“Infinite options”

Infinite options in roleplay. And sometimes I see people say “You can do anything!”. Lets have a look at that.

It started here and since that thread was originally about before/after traits, I thought I’d split it.

Responding to Tommi’s post

Player playing single character would hence decide the course of action of the character in similar way to how people make decisions in real life: By gut reactions, assuming what would happen if a certain course of action were taken, seeking more information, just doing what one has always done. There is an essentially infinite amount of options in much the same way that I have essentially infinite amount of options: Right now, I could eat, go to sleep, play a number of computer games, do math exercises, jump out of window, start cleaning, or a huge number of other activities. I am assuming free will here.

GM (or everyone in some games) likewise considers what could happen, and picking one such course of action (or assigning probabilities and implementing a suitable stochastic process for selecting one of them) as what actually happens.

I have to say for the time being, Tommi, I just see a massive contradiction? You gave examples of how you could right now, in real life, eat or do exercises or whatever. Fair enough, I totally agree!

But then you give an example of the GM considering what could happen. This is nothing like your example of in real life, how you could decide to eat or exercise. In real life, you don’t decide to eat and then some other being decides what could happen.

Trying to charitably read and look for a way out of the contradiction I see, I looked closely at your wording and noticed you do refer to being able to make decisions as you do in real life. Both in the above text and here

Hopefully a helpful characterisation of my default preference is to say that decisions about what happens next/what my character does next (the same thing, really) can be made as decisions are made in real life. (Default, because I dabble in other styles, too, where the rules take more active role.)

Do you mean in roleplay you can make decisions as you do in real life – but that doesn’t necessarily connect with actually carrying out that decision/doing it?

Do you mean you have infinite options because you can, just in terms of deciding, decide to do an infinite amount of things? I could agree with that? (I hope I appear to be trying to find some common ground)

But deciding something doesn’t mean you actually have the option for it. By stating that, I mean I can see no evidence for it – is there some that can be brought out for scrutiny?

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45 thoughts on ““Infinite options”

  1. Yeah, I can decide to be the President of the United States all I want. I wasn’t born there, so it’s closed to me 😉

    Now, this is not what you wrote about, so I hope you won’t be displeased with me at my tangent (but am perfectly on course for “Infinite Options”!).

    The final episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion (final ending) had presented this. Same as staring at a white page and being told to draw/write “anything”. It’s paralyzing. Also, if you float in white space, with no coordinates, you will go nowhere because there are no frames of reference, you have nothing to differentiate “here” and “there”. In the anime, a line drawn horizontally became ground, so the character had the ability to walk, and right/left.

    Likewise, it can be connected to the “Empty Room Syndrome”, you’re limited by the world described. You’re also limited in the real world by the world described/presented, but as someone in a lecture once noted, no manner how much time you spend on world-creation, you won’t have a close to similar amount of “Entries” in the “Dictionary”, for countries, relations, important people, deities, whatever. And combining these two, your options are limited, not only numerically, but by the description given to you, both the description kicking the sequence off, and as Callan noted, the sequence resulting from your “choice”.

    Also, it’s a bit odd to describe these choices as identical, since it’s not the same “You”. It’s you choosing for someone else, and not only the GM, but also you, for the character. And that distance is a crucial part.

  2. First, I’ll make something clear: An infinity of options is not necessarily all options.

    But then you give an example of the GM considering what could happen. This is nothing like your example of in real life, how you could decide to eat or exercise.

    Ahh, yes, you are entirely correct. I’ll need to split my case to two different situations. First, determining how something works. This is typically done by the GM, though sometimes by any player (Universalis) or the rules (Mythic GM emulator thingy, I think, works like this, though I am not sure). Here honouring established fiction means that once something is determined, the same issue does not need to be raised in the future. It works the way it was determined. So, in this case, there are less and less such decisions to be made.

    The second, more interesting sort of choice (I think), is how things are. This includes such questions as the actions of characters, the content of the game world and miscellaneous events. Players can, given my default style, make decisions about their characters roughly as people do in real life (though in typically less rich setting than real world is).

    In this context, I am not interested in decisions without action. Players make decisions about how their characters act, and then the characters act according to those decisions and circumstances that are true with the fiction. So, a player can have their character act in a huge number of ways (I’ll say essentially infinite, because I see no sensible way of listing all the possibilities; whether the spectrum of options is merely very large is, in practice, not relevant, I think). To what degree the action works is a different matter. Explicitly mentioning what a character is trying to achieve is important in this style of play, since otherwise the player’s intentions might be totally lost. I subscribe to the Burning Wheel philosophy of revealing intentions explicitly. Players that don’t do this and are not good at manipulating the game in other ways will feel uneffective, or at least I tend to see them as such.

    Greetings Guy.

    First, infinity does not imply that there are no limits. (There are infinite real numbers between 0 and 1, even though that interval is very much limited.) I completely agree that “You can do anything!” is the opposite of helpful. Hence, the fiction that has been established before limits and inspires the actions and goals of characters, hence also the decisions players make about them. That the decision space is hence limited does not imply (in the logical sense of the word) that there are not infinite (or very numerous) possible relevant decisions.

    Callan;

    I think my post above may be all over the place and the goal of the discussion may get lost in yet another huge confusion. So, currently, my primary claim is: In play where trait use and other narration limits future play, or in other words, where previous narration must be honoured, there regardless are essentially infinite distinct ways of contributing to the fiction. One significant case of this is a participant (player, GM, whatever) deciding what a particular character does (in context of the participant playing the game at that moment).

    Do you disagree with this claim?

  3. I get an uncomfortable feeling your blurring the line between who actually ‘contributes to the fiction’ and who doesn’t.

    This may sound off beat, but where do you draw the line between being an author of a story and not being its author?

    Because in terms of where I draw the line, your saying something to the GM and then he goes on to use something inspired by what you said. But he’s the only author present in your example. You don’t have infinite options to contribute to the fiction – he does, in a way, but you don’t.

    I’ve used this analogy before, of where there’s a car which appears to have an accelerator. But when someone presses it, it touches nothing. It’s fake. However, someone else is watching it and chooses to press the REAL accelerator when they see the fake one pressed. Is the first person in charge of the car, since when they press the fake accelerator the other person chooses to press the real accelerator?

    Where I draw the line, your ‘infinite options’ is only the ability to press fake accelerator pedals. An effectively infinite number of them, I’ll grant.

  4. I may very well be blurring the line.

    This may sound off beat, but where do you draw the line between being an author of a story and not being its author?

    In context of roleplaying (and maybe in other contexts): I am an author when I can influence the parts of the story I care about in such a manner that my influence generally pushes the fiction to the direction I want it to go. In other words: When I want something to happen, I can at least make it more likely, assuming it is within the scope of the game. The degree of my influence determines how much authority I have. The exact level required for me to consider myself an author is not something I can precisely state.

    I’d like to note that the extent through which input must go through the GM depends on the rules in use and what is called system in Forge jargon.

    As for your analogy: I am assuming that people want to create shared narrative. If someone has no such intentions, things will break. So, rather than someone pushing buttons and someone else steering a vehicle, consider this analogy: There is a group of people who can talk to each other but can’t see each other. They are trying to draw a picture so that everyone has a similar picture on their paper. One of them draws something and then describes it to others, who draw it. Then someone else does the same. And on it goes. They can also change things in the picture. The problem here is that of communication, not authorship; if some people disagree they can vote or have a shouting match or whatever (when roleplaying, roll dice or use tokens or whatever). Or maybe they decided that if there is disagreement, some specific person makes the call as to what happens. Assuming the position is not misused, which is easy to notice, everyone is still meaningfully authoring material.

