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Author Topic: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)  (Read 16476 times)
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2003, 08:18:46 AM »

Quote from: xiombarg
But if that's the case, does that mean a metagame component in a Narrativist game can be used to cause a game to creep in a Simulationist direction? Or is the possibility of "creep through metagame" unique to Simulationist play?
Sure, theoretically. But it all depends on the particular design. If a metagme mechanic is designed correctly, it can be made such that it requires a lot of effort (if not quite making it impossible), to ignore the Narrativist questions that it posits.

Anyone can play against the nature of any game. Ralph's point from the other thread.

And it's not even a bad thing. If the player prefers that mode, to the extent that they're willing to put in such effort, then trying to change them with a system that promotes something else is a mistake.


Um, what Ralph said, above, regarding the other stuff. Peronally, I like system, and woudn't play without it. It's not a Sim goal to play systemless. But Ralph is correct that a group that preferred to could do so if they wanted. So the point is illustrative in that manner. What it says is that in "pure Sim" the system only supports what the players want to in terms of what is to be explored (including, potentially, the system itself).

Mike
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Balbinus
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« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2003, 08:31:18 AM »

Interesting discussion here, which ties into some concerns I've had for a while with existing sim designs.

Mike gets it spot on with his Gurps analysis.  Continued play is rewarded via a mechanic which increases character power, which has nothing to do with sim play.  How is my exploration of Thirteenth century France improved by the characters all getting steadily better at fighting?  It's a gamist reward, an artefact of gaming history.

For me, a sim reward mechanic would be one which codified in-game benefits in a manner which was not merely reflective of ever increasing power.

Some of you may recall my ongoing interest in codifying relationship mechanics, in advancement through contacts and reputation rather than skill and ability.

That, for me, is a truly sim reward mechanic.  Your character does not necessarily become more powerful but they do become more connected to the setting, more a part of the sim itself.  Reward here would actually reinforce the sim aspects of the game, an ongoing game would be a fuller and richer sim than a one-shot.

As an aside, for me the games which most clearly have a sim advancement mechanic as presently done are Traveller and Castle Falkenstein.  In each there is no metagame advancement, characters improve only if they do things in game which would lead to such improvement.  Purist and very sim.  Sits a little oddly with the rest of CF actually, but that's another debate.
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« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2003, 08:53:46 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: xiombarg
But if that's the case, does that mean a metagame component in a Narrativist game can be used to cause a game to creep in a Simulationist direction? Or is the possibility of "creep through metagame" unique to Simulationist play?
Sure, theoretically. But it all depends on the particular design. If a metagme mechanic is designed correctly, it can be made such that it requires a lot of effort (if not quite making it impossible), to ignore the Narrativist questions that it posits.
Right, then. If that's the case, why did Sim designers feel the need to ignore metagame entirely to "protect" against drift? Why not design a metagame mechanic that is difficult to "drift" for Gamist or Narrativist purposes? Is there such a thing?

Yeah, I know, lots of questions and no answers. Perhaps a "screen time" mechanic, where players can focus the "camera" on certain aspects of the characters or world? Difficult to subvert for Gamist reasons, but it could be subvertable for Narrativist reasons...
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JMendes
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« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2003, 08:56:30 PM »

Hey, :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
So what might be a reward system that really rewards the player? Let's get away, or mostly away, from "character gets better at to-hit." Director power? Feh. Only in a game which has that as an important mechanic, which remains mainly terra incognita for Sim game design at this point. I'm thinking we should turn our attention to the already-existing Metagame component of characters in the first place - their "situated-ness" in the game-world. Contacts, DNPCs (to use Champs talk), Hunters/Enemies, social status, relationships with the law ...


I feel an urgent need to point out that contacts and reputation are just as valid measures of character effectiveness as to-hit and HP stuff. I have a player in my regular gaming group (L5R) who doesn't give a hoot about combat effectiveness but lives and breathes to increase his character's social standing.

In other words, and of course this is all just in my opinion, rewarding players by giving their characters more contacts is a gamist mechanic, just as much as XPs are. Also, I'll point out that if a player accurately simms the actions of a character who just went through a lonely hike through fearful terrain, rewarding that player by giving the character a new contact is, well, ugly, from a sim standpoint. Again, IMHO.

Lastly, I'd  like to address the following:

Quote from: xiombarg
But if that's the case, does that mean a metagame component in a Narrativist game can be used to cause a game to creep in a Simulationist direction? Or is the possibility of "creep through metagame" unique to Simulationist play?


