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Author Topic: a perspective on roleplaying  (Read 5879 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2003, 04:19:50 PM »

Hey Jonathan.

Initially I was thinking these lines, but then I recalled that there's other stuff in the social contract, such as who collects the money for the pizza or who answers the door when the delivery guy comes, which has nothing to do with play. I suppose we could build on this further.

"The roleplaying social contract is the means by which the players reach consensus or agreement about what items are present or events occur within the shared imagined space."

With this addition we know we're talking about what effects play, and not stuff like who helps clean up afterwards.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2003, 09:35:54 PM »

Quote from: John Kim
LARP combat (if allowed) tries to be resolvable solely between the combatants -- without having a neutral arbiter.  In general, the two players are not expected to agree on moves outside of the rules.  That is, if my character throws dirt, I presumably think it will help me win -- while the other player might disagree.  A LARP system usually does not say that we must achieve consensus.  Instead they prescribe what happens: i.e. if it's not in the rules, you can't do it.

I'm not out to defend or refute the Lumpley principle; but as I understand it, this is not relevant to that.

The Lumpley principle does not say that the system allows or does not allow players to reach a consensus on the outcomes of actions outside a narrow rules set. It says that if it is possible to reach such consensus outside the rules set, the means by which such consensus is reached is part of that which it calls "system".

In the case in point, the fact that the players agree that any action not covered by the rules can't have any effect means they've arrived at consensus. They have come to the consensus that the rules set is the final arbiter of what is possible, and there is no one to whom to appeal for special sanction of actions that are not covered. That's the consensus; that's the system.

I don't know that the Lumpley principle actually does distinguish role playing games from any other sort of games, but this is not the point of such distinction in any event. Agreement that the book rules govern strictly is consensus on what happens as much as agreement that the referee gets to decide what happens is similarly consensus, or that we'll talk about it until we all agree. Consensus exists if we all agree as to what is happening in the shared imaginary space; how it is derived is what Lumpley calls "system".

Is that clearer?

--M. J. Young
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John Kim
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« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2003, 11:46:39 PM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
Quote from: John Kim
LARP combat (if allowed) tries to be resolvable solely between the combatants -- without having a neutral arbiter.  In general, the two players are not expected to agree on moves outside of the rules.  That is, if my character throws dirt, I presumably think it will help me win -- while the other player might disagree.  A LARP system usually does not say that we must achieve consensus.  Instead they prescribe what happens: i.e. if it's not in the rules, you can't do it.

I'm not out to defend or refute the Lumpley principle; but as I understand it, this is not relevant to that.
...
I don't know that the Lumpley principle actually does distinguish role playing games from any other sort of games, but this is not the point of such distinction in any event. Agreement that the book rules govern strictly is consensus on what happens as much as agreement that the referee gets to decide what happens is similarly consensus, or that we'll talk about it until we all agree. Consensus exists if we all agree as to what is happening in the shared imaginary space; how it is derived is what Lumpley calls "system".  

Well, but the topic here is Jack's perspective on role-playing, and specifically his attempt to define RPGs as distinct from other games such as video games.  Using your broad interpretation, I don't think that the Lumpley Principle can be used to distinguish RPGs.  For example, if the players agree that what appears on the computer screen is what is happening in the shared imaginary space, then a multiplayer video game is also subject to the Lumpley Principle.  

I'm not saying that the Lumpley principle doesn't exist, just that I don't think that it can be used to distinguish, say, a LARP from Lasertag or paintball.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2003, 07:03:50 AM »

Hello,

John, you wrote

Quote
I'm not saying that the Lumpley principle doesn't exist, just that I don't think that it can be used to distinguish, say, a LARP from Lasertag or paintball.


I was unaware that the Lumpley Principle was expected to be a unique, distinguishing feature of role-playing, as opposed to any other activity. My reading was that Vincent had identified a feature of human activity that is appropriately ascribed to role-playing, among who knows what other things, but is traditionally inappropriately ignored in discussions of both play and design of RPGs.

Discussions of LARP, paintball, chess, and whatnot seem bizarrely misplaced to me and always have.

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2003, 08:41:40 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
 For example, if the players agree that what appears on the computer screen is what is happening in the shared imaginary space, then a multiplayer video game is also subject to the Lumpley Principle.

