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Author Topic: Stumbling Around A Rebuttal  (Read 10578 times)
Hunter Logan
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Posts: 86


« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2003, 12:28:31 PM »

Hi Tony,

I hope this helps.

Quote
Cool, but I don't really see how this is different from most conventional RPGs especially those with explicit "The GM is always right" text. An example from my red box D&D days could be

Me: Ok we go into the room, I'm up front with the torch, I'll hold it up high to make sure we all get a good view. What do we see?
The player is entirely relying on the GM's answers to provide a course of action

GM: An empty rectangular room 30' extending forward. Descending stairs at the far end.
the GM is relying entirely on his own judgment and imagination to determine the outcome.

Me: Dammit, I was hoping for more skeletons.
There is no process for challenging that decision, nor any device for determining the outcome.

Using your spec for mechanics we could say

Device: Tony asks a question about the dungeon.
Evaluation: The GM answers the question.
Outcome: Tony gains information about the dungeon.

So this isn't a informal house-ruled substitute for an existing randomizing mechanic (like the trap disarming), this is a diceless mechanic already present in the system living alongside dice mechanics.


This is absolutely true, but gaining information does not necessarily produce resolution. This leads to the next point:.

Quote
If there are any mechanics at all present that do not use dice, would you accept that the game is a fuzion of dice and diceless?


I would take a hard look at the methods for resolving conflicts and other in-game situations. That's where the rubber meets the road. If resolution has a significant diceless process for some circumstances, a diced process for other circumstances, and clearly defined conditions for using those processes, then I think you have a game with real fusion of the two.

As an aside, your example is just the sort of thing has made me a fan and advocate for giving gobs of director power to the players.
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Hunter Logan
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« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2003, 12:34:23 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I'm not even sure what a mechanical Drama Mechanic would look like. All Drama mechanics boil down to who gets to decide what happens, and maybe suggestions for what's appropriate. As soon as you reference anything statistical, it becomes Karma. So where are your counterexamples of decisions that are non-mechanical that don't correspond to Wijciks examples?

Mike


Sorry Mike,
I'm not exactly sure what you mean by counter-examples, or what you are looking for by way of response.
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Lxndr
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« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2003, 01:58:47 PM »

Possible Drama mechanics (that are mechanics):

When the dice in MLwM are equal, some sort of dramatic interruption occurs.  I believe this is a dramatic mechanic in an otherwise fortune set of mechanics, because the mechanic itself does not say anything other than "this is precisely where you should use drama to somehow interrupt the situation."  (As related examles, a karma mechanic to resolve this might be "compare these statistics and see which is higher", and a fortune mechanic could be "roll another die").

Bonus dice in Sorcerer are a Drama mechanic, as is "stunting" in Exalted as I understand it (though I haven't seen exalted, so MMMDV).  "Was it cool?  How cool?  Give out dice depending on how cool you, the GM, thought it was."  There's even a separate "step" in the combat proceedings in Sorcerer for bonus dice.

Imho, these are *mechanics*, insofar as they are a step in the described process.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2003, 08:26:35 PM »

Thank you for calling my attention to the new article.

I'm very surprised that this comes from the pen of Erick Wujcik, author of Amber Diceless Roleplaying. My admittedly meager exposure to that game has suggested that it relies heavily on karma-based resolution, yet from the descriptions in his article, you would think that all "diceless" play was drama resolution. I can't imagine that he is unaware of the difference between the two, or the place of fortune in the triumvirate.

I certainly agree with him that most games are hybrid in their resolution systems. Amber certainly is. It combines drama with karma. The characters have strengths and weaknesses that matter in play in specific ways in the resolution of conflicts. These are rated, so we know not only who is better but by how much.

The decision whether to roll the dice or decide the outcome automatically is inherent in every game system; and that's a drama resolution mechanic. Whether the resolution is, "I'm sorry, that's just absurd, you can't do that", or "Yeah, you did that", it's still drama resolution. That doesn't exactly make it diceless--it makes it a system in which the use or non-use of fortune (or karma, for that matter) is determined by a simple drama decision.