  5. Nice analogy! I might use that one in future myself!

    Okay, but here…
    “They are trying to draw a picture so that everyone has a similar picture on their paper.”
    followed by here…
    “One of them draws something and then describes it to others, who draw it.”

    The problem I see is that they only share the goal of “trying to draw a picture so that everyone has a similar picture on their paper”. That’s a fine goal – but that is the only (agreed to by the whole group) goal they share between them so far.

    How did the guy who drew something, get the (agreed to by the whole group) right to do that?

    All I see is a guy with the chutzpah to simply draw on his paper and start telling other people what he drew?

    I don’t see him having the right to do that. I’ll grant that “trying to draw a picture so that everyone has a similar picture on their paper” is kind of pointless unless someone draws something. I don’t know why that group sat down with only a pointless goal. But that in no way indicates that one particular person has the (agreed to by the whole group) right to to draw something.

    That right could be proposed to the group and they all might accept it, but it hasn’t been proposed. All that’s happened is the guy has acted as if he has that (agreed to by the group) right, when he has not.

    A terribly hard question is, what if your own play has been like this for years? There has been an agreement to make each sheet of paper/imagination carry the same image. But people in the group have simply drawn upon it and insisted others follow the agreement to carry the same image, even though they didn’t have the right to begin with.

    That’s a “what if”. I’m not asserting it is the case, I’m just saying what if it was like that all this time – just imagine it as if it were true, just to mull around the idea for a second.

  6. Callan, to apply some interpretation of my own from Tommi’s last post to your analogy.

    He wants to steer the fiction/story/game towards the things he cares about. If you’ll think of it in the form of “Magic” ala Crowley’s definition, the question is whether once he applies his will the story is affected.

    The epistemological question doesn’t matter in default. If every time he presses his false pedal, someone who watches turns the acceleration on, then the Tommi-figure should not care one iota. He got what he wanted, an accelerating car.
    The thing is, that such things usually come to a screeching halt. When the Tommi-figure presses the pedal and nothing happens, and he finds out that he is not driving the car, the car is driving him. But so long as every time he gives his desire, and things happen in a way that it is met, it doesn’t matter.

    The illusion of an illusion.

  7. Callan, that’s the Social Contract.

    If they hadn’t discussed it before, or reached an implicit agreement (such as in the mid 80s, if you say “D&D”, people have an idea about GM, etc.).

    There is no human interaction without a social contract that does not negotiate it; if the person were to draw and demand others were to draw the same thing, either they’d comply, or they’d reject it, or they’d discuss it. Any of these things creates a Social Contract.

    But I agree, Social Contract construction needs to be made more explicit. Though, in most games, once you decide which game you’re playing, many of these decisions are already made for you, implicitly.

  8. Hello Guy,

    It’s going to happen every time?

    In terms of social contract, there is no ‘it’ to discuss. I mentioned this in the thread I split from – what someone does, does not tell you the rules they work from in doing that. Here, that the guy draws a cat and tells everyone that, does not tell you what rules he works from in doing that. There is no ‘it’ to comply to, there is no ‘it’ to reject, there is no ‘it’ to discuss. Rather than create a social contract you actually form a void in the social contract in much the same way a con man and his target have a void in the social contract between them.

    And in terms of implict decisions, if social contract were written on a page in front of each person, too often the pages of the group would not match at all.

    But of course that’s impossible to prove while everyone keeps those decisions implicit and completely hidden. So I can’t prove anything and if everyone keeps saying their perfectly happy with it, the only evidence available says it makes them happy. And “the funs the thing”, as its always said. The funs the thing, rather than admitting any massive dissonance in the supposedly shared social contract. I can’t prove the emperer is naked, when everyone covers their eyes. So I’m not fond of ‘implicit’ decisions.

  9. Guy basically said much of what I was going to say.

    The problem I see is that they only share the goal of “trying to draw a picture so that everyone has a similar picture on their paper”. That’s a fine goal – but that is the only (agreed to by the whole group) goal they share between them so far.

    How did the guy who drew something, get the (agreed to by the whole group) right to do that?

    The analogy lacks these details because it is of roleplaying as an activity on the general level.

    In my reasonably current play: If I am the GM, I pretty explicitly tell what the core activities in the game are on character- or player-level; If I am a player, I ask what the core activities are and further I try to do this before building a character so that the character fits those core activities; If playing some fancy Forge-style game, I have typically read what the core activity is, but still tend to confirm that whoever is the GM or introduces the game somewhat agrees with my interpretation.

    Examples of goal-setting: In this game you’ll play vikings returning home from a long journey. Home is threatened by a giant and the previous leader is slain. Make characters so that they have at least one belief tied to this situation and at least one tied to another player character. (Burning Wheel).

    You’ll play outcasts who have little in the way of options, save for dungeon delving and similar activities. As players you’ll try surviving in the dungeons, exploring them and getting rich in the process.

    You’ll play hatchling dragons. First you’ll explore your surroundings and do dragony things, then there’ll be more stuff to do.

    All of the above were basically successful in that everyone knew what they were supposed to do and how to go about it, some with additional dialogue or negotiation. So, in actual gameplay, there is a direction.

    When I was young I did not have the good sense to create such direction for play. It was me or whoever was the GM throwing stuff at their peers and hoping something good would magically emerge. It did not usually work very well, but there were a number of high points.

    Continued later…

  10. On to the “right to contribute”: Sometimes this is explicitly dealt by the rules in use. My default approach (if the rules don’t say otherwise) is that there is one GM, several players, players have characters whose intentions they have control over, GM controls the bits of setting that are not player characters, and when these two interact, GM/player says yes or rolls the dice. Note that the outcome of player actions is by default not under the control of anyone. So, when a player or GM suggests something (declaring that some character attempts something is a suggestion) the other parties can accept it or dispute it via the rules. The disputation typically occurs only if what is accepted is uncertain within the fiction.

    The above assumes that everyone holds to what is known about the setting. This is arbitrated by GM or group consensus or mix thereof. Setting integrity can make actions impossible or certain, even if rules would be involved otherwise. If I am the GM and am granted the responsibility of making sure that nothing breaks, I must have a clear vision of how things work in order to succeed at it without infringing on player agency. Alternatively, use rules that prevent this.

    Anyways, in practice, the right to draw something is typically not problematic. GM can do almost anything with setting that is not player characters, players can do pretty much anything with their character intentions, and the play tht happens between these two is handled as explained above: Someone makes a suggestion, other parties accept it or dispute it, which typically means dice hit the table. Rarely are suggestions that contradict the setting made, and typically they result in finding out where the pictures people have drawn differ and resolving this in some manner.

    Guy, about the analogy: One point is that the way the controls work becomes pretty clear pretty quickly. People are playing around a table. Typically dice are rolled in the open. The way the world works is fairly constant. If someone is manipulating the play, it quickly becomes obvious (I typically stop enjoying the play at that point and often stop playing at that point, or at least radically change the way I play so that I have a meaningful approach to the game).

  11. I’m sorry Tommi, nothing was explained to me above.
    “So, when a player or GM suggests something (declaring that some character attempts something is a suggestion) the other parties can accept it or dispute it via the rules. The disputation typically occurs only if what is accepted is uncertain within the fiction.”
    Here the rules are not stated. But since your actually refering to some sort of document, I’m assuming you could actually show it to me. This still doesn’t mean a great deal in determining whether there are infinite options or not, but atleast there would be evidence to actually look at, which is a step forward. We’ll call these the first rules.

