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Author Topic: System, Fidelity, and Points of Contact  (Read 2206 times)
C. Edwards
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Posts: 558

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« on: June 04, 2003, 09:05:10 PM »

I’ve never really been able to see System as being Explored so much as ‘breaching’ the imaginary space. But my ‘transparency’ threshold is pretty low. For me, every Point of Contact involved in play reduces the verisimilitude of the imagined space. Beyond internal consistency, even Points of Contact intended to increase the verisimilitude of the imagined space end up ‘breaching’ that imaginary space in my mind.

Others, like Mike who loves GURPS, seem to desire those Points of Contact. For them the Points of Contact (the ones intended to increase verisimilitude) actually do increase the sense of verisimilitude in the imagined space. I suppose you could say they have a high ‘transparency’ threshold... or that they prefer High Fidelity play.

Here is a snippet from a PM exchange.
Quote from: Mike Holmes
If that's correct, then Fidelity must assume lots of Points of Contact. That is, the usual method of producing Fidelity is by making decisions in the context of many points of contact. That said, POC are not Fidelity. POC can exist, for example, to produce Theme. For example, Universalis has no Fidelity support at all, but loads of POC that are all designed to allow for cooperative storytelling.

That was in response to me questioning Mike about the relationship between Points of Contact and Fidelity. He may not agree with anything I’m saying here.

So basically I’m seeing High Fidelity play as leaning more towards, what sounds to me like, active System Exploration. Whereas people with my own proclivities, those who prefer Low Fidelity play, shy away from System Exploration.

It suddenly occurs to me, as I look at the volume controls for Windows, that System may just belong right where it is among the other 4 elements. It can be ‘dialed’ from one setting to another just like the other 4 elements. Sometimes you decide to turn one dial down so you can experience one of the other elements more clearly.
Quote from: Ron Edwards
The last time I played GURPS, the setting was Cynosure and I was playing an undead necromancer woman. We'd found ourselves in a wild-west dimension, and we'd been transmogrified to be consistent with it, so I found myself playing a witchy squaw armed with a few sticks of dynamite (the nearest equivalents to my character's blast'em fire-spell).

Anyway, all this is just to say that I pulled a classic 3d6 whiff, and blew the crap out of my character when she badly failed a "toss a stick of dynamite" roll. Note that she was using a Throw default, not her Spell skill (which was mighty high), because according to this system, if the character is throwing something, you use the Throw skill, case closed.

Here was my thinking about it at the time. It seemed to me that, given Cynosure as a setting, the characters are "equivalents" in different dimensions, such that the squaw's competence with throwing her dynamite should be the same as the necromancer's competence with hurling her fire-spell back home in Cynosure's magic areas. But it seemed to the GM that GURPS' resolution system was "the bedrock" of play, and that using Champions-style Special Effects logic was very wrong in this new game. A Throw is a Throw, with the numbers for throwing right there in the book, and Magic was over here in this other part of the book, and that's that. See how System overrode Setting?

 In Ron’s play example the GM kept the System dial turned up and, from Ron’s point of view, drowned out the setting temporarily. The 5 elements as mixing board, hmmm.

I think perhaps the conceptual difficulty I'm having is that System seems to be most often dialed or preset before play where the other 4 elements tend to fluctuate frequently, generally bowing to System when any disparities occur.

Well, I’ve managed to type myself to a standstill. Am I just blowing smoke or does any of this make any sense at all?

-Chris
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2003, 05:45:38 AM »

Quote from: C. Edwards
I think perhaps the conceptual difficulty I'm having is that System seems to be most often dialed or preset before play where the other 4 elements tend to fluctuate frequently, generally bowing to System when any disparities occur.

Oh, I dunno about that.  I'll bet in that same game Ron was talking about, there were some NPC reactions going on that didn't use GURPS reaction rolls.  I think system can fluctuate as much as the other 4 elements in play.  Out of play, I think I agree that system remains more tweakable than the other 4.

Edited to add that I like the mixing board analogy.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2003, 06:56:10 AM »

Chris, pre-existing setting, even metaplot, can be examples of POC that might satisfy a player's sim proclivities. Any element, as long as it's created with Sim in mind, has this effect (color is particularly important).

Think of it like this. When playing a first person shooter, it's the "presence" of the walls as something hard and unalterable, and all the elements that give it that Sim feeling. If there were some GM somewhere, putting up walls as they became neccessary in his opinion, it would lose a lot of its particular and particularly Immersive quality.

So it's that "hardness" of the element that makes it a Point of Contact that supports Fidelity.

As opposed to, say, the Humanity mechanics in Sorcerer. This is a mechanic that doesn't say anything hard about the in-game world, so much as it's a meter for the player to consider his decisions by. It's not obvious, so it's a POC. But definitely a Narrativist one.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2003, 07:53:09 AM »

Hello,

Chris, you're making a hell of a lot of sense.

Quote
The 5 elements as mixing board, hmmm.


That's how I've always seen it. Again, I was under the impression that the Sim essay was pretty clear about that.

Quote
I think perhaps the conceptual difficulty I'm having is that System seems to be most often dialed or preset before play where the other 4 elements tend to fluctuate frequently, generally bowing to System when any disparities occur.


"... in my experience," would be the appropriate qualifier, I think. My claim is that different groups and different game designs take very different approaches to this issue.

Best,
Ron
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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2003, 09:18:49 AM »

Chris, Mike, I have something that might help.  Believe it or not.

As far as I can tell, game rules can do only two things: suggest possible things to happen in the game, and choose between competing possible things to happen in the game.  (Probably always both at once.  Shadows is an example of a game that does a lot of the latter but very little of the former, Otherkind is an example of a game that does a lot of the former but less of the latter.)  Anybody wants to debate this, start a thread in Theory and I'll be there.