It's hardly a revelation that fortune systems use non-fortune subsystems to achieve their goals. After all, what's a map, if not a mechanical representation of the game reality to be revealed? There is usually nothing random about the map. The rules in essence say that as the player characters move through the map, the objects and places on the map will be revealed to them. There's nothing fortune about that at all. It's still a rule, and a rather mechanical one. It's fundamentally a drama resolution of the question of what the characters find, because at some point a person made a decision as to what would be there, and the rules merely dictate when the impact of that decision is felt in play. If you think it absurd to claim that the decisions which create the map are drama mechanics, you've obviously never run a game in which the map was decided by the roll of the dice as the game progressed. I have, often. In those cases, fortune mechanics create and reveal the details of the world; in most other cases, those details are determined by drama mechanics.

On the subject of mechanisms used in drama resolution, I'll suggest one to demonstrate that they exist: precedent. If precedent is an active mechanism, then there is implicit in the system the expectation that once some event has been resolved one way, any similar event will be resolved the same way unless it can be distinguished in some aspect that justifies a different resolution. If (to beat an old horse) I jump across the ditch easily the first time I do it, I expect that I will be able to jump over the ditch easily every time I do it, unless there is some reason for the decision to be different (mud at the edge, personal injury, added weight or impediment). Precedent does not have to be a rule in drama resolution; all decisions could be based on whim, or dramatic potential, or protaganization, or any of a number of other approaches which permit wildly disparate resolutions of comparable events. So you can have mechanisms that control drama in particular ways.

On the subject of what is freeform, I'd say this:
    [*]A freeform system uses strictly drama resolution.[*]In a freeform system, no one vetoes a declared event or action, but merely modifies it through other declared events or actions.[/list:u]I think those are the essentials.

    I hope this is helpful. (I hope it's coherent--I've been interrupted several times, and started writing before I finished reading, and tried to fit everything together into one poast--but as long as it's helpful, who needs coherence?)

    --M. J. Young
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    Mike Holmes
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    « Reply #19 on: August 26, 2003, 07:41:18 AM »

    Lxndr (and Logan),

    OK, I won't debate that those are potentially Drama mechanics. But how are they at all what Wujcik is talking about? His examples are what you'd call, I dunno, non-mechanics. None of the examples he uses would be mechanics by your definition. In Amber, there is a non-mechnanic that says that if a player is about to get crushed by the Karma resolution that's about to occur, he should try to get out of it by narrating something interesting that would sensibly lead to a different Karma resolution (presumably favorable).

    Obviously, when Wujcik says mechanics, this is what he's refering to. So you don't have a problem with his point, you have a problem with his use of the term mechanic. He isn't dumb, and stating that mechanics the like of which you're talking about exist in every game. He's smart, and just doesn't know your personal definition.

    Mike
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    Halzebier
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    « Reply #20 on: August 26, 2003, 11:26:30 AM »

    M.J. Young wrote:

    Quote
    On the subject of what is freeform, I'd say this:

       A freeform system uses strictly drama resolution.
       In a freeform system, no one vetoes a declared event or action, but merely modifies it through other declared events or actions.


    I actually consider "freeform system" an oxymoron, as I see the absence of any system (where system is a collection of mechanics or rules) as the whole point of "freeform".

    Also, I do not quite understand why many seem to consider Fortune-based mechanics as incompatible with freeform.
     
    Let me attempt to elaborate, starting with Jack's definition over in the "What is Freeform?"-thread, which I like very much:

    Quote
    Freeform is more like Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do as describe in the bio pic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story "It is like water. It favors formless and as such can assume all forms".

    Player in a freeform game come across a situation. Through the lumpley principle they find a method to resolve it and then move on. This method they used to reach agreement fades back into formlessness. It may be used again if a similar situation comes up, it may be modified, it may never be used again.

    This is freeform. Not to be confused with diceless, randomless or pure Drama.


    The central point is that nothing is fixed.

    Hence, *each time* your character tries to jump across that ditch, a method of resolution has to be decided upon.

    Obviously, it is often convenient to use precedence (just as it is convenient to use a d6 to resolve a game of Russian Roulette), i.e. use the method that was used the first time around, e.g. "roll 3 or more on a d6" or "you succeed".

    However, I think that if the game is to be called (pure) "freeform", nobody would have the 'right' to *invoke* precedence. The moment one would allow that, one is in the process of establishing a system and leaving freeform.

    Jumping across that ditch might be handled differently for any number of reasons, even if a Fortune-mechanic was used the first time (e.g. the aforementioned "roll 3 or more on a d6").

    Several examples:

    # A different type of die (e.g. a d10 instead of a d6) might be used because of the dice within reach at the gaming table at the moment.

