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Author Topic: Exploration of System (split)  (Read 8169 times)
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2003, 11:21:14 AM »

Walt, I think that Ron addressed this all by saying that there is the textual emphasis, and then there's the elements in action. Which is play. So I think you're only reiterating what he said.


Ron, the question isn't one of privileging these things. I really don't care about that. People keep saying that's my goal, and it's not.

There has been a taxonomy that people have been using for a while now, that seems nonsensical to me given certain statments. For example, people have said that play of Game X results in more exploration of system than anything else?

Is that statment sensible to make? If so, what does it mean? Can you compare these elements to each other relatively in play. If you can what does it mean? If all the elements are always happening in play, can play be more "about" one than another? Does it form a useful taxonomy for play?

Mike
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2003, 11:25:02 AM »

Walt,

I do not see where Play and system are the same thing. From my perspective one is the Choice or Decision to drive and or the act of driving but the other (system) is the very basic transmission or engine of the drive.  You play a Game. You drive a car.  The analogy is not perfect (10 chicken mcnasties are still digesting and using all of my blood) but I think its clear.

I do agree that Play encompasses all 5 elements, which I think is where I am coming from.  Play is NOT a necassary element of system anymore then the choice to drive across town is a necessary component of the engine, though the car is superfilous if there is no desire to drive (or play as the case may be.)

Thats my take anyway.

Sean
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2003, 11:45:33 AM »

Hi there,

H'm, Mike and Sean have helped me understand Walt's point better, I think, but I think I need a bit more replies to go by.

Back to the central thread-point, Mike wrote,

Quote
There has been a taxonomy that people have been using for a while now, that seems nonsensical to me given certain statments. For example, people have said that play of Game X results in more exploration of system than anything else?

Is that statment sensible to make? If so, what does it mean? Can you compare these elements to each other relatively in play. If you can what does it mean? If all the elements are always happening in play, can play be more "about" one than another? Does it form a useful taxonomy for play?


The issue revolves around the term "more," doesn't it? More of what? When I use the kind of phrasing you're describing, I'm talking about imaginative effort and attention given to each, as well as which of the elements I'll use as a touchpoint in order to evaluate some problematic aspect of play. So, just to pick an example of play ...

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?

Fortunately, we didn't have any sort of disagreement about it during play, but I was very dissatisfied, in that something about System's relationship to Setting didn't seem right to me. Bear in mind this wasn't really a deprotagonism issue, as I was OK with the disaster for the character as an event, just uncomfortable with the relative roles of System and Setting as applied by the GM that brought us there.

It doesn't seem problematic to me that playing GURPS requires more attention to System as such than playing, say, Munchkins, or that when in doubt, one turns to System as the arbiter in playing GURPS. And this isn't a Sim issue, either - I could say the same about how playing Otherkind requires more attention to System than, say, Soap does.

Best,
Ron
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2003, 11:49:10 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

There has been a taxonomy that people have been using for a while now, that seems nonsensical to me given certain statments. For example, people have said that play of Game X results in more exploration of system than anything else?

Is that statment sensible to make? If so, what does it mean? Can you compare these elements to each other relatively in play. If you can what does it mean? If all the elements are always happening in play, can play be more "about" one than another? Does it form a useful taxonomy for play?

Mike


While waiting to see what Ron would say I got to thinking about this and wanted to respond a bit as best I could.  Mind you my understanding of it all is still not anywhere complete as others but here goes.

I think an example might help a bit in all of this.  Anyone who has played RoleMaster I think can agree to a certain extent that exploring the myriad charts and optional rules and nuances of that SYSTEM can be quite consuming within the conext of Play. This is not a bad thing, I love role Master and I feel like I could plug it into many worlds and use many Situations and Characters.  

However, I think that System may be the quickest piece of the puzzle to get a handle on and thus it will shift the empahsis.  The reasons I say this is that once a system is known, one of the other elements may become more prevalent.  

This could change though, with the injection of outside influence or group decision to Alter the system.  Thus since System is altered, once again it finds empahsis.