This may be true, John, but I think that Mike's statement about being able to "do anything" in terms of what the elements are. My friend loves, loves loves to bitch about King's Quest because he got locked into a room and couldn't figure a way out. He tried picking upo a chair and smashing a window, and got the "YOU CAN'T DO THAT" message. Frustrated, he quit and didn't bother playing any computer RPG for about 20 years. Nowadays computer RPGs are more sophisticated either in signposting what you're supposed to do or in at least giving a clever result which still adds up to "you can't do that"

The ability to do anything in terms of what things are I am starting to think is another foundational principle. That and the possibility of results when taking said action. In a video game, it only produces action if a result is programmed. Also an action can only be attempted if it is programmed. Kids today with their controllers with hundreds of buttons to give you many options don't know what it's like to play a CRPG with only a four directional joystick and one fire button but Adventure was a decent game.

This may be a line of thinking that will lead to clarification. And RPG hjas "buttons" or actions that may be attempted. An RPG allows the player to create a new button during play in terms of what the play elements are.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2003, 11:54:57 AM »

Hello,

H'm, a quick review of the thread showed me that John wasn't committing the fallacy I thought at first (although I think people ought to pay attention to my point about the Lumpley Principle; that's starting to bug me in several threads).

It also showed me that I cannot, for love nor money, figure out what the topic of this thread is. Jack, can you help? I mean, really concretely, what's being asked?

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2003, 10:33:54 PM »

Of course, Ron.

As I stated in the original post, this was originally intended as a reply to the RPGs and related media thread, where the purpose was to discuss related and overlapping media and pasttimes in the hope of identifying the differences for more useful discussion. Too often in my mind, a comparason had been brought up hinging on what what was a difference between RPGs and this other medium, effectively derailing the conversation. This has fallen to "no blood, no foul" which effectively ends the discussion. I want to get into this discussion. Other media cannot be just like RPGs in every way or else they would simply be RPGs. This has, unfortunately, led to defining roleplaying games, a topic which has led to a similar brick walls. As the thread title implies, this is merely one perspective on roleplaying, my perspective. I chose this tactic because it may make it easier to swallow for some. Don't argee with it? Well, it's only what Jack thinks. I can disagree and post reasons why, if I like.

Personally, I think it has, thus far been successful. Some nice debate over the lumpley principle has gone on and refined it a little. Time will tell if that sticks. And Mike's statement, which I'm sure had been posted elsewhere, about "do anything" seems to me to be another foundational principle of roleplaying. I prefer to think of it less as defining roleplaying as clarifying it. Understanding some of the basic principles behind it and how it relates to and overlaps other things.
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #22 on: August 11, 2003, 02:24:58 AM »

Ok, I think I'm getting the hang of this thread. It seems to me that genericaly you can state the principle in this way:

"The X is the means by which the players reach consensus or agreement as-to what items are present or events occur within the shared imagined space."

That means may be regarded as social contract, game rules, system, whatever. They are all part of X, whatever word or term you want to use for it. If it's a 'means' towards the goals stated by the principle, it's part of X.

That means X has to be pretty much all-inclusive. Is 'The English Language' part of X? I suppose so. One of the players in our group last week was Dutch, and on the occasions I've run game at the Tentacles convention in Germany, I've always specified English as the language for the game since I don't speak German, and not enough French to game in it, therefore English was 'one of the stated means by which we reached consensus or agreement blah, blah...', because I stated it when I pinned up the sign-up form for the game.

I tend to agree with the possition that X is most usefuly described as the Social Contract, and is usualy up for continual negotiation in most groups.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
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« Reply #23 on: August 11, 2003, 06:14:19 AM »

Hmmmm.... after extensive reading, I am not certain I understand the way "rules" and "system" are being used here.  For the most part, it seems as if the latter has been determined to be a larger framework within which the former exists, along with several other factors, such as social interaction and GM judgement calls.  I am not certain where some of you would place the world itself, as I feel any world is an intregral part of the system it exists within and without.  Let me explain this a little further...

A system exists to quantify, to regulate, what occurs in an RPG.  Part of this is the drycut rules that dictate such things as combat, skill usage, so on.  Part of this, related and also in some ways separate, I feel is the world itself, which has an underlying effect on the system; the way the world functions directly effects the system, even as the system directly effects the way the world functions.  You can build both ways, inward and out, based on this.  Call it physics, call it what you will.  The system is a framework, a foundation upon which the world is built, the loom upon which the tapestry is woven, with the players and the storyteller(s) as the weavers.  The world exists beyond the system, hung upon it, even as it helps beget it at its most basic level.

To be honest... I'm not certain what the controversy is in this thread.  Simon Hibbs slipped in X.... and I think I can agree that X is identifable as anything which can fit into that position in this theorum and lead to a true result.  That includes rules, the system, the social contract... the role of the gamemaster, whether you fit that into the system, the rules, or the social contract (personally, I feel it fits into all three partially -- things interconnect, really, create a network; very little stands alone).
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #24 on: August 11, 2003, 10:00:30 AM »

The last two post made me realize something. At least I think so. Let me bounce this off of you.