    # A different type of die (e.g. a d10 instead of a d6) might be used because of a personal preference ("This time, the jump is really important for my character, so I want to use my lucky ten-sider.")

    [In the example, this subtly changes the probabilities involved (unless one uses the d10 to simulate a d6).]

    # Resolution might switch to a Drama-method, e.g. to avoid anticlimax or repetition (i.e., the characters don't have to deal with all the dungeon's traps again on their way out).

    # A different Fortune-mechanic might be used to enhance detail or change the focus: "While you jump to safety, Jesse James draws his gun in slow-motion. Roll a d6 six times, one after the other. James starts rolling d6s as well, one 'round' after you. If he overtakes you, he's quick enough to hit you in mid-air. Oh, and if the sum is less than 18, you fall into the ditch."

    The last example is somewhat forced (because I'm trying to use the ditch-example), but I've seen spontaneous changes of the level of detail and thereby most likely a failure to reproduce the probabilities one might expect based on an earlier situation (i.e., here 6d6 > 17 is not equal to d6 > 2).

    Of course, a freeform game is somewhat prone to drift into rules-light or whatever, and thus one might be tempted to use the term loosely and call one game "more (or less) freeform" than another.
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    Mike Holmes
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    « Reply #21 on: August 26, 2003, 02:03:25 PM »

    This doesn't correspond with any data that I have in terms of this being a common form of play. That is, freeform does not exist as a coherent movement, AFAICT, but what does seem common is that they do not use mechanics for the most part. That the fewer mechanics, the more freeform it is. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I've never even heard of a game like you describe. Every game of this sort that I've ever seen has as their only rules such things as, "Narrate what you want, but don't mess with anyone else's character." And the like.

    So, while that sort of game might exist, I think its hardly the phenomenon that we're looking to categorize. Jack, this isn't what you're claiming to be freeform, is it? I think that Jack is saying that the system gets formed as you go, but still shy's away from anything remotely like hard mechanics.

    Mike
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    Hunter Logan
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    « Reply #22 on: August 26, 2003, 05:52:34 PM »

    Hi Mike,

    I actually have no problem with Erick Wujick's use of the term mechanics or his examples. As far as I can tell, the interactions and resolutions he describes work fine with my analysis and definition of mechanics. They also seem to conform to your statements about squishy methods of resolution. My only point about the first portion of Erick Wujick's article is this:

    The GM in Erick's example was very kind not to require a die roll. He significantly drifted the resolution mechanics for D&D. If this is an example of the Lumpley Principle in action (as Jack Spencer stated), that's fine, too. I would only add that the GM didn't have to do that. The GM could have answered all Erick's questions and still required a die roll to resolve the action. The GM basically decided it was okay for Erick's thief to disarm the traps without calling for a die roll. It's a very squishy interaction, and it worked for them... But it probably would have failed if the GM decided that Erick didn't ask the right questions, that the thief triggered the trap, and that everyone in the party took several d6 of fire damage in the ensuing explosion.

    It's safe to say that these drama-based, squishy, freeform resolution methods are far from perfect. Drama is all about player intent. That's the bottom line. When two players have similar intents, everything is happy. When the players have different intents, conflicts arise. This is the point when something more is needed. If the game includes dice, that's when the dice usually take over, and that's when dice really should take over. This does not mean that dice are the only way to get the job done; but in many games, dice (cards, or whatever other randomizers you like) become the decisive factor for resolving conflicts of player intent (drama, if you like).

    Given all that, it's fair to ask, are all rpgs that include fortune-based resolution mechanics really a fusion of diced and diceless mechanics? Is Erick right about that? I don't know. I think old versions of D&D were written with the express intent for diced resolution of all important actions and events in the game, which is why the rules provide die rolls for just about everything that can happen in the game. The only time the die roll is really discarded is when the outcome is a forgone conclusion. A magic missile will hit its target; no die roll needed. A fighter can't disarm traps. If he picks up the thief's tools to give it a whirl, he'll set it off for sure. Of course, YMMV because of the Lumpley Principle; but at this point, I'm talking about the game itself, not the players.