    But then there’s this
    “The above assumes that everyone holds to what is known about the setting. This is arbitrated by GM or group consensus or mix thereof. Setting integrity can make actions impossible or certain, even if rules would be involved otherwise.”
    Apparently the above rules are ignored if someone, empowered by some unstated right, says the action does not fit the setting and thus is empowered to cancel any further following of the first rules (and it goes onto group consensus or GM arbitration). Thus making the first rules pretty much as important as the go fast stripe on a sports car.

    Where is the document? That has the rules for who gets to say the first rules are cancelled and it’s up to group consensus or GM arbitration?

    We keep running into rules that are unstated and hidden. Or maybe there just isn’t a rule at all, or atleast not a shared one. Someone just demands you stop follows the first rules and people just follow his demand, thinking he has some (agreed to by the group) right to when really there isn’t one at all.

    Or perhaps more exactly, somewhat like in Guys example, each person thinks this person is demanding and using a certain right and decide to accept that right. But they actually don’t know what right he is calling upon (they have merely guessed from looking at what he’s done, which does not tell you what rules the person used to do that) and agreeing to something that probably has nothing to do with what he was actually doing*.

    This discussion keeps tracing back the actions to an unknown, unstated darkness. Unless rules are written down and play actually originates and extends from these rules, rather than from some unknown origin, whether there are infinite options or not can neither be proved nor disproved. Without evidence I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep claiming there’s infinite options.

    * Futher, if they all actually guessed right and know the rule – well then they know it well enough to write it down. If everyone really has such a good idea of what’s going on (edit: clarification; what rules are being used while things are going on), then writing it down should be quite easy to do.

  12. Callan seems to be demanding what I’m suggesting, the Explicit Social Contract; mechanizing the Social Contract.

    I’ve been thinking of writing a post on SC mechanized for a long time now, feel free to write a post about it yourself Callan, feel free to write a guest article on CSI Games (which was never meant to be a solo project), and maybe you’ll get me off my ass to write mine, or perchance you’ll write anything I have to say, heh. Except I’m not as strident, and I think the “Darkness” is not unknown or obscure, it’s just not talked about.

    Like the neighbourhood where the man beats his wife, everyone knows and none talks about it.

  13. Callan;

    The first rules, as you named them, depend on the rules in use. Maybe Burning Wheel, maybe D&D, maybe something homebrewn. So, most of the time the rules are in print or electronically available. Not always, though.

    Apparently the above rules are ignored if someone, empowered by some unstated right, says the action does not fit the setting and thus is empowered to cancel any further following of the first rules (and it goes onto group consensus or GM arbitration). Thus making the first rules pretty much as important as the go fast stripe on a sports car.

    The second sentence is false.
    As for the first one, there is methodology; that honouring the setting material thus far established. It is not arbitrary. The right is not typically unstated (if it is, trouble on the front is possible). Someone takes care of setting integrity. You can’t persuade mindless zombies, that sort of stuff. It is power that is, and can be, applied only rarely, because everyone upholds setting integrity anyway. This is part of the system (Forge-theory sense).

    I am also mystified as how the group could think that someone has a right to something and be wrong, as that very right is granted by that group thinking someone has it. By definition, if in roleplaying the group thinks someone has a right they have actually given that right. If I am reading you correctly, you game in some bizarre world where the gaming group giving someone the right to contribute to the fiction is not sufficient to give someone the right to contribute to the fiction. I am perplexed.

    Personally, I think that human interaction is full of the implied and unstated. (I can’t say that this is bad or good; merely that this is true.) Roleplaying is a form of human interaction. Hence, by definition, it is full of the implied and unstated. If you have problems with this, I can’t help.

  14. A simple question: I am talking to someone. Do I have infinite options as to how I can influence them? If yes, I have a similar array of options in all roleplaying, which reduces to influencing people. If no, well, we clearly disagree.

  15. I’ve said that a group thinking your invoking right A and consenting to that when really you were invoking right B, has a void in their social contract. No one else in the group has agreed to B. My spidey sense is tingling because in conversations with other people in the past they have almost deliberately skipped key details in my posts and thus been able to read a proposterous, non sensical meaning to it. I’m hoping this isn’t going the same way, where I’m not sure if the person has simply become fatigued with the conversation (which is understandable), or is deliberately or unconciously missreading it in order to protect the way they’ve always done it.

    On your question, you could always call them a c***. That would influence them. But I doubt they agreed to an arrangement where you can call them that.

    What I’ve been looking at is what options are available in what’s actually been agreed to by the group.

    Edit: To further clarify that, in terms of infinite RL interaction options, calling them a c*** would be one of them. But such options for interaction aren’t usually agreed to by the group, so the option is removed. Whole swaths of these options are typically not available, if you look at what’s actually agreed to by the group. More on that below, as I ask if your looking at what the group agreed to or looking at what you can do before you know what they’ll agree to.

    By the way, I have been sworn at and in shock, said nothing. It didn’t mean I silently consented to them having a right to swear at me. Or whatever right they thought they had to do that.

    Do you mean you have infinite options on how to influence them, before knowing what they’ll reject?

    Or to put it another way, are you looking at what you can do to influence them before you know what they will accept or reject what influence you assert?

    @Guy, that’s quite a subject! I might post here or start a new thread just to work out a bit of detail because I’m not quite sure how ‘deep’ to start. Or indeed, even if I start deep, what does it matter if it’s overridden without a second thought by the groups usual habits?

  16. [w]hat does it matter if it’s overridden without a second thought by the groups usual habits?

    That’s a key question.
    It brings up the discussion above; until it is overriden, it is True. Once overriden, you should amend the text, because you’re having a new explicit Social Contract.
    Unless, they override it, and then discuss it and decide they were wrong to do so, and will be more careful in this regard later on, such as games where people agree to tackle things they find disturbing, or competitive RPGs 😉

  17. A flash of insight. Callan, I may actually understand what you are talking about now.

    Take a conversation in some polite company. Two people talking. They both have given each other (probably implicit) permission to talk. Still, one gravely insulting the other would break the conversation or completely change its nature; it is something one is supposed to do in polite company.

    Liken roleplaying to a conversation and contributions to the fiction to what is being said. Callan, if I am reading you correctly, you now draw an analogy between improper speech (e.g. insults, but also politics in light small talk, I understand) and things that someone wants to add to the fiction but someone else shoots down. Is this somewhat correct?

    Regardless, I think it bears some further investigation. First, for me, it is a completely new way of thinking, so thanks for helping to open it. It runs contrary to my normal way of thinking, because I treat input into the fiction as suggestions until it has been accepted, while this approach treats them as statements.

    Discussion: There are infinite options as to what one says (and does; nonverbal communication counts). The way the other person reacts is up to them. Like, in chess, the way the other person reacts to your moves is almost always up to them, but still influenced and restricted by your moves.

    I am unsure about how someone could reject your influence. Cussing at someone will change the way they react to you. Pleading will likewise, even if the plead is “ignored”. You can’t take back what you said. In chess, if you try to an illegal move (your king would be threatened as a result of it, say), you must take it back but the opponent still sees what were about to do and can make further moves better, because he knows more about your playing style.

    Hence, even “rejected” moves matter.

    Back to roleplaying. When I say my character tries to pry the door open, and the door is actually an illusion covering plain wall and hence there is no chance of success, something still happens, even though the attempt itself is soundly rejected as unsuccessful.

  18. “Callan, if I am reading you correctly, you now draw an analogy between improper speech (e.g. insults, but also politics in light small talk, I understand) and things that someone wants to add to the fiction”

    Just that part, without the “but someone else shoots down”.

