Open plan gaming, a rough outlay of a procedure

I realised I’d do well to describe a game procedure – I’ll call it open plan gaming. This is a rough layout – it’s hard for me to remember all the components.

To start off with, there’s a stark understanding at the table that people are just going to be adding story fragments, for the majority of play. Story fragments are like the toitoise beats the hare, because slow and steady rules – or even that if you have sex, the psycho will immediately kill you. They don’t have to be particularly rational or coherant. Often they will be a chinese whisper version of another story – just a warped fragment. That’s okay – mistakes are another way of looking at things. Also sometimes you’ll just make up story fragments from wholecloth – be careful not to get too attached to these. They probably do deserve center stage in their own story, but this is open plan gaming – it’s not there to nurture your gentle inner creativity. It’s more like making soup by throwing in whatever sounds good. If you’ve got a fantastic ingrediant, I’d suggest keeping it away from the pot or putting some in the pot and making your own recipe with it latter.

Second; other people are going to riff off of those components and bring in their own. It’s really just riffing – don’t get too excited (or unexcited) about any links you can get going. If everything seems to be fitting together in some amazing way, that’s great. But it’s doesn’t make or break the activity whether it happens – it’s adding components that’s the activities key. That it fits together is nice, but it’s just bonus points. Make sure you don’t get so excited that bonus points become the point of the activiity – they aint, even though they can be exciting.

Third, you all deliberately try and push for whatever direction you want as an individual. It’s like everyones hand is on an ouija board, but everyone knows everyones going to give it a little nudge towards various letters. No one pretends the ouija board moves itself, but they do know that since it’s a mixed up combination of everyones hand pressure, it’s slightly random and slightly guided. Also everyone knows its quite possible to utterly take over the board as everyone else just gives it nudges – don’t do this, not because it’s bad, but because you could do this at home already. The semi randomness of the ouija board is a special thing – if you want full authorship control, that’s understandable, but you can get that at home or you can even call us all over and well sit around cheering you on, drinking your beer, while you brainstorm with complete solo control. That’s a note for the desperate authors out there – their understandable. Some people will just take over because their jerks – potentially even people you know well (bad week at work, control issues, whatever and bam, they grope for full control) – now you know, you decide what a take over is and when to walk out. No one else can really tell you, without being a take over merchant themself. Just remember, whoever silently respects you leaving was likely sharing power as best they could – silence says alot here; remember the quiet people.

Frankly all of that is usually pretty intuitive – usual folks off the street don’t get mad, they’ll just make a face and cease participating. I suppose I’m saying it, because if you need too much instruction on it, it’s probably not an activity for you.

Okay, now you have this ouija board thing. Basically you aim for the ending you want – everyone else does, as you know, and you’ll end up with some kind of wacky hybrid ending of what you want and what they wanted. It probably wont make alot of sense as an ending (or maybe it’ll make a ton of sense, who knows).

Here’s the odd bit – I don’t expect it to make sense just in terms of what story was cobbled together. What makes sense to me is that everyone contributed bits of story that are somehow important to them – these people added what is important to them. These people I care about. That make some sort of importance in the whole mixed up ouija soup, because its made of the important parts of people that I care about (note: if your intending to play with people you don’t care about, not even in a faint way, oh dear god…). At the very least, the whole great lump tells me more about these people, and I think the lumps I added tells them more about me. So at worst, it’s like a meandering conversation – which isn’t worst at all – meandering talk is great to share. And occasionally it’ll shape into something coherant story – my god, that tells you something about all these people AND it makes history amongst them as a repeatable part of them and what is important.

And that’s it. That’s the raw, McGuyver version, making it up with whatever components you have around.

When you actually bring this into contact with a system designed to influence the ouija board, its…it’s like another hand on the ouija board, but one utterly inhuman. It can also be granted the absolute fik’n power I talked about before, if you’d trust it, to actual interesting effect. Alot of current designs would take absolute control, but due to shit currency design, someone at the table can mechanically take it over and you get that crap effect I talked about above. The usual RP denial is that they are bad to do that – which begs the question, why do you guys keep using a system where what they can do is bad, if its so fik’n bad. Or the other denial is to discard the dice, which raises the question why bother owning a system. But that goes on forever, that crap – here I talk about an actual activity and how its fun, rather than harp on about broken, broken activities.

Anyway, letting system get its paw on the ouija board is a whole different thing – that’s what makes it potentially worth buying a game system. After all, if it did the same old thing as before, why bother? So, since it’s a whole nother thing, I’ll take a stab at describing it in another post. I’m not even sure I do raw open plan gaming justice here – it might need a few more posts itself.

Hope you try open plan gaming sometime – for some of you, it’s probably nothing new and your wondering why I took the time to describe something which is about as new and different as breathing. Well, I hope I described it a bit more than that – there is yoga breathing, for example – there can be more potential technique involved with a day to day activity than first meets the eye. 🙂

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18 Comments

  1. Tommi said,

    29 August, 2008 at 8:00 am

    First, some queries. People describing the way they play is among the most interesting kinds of discussion one can have about roleplaying, in my opinion.

    Could you give an example of a story fragment? Like, what size they are? Are they about in-fiction entities or structures of the fiction?