That given, there are a couple of approaches the rules might take.  One is to suggest things to happen based on stuff at the player level, stuff in the real world.  In my Nighttime Animals game, for instance, the coins in the players' hands don't represent or reflect any quality of the characters in the game.  They're only about what's going on between the players themselves.  When Sebastian's raccoon character fails to jump over the river and instead falls into it and gets swept downstream, it's not because of anything that the raccoon did or didn't or was or wasn't.  It's because I held out a dime and Seb held out a nickel.

I think that's LowFi.

The other approach is to suggest things to happen based on stuff in the game world.  The rules can pretend that the game world has causality in itself, and make their suggestions based on that causality.  The end result is the same - the rules suggest things for the players to have happen - but the basis for the suggestions is all different.  That's what the Riddle of Steel does, I understand; even its Spiritual Attributes, "Narrativist" as they are, are based on the conceit that characters have feelings and are more effective when they care.

I think that's HighFi.

Don't mistake "pretend" and "conceit" for dismissal.  Games that play entirely at the in-game level and that are still responsive to the players' interests are admirable, and I think pretty rare.  Mike, if what you're after is more good, sharp, slick, subtle, second-approach-type games, whatever their GNS, I can totally dig it.

Or naturally, kick my butt if I'm wrong.

-Vincent
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C. Edwards
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Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2003, 10:23:27 AM »

Quote
Chris, pre-existing setting, even metaplot, can be examples of POC that might satisfy a player's sim proclivities. Any element, as long as it's created with Sim in mind, has this effect (color is particularly important).

Think of it like this. When playing a first person shooter, it's the "presence" of the walls as something hard and unalterable, and all the elements that give it that Sim feeling. If there were some GM somewhere, putting up walls as they became neccessary in his opinion, it would lose a lot of its particular and particularly Immersive quality.

So it's that "hardness" of the element that makes it a Point of Contact that supports Fidelity.


Precisely, that’s why InSpectres does a grand job of satisfying my meager Sim proclivities. InSpectres doesn’t promote Theme or Challenge in any way. In play it exists as a handful of Points of Contact, some for purposes of determining who narrates and whatnot, some stemming from internal consistency (anyone not familiar with Ghostbusters and ‘start-ups’ might have difficulty here) and a few ‘soft’ POC meant to provide for verisimilitude in the imaginary space. There is really not much in the way of ‘hard and unalterable walls’ when it comes to play of InSpectres, yet it is Sim. It is, I think, relatively low on the Fidelity axis for someone fond of much more solid ‘walls’.

I think we’re talking about the same thing Mike and your last PM, which I have yet to answer, really seems to confirm that in my eyes. You don’t seem to be seeing Fidelity as being based upon Points of Contact, but that is the only correlation that makes sense to me.

Verisimilitude, that sense of ‘realness’, has to come from somewhere. In your case the solid Points of Contact provided by things like distinct rules for various forms of fire-arms help to bolster the verisimiltude of the imaginary space. I tend towards relying on Color, internal consistency, with little need for ‘hard’ POC. Every System is going to have POC, it’s just a matter of whether those POC are intended to promote verisimilitude (Universalis has none of those) and then  how ‘hard’ those POC are perceived to be by the player. Fidelity seems to be based on the existence of  POC of the verisimilitude variety and the ‘hardness’ of those POC.

Does that clarify anything?

-Chris
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2003, 11:10:43 AM »

Hi Chris,

InSpectres not promoting Theme?

blinks

Didn't we discuss this back a while ago, umm, who was it, search search ...

Ah!

InSpectres Narrativist?

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2003, 11:26:20 AM »

Chris, how is any of that any different from what I've said? The only difference that I can see is that I've said, that some POC aren't sim ones. But yes, Sim is caused by POCs that are sim.

Which part is the controversial part?

BTW, on InSpectres, I'd come down saying that the game has some small support for theme, all in terms of the Situation it provides. (But this is why I like my model, at least for the vectors; we can say it has x amount of this, and y amount of that).

Mike
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2003, 07:11:25 PM »

Hey Mike,

Quote from: Mikes Holmes
Chris, how is any of that any different from what I've said? The only difference that I can see is that I've said, that some POC aren't sim ones. But yes, Sim is caused by POCs that are sim.

Which part is the controversial part?


I agree that some POC aren't sim. As far as it being different from what you've said, I didn't think it was. That's what I was trying to confirm. You sure know how to be obfuscatory. ;)

-Chris
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2003, 07:23:33 PM »

Hey Ron,

I read that thread, and I understand what you're saying, but allow me to poke around a bit.

To me, Stress in InSpectres is equivalent to being shot in the knee with an arrow in another game, having scar tissue form, and receiving a -3 to all physical actions. But, if you're willing to spend a chunk of the groups treasure to have a particular healing spell performed then you're back up to full mobility.

Neither Stress or my example strike me in any Thematic way. Maybe I've just played too much DnD over the years, but it's purely a practical matter as far as I'm concerned. If you've got the resources you fix the damage. A 'party member' at less than full abilities is a liability, plain and simple. For me, Stress is a POC resulting in verisimilitude not Theme.

So, whatever Theme is there, I haven't been taking advantage of it.
Quote from: Ron Edwards
InSpectres is bluntly and thoroughly about whether you permit your own stress (a) to fuck up the company's functioning because you can't do your job, or (b) to suck up the company's resources while you recover. It's all tied up with the idea of a "startup," which has at its root the assumption that everyone involved will be 110% all the time, and also that no matter what, they'll always be on one another's side.

That never even occured to me.

Well, this thread has answered my questions. Unless anyone else would like to add something I'm good with it being closed.

-Chris
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