This could happen with any element though.


Sean
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John Kim
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« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2003, 12:05:06 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
  Hence, System is what provides motion and time to the imaginative construct. Without it, as I said in the quoted passage above, the other four elements are "frozen" in that imagined space.  

OK, it seems to me that people are using "System" at different levels of scope, which is common given the variety of RPG usage.  I realize that you have a particular usage in mind, Ron.  I just want to point out how confusion arises.

I'd like to make some concrete examples of variation in published systems.  In HarnMaster, the setting is predefined by the published system.  In GURPS, it is not.  In Traveller, the system includes rules for generating random star systems and planets.  By a similar token, Universalis (as I understand it) also includes creating setting as part of its published system.  In all these, what is nominally considered "system" varies.  

By a similar token, published systems vary in terms of how much of the character they define, and in how the character is generated.  Some people see character conception as being outside of the system -- i.e. the player conceives of the character, and the system is only there for writing that character up in game terms.  However, other published systems generate character -- for example, random-roll and lifepath systems.  

It seems to me that a clearer definition of what is included in system is needed.  The "time and motion" suggestion seems to not include character creation and world creation as part of system, for example.  

Specifically, using Ron's GURPS example, he saw System as overriding Setting.  Here the setting (Cynosure) is seen as something defined outside the system (GURPS), which the system can thus clash with.  But again, the scope of the system varies.  If he were playing in another systems (say, Theatrix), then what is covered by the system might be different.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: June 04, 2003, 12:11:09 PM »

Hi John,

That's an excellent point. My reading of it suggests to me some support for my point that one cannot automatically consider Setting, Color, Situation, and Character to be contained in a Venn box labeled "System," but rather that the five elements are best understood as having many, many possible relative degrees of emphasis, and left all in the same box. With, perhaps, a tag stuck on it to say, "Emphasize and interrelate to taste" in terms of both play and design.

Am I applying your point correctly, or am I doing any violence to it?

Best,
Ron
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #21 on: June 04, 2003, 12:25:19 PM »

John did an exccellent job of bringing up what I think is the problem here.

I see Exloration as a pie chart, values indicating how much focus to give to an element.  Saying you prioritize Char just means the slice of Char is bigger than the other ones, but they are all there.  I'm not convinced anyone disagrees with this (let me know if I'm off base).  But, if System is not a piece of the pie, but instead a magic marker you draw over the pie with - the model doesn't make any sense.

So, I guess I'll just ask the question flat out:

What is meant by "System" in the Exploration context?  Is it synonymous with "rules and/or mechanics used to apportion credibility"? Or something else?
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #22 on: June 04, 2003, 12:45:18 PM »

Quote from: Mike
Walt, I think that Ron addressed this all by saying that there is the textual emphasis, and then there's the elements in action. Which is play. So I think you're only reiterating what he said.


Mike, you might be right. I was speaking entirely within the context of play, not at all about textual emphasis.

Quote from: Sean
I do not see where Play and system are the same thing. From my perspective one is the Choice or Decision to drive and or the act of driving but the other (system) is the very basic transmission or engine of the drive. You play a Game. You drive a car. The analogy is not perfect (10 chicken mcnasties are still digesting and using all of my blood) but I think its clear.


That play and system are not the same thing was exactly my point. I'm arguing against Ron's claims that during play, "System introduces the time axis" and "System is what provides motion and time to the imaginative construct." (emphasis in original)

The car doesn't drive itself; the system doesn't do anything (it certainly doesn't provide motion and time to the imaginative construct) until a player acts. Perhaps that goes without saying, as Mike appears to be implying; we can take it for granted that if play is taking place, players must be taking actions. (But then, why can't we also take the system for granted? Or take all the elements for granted, since they must all be present to have play?)

Now, perhaps I'm erring in referring to "players taking actions within a system" as "play." It's certainly a requirement of play, but it probably doesn't represent the totality of play. Maybe it should be given a different name, like "play-action" or "application-of-system" to distinguish it from the totality of play. That avoids the circularity of having play be one of its own elements. But whatever we call it, it's that process, not the system itself (as we normally define it) that creates change in the explored space.