    Is this process formalised to any degree? That is, do you talk about story fragments and that sort of stuff in play all the time, or does your play look more like traditional roleplay with there being some characters and some context for them and those characters doing stuff and the context changing?
    In other words: Are you adding random bits of stuff together (like Univeralis) or playing like in a traditional roleplaying game (like Burning wheel or the Mountain Witch or IaWA or D&D or World of Darkness)?

    System as another player is a useful way of thinking about system. I basically treat it as another player, tossing fiction to it to see how it reacts and what it gives back.

    Theoretical aside: Are you familiar with bricolage as a concept, especially as it related to roleplay? If yes, how does it relate to the way you play?

    And as for the flamebait about it being broken to not use dice at all; for some methods of play, it is the mark of a skilled player to not use dice. (Old school dungeoncrawling sometimes qualifies.) In other styles the system is used to benchmark the fiction, and so the system affects the fiction and plays an important role even if the resolution system is rarely used.

    Personally I have found it very fruitful to not say that someone is playing in a broken way, but instead try to find out why the way someone is playing in is not broken.

  2. callans said,

    29 August, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    [moderators hat]As I understand flamebaiting, it is pointless aggitation. And you’ve just communicated with me as if I was pointlessly aggitating.

    I don’t think it’s healthy to communicate with someone if you see any of their words as pointless aggitation. You should stop talking with them, atleast taking an extended break.

    It’s healthy if you see my words as well meaning with a practical intent, but failing to be useful at all. Fair enough if you think that, and I’ll assume this was or is now what you mean. But I’ll be watching in case you still just see some of my words as pointless aggitation. I like activity on my blog, but with a choice between unhealthy communication and silence, I will always choose silence, and will seperate us through moderation tools.[/mod hat]

    Onto your questions: A story fragment is basically anything which is not a complete story in itself – it can be a begining, middle, even an end. Or a begining and a middle, or even a begining and an end, and so on. It’s not a complete story, because when it’s incomplete, other people can build into it and onto it.

    I gave some examples of fragments already (like the psycho kills you instantly if you have sex). These are bits of story that are important for you – if I keep giving examples, I will just be showing story fragments that are important to me, which will completely talk over what you might find to be an important story fragment. A key fun, perhaps THE key fun, is that I’m interested in finding out what story fragments you find important. The activity is about this fun, so all participants have this desire (or hopefully decline to play). Sure I’ll build on your fragments, but that doesn’t mean I just see them as a stepping stone – seeing them at all all is a key fun of play. Building on them is kind of just a side activity, which is nice, but not as important at all.

    I think there’s a practical limit to a story fragment size, in terms of words, because people don’t want to hear you talking for ages and ages. But the size of scope of those words – you could have a universe blowing up, just by saying those few words ‘the universe blows up’. This might be dull content for some people though, they may decide to stop playing – either excusing themselves or often sitting back, folding arms, not saying anything. In giving any contribution, it’s a good idea to consider how long you want the open plan gaming to go, Vs the odds people will want to stop playing due to your contribution.

    I might start a new post to continue with your questions – I’m paranoid about something crashing and losing a massive post!

  3. callans said,

    30 August, 2008 at 12:01 am

    “Are they about in-fiction entities or structures of the fiction?”

    They’re your story fragments – the bits of story you find important. As I said, any coherance in the fragments everyone gives is just a nice side effect. So if you want to bring in star wars stuff when everyones talked greek mythology so far, that’s cool. Some people might decline to play further, because it’s not their thing – but game play is still about finding what you find important. Indeed when people decline to play further it protects what story fragments you find important, because by not playing, they wont clash and smash against the story you find important. People want to find out what story bits are important to you – even if it means they find they don’t enjoy the same thing, the most important thing is learning about you (and all the other participants). I guess it’s very human focused, really.

    It’s a side note, but I think many gamers, as impressionable early teens, played like this, but then the cohesiveness of the fiction they by chance made, became soooo fun to them it gained priority over learning about what each other cares about in terms of story. As fun as that cohesiveness might be, that switch in priority destroys the very source that happened to produce that cohesiveness. It’s like killing the goose who lays the golden egg – sure, you can dig a golden egg out of it’s corpse right now, but because you prioritised getting a golden egg RIGHT NOW, you destroyed the source of golden eggs. If you kill the desire at the table to discover what story is exciting to each other in favour of COHESIVE FICTION(!!!) then you’ve killed the very goose that lays that golden egg. While if you ignore cohesive fiction and just love ‘the goose’, you will get those golden eggs every so often simply by loving the goose and putting no other effort in at all.

    Peh, side note? I went on for ages.

    “That is, do you talk about story fragments and that sort of stuff in play all the time, or does your play look more like traditional roleplay with there being some characters and some context for them”

    Umm, their both the same – for example
    player 1: And there could be this town, with a sort of run down sickness about it – hollow eyed peasants and everything.
    player 2: Yeah, perhaps like it’s had a plague run through it in the past any everyones still post traumatic stress disorder about it!

    Vs.

    Player 1: Your party comes across a village that looks like a beaten dog. The villagers stare at you in a tired, suspicious way!
    Player 2: “Ho, villagers, have you suffered the plague here in the past!?”

    In terms of what I’m talking about? Both are identical.

    Absolutely identical. They are both just story fragments. Shaping them into formalised dialog just tells me that formal dialog is important to you as story – it doesn’t change anything about the first priority of open plan gaming, which is about finding whats important to you in a story.

    Does that answer your question? There is no formal/informal divide – both are the same – just an expression of whats important to you.