    That someone can try to add to the fiction with improper speech.

    “It runs contrary to my normal way of thinking, because I treat input into the fiction as suggestions until it has been accepted, while this approach treats them as statements.”
    Accepted by whom?

    No one at the table, in your example, has the agreed to by the whole group right to draw on the page. No one has the right to accept a suggestion. That’s what I mean by ‘Accepted by whom?’ when no body has the right to accept it, as yet.

    I wouldn’t call it a suggestion, because of that. Rather it’s stating that someone has the right to accept or reject the idea and write it to page – even if your not granting yourself this right, your granting it to someone else.

    Now it’s cool if you want to modifiy your example and say “How about everyone, in advance of play, agreed the GM has the right to draw on the paper” or such. But even in that case, the wording does not force the GM to listen to any suggestions made.

    “Hence, even “rejected” moves matter.”
    I’m just gunna get emotional for a moment…NO! NO! NO!
    There, done.

    I’ll agree that rejected moves can matter. But they are not supposed to! In the chess example, the move is a mistake – an error. You are not supposed to repeat errors – certainly not deliberately, as, even if you go into it innocently, it’s cheating. Your supposed to avoid errors – and that means your supposed to avoid relying on any way that error could matter.

    In other words, the reject move do matter, but your supposed to be trying to avoid doing it. You should be trying to make it not matter at all, by not doing it at all.

    “Back to roleplaying. When I say my character tries to pry the door open, and the door is actually an illusion covering plain wall and hence there is no chance of success, something still happens, even though the attempt itself is soundly rejected as unsuccessful.”
    Further you may be blurring the line between ‘rejected’ and ‘valid action, but useless’.

    Making a bishop travel in a straight line (rather than diagnal) is an invalid move that is rejected. In your example, as I understand it, trying to open the door is a valid move, if useless. It is not being rejected as an invalid move, it’s just a useless thing to do.

    Or is that how you see all of play? It’s finding out the rules? Like trying to open the door is like trying to move a bishop in a straight line. You try it and find opening it is an invalid move as much as a straight line bishop? Genuinely asking – I’m trying hard to fit this into some framework I can grasp – and I can grasp that one. Barely, but I can.

    But god! That would mean your perpetually in a state of learning the rules…(okay, I’m not saying that’s bad in a universal sense. But for me, for my tastes!? Ugh!)

  19. Guy,

    “It brings up the discussion above; until it is overriden, it is True. Once overriden, you should amend the text, because you’re having a new explicit Social Contract.”
    But who’s overriding it?

    And what if you (as in one particular person) doesn’t care to have it over ridden?

    Should there simply be some SC words clarifying that it’s okay if someone wants to sit out and watch or leave early or do some activity in the next room till the games over, if the didn’t want the old version over ridden (though this makes me think what if someone tried to override these words…but hell, what can you do about someone removing your right to peacefully decline to participate, eh?)

    Futher it might be good to have some self referential material in the social contract, like “Why is someone attempting to override the current SC set up, five minutes into play, before they even know what sort of fun the game gives? Do they really want to change the fun, or just have the fun of being in control of social contract?”

    There’s something tickling at the back of my mind here. Normally if someone tries overriding stuff, I’d think to myself “Well, I’ll just leave if I can’t agree with it”.

    But at the same time, why am I leaving? More to the point, the whole setup is vulnerable to anyone basically coming in and taking it over. My leaving doesn’t really make it any less vulnerable to that.

    I’m thinking some cut out on over rides – only after X amount of sessions (for a campaign) can any override happen.

    To be honest, I wonder if people regularly override not because of the games fun, but because overriding is a power rush. Even if you don’t want a power rush (I remember the first time I led a raid in a mmorpg – the feeling of power was there, even as I found it disturbing. I didn’t want it – but that didn’t stop the feeling of power coursing through me).

    I’m not even sure why I’m facilitating the overrides to begin with. Heh, perhaps a vulnerability in my own set up? Really, play it or don’t come to the session is good enough (when done politely). I don’t think there needs to be overrides.

  20. Callan, I’m asking this seriously, because I think you know the answer.

    So, how do people sit around and get a working game, even when someone decides to use fiat? How do they do it, not in theory, but in practice?

  21. Can you give an example, preferably from actual play (though hypotheticals are fine, too), of someone adding something to the fiction via improper speech? This is just to clarify the concept a bit.

    “It runs contrary to my normal way of thinking, because I treat input into the fiction as suggestions until it has been accepted, while this approach treats them as statements.”
    Accepted by whom?

    Group consensus. Everyone. Roleplaying, as an activity, requires constructing fiction shared to a fair degree. Intentionalyl ignoring nontrivial changes in the fiction is the same as not participating, or playing a parallel game. The entire idea is incompherensible.

    Rejected moves: Say two people are playing chess. Is it proper for them to use moves that look intimidating in order to scare the opponent? Is it proper if one knows the other prefers a certain pattern to especially guard against that? Saying two people are playing rock-paper-scissors. Is it fine, if one knows that statistically the other tends to start with rock, to start with paper? (I don’t have an opinion with regards to these, but you may have. I’d like to know it, if you do.)

    The limit between rejected and invalid: Typical play moves like this (though more verbose): P1: I open the door. P2: No, wait! I check it for traps first. [At this point P1 can say okay or they can roll dice or others can intervene or whatever.] Is P1s action being rejected or declared invalid? Another example. P1: I shoot the thing dead. [P1 rolls dice, getting a good result.] P2: I burn it just to be sure. GM: P1’s character shoots at it, hitting all the right places, but it just doesn’t stop. P2, still going to burn it? P2: Uhh, no, I’m not going near it while it moves. Is P2’s action rejected?

    Gaming, at least around here, is full of backtracking like that. People don’t say “I try to blah.”, they say “I blah.” even when they know the success is doubtful.

    Rules changing all the time: Yes. Since the way the world works is part of the rules and the understanding of the world grows as game is played further, of course rules change all the time. “Rules” understood in broad sense here.

    To explain it more: Fiction is king. Many rules indicate what is possible or not in the fiction. (Some rules are about rewarding people for good play or telling who can say what and when or so on.)

  22. “Group consensus. Everyone. Roleplaying, as an activity, requires constructing fiction shared to a fair degree. Intentionalyl ignoring nontrivial changes in the fiction is the same as not participating, or playing a parallel game. The entire idea is incompherensible.”

    Tommy, no one in your example has the right to draw on the page. They can group consensus till the cows come home. No one has the text given right to. I stated this above, clearly, and I feel you’ve covered your ears and said the party line about ignoring changes in the fiction is a no no.

    I’m sorry, this one is still sitting at the ‘Accepted by whom? Who actually has the right to draw upon the page, that would make accepting your input actually change anything?’ question.

    “Rejected moves: Say two people are playing chess. Is it proper for them to use moves that look intimidating in order to scare the opponent? Is it proper if one knows the other prefers a certain pattern to especially guard against that? Saying two people are playing rock-paper-scissors. Is it fine, if one knows that statistically the other tends to start with rock, to start with paper? (I don’t have an opinion with regards to these, but you may have. I’d like to know it, if you do.)”

    My opinion is that if they are working within the written procedure, their intent does not matter in the least.