We have this version of the lumpley principle:
"The social contract is the means by which the players reach consensus or agreement as-to what items are present or events occur within the shared imagined space."
I would still put "roleplaying" in front of "social contract" since a social contract is involved in anything social, but since we discuss roleplaying here and not collaborative quilting we can take that as read... I hope.

Originally Mike Holmes wrote:
In an RPG, the player can have his controlled elements do "anything" that they might be able to do in terms of what they are, and there are rules to cover that.  

I'm thinking that Mike is describing the system here. Or at least what I think of as the system. The place where the rules and the social contract meet, or perhaps they overlap in regards to the roleplaying. Perhaps naming this "system" is foolish, but let's see if I can describe the logic.

The social contract is something that forms whenever people get together. This may be explicit or unspoken. This describes things like what language is spoke or whether or not dirty jokes are acceptable. As the social contract applies to the actual roleplaying is in what items are present or events occur within the shared imagined space. To do this, the player can create elements an have them do "anything" that they might be able to do in terms of what they are, as outlined by expectations defined in the social contract. The rules are meant to facilitate this.

Funny thing about rules versus principles. A rule says do this. A principle says this works and has worked since the begining of time. Yes, I did see Adaption. This is why I distinguish between the rules and the system. The principles that Vincent and Mike have written are fairly loose in exactly what you do. Like Alignments & GNS, they cover a wide range of things yet somehow still describe a defined range of activities. Rules, on the other hand are more rigid and this rigidity can be problematic. Anyone who has found a game mechanic to be "unrealistic" knows exactly what I'm talking about. I don't mean to be negative on rules, but I know damned well that I am. I am just trying to identify the place rules has in the scheme of things, which is to help. It's where they do not that concerns me.

So, following this line of reason, I'm thinking:

The players reach consensus or agreement about what items are present or events occur within the shared imagined space by creating elements an having them do "anything" that they might be able to do in terms of what they are, as outlined by expectations defined in the social contract. The rules are meant to facilitate this.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: August 11, 2003, 10:20:57 AM »

Hi there,

Perhaps one of the points from my essays is relevant.

[Social contract [Exploration [Creative agenda [Techniques [Rules-in-action [Stances]]]]]

(Notice I've put the rules inside techniques this time, unlike the previous time, and specified them to "in action" - in other words, this set of brackets is only about play.)

The reason for the brackets is to create, in the reader's mind, the image of boxes nestled within boxes. The point of this image is this: every "inner" category is a version of its outer categories.

In other words, Exploration is a type of Social Contract. Creative Agenda is an application of Exploration. Techniques are means of realizing Creative Agenda.

A lot of people miss that. We talk about GNS in action, and people say, "Isn't that social contract?" The answer is yes, because everything in the model is social contract; the inner brackets are just specifications of certain parts of it.

Now let's talk about rules. You'll notice I left rules out, but they're actually there in a couple of ways.

1. System is one of the five elements of Exploration, so "what we do to get stuff done" is actually a pretty high-up part of the model.

2. Techniques are often codified and given their parameters by rules, which is why "rules in action" is an element within techniques in the above construction. (I am not making a big deal out of whether Techniques "really" go within Rules or vice versa.)

So what are rules? Anything formalized - written down, agreed upon, whatever - that permits any of the above to stay on track for that particular group. By "on track," I simply mean, "Fun."

The virtue of the Lumpley Principle, which I tried to state earlier in this thread, is that rules' subordinate role - which is recognized and understood in most other social, leisure activities - is usually given a primary role in most discussions of RPGs, or placed into denial (so-called "system-less" play). The principle simply provides a reality check for people who start waving around the "rules" stick, whether as support for their desires ("the rules say ...") or to decry someone else's desires ("never mind the rules, it's just a game ...").

So! If I'm not mistaken, the whole Lumpley Principle is not going to be useful, at all, for your goals in this thread, Jack. If the point is to find whatever distinguishes RPGs from other activities, then the Principle is doing exactly the opposite - it states why role-playing is going to be like other activities in the social/leisure category.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #26 on: August 11, 2003, 10:29:30 AM »

Quote
I think the trickier line is for other representational games, like Advanced Squad Leader or free kriegspiel. I would say that LARP combat is generally closer to ASL than to free kriegspiel. It is intended to be objective and restrictive, like chess or ASL. You have a set of options and you are restricted to those options. Sure, you can add color -- in the same way that you can describe things about your ASL unit, or talk in-character as your squad leader -- but it has no effect on the game resolution. Compare the LARP case to an online video game. By using my controls I can make my avatar physically do what I want. Add in that in I can say whatever I like by typing in messages.


