vanilla-ness and Pervy-ness, and then later proceeded to categorize the Vanilla-ness and Pervy-ness of many different games based entirely on the systems' specificity of who narrates.

If I'm now parsing you correctly, then you're saying that both of the following examples exhibit relatively high perviness:

1. "I'm firing an arrow north against a 4mph headwind... ok, I need to know our latitude so I can check table 23H for the Coriolis Effect modifier."

2. "I want to pay a token to introduce a new prop into the scene... hold on a sec while I think up something good."

Example #2 is my attempt to probe why "say what you do and then say what happens" play is pervy. Since the implied system-specification of who narrates can only be one of many dimensions of perviness, are there other signficant factors here too? Would I be warm if I said that example #2 is pervy because the player's action, while apparently based on a single straightforward rule, involves a lot of self-conscious outside-the-game-world thought?

If that's correct, then both of the low-accessibility extremes of the spectrum I described previously are Pervy, while the most Vanilla is the intermediate position I described as maximally (though only moderately) accessible. This puts us into agreement.

Still assuming that's correct, I think it might be useful to distinguish between those two varieties of perviness, since they're in some ways opposite (though they're not at all mutually exclusive). "Procedural" versus "Creative" Perviness, perhaps.

Still assuming that's correct, isn't Vanilla-ness a whole lot like another elusively complex accessibility-related quality, transparency?

And a final thought about accessibility...
Q: In the vast majority of systems, where is Procedural and/or Creative Perviness most likely to be maximized?
A: In the character creation process.
Q: In the vast majority of systems, what is the first thing a player must do?
A: Create a character, of course.

Hoping I'm closer to the mark this time,

-Walt
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2002, 02:55:53 PM »

Hello,

Now I really wish I hadn't brought up the narration thing, and let it become its own thread later.

Mike, who knows, man ... to a great extent, though, it's not crucial, because we are talking about degrees of Vanilla - which, at this stage of the discussion, is probably not too valuable a topic. Are we agreed that having absolutely all the narration, both of attempted actions and effects, isolated to one person, is Pervy? And that some spread-around of shared narration is more Vanilla? That's all I'm really willing to go to the wall for, at this point.

Walt, your example #2 is pretty Vanilla-sounding to me, compared to most systems I can think of - again, I think that I'm trying to bring the focus too narrow at the moment by talking about Sorcerer vs. Trollbabe or Over the Edge vs. Prince Valiant. None of these are very Pervy, overall, and it's making people flail a little. I'm now convinced that we need to be looking at gross distinctions, across all the aspects of play, rather than fine distinction in this single, very problematic (for us, as role-players) one.

I don't think Pervy/Vanilla is like Transparency, because the former is independent of Coherence and the latter, as best as we could work out, is a function of Coherence.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2002, 03:09:31 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

Now I really wish I hadn't brought up the narration thing, and let it become its own thread later.
Hey, I['m only arguing aganst the example. I understand that the term refers to much more than just that one thing. If you want to discuss some other example feel free to bring it up.

Quote
Are we agreed that having absolutely all the narration, both of attempted actions and effects, isolated to one person, is Pervy? And that some spread-around of shared narration is more Vanilla? That's all I'm really willing to go to the wall for, at this point.
Ahhh, no. Sorry. I have to disagree. I think that's a perfectly valid idea. How can "one person narrates everything" be more complicated than "when your character does something, you narrate the results to the extent that the actions performed affect the environement. Or worse, no instrucitons at all, which leave the player floundering wondering "Hey, is it OK for me to say what happens?".

I pushed for more and more structure of this sort in Universalis precisely because I believed that it's easier for a person with rigorous instructions to understand what their role is and what they should do (now we can discuss the amount of those rules separately...).

I really think that this is a actually something that we're not going to be able to determine through talking about it. We're all waaaay to close to it, and in the end I don't think that there is a useful definition of any sort being constructed here. This is going to be one of those things that's so abstract that people just stare at it with a glazed look in their eyes.

I think it's just easier to say that if you are going to try to make a game for a target audience consider what will make it easier for them to comprehend their role in the game. In the end the combinations of possibilities are so endless that any specification is, I think, doomed to failure. I'm positive that somewhere out there, there is some way to make the GM as good or better a solution to the accessibility problem than any other.

Mike
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C. Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2002, 06:16:03 PM »

I’ve quoted some points from Ron’s initial post that seemed to catch the main essence of what is Vanilla and what is Pervy.  They helped greatly with my, hopefully correct, understanding of the issue.

Ron Edwards wrote:
Quote
When you utilize System and imagine the event occurring based on that use, you are Exploring System. The point at hand is that this utilization may require a lot of imaginative attention or a little.


Concerning Vanilla:
Quote
So what's low Exploration of System, then?...  The defining factor is that the System requires fairly little point-by-point correspondence from System Outcome to imagined event, and the system requires very little reference to secondary (modifying) rules.