    “The limit between rejected and invalid: Typical play moves like this (though more verbose): P1: I open the door. P2: No, wait! I check it for traps first. [At this point P1 can say okay or they can roll dice or others can intervene or whatever.] Is P1s action being rejected or declared invalid? Another example. P1: I shoot the thing dead. [P1 rolls dice, getting a good result.] P2: I burn it just to be sure. GM: P1’s character shoots at it, hitting all the right places, but it just doesn’t stop. P2, still going to burn it? P2: Uhh, no, I’m not going near it while it moves. Is P2’s action rejected?”

    Your talking in terms of results again, and not the actual rules used to arrive at those results. I have no idea if those moves have been rejected or merely rendered useless, unless I see the rules.

    “Rules changing all the time: Yes. Since the way the world works is part of the rules and the understanding of the world grows as game is played further, of course rules change all the time. “Rules” understood in broad sense here.”

    The way the imagined world works honestly isn’t part of the rules! Surely you can see the illusory door was put there based on the GM’s whim, not because how the world works is that an illusory door would be there?

    Your learning the wrong set of rules, my friend! Your learning this ‘how the world works’ set of rules, when really there are very different ones at play. In exactly the same way as if you were, unknown to you, in the matrix. You might learn the rules of that matrix world, but those aren’t the real rules that are actually in play.

    Surely when someone does some parlour magic tricks, you don’t start basing rules off it because you know your perceptions have been tricked somehow, right?

    You know the shared imagined space tricks your perceptions as well, right? That to learn rules from it as if it were true would be like learning rules from the magic trick as if it were true?

  23. Tommy, no one in your example has the right to draw on the page. They can group consensus till the cows come home. No one has the text given right to. I stated this above, clearly, and I feel you’ve covered your ears and said the party line about ignoring changes in the fiction is a no no.

    I’m sorry, this one is still sitting at the ‘Accepted by whom? Who actually has the right to draw upon the page, that would make accepting your input actually change anything?’ question.

    (Tommi, with an i, not y.)

    Everyone has the right to suggest something. Everybody must accept the suggestion. Typically to create different dynamics or different sort of fiction or to have different experience people limit themselves to making certain kinds of suggestions. This is what the rules do.

    Authority is not a problematic issue.

    The way the imagined world works honestly isn’t part of the rules! Surely you can see the illusory door was put there based on the GM’s whim, not because how the world works is that an illusory door would be there?

    All play, all games, even all art involves the acceptance of arbitrary norms and behaviours and giving them meaning. (References: Gadamer, Callois, Huizinga, Lehrich, Arjoranta. Links provided upon request where possible. I’m forgetting some and possibly misspelling Callois. Caillois? Callous? Whatever.)

    I’ll go ahead and characterise my roleplaying as an activity where I treat the fictional world as a place with certain reality to it. I do this especially when running a game; otherwise I find it to not be enjoyable. And, when game mastering, I make it so that learning the rules the world plays by is genuinely useful for the interacting with the world (and, in some games, part of the fun).

    Your talking in terms of results again, and not the actual rules used to arrive at those results. I have no idea if those moves have been rejected or merely rendered useless, unless I see the rules.

    Could you provide the rules you play by, or have played by, so that I could a see model of what you are looking for?

  24. Callan, I’d suggest focusing on “The Right to draw on the paper” as a Social Contract issue for the moment. Once you reach a decision/understanding of who has/should have the right there, then it’s time to write it in the rules of one’s game.

    Once you play the game, you should go by the text’s rules, but since this section is historically missing, and you’re trying to look at its base, try to identify where the Right comes from, before the rules.

  25. Tommi,

    Now come on – I’ve spelt your name correctly many times before, but when I slip I get corrected like this is the first time I’ve typed it? No nod of respect for the other times I put in the (admittedly small, but still there) effort to get it spelt right?

    Everyone has the right to suggest something.

    Where do they get this right from?

    This is the theme of my investigation. Where do they get the right from? Sure, they are physically capable of speaking, but that doesn’t mean they have the agreed to by the group right of speaking.

    Now perhaps the group accepts it when they speak. But that doesn’t mean they have the right as of this moment, as you say. It means there’s a chance that in the future, when they speak without right, others will accept it. But that’s not the same as actually having the right, right now.

    Or are you checking to see if I’ll grant you the right to assert that this is how it is in roleplay games?

    Everybody must accept the suggestion.

    Then it’s not exactly a suggestion if they MUST accept it. I’m thinking you must have made a typo and you meant something else?

    Typically to create different dynamics or different sort of fiction or to have different experience people limit themselves to making certain kinds of suggestions. This is what the rules do.

    Are you putting it that the rules are a type of suggestion they can limit themselves to?

    All play, all games, even all art involves the acceptance of arbitrary norms and behaviours and giving them meaning.

    In terms of your references, what grants them the right to assert this is how it is done? Or do they say that’s just how it is? What is their evidence for that, beyond whatever fame they managed to accrue for themselves?

    Again, this is the theme of my investigation. What makes it involve this? If anything?

    Could you provide the rules you play by, or have played by, so that I could a see model of what you are looking for?

    I think this is going off track – how could an example of my rules of play aid you in telling me the rules of your play? You know how you play and the rules that its derived from – surely you can just tell me?

    Anyway by chance I’ve written up a piece that I was going to put up in a day or two in it’s own thread. So that’ll come up soon.

  26. Hullo Guy,

    But you’d say the right doesn’t actually exist before it’s agreed to by the group, correct? It’s that group agreement that makes the right exist (or to be exact, the group all decide to conform their behaviour to the rule)

    Prior to that, the ‘right’ only exists as an idea, rather than something others will conform their behaviour to.

    Which, to tie this to the title, is to say ‘infinite options’ does not exist, except as an idea. Only at the point where it somehow actually agreed to by a group (and I’d check what they actually agreed to), could it exist.

  27. This agreement is often implicit and unspoken. This is also where many clashes come from: Because so many things that we didn’t speak about, when they occur at the table, get reinforced (showing everyone “agrees”), you assume it’s all like that. And then someone does something that he thought was aqreed upon, implicitly, and it turns out someone else thinks this is not agreed, furthermore, he perchance thinks they agreed to not do it.

    It is an idea, sure, but this agreement is often “only” an idea as well.

    I agree, we should move towards explicit (“Actually agreeing”) agreement, but those implicit agreements are actually agreed to as well, mostly, which is how a game doesn’t stop every 5 minutes, with groups who did not form explicit agreements.

  28. Conforming your behaviour to a rule isn’t just an idea – it’s a type of physical action, as much as running or jumping are physical actions. Running and jumping actually exist. But if you don’t conform to a rule, or don’t have a rule to conform to, then no physical action can be happening. At that point it’s just the idea of infinite options, without any physical activity that can be said to be ‘infinte options’ in action.

    I agree, we should move towards explicit (”Actually agreeing”) agreement, but those implicit agreements are actually agreed to as well, mostly, which is how a game doesn’t stop every 5 minutes, with groups who did not form explicit agreements.

    Well this is why on the other thread I decided to stop thinking game first then ask questions latter – precisely because the word ‘game’ is often used as evidence for something else. If I treat it as a game, then I support it as being evidence, when perhaps it is not evidence at all.

    So I’d have to say activity X doesn’t stop every five minutes. And even then, as in another thread, I’d ask ‘what does stop mean?’. If no one runs screaming from the table, does that mean play has not stopped? What if they don’t run screaming, but they sit, arms folded, red, angry faces? Or just looking bored and talking about a movie they saw? Has the activity still not stopped?

    Rather than supporting the idea of implicit agreements by saying they support continued gameplay, I question if it was a game to begin with.

  29. Hello Callan;

    Now come on – I’ve spelt your name correctly many times before, but when I slip I get corrected like this is the first time I’ve typed it? No nod of respect for the other times I put in the (admittedly small, but still there) effort to get it spelt right?