Quote from: Sean
I do agree that Play encompasses all 5 elements, which I think is where I am coming from. Play is NOT a necassary element of system anymore then the choice to drive across town is a necessary component of the engine, though the car is superfilous if there is no desire to drive (or play as the case may be.)


Sure, a system text on the shelf exists whether it is played or not, just as a character can exist as a character sheet or a setting can exist as a sourcebook, but system, like those other elements, is only "fully realized" (as I put it before) through play.

In fact, having thought further about the question, I'm expecting Ron to tell me that "system" as one-of-the-five-elements doesn't mean system as a set of procedures in the abstract, but system as an active process, almost (but not quite) a verb form of the word ("systeming"). In other words, that "system being put into effect by players' actions" is exactly what he meant by "system" all along. There's no doubt that system in that sense can only exist during play.

- Walt
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John Kim
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« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2003, 01:11:41 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
  That's an excellent point. My reading of it suggests to me some support for my point that one cannot automatically consider Setting, Color, Situation, and Character to be contained in a Venn box labeled "System," but rather that the five elements are best understood as having many, many possible relative degrees of emphasis, and left all in the same box. With, perhaps, a tag stuck on it to say, "Emphasize and interrelate to taste" in terms of both play and design.

Am I applying your point correctly, or am I doing any violence to it?

Well, sort of.  I don't think you're getting how use of the word "system" differs.  "system" can refer to what is covered in the text of the rulebook.  This isn't the same thing as "System" in the lumpley principle sense (i.e. how consensus is reached).   Moreover, the scope of system changes drastically in different rulebooks.  For example, Puppetland has a rule which make it illegal for players to talk out-of-character, and has a rule on how long the session can go in real-time.  Both of these are not considered as part of the system in, say, GURPS.  

The Lumpley Principle, I think, refers to "System" to mean "all possible things which could be specified in a rulebook".  

For example, many rulebooks can and do specify Setting.  This also means that Character can be a part of System.  Consider this: Trollbabe restricts PCs to a narrow choice of character.  Imagine a system which restricts the PC even further to a particular set of individuals -- the RPG equivalent of Commedia del Arte.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: June 04, 2003, 01:16:25 PM »

Hi there,

Walt wrote,

Quote
I'm expecting Ron to tell me that "system" as one-of-the-five-elements doesn't mean system as a set of procedures in the abstract, but system as an active process, almost (but not quite) a verb form of the word ("systeming"). In other words, that "system being put into effect by players' actions" is exactly what he meant by "system" all along. There's no doubt that system in that sense can only exist during play.


Ay-yup. That'd be right on the money.

John wrote,

Quote
I don't think you're getting how use of the word "system" differs. "system" can refer to what is covered in the text of the rulebook. This isn't the same thing as "System" in the lumpley principle sense (i.e. how consensus is reached).


You're right in that I haven't been clear about it. I do understand the distinction, however, and I'm now realizing that Vincent first proposed his ideas regarding the rules, and it's been co-opted, through usage and without intent, to apply to "system."

Whether this is a problem or not, I don't know. So far, I think the thread has done a pretty good job of clarifying some of the confusions, and I'm willing to take a slow and listen-to-one-another approach in case we need to revise anything. So chime in, everyone, and wait before hammering at the keys ... slower is better in this forum, especially.

Best,
Ron
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #25 on: June 04, 2003, 01:48:33 PM »

Quote from: Walt
I'm expecting Ron to tell me that "system" as one-of-the-five-elements doesn't mean system as a set of procedures in the abstract, but system as an active process, almost (but not quite) a verb form of the word ("systeming"). In other words, that "system being put into effect by players' actions" is exactly what he meant by "system" all along. There's no doubt that system in that sense can only exist during play.


Call me a monkey man, but all I'm getting out of that definition is 'system isn't system, it's system'.