    I would also add that Erick's evidence for "fusion in all games" is to point out that no game has rules that require players to roll for unimportant or unrelated events. I can only respond that unimportant, unrelated events shouldn't ever require resolution mechanics because, by definition, they're unimportant or unrelated. They have nothing to do with the real action and interaction of the game Anyway, for completeness here's Erick's take:

    Quote
    Consider, have you ever choked on a bit of food? Ever stumbled while walking on flat ground? Ever stuttered or fumbled over words? Of course you have. We human beings can screw up anything, at any minute. If you imagine that we're living in dice-based universe, it stands to reason that the dice are rolling millions of times every second, just to see which of your replicating cells are doing their job properly, and which are failing bad enough to give rise to cancer.

    Of course in a role-playing game, you don't want to roll for all that stuff.


    Again, I point out the reason. It's not because you can't roll for it, but because it's not important to the game. No one would ever roll for any of that unless some other condition in the game made it important. So, a diceless process to handle stuff that's unimportant to play is no indicator of fusion between dice and dicelessness. It's just an admission that players were never going to have to roll for any of that stuff.

    Given that, is it fair to say that all (or even the vast bulk and majority of) dice-based roleplaying games as played are a fusion of diced and diceless mechanics? I don't know, and I have no opinion.

    So, um... Is there a actually a point of contention here, or are we good to go?
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    Jack Spencer Jr
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    « Reply #23 on: August 26, 2003, 10:40:44 PM »

    Quote from: Halzebier
    Obviously, it is often convenient to use precedence (just as it is convenient to use a d6 to resolve a game of Russian Roulette), i.e. use the method that was used the first time around, e.g. "roll 3 or more on a d6" or "you succeed".

    This is true, and quite likely the way of it. I recall a brief discussion with a former player about the teardrop being the most aerodynamic shape. It must be because if there were a more aerodynamic shape water, as it falls through the air, would assume that shape.

    So it is not unthinkable that a group would fall on precident on what works for that group when playing freeform.
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    lumpley
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    « Reply #24 on: August 27, 2003, 05:47:15 AM »

    Halzebier, welcome to the Forge!

    Quote from: You
    I actually consider "freeform system" an oxymoron, as I see the absence of any system (where system is a collection of mechanics or rules) as the whole point of "freeform".

    And welcome to the Forge terminology!  We've been using "System" to mean the process - whatever it is - by which the participants agree to what happens in the game.  Since even freeformers agree what happens in their games, they must be using a System.

    Here's an earlier post by me on the subject: from Exploration of System (split).

    Otherwise I agree with you.  Non-mechanical Fortune rules are common in my experience.

    -Vincent
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    Halzebier
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    « Reply #25 on: August 27, 2003, 06:45:27 AM »

    First of all, thanks for the welcome and hello everybody!

    I've been lurking for a while and probably won't have the time to post frequently, but I'm very happy to be here. I'm an old RGFA lurker, but don't hold that against me. =)

    Quote
    And welcome to the Forge terminology!  We've been using "System" to mean the process - whatever it is - by which the participants agree to what happens in the game.  Since even freeformers agree what happens in their games, they must be using a System.


    Thanks for the pointer & clearing this up. I've read up on the jargon, but it will take a while to settle. In the meantime, I'll try to step carefully (e.g. by elaborating on what I mean when I use a term which is likely to have a definition here, or better yet, by looking things up).
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    Mike Holmes
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    « Reply #26 on: August 27, 2003, 10:40:53 AM »

    Hunter, I don't think there is any controversy, no. But the subject of the thread, Alexander's point, says there is controversy. That's exactly what we're trying to clear up. As I've said, the mechanics issue is a smokescreen brought up by Alex to say that Eric is wrong. I think the overall point of the essay is that non-fortune mechanics are a fine way to go amongst others. Which is, as you say non-controversial. Alex seems to think that Wujcik is saying that all games are partially diceless, so why not embrace dicelessness. Or something.

    Here's an example of a very bad but completely diceful game. For every action that you can think of find two opposing outcomes. Flip a coin. If it comes up heads go with the first outcome proposed, if it comes up tails then the second. At no time will anything be established without a flip.

    Now, I think that what'll happen with this game is that it will get reduced to nothingness in play, but I think it defies the classification that Wujcik makes. In any case, it doesn't matter. The point is not so much that all games do this anyhow. That's not a point that needs to be made to meet the burden of proof for the overall point. All that needs be said is that in the vast majority of games there will come some point where something relatively important will be resolved via drama, and few players if any have any objection to this.