    “Are you familiar with bricolage as a concept?”
    I was around on the forge when it was brought up in threads and the essay contributed. I’m…not a fan. I haven’t read into it in depth I’ll admit, but even just the start of it…well, lets say I’m not a fan. You value it, I imagine, and currently I have nothing formal to say about it.

    On dice, I don’t think I said it’s broken not to use dice at all. What I refer to is where people have one goal for play, then completely fail to meet it. Or where they have two conflicting goals AND they fail to recognise those goals conflict (for people who have conflicting goals and see the conflict, thats functional behaviour in my book).

    Failing to meet your goals as a gamer is broken. Failing your goals over and over is chronic brokeness. The events, like not using dice when you have a dice chucker system, are just a symptom.

    When I see someone with a system that perscribes a dice roll for every minute little task, and the group maybe rolling one dice roll a session, if at all, I see goals unmet.

    Perhaps they are meeting their goals, but from the outside, it looks unmet and broken. If people are playing like that and meeting their goals, surely they can understand that from an outside observer, it looks like their failing their goals? And if they can understand how it looks, they wouldn’t get so upset at the suggestion something is broken.

    To me, I think they get upset because they know something is broken, but to them there’s gold amongst the broken and they think that that if they admit something is broken, they will have to throw it all away, gold and all.

    I don’t see why I should find where there play isn’t broken – I’m free of the idea that if there’s any broken, everything must be thrown away.

    Why do you need me to see the good side of their gaming? Search your feelings, Luke ;). If you found something really horrible and bad, would you have to throw the whole thing out? If not – why do you need me to see the good, when I’m the same as you – I will not throw out everything the instant I find broken stuff. When I see good and broken, I do not instantly act – I contemplate alternatives.

  4. Tommi said,

    30 August, 2008 at 7:27 am

    About modding: Noted. Do know that I find these discussions useful; I learn things. I would not be here otherwise. I appreciate many of your posts, even if some of them read to me as if they were somewhat hostile. If you want me to elaborate on this subject or give an example, say so. The hostility does not bother me too much, so it is up to you.

    About the way you play: When something that you don’t like happens, the game terminates. You stop playing. Is this really a common occurence in actual play? If not, how is it avoided? It seems like people are not actively trying keep the content agreeable to all participants. Is this the role of rules (“How about no jedi? Here’s a cookie/fate point.”)?

    About young teens: When I started playing the focus was more on creating cool fiction. (Liches and drow assassins dwarves in heavy armours in one series of games; shapechangers and werewolves and minotaurs with tommy guns in another series of games.) Those games tended to be short-lived, though, a session or few.

    Nowadays are games tend to be more cohersive in that we get to actually play more and the play makes some sort of sense. A given game might still be one session long, or few months, but it definitely makes more sense than before.

    So, call me a test subject. I seem to fit with the assumptions of your hypothesis. Are you saying I would be better off playing like I used to?

    Does that answer your question? There is no formal/informal divide – both are the same – just an expression of whats important to you.

    Yes, it does.

    Bricolage: I have read at least some of those Forge discussions, but anything I have gleaned from there has melded with the rest of my knowledge base.

    Bricolage is when you use material in new contexts and that material still retains some of the old meanings. In your play, if I have understood this correctly, the central activity is to add fragments of story to the fiction. Those fragments have meaning beyond the stated to different participants, which is, I assume, one of the reasons or inspirations for elaborating to the fragments other people bring.

    Bricolage may even be one of the forces that creates emergent cohesiveness.

    Failing to meet your goals as a gamer is broken. Failing your goals over and over is chronic brokeness. The events, like not using dice when you have a dice chucker system, are just a symptom.

    Okay. My current opinion of the “gamers are broken/brain damaged/whatever” argument is that, given your definition, it is possible. People may not attain their stated goals, but they probably are getting something else from it. Your open plan gaming may very well be something that people get very easily, even if someone railroads or whatnot. Not in as pure a form as presented here, but to sufficient degree.

    In one game that was totally unfun people stopped playing. So I have no personal experience with groups that bang their heads against walls and just keep playing even if nobody has any fun.

    When I see someone with a system that perscribes a dice roll for every minute little task, and the group maybe rolling one dice roll a session, if at all, I see goals unmet.

    What goals are not met? I doubt many people have the goal of using the written rules. Personally, I consider a good system one that is used and adds to the play, but this is very much a question of preference. I really have no argument as to why one should consider games where all rules are used to be better than one with rules that are never or very rarely used.

    I don’t see why I should find where there play isn’t broken – I’m free of the idea that if there’s any broken, everything must be thrown away.

    I am not saying that you should; I am just saying that finding why such play works has been fruitful for me. I am very much an rpg theorist and very interested in how people play, which is one reason for the fruitfulness. Another is that once I understand how they play, it becomes possible to apply the techniques they use to my own gaming when they are useful.

    Also, it is polite and all to not say that the play of other people is broken when it is not. And it rarely is, as far as my experience goes.

  5. callans said,

    30 August, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Basically I’d treat me like a cut to the chase car mechanic – I know that these roleplay practices are dear and even spiritual to you all. But they can be broken in just the same way a cars components are broken – it’s no reflection upon you if your car breaks down. It’s no reflection upon you if your roleplay breaks down. But when I estimate (everything I do is always an estimate) that someones roleplay has or will break down, they take it at a personal level – I doubt they would take it at a personal level if I said their car might be about to break down. In fact they’d probably thank me for the info, because it might prove useful and stop them from being stranded.