This makes a game like Monopoly ultimate Vanilla, by the fact that no jump to an imagined event is required or necessary during play.  That is also why it is not a role-playing game.  Mike’s example of “When landing on Baltimore Ave., play out a scene from the Bowery.” is also extremely Vanilla because the only system point involved in the imaginative jump is the requirement of landing on a certain space.  If landing on the space and consulting the actual number rolled on the die were necessary to making the imaginative jump then the game would be a little less Vanilla.
 
Concerning Pervy:
Quote
Basically, every time a System element is added, emphasized, or coordinated with any other System element, in a way that focuses play, a new dimension of Perviness is created.


Pervy systems have more structure, more system points between you and the imagined event.  

I don’t think I have any trouble understanding the Pervy/Vanilla distinction, that is until I try and get my head around the idea that a game where only one person gets to say what happens is Pervy when compared to a game where anybody can say what happens.  It seems to me that a game system where many people say what happens would be more Pervy than that very same system were it to require only one person to say what happens.  The issue I’m looking at is that more people would be required to familiarize themselves with a larger amount of the system structure.  That seems more Pervy than only requiring one person to be familiar with that same area of system structure.

From your post Ron, and some of the responses, Vanilla/Pervy seems to be tied into the whole “what is mainstream?” issue in what becomes a damaging way when it comes to examining the “who says what” aspect.  What most people are familiar with in the “who says what” regard seems to be irrelevant, IMO, to whether or not a certain mode is Vanilla/Pervy.

But I most definitely may be failing to take some factor into account.  If so, what is it?!

-Chris
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talysman
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« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2002, 07:01:37 PM »

Quote from: C. Edwards

I don’t think I have any trouble understanding the Pervy/Vanilla distinction, that is until I try and get my head around the idea that a game where only one person gets to say what happens is Pervy when compared to a game where anybody can say what happens.  It seems to me that a game system where many people say what happens would be more Pervy than that very same system were it to require only one person to say what happens.  The issue I’m looking at is that more people would be required to familiarize themselves with a larger amount of the system structure.  That seems more Pervy than only requiring one person to be familiar with that same area of system structure.


the way I understood it, Ron was saying that either a "one person narrates" or "who narrates changes based on these rules" is mildly pervy, while saying "anyone can suggest what happens, one person agrees or disagrees" is vanilla. thus, D&D is mildly pervy when it comes to narration (very pervy in other ways) unless the GM is very open to suggestions.

Toon is vanilla, not just in terms of Gamism but also in terms of how it handles narration. the only rule is that funny narration earns points, and that's not a rule about who gets to narrate.
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2002, 08:24:36 PM »

Ron is right, the narration thing is a bogon.  Can we talk about perviness as it applies to other areas of System? I think "who gets to narrate" might be an edge case.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2002, 07:52:21 AM »

Thanks, Seth,

I tried to raise the metagame mechanics issue as an alternative, but I'm afraid people either skipped over it or read NARRATION NARRATION NARRATION into it. Same goes for my breakdown of game examples, which is not based on narration rights/distribution.

Let's try something else - it has to be GNS-coherent, to keep that issue from overriding the P/V thing - um ... say, in a solid Simulationist context, with an emphasis on Setting. Let's compare casting a spell in Jorune, casting a spell in GURPS (assuming a setting has been specified), casting a spell in Fvlminata, and casting a spell in Feng Shui.

Any thoughts?

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #24 on: November 22, 2002, 10:21:30 AM »

We are saying the same thing's here. It just occured to me what the problem is with my understanding. You say that everything is system. And that each step in the process of processing something through the system to imagine it is something that makes the game less immediately accessible. Am I on so far?

Well, I think that what you must be saying is that some steps in the system are not actually involved in the processing. That, in fact, they actually help. For example, you admit that Trollbabe is more acessible despite having listed more steps.

Even if this is not true, the following makes sense to me. Some instructions as part of the system are simply meant to make clear what people's roles are in a game, and how things are done. Others are there to make the processing the information more complex for "arcane" purposes. The former make a game more accessible, and the latter make a game less accessible.

Take, for instance, freeform RPGs. These are only accessible to players who are inclined to be creative anyhow. Because they have little to no rules about what to do. OTOH, what rules they do have are all about how to act as a player. That is, freeform games seek to eliminate all arcana, and only include rules that are seen as neccessary to make the game go on a basic level.

Well, if non-freeform games can outperform freeforms at all in accessibility, it must be in the realm of adding certain sorts of "what to do" rules like what I imply above.

Or would you say the freeform (in the non-LARP sense) is the most accessible sort of game available?

Mike
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Mark D. Eddy
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« Reply #25 on: November 22, 2002, 10:37:10 AM »

I'll add one for you: casting a spell in Nobilis. (Mind you, I have no clue where Nobilis falls on your radar....)