    I do appreciate the effort and notified you because normally you do get it right (which is somewhat rare among the English-speaking populace). It caught my attention, is all. To make it explicit: Thank you for almost always spelling it correctly.

    Where do they get this right from?

    It is the baseline necessity for them even to participate. You can’t participate without the right to make suggestions (or accept them, as the case may be). For specific moments in time, (do I have the right to participate right now?) one can treat roleplaying as a discussion. People can generally function in discussions. Roleplaying is exactly like that. (I also don’t have written instructions on how I discuss with people, nor can I make the process explicit.)

    Then it’s not exactly a suggestion if they MUST accept it. I’m thinking you must have made a typo and you meant something else?

    Indeed, I forgot a qualifier. Everyone must accept the suggestion in order for it to be accepted into the fiction. At least nobody can outright reject it, lest it be undone.

    Are you putting it that the rules are a type of suggestion they can limit themselves to?

    I am saying that rules codify the restrictions people accept. A standard GM-player divide tells that players will mostly make suggestions related to their characters and GM will avoid suggestions related to the inner working of the characters. Having attributes means that players restrict their characters to suggestions that would be plausible given the attributes in play, or at least they assume that contrary suggestions will be shot down.

    In terms of your references, what grants them the right to assert this is how it is done? Or do they say that’s just how it is? What is their evidence for that, beyond whatever fame they managed to accrue for themselves?

    I, personally, find their arguments fairly persuasive and reasoning fairly sound.

    Here’s the explanation: Consider a game like chess or football (soccer thereabouts, I think). In chess people move strange-shaped pieces on a board. It is quite meaningless activity, unless both players accept (pretend) that it is meaningful.
    Likewise, when playing football, people must accept that it is meaningful to kick the ball around and that it matters that it goes to the opposing team’s goal, not your team’s.

    Both of these activities are only meaningful when people consider them to be so. (Gadamer, IIRC, also argues that art functions in similar way, though I am not quite as convinced about the truth of that.) Roleplaying is similar: Here’s this fictional world and what happens there is meaningful exactly because everyone holds it to be meaningful. It is a grand illusion. All games and all play is.

    I think this is going off track – how could an example of my rules of play aid you in telling me the rules of your play? You know how you play and the rules that its derived from – surely you can just tell me?

    Anyway by chance I’ve written up a piece that I was going to put up in a day or two in it’s own thread. So that’ll come up soon.

    Seeing your version helps me know what you are looking for.

    I’ll also go ahead and say that I do not necessarily know how I play; I do investigate it and find new aspects all the time, so I have some sort of picture. Even if I had complete picture of my play I might not be able to formulate it in rules, as they are a restrictive medium. I’ll give it a shot later, regardless, and you can ask more good questions to tease out a satisfactory answer.

  30. It is the baseline necessity for them even to participate. You can’t participate without the right to make suggestions

    I think this is the assumption that’s important to look at.

    Would you say “I have to be able to make suggestions in order to participate, therefore the particular way I give suggestions IS part of the game”?

    Because I would say “I have to be able to make suggestions in order to participate. There appears to be no rules in regards to actually doing this. Without such, I cannot make a suggestion. I could make some rules (or throw out this game for not having rules on such an important thing). This time I’ll choose to make some, but they are not part of the game everyone agreed to play. This is my own invention and I’ll make everyone clear on that”

  31. Are these sufficient rules for you?

    1. Players can make suggestions about what their character attempts to do.
    2. The GM can make suggestions about what the world does that does not directly affect the player characters.
    3. Both players and the GM can make suggestions that affect the world and the player characters; these are adjudicated by all players agreeing something happens or by rolling dice as determined by the specific rules in play.

  32. Hi Tommi,

    It’s not so much are they sufficient for me, but more a question of ‘if circumstance X comes up, what do you do? It seems possible to arrive at X by rules use, but there are no rules in regard to how X is dealt with at that point’. I envision it like a metal container, and where there are no rules to handle a situation there is a hole and the fluid inside pours out. I tend to think metal container because, perhaps glibly on my part, in terms of being a container alot of traditional RPG’s appear to be sieves.

    In your example (forgive the point form, it’s just for clarity)
    1. I don’t know what happens if not all players agree. Where do you go from there?
    2. How they determine whether they A: All agree or B: Roll dice. Who decides this?
    3. Not so much a hole, but the ‘specific rules in play’ seem to be fairly superfluous in terms of rules, if everyone can simply agree what happens rather than follow those rules. The only important rules in play seem to be your 1,2,3. After that any other rules in play are really pretty meaningless in terms of stuff you have to abide by, since instead of abiding by them you can just ignore them and agree what happens, it seems. This would seem to take any edge of play – if a character would have died by those rules, it can be agreed he lived instead. If his dying would have been upsetting for player A, instead of him having to accept he chose the ruleset and because of his own choice, needs to settle and internalise and actually grow a little bit as a person to accept it, he can avoid all that by disagreeing with it. Any event that might prompt personal growth as a player, has been undercut (I’m not talking massive amounts of person growth – just in little ways one could grow, but even that has been undercut).

    Wow, I didn’t mean to go on for so long with #3. It’s more of a different subject to holes, so I’m being disruptive to my own topic in saying it, yet contradictorily, I feel it needs mentioning regardless.

  33. (Point form is okay, or even desirable.)

    1. Everyone must agree for the activity to continue. I should clarify what I mean by this. Consider chess. Both players must agree on the composition of the board in order to continue playing for any length. In this sense everyone must agree.

    GM has authority on whatever happens that doesn’t immediately affect the player characters. Players have authority on the intentions and actions of their characters. Note that these correspond with what participants make suggestions about.

    The interesting case is where the broader world and the player characters influence each other. I’ll take an example from actual play. I’m the GM. Context: The characters are trying to enter a trance state and by that means another world. This activity requires dice, as has been previously established, and failure means that either the attempt is unsuccessful or there are complications. One player fails the roll. GM: “There’s three barbarians, faces painted, aggressive, yelling at you. They are dead; [description].” (I had the authority for this because the roll was failed.) P1: “Do I understand them?” (A suggestion about the character and the world.) GM: “No.” (Fiat decision based on the character being basically a French peasant who knows no languages and the barbarians being ancient natives from thousands of years past. Since I introduced the barbarians, I can make this call.) P2, P3: “Do we see them?” GM: “No, but P1 clearly sees something you don’t.” (I introduced the complication, I have the authority to make this decision.) P2 or P3: “I grab char1’s hand. Do I see them now?” (This is a suggestion that the char2 or 3 grab char1’s hand, which is about intention and trivial action and hence P2/3 has the authority, and further suggestion about now seeing the warriors; the bit about warriors must be accepted by me, since it is again about world and characters.) GM: “Char2 sees them. Char3 (who is blind) can hear and smell them.” (Suggestion was made and I could answer in any way; I decided to accept the suggestion as it would improve play by allowing all players to get involved. From now own physical contact allows one to see what others do, at least in the other world.)

    I’ll have to stop now. To be continued.

  34. Right.

    In the previous post there were examples of nonproblematic situations: Someone clearly had authority, where having authority means that other players are very likely to accept one’s suggestions. A bit later in that scene, after having found out that the spectres demand revenge and are enraged, P2 has has his character give a stirring, though magical, speech on how they have already been revenged. P2 implicitly suggests that they calm down and leave the characters alone. I can outright accept it or challenge it by offering that we take it to dice; saying no would be bad, as the solution is one that should work according to what everyone knows of the situation, assuming the character’s speech is could enough. So we take it to dice; success and the dead shrink and fade to mere earthen mounds.