    I’ll make up a post sometime soonish describing how I handle things, so people have less chance of coming in from a different angle entirely. Unless I get lazy and can’t be bothered writing that post – can’t see any fun in writing it, so that makes it unlikely to happen. Or I might cut and paste what I wrote here. Well see!

    ***About the way you play: When something that you don’t like happens, the game terminates. You stop playing. Is this really a common occurence in actual play? If not, how is it avoided? It seems like people are not actively trying keep the content agreeable to all participants. Is this the role of rules (”How about no jedi? Here’s a cookie/fate point.”)?***
    Hmmm, yeah, I’d say it is a common occurance. What happens is people tend to start talking about a movie they saw recently, or something they did on the weekend, or recount a story made in a past RP session. These all indicate a game ended and were doing something else now. Then usually, because were all there still of course, someone initiates a new game – typically drawing on the previous stuff. You can make it look like the game never did end, by drawing on the previous games story fragments. But really the movie talk and monty python sketch reinactments indicate one game session ended.

    Why do you want to avoid the game ending? Or that you can try to start off a new game, does that answer your problem already?

    Basically, when the pay off is to see what story bits are important, and they tell you a story bit, game play has already payed off. Hearing more story bits from them would be really, really, really good – but the game has already payed off in the first minute. As soon as you hear one story bit, you don’t have to worry about keeping the game going – the game has already payed off. If the game keeps going, it’s super bonus points and great, but its actually quite optional to keep it going.

    ***About young teens: When I started playing the focus was more on creating cool fiction. (Liches and drow assassins dwarves in heavy armours in one series of games; shapechangers and werewolves and minotaurs with tommy guns in another series of games.) Those games tended to be short-lived, though, a session or few.

    Nowadays are games tend to be more cohersive in that we get to actually play more and the play makes some sort of sense. A given game might still be one session long, or few months, but it definitely makes more sense than before.

    So, call me a test subject. I seem to fit with the assumptions of your hypothesis. Are you saying I would be better off playing like I used to?***
    1. Does ‘making sense’ pay off for you? Gives you a buzz or a feel good emotion?

    2. Is making sense the fun point of the activity, or just something you need to keep the car going? You might like it, but do you just have it to keep the car going, or is making sense the fun point? Is making sense the fun thing/goal of the activity?

    3. As soon as something makes sense, has the game activity paid off for you – so that if more ‘making sense’ happens, it’s great, but it isn’t strictly required? It’s wonderful if there’s more, but not strictly needed. Is that how it is?

    If your answer is yes for all three, then keep enjoying it. Though I will say, there are other things you might be able to enjoy apart from ‘making sense’ – perhaps give other things a try sometime in case you like them too. But right now, if you answered yes three times, you seem to be doing something that makes you really happy. That’s good!! 🙂

    I’m gunna start a new post now, in case of crashing!

  6. callans said,

    31 August, 2008 at 12:27 am

    ***Those fragments have meaning beyond the stated to different participants, which is, I assume, one of the reasons or inspirations for elaborating to the fragments other people bring.***
    Well, no. One either A: Elaborates on someone elses story fragment, because it might make them add another story element, and we like to see what story fragments are important to them or B: One has been reminded of a story fragment that is really important to oneself, and because its so exciting, have to add it!

    ***What goals are not met? I doubt many people have the goal of using the written rules. Personally, I consider a good system one that is used and adds to the play, but this is very much a question of preference. I really have no argument as to why one should consider games where all rules are used to be better than one with rules that are never or very rarely used.***
    They have this thick rulebook they deliberately bring to the table – then barely reference it.

    It is my estimate, as an outside observer, that they want to use that book, because they went to the effort of bringing it to the table and sitting it next to them.

    But then they don’t use the book. They even say they don’t – proudly, often.

    I estimate their goals, and I see those goals conflicting and canceling each other.

    Of course my estimate might be wrong in what goal they seek in bringing the book to the table. But if I saw you bring a beer to the table, I’d expect you were going to drink it – if, at the end of the session I saw it was unopened and you put it back in the fridge, I’d wonder why you brought it to the table to begin with.

    Does the beer example seem an odd thing to do, to you? That’s how the book looks to me.

    ***I am not saying that you should; I am just saying that finding why such play works has been fruitful for me.***
    Well, I used to, until I realised that people could fail to meet any of their goals, but never admit it even to themselves. I didn’t think it was possible to do that – but I was wrong. People are capable of that.

    The worst thing is, while you’d think such people are rare, if you try to learn how they are ‘fruitful’…well, this is my estimate, my guess, my gamble, okay. But if you try to learn how they are fruitful – you start to become like them. And they stop being so rare – which makes more people try to learn from them, and so on…

    Remember, I’m a brash car mechanic – I just say what I see under the hood. It’s not a reflection upon anyone, I’m just talking whats under the hood.

    ***Also, it is polite and all to not say that the play of other people is broken when it is not.***
    What if you merely suggest their play is broken? Is it the same – it’s impolite?

    But if X’s play is broken, and X doesn’t know it, how do I propose X’s play is broken without being impolite?

    This politeness rule seems to be blocking off communication that might heal any injury present. Indeed, I’d say this politeness rule is broken – it attempts to protect someone from being told they have a problem, whether they have a problem or not.