I thnik we need to distinguish between drift (conscious and within the social contract) and creep (unconscious or breaking/subverting the contract). Or at least, that's how I'm reading these terms. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

On that note, I don't think creep is restricted to sim play. For instance, 'story points' are generally regarded as a pure nar design, but you may well find players unwittingly competing amongst themselves for such points, thus constituting gamist creep.

Hope I made sense. :)

Cheers,

J.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2003, 09:17:57 PM »

Hi J.,

Couple things ...

1) Nothing in any of my theorizing, anyway, relies on a distinction between "conscious" and "unconscious" elements.

2) In the section you quoted, when I'm talking about Effectiveness, I'm talking about something very specific, as outlined in the GNS essay. I'm talking about values or capabilities on the character's sheet which are used for resolution.

Therefore:

- Sword +4 is an Effectiveness value
- Social rank: nobleman is a Metagame element
- Contact +1 (princess) is a combination of the two

I think you're applying the term "effectiveness" too broadly, using it in the common sense of "important" or "useful." I'm using it in the technical sense that I defined, such that I think your friend exemplifies and corroborates my point rather than refutes it.

Best,
Ron
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clehrich
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« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2003, 09:18:10 PM »

These comments about standing and contacts remind me of the AD&D idea of Guilds.  In effect, you had a Guild of each class, and I always had the sense that the level mechanics were supposed to imply some sort of parallel organization actually out there in the game world.  This was made explicit with the Monk class, where there could only be one of each of the highest levels, if I remember correctly (Grand Master of Flowers seems to be caught in the "hooks-and-eyes" of my memory).

So to give Gygax and the gang their due, I wonder if this wasn't part of the idea of levels in the beginning.  You got more powerful in direct combat terms, of course, but your power was "graded" by a more or less shadowy organization of people of your profession.  So when some dude came along to the local Adventurers' Tavern and said, "Hey, I've got this dungeon needs sweeping; big treasure, but some seriously ugly caterpillars," you pass this on to the low-level guys.  When a similar dude says, "Hey, my castle has been taken over by this wicked powerful [sorry, I'm from Boston] lich-lord," you refer the "case" to the big guns.

Now if you think about it, this structure would imply that every profession has mid-level "agents" in any big town, and a whole civil service of such agents in Greyhawk or something.  And now that I think of it, wasn't there some suggestion that precisely this was going on?  So in the straight AD&D Greyhawk world, didn't actual people go around town saying, "Wow, that guy over there looks like a seriously powerful Lawful Evil Fighter, better steer clear of him"?

Of course, it's a weird way to imagine a world in the first place, but I really think they were trying to Sim that very strange world.  In fact, I'm getting all warm and fuzzy about that bizarre world.... <please, this is a cry for help!>
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2003, 10:13:29 PM »

Hey, :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) Nothing in any of my theorizing, anyway, relies on a distinction between "conscious" and "unconscious" elements.


Yes. I myself was a bit fuzzy on what I was thinking as I was typing. Perhaps I should have just said that drift is within the social contract wheras creep is not. Then again, I may be reading the terms wrong and they might just be interchangeable...

What I'm getting at is that, whilst I think that combatting creep makes a lot of sense, combatting drift doesn't seem to. If your design is going to be played by people with different priorities, then it's going to be drifted and that's that.

Quote
2) In the section you quoted, when I'm talking about Effectiveness, I'm talking about something very specific, as outlined in the GNS essay. I'm talking about values or capabilities on the character's sheet which are used for resolution.
<snip>
I think you're applying the term "effectiveness" too broadly, using it in the common sense of "important" or "useful." I'm using it in the technical sense that I defined, such that I think your friend exemplifies and corroborates my point rather than refutes it.


Erm... Lost me there... Could you expand? That is, I understand the distinction you draw between effectiveness and metagame (or so I think - see below) and indeed my usage of the terms was incorrect. But I don't see how my friend's attitudes support your suggestion to reward sim play via in-game contacts and social standings and the like. His seems to me to be an extremely gamist approach, though focused on setting rather than system/situation, which seems to be the realm of most effectiveness-based gamist rewards.

Lastly:

Quote
- Social rank: nobleman is a Metagame element


Just a request for clarification, this is unless the resolution tables actually take that variable into account, in which case it becomes effectiveness again. Correct?