This was partially adressed above, but I'll take a further stab.

Yes, combat in LARPs is restrictive, but still covered. What you call "Color", OTOH, is often the entire point of many LARPS. I've played in some in which combat was, if not impossible, resolved in such a way as to make it a non-productive option. Such that the entire game becomes an exercise in diplomacy.

Consider the NSDM stuff (http://www.nsdmg.org/), which despite the creators urgings that it's not a LARP, is definitely a LARP. Like Free-Kriegspiel, it typically involves military an political matters, and war can occur, but there are no specific "rules" for resolving combat. Does that mean that there's no "winner"? Not at all, the winner is the player that attains more of his goals in the most potent way, selcted by the judges. But, within that framework, you can do, well, "Anything" in order to achieve your goals. And you do so, often playing a character like the president of the US (though you also by default represent your own organization to the extent that you control it).

The point is that what you call "color" in most LARPs is usually, if not the point of play, an important part of it. All Vampire LARPS, amongst the most common, are more about the politics than they are about the killing (at least putatively in design, despite falling apart in practice due to incoherence in play). So one can simply "talk" their way through the scenario. What's important to this discussion is that it's this "flexibility" that RPGs have that make them unique from other games.

(And again, there are versions that people often call LARP or RPGs that I would disqualify. If you're playing "boffer LARP" and the only activity authorized tby the system is just beating on each other in a tournament, then, yes, I'd call this a sport, not a RPG-like activity.)

In ASL, no matter what I say as a player in characterizing my piece, it has no effect on the final outcome. You could argue that bluffing that comes from characterization would count, but then you can do that just as effectively OOC. It's not an important feature of the game that you can speak for the characters if you like. Moreover, there are some things that you just cannot do. As mentioned above, if you say that you want to have your squad commit suicide (I dunno, to prevent the opponent in a wargame about demonic possession from gaining bodies or something), if it's not in the rules, you can't do it.

This is becasue of the principle that I'm speaking of. In general, in a wargame, any action that's not listed in the rules cannot be taken, and, even if described, can have no effect on the outcome of the rules. In an RPG or similar, the principle is the broad one that you can do "anything" as long as the rules don't specifically limit you in some way.

Thus, yes, all RPG combat rules are restrictive. In a freeform, you can say, "Bob wades through the foes, and kills Ned." Because freeform basically says that the power to do "anything" is only limited by basic social contract issues. In a game like Rolemaster, you are very limited in terms of how you can describe combat by the rules. But, where there aren't rules (and Rolemaster tries to limit this as much as a game can), the "anything" principle applies. You can still do these things, they'll just be covered by some general principle - in most tabletop, the GM says, in freeform, anything the player says happens, etc.

It's like the legal idea of broad or narrow constraint. Wargames are narrowly constrained in that the player only has the powers given specifically by the text. RPGs are broadly interpereted that the player can attempt anything, and the system will relate how to decide what happens.

Now, MMORPGs are borderline. But where it finally comes down for me is that, since the player isn't allowed to work outside the framework of play at all (maybe characters can't dig a hole), despite having large lattitude in a good game due to it covering a lot, he's still constrained narrowly to what the interface allows.

I'm not sure if that clarifies anything, but it sure was satisfying sounding.

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #27 on: August 11, 2003, 01:14:56 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
It's like the legal idea of broad or narrow constraint. Wargames are narrowly constrained in that the player only has the powers given specifically by the text. RPGs are broadly interpereted that the player can attempt anything, and the system will relate how to decide what happens.

Now, MMORPGs are borderline. But where it finally comes down for me is that, since the player isn't allowed to work outside the framework of play at all (maybe characters can't dig a hole), despite having large lattitude in a good game due to it covering a lot, he's still constrained narrowly to what the interface allows.

I think I understand this distinction, but it seems to me that it is muddied by your treatment of LARPs.  It seems that for some games, you allow that open-ended talking makes it broad even if specific resolution is narrow.  But open-ended talk and diplomacy is a feature of a huge range of multi-player games.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
  In ASL, no matter what I say as a player in characterizing my piece, it has no effect on the final outcome. You could argue that bluffing that comes from characterization would count, but then you can do that just as effectively OOC. It's not an important feature of the game that you can speak for the characters if you like.  