I pound on the obsidian monolith in impotence. :)
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #26 on: June 04, 2003, 09:23:34 PM »

Quote from: In response to when Ralph 'Valamir' Mazza
But the "System introduces the time axis"...means nothing to me. I'm not comprehending what that means at all. If we're going to adapt, and informally it looks like we have, the Lumply Principal as the description of what system is...I don't see where "time axis" is involved at all.
Quote from: Ron Edwards
System is what provides motion and time to the imaginative construct. Without it, as I said in the quoted passage above, the other four elements are "frozen" in that imagined space.

I might be able to provide some perspective to this.

Because of my http://www.mjyoung.net/time/">time travel materials, I periodically get letters from people telling me that time doesn't exist. What I have to explain to them is that time is the medium of change. This might have been clever had I thought of it before Kant, but the fact is that in reality nothing changes apart from time.

In a relativity example, were you to achieve the speed of light, time for you would come to a complete halt, and you would thereafter never age or die--or do anything else, either, as you could not move or think, having been stripped of the temporal dimension that enables anything in the next moment to be different from it was in the previous moment.

In a game, real time doesn't really matter. What matters is that there is a system which determines how things are permitted to change. You have setting, character, color, and situation, but, as Ron says, these are static--they can't do anything apart from the "time" that is created by system. It is by system that we can say that the character does anything, that the situation or setting changes, that the color is altered.

In the beginning of a Sorcerer game, you've got a character, a setting, a situation--the kicker is a big part of the situation--and color. The kicker means that the something has just happened to which the character is forced to respond. How does the character respond? By engaging the system to alter the situation. The system is that which allows change in the other elements; it is therefore the functional equivalent of "time" within the game. In a sense, all of these elements are part of "system", because their ability to change is entirely contained within system, and change is the only way they can be used in play--otherwise they're like models in the glass cabinet, pictures in a photo album, posters on the wall, frozen snapshots of things to see that don't do anything.

It is certainly equally true that system is part of setting, along with character, color, and situation. In that sense, the rules of change are one of the constraints of the setting, which we call system. Ron has been through the others as well. Each of the five elements is contained within the other four, and contains the other four within itself--they are that tightly related. Yet in theoretical discussions we can distinguish them, and sometimes we can see them distinguished in play.
Quote from: Sean had a point when he
I think that System may be the quickest piece of the puzzle to get a handle on and thus it will shift the empahsis. The reasons I say this is that once a system is known, one of the other elements may become more prevalent.

I want to thank you for writing this. Some time back, Ron wrote that Multiverser was simulationist exploration of system, and I'd been wondering why for some time. The answer might be right there.

In Multiverser, play proceeds by moving you from one universe to another when you die. (One reviewer somewhere said it might be the first game in which referees really do want their players' characters to die, and I know one referee who says that the game has really liberated his killer instincts, because he doesn't have to worry about killing them.) As you move between universes, you have to discover what's going on in those universes; but this, from the first page of the introduction to the game, is instructive.
Quote from: In Multiverser, I
This is a harder game for players, because more than anything else this system is about rules that change. It provides instruction for how the rules change and when they change, but the player is challenged to discover the new rules. By contrast, most RPG?s have the same rules throughout, adventuring in variations of the same world with the same kinds of skills. Multiverser® changes all of that. Now the rules themselves change, and the player must adapt.
There is a sense in which you could argue that the rules never change--the setting changes, and with it the bias values and blocking and other features that control what is "possible" within the universe. But particularly in view of the interfacing rules (the ability of Multiverser to drop its players into other game systems as player characters in those other game worlds, of which the player is not necessarily going to be informed), I'd have to agree that there's a strong emphasis on exploration of system--of figuring out how things work in this world.

