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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 87 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Missing the Lumpley Principle Boat  (Read 6048 times)
lumpley
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« on: May 19, 2003, 01:42:42 PM »

Hey, I just wanna pop in and defend my little principle.

Fang, I'm with you ab-so-lutely when it comes to participation and inspiration.  The only reason to play with mechanics at all, as far as I can tell, is because they ensure your right to participate and inspire you to do so.  I think that mechanics are usually a poor choice if your group is having trouble coming to consensus.  (That should be obvious from my original rant.)

But that said, the way that mechanics work is by determining (or helping to determine) who gets to say what.  Whether the mechanics are protecting or abridging your ability to contribute, whether they're inspiring your creativity or blocking it, they do it by controlling a) what b) you get to say.  That's all the Lumpley Principle says.

If people are invoking "the Lumpley Principle" to shoot down good, interesting mechanics, they don't understand what it means.

-Vincent
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2003, 02:08:29 PM »

I'm really glad you stopped by Vincent,

Quote from: lumpley
Hey, I just wanna pop in and defend my little principle.

Fang, I'm with you ab-so-lutely when it comes to participation and inspiration.  The only reason to play with mechanics at all, as far as I can tell, is because they ensure your right to participate and inspire you to do so.  I think that mechanics are usually a poor choice if your group is having trouble coming to consensus.  (That should be obvious from my original rant.)

But that said, the way that mechanics work is by determining (or helping to determine) who gets to say what.  Whether the mechanics are protecting or abridging your ability to contribute, whether they're inspiring your creativity or blocking it, they do it by controlling a) what b) you get to say.  That's all the Lumpley Principle says.

If people are invoking "the Lumpley Principle" to shoot down good, interesting mechanics, they don't understand what it means.

Very well said (and secretly what I thought you meant).

I don't so much see people "shoot down good, interesting mechanics" as they use the Lumpley Principle only for the 'reaching consensus' package, not seeing the other sides I raised.  In fact, it wasn't so much that anything was 'shot down,' but a kind of English hunting club phenomenon where someone cites a dogmatic idea and everyone else says, "quite right" and the conversation is over.

In your older rant, the 'Right to Take Part' is right there on top, but in the latest versions it seems missed for the emphasis on 'consensus.'  Rereading the whole thing, I begin to believe all the controversy about 'system having credibility' is probably all about 'Inspiring Play,' but when the whole package has been watered down to:
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Rules serve as a means of arriving at consensus about the imaginary events of play.

You can see what I thought was missing.

On topic for this thread: moreover, taken with all the parts in place, I'd like to talk about the different effects of prioritizing them differently.

So, ultimately I guess I'm saying, "Vincent, you was robbed," by some of these latest citations.  Glad I wasn't feeling an unspoken absence.  (I'm always happier to resurrect lost relevance than to be the one to create new theory.)

Fang Langford
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2003, 06:35:55 AM »

Hey Fang, my pleasure.

Quote from: You
On topic for this thread: moreover, taken with all the parts in place, I'd like to talk about the different effects of prioritizing them differently.

I don't see three different parts to mechanics' function.  I see one -- to help establish what happens, via who gets to say what.  On top of that, at a whole different level of description, mechanics serve a bajillion different possible goals.  Establishing participation rights and inspiring participation, as you say, are two of them, probably the best two.  But lots of mechanics are designed to block participation in certain ways, or constrain participation to certain desirable forms.  That's okay; they work just the same way, by establishing who gets to say what.

The Lumpley Principle makes no comment whatsoever on what mechanics are to be used for at the goal level, no way to determine whether a mechanic is good or bad or lame or cool or interesting or anything.  It's totally open to and untouched by experimentation at that level.  

I'd rather not get drawn into something personal, but Ron would be hard pressed to water down the Lumpley Principle.  It's actually really stupid, a triviality: mechanics are a tool for negotiation among the players, no frickin' duh.  I wouldn't've ever mentioned it at all, except so many people seem to come into game design with the idea that mechanics exist to represent the stuff of the game world.

-Vincent
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ejh
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2003, 09:26:04 AM »

Quote from: lumpley

I'd rather not get drawn into something personal, but Ron would be hard pressed to water down the Lumpley Principle.  It's actually really stupid, a triviality: mechanics are a tool for negotiation among the players, no frickin' duh.  I wouldn't've ever mentioned it at all, except so many people seem to come into game design with the idea that mechanics exist to represent the stuff of the game world.


Hmm...

Thing is, in non-roleplaying games, mechanics do in fact "represent the stuff of the game world."  In Monopoly, those little dollars represent money.  In a wargame, those little miniatures represent warriors.

The thing that distinguishes roleplaying games from other games is the existence of a different means of representation: verbal descriptions and consensus.  This is the feature that as far as I can tell is unique to roleplaying games, and makes them what they are.

But the Lumpley Principle, if I'm understanding it, says that "verbal consensus and dialog" is the *only* representational system in a roleplaying game, and that the mechanics only determine how that verbal consensus works itself out?

So that despite the fact that you have a ST attribute in both the wargame Melee and the roleplaying game The Fantasy Trip, in Melee it served a representational function -- it represented the character's physical condition -- and in TFT it has ceased to do so, and now, rather than directly representing the character's physical condition, it serves to resolve competing verbal claims about the character's physical condition -- somehow without representing it?

I'm not sure that it is correct to say that.  Surely the way that it resolves those claims is by *itself representing something* in some way (the same way it did in the wargame), such that the representations of the gameworld embodied in the players' statements are deemed valid only insofar as they cohere with the representation of the gameworld which the mechanic allows.

According to this point of view, it is not that mechanics distribute credibility rather than representing the gameworld, it is that representing the gameworld is one means by which they can distribute credibility.

Let's put it another way, which seems more felicitous to me --

There are a number of diferrent elements which can represent the gameworld in an RPG.  The verbal statements of players and GMs, the numbers written on their character sheets, the notes they take, the mechanics written up in the rulebook, the world description the GM has created or purchased, even the illustrations in the rulebook.  All of these have representational power.

The Lumpley Principle recognizes that the only one of those elements that is unique to RPGs is the dialogue-and-consensus element.  The others all exist in other things which are clearly not roleplaying games.

Because of this, the dialogue-and-consensus element is deemed to be the "real" representation of what happens in the game world.  If the dialogue-and-consensus element is the "real", primary, privileged representation of the gameworld, the Lumpley Principle follows naturally -- the only possible use for the other representations is to help establish the dialogue-and-consensus, and the way that rules mechanics can do that is by helping regulate the consensus.

Their representational aspect (which is apparent in wargames) is therefore irrelevant in roleplaying games except inasmuch as it helps to establish consensus, by "privileging" the dialogue of one player or another.

Whew.  There.

So... I'm not trying to argue against the principle here, I think, I'm trying to say "the way you just stated it leaves some important things unsaid, or says some things which without more context might technically be said not to be true, so I need to say more and surround it with more background to make it make sense to me."

"Roleplaying game rules do not represent the gameworld" is transparently false; they do represent the gameworld -- but *in a roleplaying game, where the verbal consensus is all that matters,* that representation is irrelevant except where it contributes to that verbal consensus.  And other rules which contribute to it in some way that doesn't particularly worry about representing the game world, might be just as useful or more useful.
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