I'm not following this.  As far as I can see, IC vs OOC bluffing are identical under your definition.  Your definition says nothing about being in-character.  Indeed, players don't need to have characters at all and it can still be an RPG by your definition (and indeed this was important for the case of Universalis).  

This is a key difference between your definition and mine.  As I define it, an RPG always requires characterization.  It needn't be dramatic or deep, but there need to be meaningful decisions on the basis of "What would my character do?"  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
 Yes, combat in LARPs is restrictive, but still covered.
...
The point is that what you call "color" in most LARPs is usually, if not the point of play, an important part of it. All Vampire LARPS, amongst the most common, are more about the politics than they are about the killing (at least putatively in design, despite falling apart in practice due to incoherence in play). So one can simply "talk" their way through the scenario. What's important to this discussion is that it's this "flexibility" that RPGs have that make them unique from other games.

Hrrm.  But there are lots of games which emphasize talk -- such as Diplomacy or Poker.  This isn't a quibble -- the importance of talk and social interactions is extremely central to poker, and it makes a huge difference between it and some other card games.  Poker is broad in the sense that it is not about drawing cards, but about social interaction.  To pick a closer case, social interaction can be highly important for online games such as MMORPGs.  In my foray into MUDing, I took part in clan politics.  This seems to form a big grey area.  If the rules of resolution are narrow, but it allows for open-ended diplomacy, is the game as a whole broad or narrow?
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #28 on: August 11, 2003, 08:21:09 PM »

Quote from: Windthin
I am not certain I understand the way "rules" and "system" are being used here.  For the most part, it seems as if the latter has been determined to be a larger framework within which the former exists, along with several other factors, such as social interaction and GM judgement calls.  I am not certain where some of you would place the world itself, as I feel any world is an intregral part of the system it exists within and without.
Let me take a stab at this. Most of this is based on previous threads, but I'm not sure where they are.

Obviously if you're playing OAD&D or V:tM or Multiverser, you've got one or more books containing rules. These rules ostensibly define how such a game is played.

Just as obviously, if you're sitting at the table playing one of these games, there's a good chance you're not playing quite exactly by the book. I'm one of the most "by-the-book" referees of OAD&D out there, and I have never used the weapon factor charts.

In one thread, authority was distinguished from credibility. There, I commented that the rules in the book were an authority to which appeal could be made in determining outcomes, but that the credibility to determine how that book was interpreted in this case lay, in many cases, with the referee. The referee could say, I see that, and I have been doing this wrong, so we'll fix it from now on. He could say, I don't use that rule. He could say, I see what you're saying, but I think that rule doesn't apply to this situation, this one does.

What Lumpley observed was that the treatment of the rules themselves varies from group to group, but is fairly consistent within a group; that decisions made about what happens in the imaginary space are made as a group based not on the rules in the book necessarily, but on the actual system in use. That "system" might be closer to the book rules or further from it; it might be highly and rigorously structured or extremely freeform. However, in order for the game to proceed at all, there has to be some "system" in place as part of the social contract agreed by the players which determines what is happening. That "system" includes the rules, but it also includes many things that might not be in the rules, such as distribution of credibility (who gets to say what the rules mean and what is actually happening at this moment), interpretation of mechanics (what a die roll actually means under the circumstances), means of bonusing chance of success, house rules, and consensus. Those are all part of the "system" which determines what is happening, even though they aren't necessarily in the "rules" as written.

It is perhaps an arbitrary distinction; but then, most definitions of words are. It has value in that it distinguishes "system" as what might be called the rules that are actually used from "rules" as what might be called those rules which are found in the book.

As to the place of world descriptions, that's more a personal matter thus far, I think. I view them as part of the rules, certainly part of the system; and I say that as someone who wrote a game that contains no world description within it at all. However, what is happening in the shared imagined space is certainly controlled in part by agreement on the nature of the world currently in use, so there is a sense in which any time a Multiverser player enters a world he enters a new subset of the rules that define and limit the possibilities in specific ways.

Does that help?

--M. J. Young
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #29 on: August 11, 2003, 10:53:07 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
So! If I'm not mistaken, the whole Lumpley Principle is not going to be useful, at all, for your goals in this thread, Jack. If the point is to find whatever distinguishes RPGs from other activities, then the Principle is doing exactly the opposite - it states why role-playing is going to be like other activities in the social/leisure category.

I disagree. To make the perfect pancake, you don't start with a pancake, but with flour, eggs, milk, a splash of seltzer. If we talked about the Lumpley Principle and then stop, it would be rather useless. But to build on that solid foundation rather than the shaky rules one, something solid can be made. Or such is my hope.
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