Cheers,

J.
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Rob MacDougall
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« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2003, 04:51:10 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
So in the straight AD&D Greyhawk world, didn't actual people go around town saying, "Wow, that guy over there looks like a seriously powerful Lawful Evil Fighter, better steer clear of him"?
Of course, it's a weird way to imagine a world in the first place, but I really think they were trying to Sim that very strange world.  In fact, I'm getting all warm and fuzzy about that bizarre world.... <please, this is a cry for help!>


I hear your cries, Chris.

I don't know if that's really what they were going for, but it has occurred to me over the years that one good way to play D&D would be to postulate a Greyhawk in which every adventurer and peasant and king and monster has knowledge of the D&D rules and discusses their hit points and armor class and level and alignment quite matter-of-factly. The characters themselves might be Gamist, but the gamers would be Sim. (How's that for a butchery of proper GNS term usage?)

Rob
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xiombarg
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« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2003, 06:35:40 AM »

(As a quick aside, in 1st ed AD&D there was such a thing as "Alignment Languages". I dunno if they existed in 2nd Ed, and they're very much gone in 3rd Ed. Every sentient being that was, say, Lawful Good, knew the Lawful Good language, and changing alignment was hard because you had to be "initiated" into your new alignment and learn the new language. So it was very possible for someone to know, say, if someone was Lawful Good -- if they spoke the language. So someone could honestly say, "I'm Lawful Good," tho perhaps only in the LG language -- it was never clear if the alignments called themselves in Common what they were in-game.)
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2003, 07:38:56 AM »

This is an interesting artefact of the nature of the writing of D&D texts. Basically, they assume that people will "get" that the statistics underly the simulation and are not an explicit part of it. As such, many people's early readings of the game were in fact that these things were available to the characters (and, yes, alignment languages are partly to blame).

If you don't believe me, you don't watch enough Japanimation. This effect happened in a strong way in the translation of D&D to Japanese. Such that in anime based on RPGs today you will occasionally hear a charactr say, "We don't want to mess with him, he's a twentieth level Wizard."

This is not to say that this is even common in Japanese play. But just that it does happen. In fact, I think (and some expert should correct me if I'm wrong) that this is seen as a sort of self-depricating humor in the games, and as such only used in some games.

Hard to say, really, as I'm sure the play in Japan is at least as widely varied as anywhere else. But it's an interesting phenomenon.


On the subject of Social Status, and whether or not it's Metagame or not, I sorta agree that it tends to actually be an effectiveness. Consider in Traveller where it soley exists to add to appropriate dice rolls to get in to see upper-class people and the like. I think this is a problem that had long been waiting to discuss.

Take, for example, the bonus dice in Sorcerer. These are a reward to effectiveness, plain and simple. But they are rewarded for metagame reasons. One doesn't get Sorcerer bonus dice for having armor piercing rounds, unless the GM feels that they've been added to the description to give thematic weight to the action. So the idea is not to avoid effectiveness as the reward, but to only reward Narrativist play.

The question becomes: if I am a Narrativist player, why do I want a Gamist reward? Presumably, if I prefer Narrativism, I'm as happy with a negative outcome a positive one, as long as the result keeps the story progressing in an interesting fashion. I've long wondered why Narrativist games bother with any simulation of resolution at all. The resolutions aren't really particularly important themselves. Ron says that they're springboards for creativity, and that's certainly possible.

But the problem remains that the player shouldn't be interested in success, particularly. Only in continuing the story (or perhaps ending it) well.

So, just as much as it seems odd to me to reward the Simulationist player with Gamist rewards, the same goes for Narrativists.

The theory goes, if I'm not mistaken, that one can pander to the closet Gamist in each of us, as long as what's rewarded is the sort of play that the game is supposed to support. If that's true, two questions arise.

First, does this incidentally promote Gamism? Are players informed that the goal of resolution is to "win" if the rewards given help do that in resolution?

Second, does this actually satisfy a Gamist urge? I have to say that I've found it to be cathartic in play to an extent.

Can Gamism be "chanelled" to promote other modes?

If so, this is good news for several reasons, not the least of which is that we don't have to worry about what makes a good "Simulationist" reward. If this is not true, then we have a lot of designs to fix, and I think finding a Sim reward is going to be problematic...

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2003, 08:06:56 AM »

Hi J.,

Oh, first, I need to ask everyone to be very careful about topic-drift in this forum. I've seen a fair amount of it lately and I know all of you know the standards. If something makes you go "spoo!" and wanna talk about it, take a minute to think about whether a new thread would be appropriate - and when in doubt, the answer is Yes, it is.