    Am I impolite in saying your politeness rule is potentially unhealthy and needs scrutiny in that regard?

    I’m trying to sympathetically guess how you will react here, and my estimate is that you feel I am impinging upon your personal space and that will feel rude.

    I’m not being rude, I am just cutting right to the depths of your usual way of doing things, then rearranging them and saying “Hey, what do you think of this arrangement?”. You are free to put everything back to where it was, after.

    It probably feels like I’m coming into your house and rearranging your furniture. The thing is, I can’t tell you what it’d be like to have the furnature in different spots – I can only physically show you. If I could just tell you, I would, I promise. And you can put it all back afterward – okay, that’s inconvenient a bit, but you can put it all back.

    I am inconvenient to talk to, but I am not rude.

  7. Tommi said,

    31 August, 2008 at 8:18 am

    But they can be broken in just the same way a cars components are broken – it’s no reflection upon you if your car breaks down. It’s no reflection upon you if your roleplay breaks down.

    There’s a slight difference here; car might break due to technical problems (as opposed to something you do). Roleplay is all in the hands of the participants, so if it breaks, it is a failure of the people involved (miniatures blah blah nitpicking blah blah). This is just a guess, mind.

    I think the real problem with someone saying that “you’re roleplaying wrong” (meaning, here, that the roleplay is about to break) is that they are not.

    Take a bunch of people playing OD&D or WoD or other folks playing so that dice use is infrequent. You tell them that they should use more rules (and probably name or describe a rules system where that would work better). Take someone driving on some road with few people. You tell them that they should drive faster, as they are not making optimal/good use of their car right now. Why don’t they drive faster/use the rules more effectively? Maybe the like the scenery (watching other people act is fun, especially if they are any good), or maybe they have plenty of time to get where they are going (actively using the rules is not particularly necessary for the core activity of their roleplay), or maybe they just do not like driving fast (using the rules disrupts their immersion or takes them out of the game).

    This analogy has been extended far enough that it is likely to start breaking down any time now.

    The disconnect here seems to be that I don’t think people will continue an activity they dislike, at least not for long, while you think they do so. Given this difference in assumptions we will deduce different things when given the same situation.

    Jumping a bit between the two posts of yours:

    It is my estimate, as an outside observer, that they want to use that book, because they went to the effort of bringing it to the table and sitting it next to them.

    Note that the story fragments, or fluff, or colour, of those books are often extensively used. There is plenty of design potential in game settings, though it is largely unexplored nowadays (rules design used to be a matter of simulating this or some other world; much in the same way, if you try reading about setting design it is all about creating realistic cultures). Rant over.

    In my experience, the rules are used to set expectations about what the characters can and can’t do in the fiction. Once the expectations are set, the rules see much less use; everyone knows what characters can do, so there is little need to invoke rules which are essentially a method of finding out what the characters can do.

    Now, I do think that not all rules are about the capabilities of characters. But considering that to be the main function of rules is a valid way to play, one I enjoy occasionally, and it has the tendency to automatically make the rules less important as play goes on.

    If you drink beer to get more comfortable in social situations, there is no need to get roaring drunk. The rules were used, fulfilled their role, and now are only referred to occasionally.

    The worst thing is, while you’d think such people are rare, if you try to learn how they are ‘fruitful’…well, this is my estimate, my guess, my gamble, okay. But if you try to learn how they are fruitful – you start to become like them. And they stop being so rare – which makes more people try to learn from them, and so on…

    I have, during my years as a roleplayer, discovered and learned a set of techniques. Some from old school play, some from immersive players, some from Forge people, some from contemporary D&D folk. Not all of them work well together. Many do. When running a game, I more-or-less consciously select a bunch these techniques that I allow myself to use when running the game. Others I set aside. Likewise, when reading to actual play reports or blog posts or whatnot, I try to view it through a suitable set of techniques to get most out of it. I am building a toolkit, not drifting towards whatever style of play I currently happen to be reading about. This may not apply to other people, and of course there is a bit of drift, but the point remains.

    Back to the first post:

    What happens is people tend to start talking about a movie they saw recently, or something they did on the weekend, or recount a story made in a past RP session. These all indicate a game ended and were doing something else now.

    That definition of what a game ending means clarifies a lot. I am now pretty confident in that I can look at play from your perspective. Thank you.

    1. Does ‘making sense’ pay off for you? Gives you a buzz or a feel good emotion?

    On intellectual level in that I get to create fiction I enjoy, yes. On emotional level, maybe. I probably need to play and observe my play from your perspective before I can say.

    2. Is making sense the fun point of the activity, or just something you need to keep the car going? You might like it, but do you just have it to keep the car going, or is making sense the fun point? Is making sense the fun thing/goal of the activity?

    I’d say there is no sole “the goal”, but rather several intertwined goals that hopefully, given good game design, support each other or at least do not detract from each other.

    If I had to name one thing I enjoy most it is a kind of rush that I almost always get when running a game in a relaxed environment and sometimes get when playing (as opposed to being the GM) in a relaxed environment. Calling it flow probably is accurate. I’d characterise the core activity to be interplay of ideas: I throw something to the table, you respond, I respond, further intertwining the ideas and creating something valuable. This may or may not be accurate or true characterisation.

