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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 77 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Resolution mechanics, can this particular box be broken?  (Read 1340 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« on: December 28, 2002, 12:13:29 PM »

Recall, if you will the old Daffy Duck cartoon The Scarlet Pumpernickle where Daffy is pitching the idea for his new picture, aptly title the Scarlet Pumpernickle, to a Warner Bros. studio exec. BY the end, the Exec starts saying "Yeah! Yeah! Then what happened?" all exicted-like.

Several big assuptions about RPGs have been broken, for me at least, over the years. It only seems natural to look at other features of RPGs and question if it can be cracked too. So, I am wondering if an RPG really need its resolution mechanics. To decide that, we should probably think about what resolution mechanics are and what they do.

Essentially, they answer the question above "Yeah Yeah And then what happened?" or at least provide a means to finding the answer to that question. It might simple decide who gets to say what happened versus actually telling us itself.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it feels an awful lot like asking if it is possible to make a chess set without a board and pieces.

I think what got me thinking about this is how some refer to resolution mechanics as "conflict resolution mechanics" which suddenly. while I was bleeding, struck me as wrong, because if you resolve the conflict, the story ends. I realise that this is silly since "conflict resolution mechanics" refers to individual conflicts, not necessarily the larger conflict that drives the story. Or is it?

Anyway, thoughts?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2002, 02:14:28 PM »

Hi Jack,

I like to refer to something I call the Lumpley Principle, because Vincent Baker (lumpley) first articulated it in plain words.

Resolution systems are methods for group agreement regarding what happens in the imaginary game world.

This is emphatically not the often-repeated "Cowboys and Indians" or "Cops and Robbers" explanation - that relies on the idea that the people involved disagree, and that systems resolve the disagreement. The Lumpley Principle has many, many fascinating permutations and I think does a very good job of stating what resolution systems are for.

And as soon as you look for examples or specifications, then GNS rears up like a big swamp snake and has to be taken account.

Best,
Ron
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J B Bell
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2002, 02:21:49 PM »

Ron said it better than I could have regarding just what a resolution mechanic is and does.

However, a remaining related question:

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
if you resolve the conflict, the story ends. I realise that this is silly since "conflict resolution mechanics" refers to individual conflicts, not necessarily the larger conflict that drives the story. Or is it?


This is actually a salient point.  In stories (written, told over a campfire, or on a glowy screen or box), individual conflicts tend to lend oomph to the conflict that the whole story is about.  They rarely resolve neatly--they result in new resentments, alliances, personality consequences, unexpected side difficulties, and so on.  A few conflict resolution mechanics take this into account and visit extra complications on participants in an outcome, even the winners.  I don't know of any system that never allows an uncomplicated outcome, though (maybe Elfs?).

--JB
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"Have mechanics that focus on what the game is about. Then gloss the rest." --Mike Holmes
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2002, 11:21:21 AM »

First, I agree with Ron in general. But Jack could also be refering to the idea of resolution systems being based on some arbitrary result concocted by the game to represent some in-game reality. If we were stuck on that, this would be a problem.

But consider that Freeform is exactly the response to that, and we can see that this "problem" was confronted long ago. Basically, the FF resolution system is usually something like "anything happens that you want, as long as it doesn't step on anyone elses toes, and the GM approves". As such, it throws out entirely the idea that resolution has to be based in any way on some arbitrary game-based in-game logic.

That said, what we haven't yet seen, and I'd like to see, personally, is a game with lots of mechanics, but no conflict resolution system. The mechanics would relate to other stuff. That would be fairly original. Actually, Universalis got close in that we almost decided to drop the Complication rule, and just go with points. Which would have just made it a very formal Freeform game, IMO. But I can envision a system that does not resolve tasks or conflicts, per se, but still has mechanics to decide on other in-game action.

For example, if you had a system with lots of random tables for what the characters ran across, but allowed it all to be resolved by Drama, that would be different.

Mike
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2002, 12:10:43 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
But I can envision a system that does not resolve tasks or conflicts, per se, but still has mechanics to decide on other in-game action.

For example, if you had a system with lots of random tables for what the characters ran across, but allowed it all to be resolved by Drama, that would be different.


The Code is heading in that direction. Rather than tackle the bugbear of superhero game resolution mechanics (which is all about balance and scaling and crap), The Code mechanics just deal with when you get to solve conflicts and what happens to your character along the way.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
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