Back to J. OK, let's see ...

1) "Creep" isn't a formal term. So far, I haven't seen people use it rigorously; sometimes they mean gradual Drift such that the rules come to correspond to the existing GNS consensus, sometimes they mean one or some members of the group subtly breaking the Social Contract away from GNS preferences of the other members, and sometimes they mean God knows what. I have never used the term, as far as I remember. Until it's clear to me that a term is necessary, and until I get some idea of what it's supposed to mean for everyone, then I'm not going to concern myself with Drift vs. Creep.

2) I don't presume to be able to classify your friend's behavior in GNS terms; I don't know the guy. I can only go on the text you provided, which is consistent with the idea that Metagame-components of a character may be a valid realm for reward systems in Simulationist-facilitating games. Whether he personally takes this kind of character-expansion as an indicator of his own "winning-ness" is beside the point.

As a related point, until the Gamism essay gets up and the resulting debates begin, I think people ought to be wary of pegging things as Gamist-type rewards and whatnot. As I've said before, I'm not sympathetic to definitions that rely on "I know it when I see it," and people do that regarding Gamism all the time. My upcoming essay may not nail down all the pegs for everyone, or it might even be all wrong in all sorts of ways, but I'm pretty sure we won't get anywhere about the topic until at least some of the issues have been brought to light in relation to one another.

3) I laid out three options for the Effectiveness/Metagame concept specifically to show that they (like all the components of Currency) are not exclusive of one another but exist in all sorts of combinations. Therefore if "nobleman" were to be accounted for in the resolution tables in some way, then yes, that feature now contributes to Effectiveness as well as (presumably) to the character's Metagame stuff.

Mike, you're making it harder than it is by confounding Effectiveness with "important." Identifying a character-component as Metagame (alone or in combination with Effectiveness, Resource, or both) does not mean that it lacks utility in play. Effectiveness refers to designations of competence for purposes of system-driven resolution.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2003, 08:38:32 AM »

All right, before anyone throws it in my face, I found the "creeping Gamism" phrase in the Simulationist essay. Yeah, I used it. Right there! When I just said I didn't. So there, to me.

Anyway, it refers specifically to
Quote
one or some members of the group subtly breaking the Social Contract away from GNS preferences of the other members


... as I described in the above post. The quotes in the essay reflect my emphasis here that it is an informal term and not to taken as some specific thing that must be delineated from Drift and Transition and Aunt Lily's false teeth.

I'll have lots and lots to say about this issue in the Gamism essay, and some of you may remember my comments many moons ago about Gamist play's memetic power.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #27 on: February 05, 2003, 09:16:21 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Mike, you're making it harder than it is by confounding Effectiveness with "important." Identifying a character-component as Metagame (alone or in combination with Effectiveness, Resource, or both) does not mean that it lacks utility in play. Effectiveness refers to designations of competence for purposes of system-driven resolution.

Um, huh?

In the name of diplomacy let me retract that portion of my statment. I only objected because I have a dissenting POV on that point; we can debate it elsewhere. But suffice it to say my only point was exactly the same one that you admitted that, in some cases, Social Standing is not completely metagame. I'll even admit that "tends" is probably a bias of mine from playing too much Traveller.

My point has little to do with whether or not SS is metagame, and everything to do with supporting the discussion about whether or not such a reward is a suitable Simulationist reward or not, which is the question at hand. If it increases the player's percieved ability to be effective, even outside the mechanics, it might be considered a Gamist reward. A point which I've left to debate rather than asserted, actually.


On the subject of the term Creep, it's at the very least useful to describe a perception that people have about drift and playing against the grain.

Mike
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #28 on: February 06, 2003, 09:31:16 AM »

Let me try to bring this discussion back to a simpler plane.

Coherent Gamist rewards, generally speaking, reward achievement of Gamist goals (victory, success) with more of the werewithal to achieve future Gamist goals. That being e.g. character effectiveness scores, new skills, etc.

Coherent Narrativist rewards, generally speaking, reward achievement of Narrativist goals (addressing Premise) with more of the werewithal to achieve future Narrativist goals. That being e.g. units of narration rights or the ability to garner narration rights, packaged as story points, pool dice, bidding tokens, etc.