    If what you call open gaming, or the process of finding out things about the other participants, is what creates this rush, I would experience similar rush during involved discussions and maybe when reading something personal written by someone (or expressed in another form). I at least enjoy involved discussions, though I can’t say if it is the same kind of enjoyment.

    I’d also say that I get this same enjoyment from learning things not related to the preferences of people; for example, during certain math courses. This kind of implies that learning is at the core of my enjoyment, which is not at all unlikely, even if unobvious.

    Another option: The rush is due to the act of creation. Any good game will keep on resonating in my head for at least two days after play. This also happens when I am designing a game or a world or theory or something, even I never write it down. Roleplaying may be something that strengthens this phenomenon.

    Or maybe a combination of the two above. Hard to say. They are too stronly connected; creating things is the best way to learn, and learning is always an act of creation, in some sense.

    About 3: I can’t really say. The question does not make sense.

    B: One has been reminded of a story fragment that is really important to oneself, and because its so exciting, have to add it!

    Exactly. The fragment had connections to other fragments and you grab one of them, bringin it to play. This would not happen unless the fragment had those other contexts where they had been used. And now you have one more context for the fragments used here. (Consider context to mean the fragment that are connected to a particular fragment, often happening when it does.) Bricolage in action.

    And the second post again:

    This politeness rule seems to be blocking off communication that might heal any injury present. Indeed, I’d say this politeness rule is broken – it attempts to protect someone from being told they have a problem, whether they have a problem or not.

    There’s no politeness rule in play here. Being polite is often useful for opening a productive discussion. Being brutally honest is often useful for widening horizons. Right tool for the right job, yes?

    This is, again, the dissonance coming from our assumptions about the brokenness of play; I think it is very rare, you don’t.

    (Your sympathetic guess is, I am afraid to say, not very good. I am not offended or even feeling uncomfortable.)

  8. callans said,

    1 September, 2008 at 1:49 am

    ***There’s a slight difference here; car might break due to technical problems (as opposed to something you do). Roleplay is all in the hands of the participants, so if it breaks, it is a failure of the people involved (miniatures blah blah nitpicking blah blah). This is just a guess, mind.
    To me, that’s still just technical problems. If you give someone a choice between D and F, where F will make the game crash – it’s not their fault if they choose F and crash the game/make you unhappy. It is your fault for giving them F as a choice – you shouldn’t give them a choice that wont make you happy. It’s like owning a car – don’t give the car a chance to break down (ie, force it into service regularly), because if you give the car a choice, the damn thing will break down.

    The way other people can look after me is to stick to the choices I offer them. The way I look after myself is to only give choices to them that would make me happy.

    I don’t see them as failing if they stick to the choices I gave them and choose one I hate – it’s not like they have to do both jobs, job A: where they stick to choices AND job B: only give themselves choices that make me happy.

    I think if you blame someone else for the game breaking, your saying they have to do both jobs.

    ***This analogy has been extended far enough that it is likely to start breaking down any time now.
    Cars…breaking down…hehe, you made a pun! 🙂

    There’s alot of stuff I’d like to argue against, but I don’t think it’d be as productive as talking about the ‘flow’ you bring up.

    I’m pretty sure I know what you mean by ‘flow’ – I’m pretty sure I’ve enjoyed it and seek it still.

    1. Here’s a hard question – if you have the feeling of flow, does that definately, automatically mean you are creating (in your own evaluation) valuable stuff? Does the feeling of flow == valuable stuff is being created?

    2. An even harder question – do you think it’s possible to trick the feeling of flow out of yourself – get the feeling without actually producing anything you’d consider valuable?

    3. And the hardest question – if flow is your main goal, then it doesn’t really matter whether your producing something valuable or not? The main goal would be getting the feeling of flow – no matter what means you use to get it. If not producing something valuable would be more likely to produce a flow feeling than producing something valuable, and since flow is the main goal, which path would you choose?

    If you’d answer Yes to #1, or No to #2, ah well, we disagree on feelings and their technical issues. I wont argue the other stuff, I’ll leave it at having read your post and considered it, as talking about flow (since it’s a main goal of yours) was the main thing to talk about, I think.

    ***Exactly. The fragment had connections to other fragments and you grab one of them, bringin it to play. This would not happen unless the fragment had those other contexts where they had been used. And now you have one more context for the fragments used here. (Consider context to mean the fragment that are connected to a particular fragment, often happening when it does.) Bricolage in action.
    Well no , there’s just a similar technique involved in the open plan gaming procedure as there is in the bricolage procedure.

    I’d fully agree they both seem to use this particular technique, so there is a parralel between the two procedures! 🙂

    ***(Your sympathetic guess is, I am afraid to say, not very good. I am not offended or even feeling uncomfortable.)
    I’m glad I’m wrong! 🙂

  9. Tommi said,

    1 September, 2008 at 7:25 am

    The way other people can look after me is to stick to the choices I offer them. The way I look after myself is to only give choices to them that would make me happy.

    In theory, true. In practice that would take extensive negotiation and discussing before play or a set of rules specifically built to do it. Neither is a very attractive option.

    Cars…breaking down…hehe, you made a pun!

    Well, damn. Gotta be more careful in the future.

    Here’s a hard question – if you have the feeling of flow, does that definately, automatically mean you are creating (in your own evaluation) valuable stuff? Does the feeling of flow == valuable stuff is being created?