    Now, that leaves room for excpetions. But the level of proof required for the principle isn't that high. All Eric is saying is that arguments that diceless is a bad way to play are unfounded. Defending his own work, you see. He's saying that people don't realize that "diceless" is just an extension of common methods used in other styles of play, and shouldn't be poo-pooed.

    The argument that "we all do it" is merely meant to be supportive.

    Now, we here not being one's to poo-poo diceless play, probably took it as some sort of statement that all games ought to go diceless or something. But if there's any confusion about that, the last paragraph of the essay should ameliorate this. And given the problems with the ideas that Hunter brings up, I can't see that his point could have been anything else. I mean, what would it prove that every game is either a fusion of diceless and dice or just diceless?

    I will say that the point of the essay could have been made more clearly. And perhaps it is I who am reading in things. So if Mr. Wujcik would deign to come by and make clear what the point of the essay is, I'm sure that would be appreciated.

    Mike
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    Lxndr
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    « Reply #27 on: August 27, 2003, 10:57:00 AM »

    I took umbrage with Erick's language, and how it drastically skewed the point that most people seem to believe he was TRYING to make.  I'm not against diceless play in any form (though the form of diceless play Erick was describing seemed to be entirely without mechanic).  To once again try an analogy, let's look at another form of mechanics, celestial mechanics:

    An astronomer looks out in space and sees a new asteroid, heading away from the Earth.  He goes, "Hm, I won't bother calculating its trajectory to see whether or not it's going to strike me down - it's not."  This does NOT mean that, suddenly, celestial mechanics have stopped.  It simply means that this particular decision was made without consulting the mechanics.

    I'm definitely NOT against diceless play in any form (I like both Nobilis and MURPG, and am trying to get my hands on Amber).  I'm not even against the point that others have said they think Erick was attempting to make (which seems to be "go ahead and use non-fortune mechanics, they're fun") but what I saw as the point actually being made ("if ever you don't roll a die, you're obviously using non-fortune mechanics, and thus you're playing dicelessly!  Ha!")

    Mike's example (i.e. his simply and silly game that he claims will get reduced in play) is where I have my niggles.  Erick gives basically the same example:  "We didn't like the dice, so we just reduced the mechanic," and, based on that example, says, "there's a mechanic there."

    But if it's just a disconnect between my comprehension of the language that is actually used and the actual point Mr. Wujcik is trying to make, well, I can accept that.  But the point that I got through reading the article (and even now, on re-reading the article) seems to run counter to the point that the individuals here are stating Mr. Wujcik WANTED to make.

    Maybe it's just me.  :)
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    Mike Holmes
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    « Reply #28 on: August 27, 2003, 12:19:01 PM »

    And again, my point is that what you thought was the point, can't in fact be the point. The fact is that he's absolutely right that all games have some amount of "diceless mechanics" using his definition of mechanics, which we can infer from his examples is what we'd call system. Nobody plays my little sample game, and I doubt it would work in any case. So, practically speaking, his statment is absolutely true. Even if, as Hunter points out the drama used is for "unimportant" things, it's used.

    Quote
    It simply means that this particular decision was made without consulting the mechanics.
    Uh, that's Drama. You're judging the essay on your own definitions, when the author's definitions are plain from the essay itself.

    But then it seems a trivial point to you? Well, he must be saying something that's either non-contorversial, or he's saying something more that you're not getting. I think it's the latter. Either way, there's no problem with the essay, other than that it could perhaps be a bit more clear about it's goals.

    Mike
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    Lxndr
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    « Reply #29 on: August 27, 2003, 12:27:34 PM »

    There's a disconnect for me between what the language says (to me), and the point that you are claiming the document actually is saying.  If the disconnect is in the language, rather than the point being made, then I have no issue.

    If it really is the point that you (and others) have gotten from the document, then there's no problem (other than an injudicious use of the language).  On the other hand, if his point is my interpretation, rather than yours, then I'm still just as much in opposition as I was when I started.

    Given that we can't know what his point actually was unless he arrives clarifies it (did he do that somewhere that I missed?), I don't think there's anything more for us to talk about on my side.

    Quote
    Uh, that's Drama. You're judging the essay on your own definitions, when the author's definitions are plain from the essay itself


    I don't see anything implicit in the definition of Drama that has, as its requisite a lack of mechanics (which was the point of my example, not that it was Fortuneless, but that it was mechanicless).  But if he really meant something other than "mechanic" when he said "mechanic" (which is what the general consensus seems to be), that's a moot point.
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