Coherent Simulationist rewards, generally speaking, should reward achievement of Simulationist goals (prioritized exploration) with more of the werewithal to achieve future Simulationist goals. That being... what?

Character contacts and relationships? Sure.
Character social status? Sure.
New information about the world, situation, or characters? Sure.

And what about character effectiveness? It's sometimes a Simulationist reward too. Consider:

- Magic spells (or tech upgrades, or whatever) that give player-characters access to heretofore inaccessible places or allow survival in hereto fatal environments.
- Experience points in Champions, which have minimal incremental effects on overall character effectiveness but enormous impact on the exploration of system, being the fuel needed to drive the system mechanics for creating bases, vehicles, power modifications, gadgets, etc.
- Combat effectiveness increases, to the extent that the increases represent the ability to explore previously unsurvivable environments or situations.

What might tie all these various reward types together is the concept of adaptation. Exploration and adaptation are closely associated enough that whenever I think of one I think of the other. One adapts in order to explore; one explores in order to adapt. However, in the aesthetics of actual play, adapatation appears to be most prominent in Simulationism. In Gamist play, one typically strives to master or overcome or "beat" the environment, situation, system, etc. rather than adapt to it. In Narrativist play, changes to the character are generally driven by authoring based on Premise rather than by the explored elements themselves.

Example Gamist character effectiveness reward: "If I learn to fight better, I can kick more ass and get more respect."

Example Simulationist (adaptive) character effectiveness reward: "My people are facing a time of tribulation and war. To be worthy to lead them I must become a better warrior."

Too subtle? Are we better off sticking to "character effectiveness rewards are always Gamist"? Not, I believe, if we want to understand practical Simulationist system design in GNS theoretical terms.

But all that might still be missing the elephant. I believe that the most typically Simulationist rewards are plot developments occurring by causal happenstance or authored by the GM. They present new characters and/or new situations and/or new places and/or new color, and/or sometimes new system elements to explore. That, to me, most unambiguously represents "the werewithal to achieve future Simulationist goals." And it agrees with my experiences regarding what I and my players find most rewarding in predominantly Simulationist play.

- Walt
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #29 on: February 06, 2003, 10:59:07 AM »

That's sweet, Walt. Can I start a fan club in your honor?

Your elephant comment is well taken. That is, in proposing all these methods for adding areas to explore, we miss the fact that, in theory, the universe of play in most games is presented as infinite already. All the player has to do is to say, "I go around the corner. What do I see?" and presumably the GM has to reward him with a description of a new street to explore. Thus, in such a game, these do not seem to be very potent rewards.

OTOH, if one were to make a game where there were no "corners" to turn with regard to the main area of exploration, then such a reward would be crucial. I can't envision such a game at the moment, so it's highly theoretical. But I think it could be done.

The last part does suggest another Simulatioist reward albeit one with the same limitations. If the player is rewarded by:
Quote
plot developments occurring by causal happenstance or authored by the GM

Well we can't create happenstance (that's a contradiction in terms), but we can give the player points or something that he can use to force the GM to create something. This would be cool because it would mean that the player was indicating in a very direct fashion what it was that he wanted to explore, yet he would still have the experience of discovering it as the GM would have to produce it. Further, by being particularly specific or obtuse the player can control the level of control he feels, and thus limit damage to his sense of "immersion" to a level he finds tolerable.

Again, however, this assumes that the player cannot force the GM to create stuff by simply rounding the corner (making the points unneccessary).

It occurs to me that these sorts of mechanics might be especially useful in very metaphysical settings such as Dreamspire (are ya listening, Matt?), where characters might just exist in a sort of semi-vaccum with only the limited elements that have been created in existence.


On another topic, how does a GM identify when a player has "prioritized exploration"? See, in Gamism you don't reward trying hard, you reward success (cool, no outcome based rewards here). In Narrativism you wouldn't reward basic exploration, but rather when a player addresses premise or something. In Sim, well, you're always exploring or your not playing an RPG. One could reward avoiding Gamism and Narrativism, but that's a negative reward. How do I positively reward prioritizing exploration, when, if done correctly, it's being done constantly?

Seems to me that you have to look at production of the cooler elements of the area to be explored. That is, you reward the player for exploring particularly cool elements that create engrossing moments of play. That's a pretty subjective standard, however (basically the standard, "good role-playing"); which is to be avoided. Is there a more concrete way to determine these things? May be a bad question and one that can only be answered nrelation to the context of the particular things being explored. Hmm..

Mike
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