    I doubt there is an equivalence. I can create valuable stuff by myself, but the flow typically comes when interacting. (Typically.) But, like I said, this is all kinda vague before I get to play more and observe myself playing. Due to similar reasons 2. is essentially impossible to anser to; I have not yet determined when the flow happens, so such questions are too hard.

    3. I would not say that flow is a main goal, in any meaningful sense at least. It is a by-product of enthusiastic play (and possibly other activities, but this needs confirmation) in a good environment. When running a game, I try to do a good job of it and usually achieve flow. I’d say the dichotomy you are creating is a false one, as the two issues are not in conflict. I’d say they are orthogonal. (Additional orthogonal aspect that I try to achieve: Technically skilled play.)

    Well no , there’s just a similar technique involved in the open plan gaming procedure as there is in the bricolage procedure.

    As far as I know, what I described is the bricolage process. Open gaming is something that uses it as a means to an end, which is finding out more about the participants. (Note: a means, not the means.)

  10. callans said,

    2 September, 2008 at 2:06 am

    ***In theory, true. In practice that would take extensive negotiation and discussing before play or a set of rules specifically built to do it. Neither is a very attractive option.
    I get your point. But…and this is a question not to do with what weve been discussing, really, but: What’s wrong with a set of rules specifically built to do it (ie, only grant players choices which would be fun for fun type X), if those rules are a quick read, not much handling time in play, and their price is within your purchasing range? Surely it’s an attractive option then?

    Again, this is a way off topic question – it’s more like a sales survey question 🙂 Hope you don’t mind me asking and you can feel free to skip it 🙂

    On questions 1 and 2, your right, playing and looking at flow during play is a really good idea. If you write up an actual play account with flow in mind, could you send me a message or something, please? I’m not sure how messages work in here though, except in terms of comments…

    In terms of question three, I’ll quote you from earlier
    ***I’d say there is no sole “the goal”, but rather several intertwined goals that hopefully, given good game design, support each other or at least do not detract from each other.
    I think I read right past you on this point.

    Do you think the most that is possible, is to hope that multiple goals support each other? Do you think you can’t do more than that?

    Or do you want to not force any particular goal to come to fruition and exist?

    Asking in respect, of course.

    I hope I’m not rushing things, but if it’s the latter, there’s something really interesting about that.

    As far as I know, what I described is the bricolage process. Open gaming is something that uses it as a means to an end, which is finding out more about the participants. (Note: a means, not the means.)
    I think there’s a priority shift involved – if bricolage is edible carrots, what I’m talking about is like taking edible carrots and sticking them together to make a statue of ‘The thinker’ or such like. It does involve edible carrots, but with a very different priority. 🙂

  11. Tommi said,

    2 September, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    But…and this is a question not to do with what weve been discussing, really, but: What’s wrong with a set of rules specifically built to do it (ie, only grant players choices which would be fun for fun type X), if those rules are a quick read, not much handling time in play, and their price is within your purchasing range? Surely it’s an attractive option then?

    That sentence does not hold outside the context; generally, I have nothing against good rules that force a certain style of play. (I am too much of a stingy bastard to really do much buying; I prefer homebrewing cheap copies. I am currently running a cheap copy of IAWA.)

    Do you think the most that is possible, is to hope that multiple goals support each other? Do you think you can’t do more than that?

    Or do you want to not force any particular goal to come to fruition and exist?

    I think there are several good things in roleplaying; there’s the social contact and strengthening thereof, there is performances by people, some of whom are pretty good at it, there is the opportunity to learn more about people, there is the shared creative process, there is fiction of some quality, there is the act of thinking as someone else (or, in my case, trying to). Sometimes you get to learn new things. I get to practice probability calculus. All good and useful stuff. I see little reason to focus on one of them for a lengthy period; roleplay gives an excellent combination of interesting and enjoyable activities.

    So, really; I have rarely considered focusing on single aspect of play. There is no attraction in that option. Multiple goals supporting each other is, indeed, the pinnacle of design, in my opinion. (Which goals they should be is a matter of preference.)

    It does involve edible carrots, but with a very different priority.

    I know of no priority to add to bricolage; it is fundamental to human thinking and creativity. Does it have an inherent goal of some sort?

    If you write up an actual play account with flow in mind, could you send me a message or something, please? I’m not sure how messages work in here though, except in terms of comments…

    I will certainly inform you.

    My blog also has RSS feed: http://thanuir.wordpress.com/feed/ and a comment feed: http://thanuir.wordpress.com/comments/feed/. All wordpress.com blogs have similar feeds. If you don’t know anything about feeds, feel free to ask via comments here or via email (tommi.brander at gmail, dot com).

  12. Callan said,

    3 September, 2008 at 2:49 am

    ***I know of no priority to add to bricolage; it is fundamental to human thinking and creativity. Does it have an inherent goal of some sort?
    Basically you already said it yourself and I’m just getting complicated “As far as I know, what I described is the bricolage process. Open gaming is something that uses it as a means to an end, which is finding out more about the participants. (Note: a means, not the means.)” the only difference is, as I understand bricolage, it’s an entire activity. When it becomes just a means to an end within another activity (open plan gaming), bricolage stops being an activity. And when it stops being an activity, it stops being bricolage.

    Perhaps you wouldn’t describe bricolage as an entire activity, though.

    ***Multiple goals supporting each other is, indeed, the pinnacle of design, in my opinion.
    But you still wouldn’t say it’s your main goal to have multiple goals supporting each other?