Let me contrast that to exploration of setting. We could play a Star Frontiers or Star Trek or Star Wars game in which we travel to new "worlds", that is, new planets. We could don appropriate gear and wander around these planets looking at things. However, we aren't likely to discover suddenly that the locals can throw fireballs because they're wizards or priests drawing supernatural energy from a supernatural realm; nor are we apt to discover that our blasters don't work because technology doesn't work well on this planet. Multiverser goes way beyond that sort of "exploration of setting". Sure, there will be exploration of setting going on, as you move between completely different worlds; but you'll also be trying to figure out what you can and cannot do in each world, what works well and what's impeded, in essence what the rules are now.

I suspect that in including GURPS in that same list (exploration of system), Ron had something similar in mind--the way in which the supplements modify the system to fit new settings. It's a bit different, of course (in Multiverser, all the rules are rules, they just interact in ways that change what you can do; in GURPS whatever are the rules of the setting are the rules, and any other supplemental rules are irrelevant). But that's probably where you'll find the big emphasis on exploration of system--games in which the system itself changes, particularly if it changes during play, or games in which the system is so complex that you'll spend years grasping the nuances of its interactions.

--M. J. Young
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #27 on: June 05, 2003, 06:44:58 AM »

Quote
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?


Every example I can think of is one like you mention here. When you say System in terms of exoploration, I see "mechanics" or "resolution system". I do not see the Lumpley Principle which is much wider and includes "the GM is last arbiter" and all such rules.

This is why previously I used the term System in the very sort of way that John Kim is talking about. To mean the mechanics of the game as a whole. In that way it totall makes sense to me to say that one can prioritize system. If we use system to mean the Lumpley Principle, which is all encompassing, then I see no way to prioritize system, as system is play. You either play or you don't.

So, yes, this is me pushing hard for a separation of terms here. It seems to me that System should either be narrowed to it's mechanical meaning, in which case, the Lumpley Principle should refer to the totality of the rules, and not be called System; or System ought to mean the Lumpley Principle, in which case, what's called System in the elements of exploration should be called Mechanics, or somesuch.

This is a problem that I've seen for quite a while, actually.

I now prefer (in a total change of opinion), that System mean the Lumpley Principle. Because then, and only then can we say that freeform, a game with a lack of mechanics, is an appropriate System for the people who employ it.

Mike
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Emily Care
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« Reply #28 on: June 05, 2003, 07:01:10 AM »

Hello all,

As far as Vincent's Rant (Lumpley Principle) and system exploration, it might help to remember that it is descriptive about what rules do i.e. help/hinder group concensus, and doesn't primarily address "what system is".  The basis of the principle as I see it is that the authority for what gets chosen to happen in play rests ultimately with the group of human individuals playing. System is expanded in so far as it can be seen to be more than just the rules and mechanics, also consisting of all the interpersonal interactions that go on all of which contribute to formation of concensus.  But the main point to take away from it is that rules aren't necessary to populate the shared imaginary space, rules don't make anything more true--unless they've been given authority to do so by the folks playing.

So where's the confusion coming from based on this? What does it mean for system exploration? One helpful addition it makes to common understanding is that exploration of system can consist of lengthy free-form discussion equally as well as in depth reference to charts/die rolls etc.  

Try this: if we look at the four in-game elements (color/setting/situation/character) as the contents of the shared imaginary space, and then look at system as simply what may be used to determine what of configuration of the others is accepted into play, then system isn't the larger set containing all. Instead it's a set of interactions or procedures that tell you something about all the others.  

--Emily Care
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: June 05, 2003, 07:50:08 AM »

Hi there,

I'm the source of the problem. Vincent originally wrote about "rules," and I seem to have extended his point, historically, to "system." I can't even isolate the thread in which this occurred, although I am suspiciously squinting at my Sim essay as the culprit.

It seems to me now most fair to say that the Lumpley Principle is about the rules, but clarifies that they must be subject to and expressive of System, which (of course) is an aspect of Social Contract. Which means that the intermediate level between [Rules] and [Social Contract + [System]] is [GNS], which makes sense.

The whole point of the Principle is that rules do not provide inviolate parameters for Social Contract, GNS, or System (as I define System). But I confess to being awfully fuzzy about this in the past.

Best,
Ron
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