-In Jorune, well I could go look it up again, but there are a ton of steps, including local energy levels, skill with isho weaving, the color you're weaving, and so on. (Unless they've changed things from my late-80's edition.) Pervy. We're talking the whole chicken here.

-In GURPS Fantasy, the spell is already laid out, so you just roll 3d6 under your target to see if it goes off. Effects are determined by the spell description, which may require another roll. Fairly Vanilla, but leather is lurking in the setup.

-I can't speak to FVLMINATA or Feng Shui, but Nobilis requires you to know which of your stats you're basing the effect on, then spend miracle points at your option, and determine penetration vs. effect levels. This is slightly Pervy, IMHO -- but it's the feather stage, not the whole chicken.

-Then there's Shadowrun, where the chicken is *wearing* the leather. (First, determine which of the four mutually exclusive types of magic you're using...)
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Mark Eddy
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: November 22, 2002, 11:16:37 AM »

Hi there,

Mike, you got it. We should still probably kick it around for specific comparisons, but yeah, that's the idea.

Mark, cool. I'm planning on hitting my books this weekend (in my spare second or two) to see what I can contribute.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #27 on: November 22, 2002, 11:49:54 AM »

Quote from: Mark D. Eddy
Then there's Shadowrun, where the chicken is *wearing* the leather. (First, determine which of the four mutually exclusive types of magic you're using...)


That's nothing. With first edition Chivalry and Sorcery spellcasting the chicken is named Guido, smokes hash, is crosseyed, and brings his own sheep. I'll skip chargen, which is attrociously complex, and says a lot about which of the ten different sorts of spellcaster you can be. But to create a focus so that you can more efficiently cast spells, you have to first use your characters' birthsign to determine what materials have to go into the focus, and then enchant them all by reducing their BMR (base magic resistance; try to use parts of dragons which start enchanted) to zero through a series of rituals for each....

Nevermind. Just let me assure you that it's pervy beyond belief. To this day I think that I never really understood how it worked, and don't believe people who said that they did.

But this was an early game. As is Rolemaster, for example. I think that there has been a serious retreat from the land of Uber-Pervy usually accompanied by choruses of the "playability" tune. Which all makes sense. D&D is about as pervy as the most pervy games out there today, really. Still, there are times when I want to pull out C&S and try to make sense of it one more time...

Mike
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J B Bell
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« Reply #28 on: November 22, 2002, 04:27:46 PM »

Y'know, I can really understand Mike's criticisms from a few posts back.  There is a pretty easy-to-make, and not necessarily correct, linkage between vanilla/pervy and accessible/abstruse.

What about "thick" (possibly "dense", though that's too close to "heavy" IMO) vs. "diffuse"?  This describes the "steps to imaginal event" scale in a neutral way, and also captures the lack of accessibility of either extreme.  That is, a very thick system is harder to learn and likely increases search and handling times; while a highly diffuse system, while "simpler", may put off those who want a certain degree of guidance.

I know Ron hates to change terminology, but the terms started off, I presume, in a more intuitive way, and now that we're trying to lock down a precise definition, it seems like a change might possibly be called for.

--JB
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #29 on: November 22, 2002, 09:32:23 PM »

So, let's see if even I've got this.

This pervy/vanilla thing is only about how many points of contact a game requires until "the result" is given. In RPGs "the result" is usually "what's happening in the game world". Usually it is the answer to the question, "Is my character successful?"

So, let's see, combat examples:

Pervy: add a modifier for range, then check for cover, roll to hit, then roll damage, then the GM gathers that information (I take it the GM is one point of contact in this pervy chain right?), then intepretes everything and says, "You cut a hunk of meat out of the guy's leg."

Vanilla: roll to hit, tell GM result, GM interpretes, "You cut a hunk of meat out of the guy's leg."

If my understanding is correct, then I've got a couple of questions. One is, when does a game cease being Vanilla and become Pervy? If you're talking about the number of steps in a chain, how many steps does it take to become Pervy? It seems to me that if there's no set threshold, then my "Pervy" game may seem very "Vanilla" to you, causing no end of confusion.

It seems to me the minimum amount of steps for a Vanilla traditional RPG with GM is 3 (see above). That's why game's with player narration are less pervy -- they eliminate the GM as a step.

And then we have to define what "the result" is. For example, in combat, the result I'm looking for is to defeat someone. Does that make round by round combat "Pervy" always? I mean if I could resolve an entire combat with one "Vanilla" roll doesn't that make round by round combat blows completely "Pervy?"

BTW I hate the terms vanilla and pervy. Not that expect anyone to listen.

Also, I think it might be better to talk in terms of the amount of "points of contact of the system", the "steps" that each game takes before outputting a "system result" instead of talking about games in blanket terms like pervy and vanilla. Of course, I have no good simple terms to replace them.

Take care, Steve
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