    The point of this is that even if participants don’t initially agree, they can generally agree to taking it to dice, which are then used to solve the situation.

    2. Someone suggests using dice. It can be anyone. Most of the time dice are used if anyone suggests them. (“Most of the time” meaning that I can’t recall a situation were they not used after being suggested.)

    3. The interesting stuff happens at the level of fiction; rules are simply one way of figuring out what happens in the fiction. The rules are not supposed to do much more than (1) speed up play and allow easily skipping parts people can’t or don’t want to play through, but which are still somewhat important, (2) add unpredictability, (3) take responsibility and (4) shape the fiction. The play is not about rules or about manipulating the rules, like proper games often are.

    That all said, once we agree to use the dice, whatever result they give will not be altered. If some character is at risk of death and we roll dice in the situation and the dice tell the character dies, then the character dies. New bit of fiction has been established, and returning someone from dead tends to be difficult if not impossible. (In my current game it would likely take a quest to the Underworld in way similar to Orpheus or Hermóðr.)

  35. With #1, I totally disagree with the chess example. My evidence is that they don’t agree to a particular board configuration – they agree to a set of rules, like the rook can move vertically or horizontally. The boards configuration isn’t agreed to, it just needs to match the intial rules that were agreed to. Here’s the important thing: If it matches the initial rules that were agreed to, then absolutely nothing new has been introduced. It doesn’t matter what board configuration you have, nothing new is there if it was all arrived at by the prior agreed to rules. There is nothing new to begin with, let alone something new that needs agreement. Probably millions of configurations and none of them a new thing/none of them something that needs a new agreement.

    This is what I would call working under an agreement, not agreeing to whatever has been done just now.

    How does this affect the rest of your explanation for #1?

    #2 what does ‘use dice’ mean? If I want to do X and you Y, and you suggest dice, perhaps I make it a 99% chance X happens and 1% chance Y happens?

    If that doesn’t seem right…well to me, without any prior agreed rules in regards to anything, there is no right or wrong, good or bad. There’s no morality in terms of game design, as far as I know, so it’s as valid as any other combination.

    Are you going to answer that it wouldn’t be right? To do so would refer to a moral code. One that doesn’t exist in terms of playing games, as far as I know.

    3. The interesting stuff happens at the level of fiction; rules are simply one way of figuring out what happens in the fiction. The rules are not supposed to do much more than (1) speed up play and allow easily skipping parts people can’t or don’t want to play through, but which are still somewhat important, (2) add unpredictability, (3) take responsibility and (4) shape the fiction. The play is not about rules or about manipulating the rules, like proper games often are.

    To me, your 1,2,3 and 4 are rules themselves. Rules about how to treat other rules. Applying 1,2,3&4 is rules manipulation, as in flat out application of them as much as ‘checkmate!’ is.

    It’s just that they are ill defined – they have holes in them like I mentioned before, where situations could be arrived at but what to do next with that situation isn’t listed.

    But “The rules are not supposed to do much more than…” is indeed a rule itself, on how to use other rules.

  36. #1: I’d say there’s two levels of agreement. There might exist better terms for them, but for now, I’ll call them passive and active agreement.

    Passive agreement is required all the time for gameplay to be possible. Gaming is, by many definitions, inherently voluntary and as such it requires agreement in order to go on. This is the level at which people must agree on the positions in chess game; otherwise, the game can’t meaningfully continue.

    In Magic: the Gathering there are (usually) two players who play cards; they may also have counterspells, which counter certain cards played by the opponent, nullifying their effect. M:tG is a game where active agreement is necessary; every time you are playing a card that means casting a spell, the other player may be able to say “No.” by countering it, so the opponent must agree on your every spell. (There are other ways of reacting to spells, too.)

    For another example, consider children playing with dolls/action figures/whatever they play with nowadays. Or just playing house. In my experience from observing and participating in that play, it is constant active agreement and negotiation, though this varies by age. (Sufficiently young ones just do whatever they do and don’t try to get others to participate, I think.) To me they ask for agreement all the time, to a degree that retracts from actually playing.

    I’m not sure if roleplaying, as a general activity, requires constant active agreement, and if yes, to what extent. Maybe it is one of the many stylistic preferences permeating the hobby. Passive agreement is, as in all games, required. Or, to answer to your question, I can’t say. This is new territory.

    #2: When going to dice the difficulty level is communicated to some degree, often completely. When playing Burning Wheel I said something like “Difficulty four, and since you have 4 dice in the skill, chances of success are around one out of sixteen, if you want to take them.” Players have the right to take their actions back after hearing the odds. Sometimes they are completely unknown to players, but these are rare cases in my usual play. The chances are derived from in-fiction plausibility and what people find interesting, with emphasis on the first thing.

    #3: Actually, rules also help in communication, which is sort of important and which I forgot.

    Here’s the thing: You can certainly call those things rules. Whether such calling is correct depends on how the concept of rules is defined. To take a more pragmatic view, I don’t find it useful to think of them as rules in the same sense that the rules of chess are rules. They are in some way markedly different. I’m not yet sure what the difference is. Maybe I am imagining it.

  37. #1, I totally just don’t share common ground with this, it seems. There isn’t passive agreement in chess for agreeing to every board configuration. As I’ve said, it’s abiding by a prior agreement on various moves.

    To decide whether one would agree on any particular chess configuration, actually strikes me as rather childish. Rather than agreeing to rules and then abiding by the ramifications of them, it’s just going ‘hmm, will I agree to this or walk off’ over and over for each chess set up. This would demonstrate a lack of ability to abide by an agreement made in the past.

    And your magic example? Someone using a cancel spell is not disagreeing with the other person! For heavens sake, no! It’s a move, a move they agreed to prior to the current moment. You worry me by saying this is disagreement! You worry me by saying that abiding by a prior agreement, is disagreement! And I mean worry in a genuine concern for welfare, not in some horrible internet way.

    I’ll continue on, but by gosh, with such a huge lack of mutual ground, I’m not sure it’ll do any good!

    2. Well, these all sound like more rules. Particularly “Players have the right to take their actions back after hearing the odds” which almost sounds like legal text, it’s so rule like. There are holes, as mentioned before. But I’m seeing what looks like the rough draft of a ruleset, in what you say.

    Here’s the thing: You can certainly call those things rules. Whether such calling is correct depends on how the concept of rules is defined. To take a more pragmatic view, I don’t find it useful to think of them as rules in the same sense that the rules of chess are rules. They are in some way markedly different. I’m not yet sure what the difference is. Maybe I am imagining it.

    Well, if you the one defining what rules are, tell me how you define them?

    A. I might be a duffer and can’t understand you and am seeing holes where there are none or
    B. There are holes in it, which doesn’t make the RP rules different, you just haven’t defined them to me yet. Actually this is also the case in A, but due to me being a duffer
    C. If you communcate your definition to me and I understand (and assuming there are no holes that both of us are failing to see), well your definition is in itself a rule between us. Same as any rule in chess.

    Or maybe you’d call it an understanding rather than rule. Or a mutual ground. Whatever name you’d use, I’d say “my name for that is ‘a rule'”.

  38. To decide whether one would agree on any particular chess configuration, actually strikes me as rather childish. Rather than agreeing to rules and then abiding by the ramifications of them, it’s just going ‘hmm, will I agree to this or walk off’ over and over for each chess set up. This would demonstrate a lack of ability to abide by an agreement made in the past.