    The thing is, when you don’t have a main goal, nothing can be proved or disproved about what your saying.

    Do you think your essentially suggesting a faith to me? Since there is no main goal to the activity that I can test as to whether its met or not, there’s no way for me to scrutinise your activity – I either have faith in the activity, or I do not.

    Will you be understanding that I need a main goal to test, otherwise I just see it as a faith? Or will that seem rude and disrespectful?

  13. Tommi said,

    3 September, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Perhaps you wouldn’t describe bricolage as an entire activity, though.

    Right now I would not. How would you describe it as an activity and what goals would you attach to it?

    But you still wouldn’t say it’s your main goal to have multiple goals supporting each other?

    When designing I’d say it is.

    In play I really can’t say. There are several things I enjoy and assigning one of them the status of a main goal just doesn’t feel right. It would be arbitrary. I could say that reaching the flow state is a main goal, sure, and I might even be correct, but it is still arbitrary.

    Like, I can take all roleplay and say that it all lies somewhere between story-centric and kick-in-the-door play. And sure, I can map every instance of play to the line between hack-slashing and story-centric play. As a downside I would lose all distinction between story games and Vampire, though, and distinctions between the style of play championed by 4e D&D and OD&D. In similar way I feel that simply saying that “Flow is my main goal.” will abstract away plenty of important data. So, not rude and respectful, but rather heavy-handed and arbitrary.

    I do say that any method of analysis that does not function unless there is a single main goal is awfully narrow. In order to apply it to most play one has to prove or assume that most play has only a single major goal. I would be very interested in seeing such a proof. Why does your methodology work when there are several important goals? Is there a reason why judging a with regards to every significant goal does not work? Or why not treat, say, two goals as a single one that simply combines both of them?

  14. Callan said,

    4 September, 2008 at 12:15 am

    At it’s heart this is about me looking after myself, rather than proving anything about what something is just for provings sake. If no one will state a main goal for the activity, then there is no way for me to test if that main goal is met, because as said, there is no stated main goal to test. The activity might produce all sorts of things, but without someone stating a main goal for comparison, I have no way of testing whether it produces what someone stated it produces, if produces it consistantly enough for my needs today, and whether what it produces I find enjoyable enough today to participate in.

    There may very well be several important goals. But if I can’t test it to prove to myself whether they exist or not, I don’t know what it is – it’s just a big black box to me, with unknown contents because I can’t see what’s in it – my method of seeing does not work. Do I want to climb into that box? No, not even if it’s wonderful – climbing into it would be an act of faith. Not that I’m against acts of faith, but I save them for spiritual or religious events.

    Who originally told you what roleplay is? It might have been an author in a text, or a friend explaining it. How did you look after yourself when hearing it? You don’t have to tell me, but I would appreciate if you told me whether you tried to look after yourself at all, or whether you simply had faith in what they said? If you feel having faith in what they say IS looking after yourself, you can say that too – I don’t agree, but I’m interested in what you have to say more than in ignoring the possiblity.

    Me, I can’t remember who originally told me what roleplay is – I just know I’ve tested what the text says or what friends/peers say, or where I’ve had faith in text or spoken word, I’ve had faith with the explicit goal of not having faith forever – I’d stop after a certain time because I just don’t like continually having faith – I think it’s dangerous and not looking after myself. That I grant faith even briefly to other people words is because they are of my species, so in a broad way I think that’s still looking after myself to have a bit of faith in human kind.

    Hmmm, perhaps I should make a post on that ‘Who told you what roleplay is?’

  15. Tommi said,

    4 September, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I’ll say that I can’t name a main goal. Maybe one exists, maybe not, but I can’t name it in in either case with anything resembling certainty.

    As to who taught me what roleplaying is; probably friends. I have come to my own definitions since then, anyways.

  16. Callan said,

    4 September, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Well, from my perspective (which is basically derived from looking after myself), if someone can’t name a main goal, then I can’t test what their activity does and along with that, I can’t test if I’d actually enjoy it. Entering into such an activity would be an act of faith on my part, were I to enter into it.

    I called certain play broken before, because I thought it didn’t meet its main goal. I think I’d revise and take back those words for activities where there is no main goal. But at the same time, from my perspective, that makes it an act of faith to participate. If potential participants are not told it’s an act of faith prior to activity start, I’m again inclined to think it’s broken. That’s how I’d put it.

  17. Tommi said,

    5 September, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Although I find your definition of broken activity somewhat strange, and your idea about all social activity not being an act of faith to be counterintuitive, I think this discussion has reached what conclusions it can. I hope it was useful to you; it was to me. I learned things. Thanks.

  18. Callan said,

    6 September, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Well, our discussion is a social activity – but I don’t think faith has been involved, otherwise you’d just believe/have faith in what I said, unless I was speaking from a different faith. Trust is involved in our discussion, but trust is a crippled version of faith – with trust, you eventually finish trusting and evaluate whether the activity had some worth to you in some regard, or not. Trust isn’t like faith – with faith, you just keep having faith, forever.

    When I described open plan gaming, it was merely with the expectation that readers would trust long enough to read it all through, then upon having read it, evaluate it for any worth they find. Open plan gaming isn’t something to have faith in – you merely trust the activity – after each activity, you evaluate if it had some worth to you or not.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and discuss it, it was useful to me 🙂


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