    Agreements can be broken. Passive agreement can be considered to be the same as not breaking agreements, if that makes more sense to you.

    Magic: I did not say anything about disagreeing. My point is that casting a spell is asking permission to have it happen. The other player may be able to say that no, it won’t happen. Whether the person is able to do this or not depends on the rules; namely, does the person have a suitable card in hand or in play to allow countering. The gameplay can be seen as a series of suggestions. It can still be strictly regulated by rules. These two things are in no way mutually exclusive.

    Rules: I haven’t investigated the matter enough to give anything resembling a definition. My gut reaction is that this has something to do with there being a system that can’t produce states not part of that system. Maybe that compared with those states being sufficient precise. I can’t really say at this point. Defining things is hard work.

    Rules as mutual ground: Are you saying that (1) all common understanding / mutual ground is rules, (2) all rules are mutual ground, (3) both (1) and (2) (note that (1) and (2) are markedly different claims, as is (3)), or (4) rules are in some fuzzier way similar to mutual understanding?

  39. Usually I don’t mind using other peoples names for something. But with passive agreement, no – it seems to refer to agreeing over and over, considering each chess board layout as they come and whether to agree or leave. Rather than agreeing once to the pieces movement rules and then abiding by that agreement. There’s a big difference.

    And on magic – honestly, you can’t get much closer to saying disagreement

    every time you are playing a card that means casting a spell, the other player may be able to say “No.” by countering it, so the opponent must agree on your every spell.

    If in your words they must agree on your every spell by not canceling it, then what is it when they cancel a spell? Not disagreement? What is the opposite of agreeing? Because they have done the opposite of agreeing, with the cancel?

    My point is that casting a spell is asking permission to have it happen. *snip* The gameplay can be seen as a series of suggestions.

    This is completely alien to me!! I don’t know how you agree to the rules with someone. But I’ll say when I agree on the rules with someone, then I’m not asking permission or making a suggestion when I play a card. I’m playing a card, that’s a legal card in terms of what we both agreed to.

    More specifically, if you were treating it as me asking some sort of permission to use a card, then we have a failure at the original agreement between us. In an agreement I enter into, No permission is asked. No suggestion is made. From the options which are legal, you just play the card you want to use. The other player does the same. Nothing is asked for, ever.

    I’ll contend this isn’t some mysterious thing about rules that disproves a point, it’s just that you agree to some giving permission/suggestions sense. If I played magic with you (I’ve never played it, BTW, just to note that), I wouldn’t actually be playing the same activity with you. Because I would be playing cards that are legal – I would ask no permission from you and don’t care about your permission (and in my sense of the agreement, you don’t care about my permission either, making it mutual between us). And you’d be seeing it all as asking permission. We’d just not be in the same headspace at all.

    Tying it back to

    Are these sufficient rules for you?

    Well, as I already stated, they have procedural holes in them, as far as I can ascertain.

    But beyond that, you seem to want to use rules like suggestions or getting permission. I don’t agree to rules use that way. If I wanted to ask you for something, I don’t need rules, I’d just ask you. I don’t know why you’d bother having elaborate rulesets if your just asking for stuff. I can’t imagine wanting to add up THACO merely so as to ask if you can hit the orc?

    With this schism between us, in terms of how we want to use rules, genuine play is not possible. We’d both be playing seperate little games and both of us under a delusion the other was playing the same little game.

  40. Actually, we could very well play Magic together. Roleplaying might be more challenging.

    The activity is not different, but our way of looking at it is. Hence, theorising about play proves challenging (see, for example, all our discussions). Designing roleplaying games together would probably be challenging, too, which makes it an interesting idea. But Magic we’d play in compatible way.

    First I’ll establish an axiom. If you can’t accept it even for this discussion, I fear we can’t communicate fruitfully.

    (A1)Life, and more specifically gaming, is a complex thing. It has several interesting aspects; one can look at it, say, from mathematical, psychological or sociological point of view.

    I believe that it is possible to inspect a given phenomenon in several ways so that the results of the examinations can’t be reduced to each other (in practice). That is, the different ways of looking at things, as postulated in (A1), are genuinely different.

    Next I’ll do a bit of violence to our positions in this argument. The way I’m looking at play is by seeing it as a chaotic (in the technical sense) give-and-take between players. I’ll assume two players for simplicity. I’ll take three games to consideration: Chess, Magic (hereafter M:tG for Magic: the Gathering), freeform roleplaying.

    I can easily analyse freeform roleplay. It is essentially a creative chaotic system; there is some original state, then players suggest what might be added to that state and so the process goes. It is very random, in that any given idea might be accepted and embraced and built upon or just forgotten.

    I can, with some difficult, investigate M:tG. It is certainly iterative and it has sufficiently little randomness so as to qualify as essentially chaotic. It has intricate balance and, say, the order of two cards in the deck might have large repercussions, so it is chaotic. It has some equilibrium states; both sides having significant number of creatures on the table, say. Few exceptions aside the life points of players tend to approach zero, so that’s an attractor.

    Chess is something that my approach can’t handle very well, at least given my current expertise in playing it (I’m an unskilled player). I can’t see the patterns yet, and there are comparatively few of them anyway. The game is in certain sense predictable.

    Your approach is to look at what happens at the rules level. (Exaggerated position, remember.) You have easy time with chess: There’s very clear set of simple rules which are followed and this is easily verified.

    You would have a bit harder time with M:tG, as the rules create a more complex structure, but it would not be inherently different. There’s clear rules and they describe pretty much exactly what is happening in play. People exactly follow them when playing (when they don’t misread the rules, that is).

    You have hard time understanding freeform play, as the rules, if any, are not explicit and are not immutable. So you’ll take trends and such and name them as rules so as to be able to analyse the play.

    The key point here being that both approaches highlight different qualities of the same activity. It is still fundamentally the same activity, no matter which theoretical view we take on it. Blind men describing an elephant and all that.

    So, considering M:tG. I can think of it in terms of asking permissions and so on and I can think of it in terms of taking arbitrary actions allowed by the rules. These two approaches are absolutely, totally, in every way compatible. The rules demand that the other player have a chance or interrupting your actions. Hence, every time you play one the other player may be able to deny your move (“I cast lava axe. Do you do anything?” “Yeah, I’ll counter.”). This is absolutely the same thing as asking permission to have the spell happen and the other player maybe has enough resources to say no, but maybe not. All done in accordance with the rules. There is no disagreement here, no opposing agendas.

    As for passive agreement: Well, I’ll adopt another name as soon as you suggest one. Or maybe I’ll call it some nonsense word. kplfd should have no meaning. Right. The players must continuously kplfd, else they stop playing. They can at any point stop kplfding by simply walking away, regardless of prior agreement. It may be impolite behaviour, but people are capable of breaking (implied or explicit) agreements. Hence, they must continuously consent to being bound by the arbitrary rules. If we are playing chess and I simply walk away, the play has stopped. I can do it even if I agreed to play chess. I can break the agreement. I must continuously not break it. This is usually not something that is actively done, because it is part of the very activity itself.

    (I’ve grown disillusioned with elaborate rules for the reason you state; they add too little to the activity to be worth the trouble.)

  41. So, considering M:tG. I can think of it in terms of asking permissions and so on and I can think of it in terms of taking arbitrary actions allowed by the rules. These two approaches are absolutely, totally, in every way compatible.

    They aren’t compatible – we don’t care about the same thing. If it doesn’t matter to you that we don’t care about the same thing, that doesn’t mean were in agreement, because it still does matter to me. If we don’t care about the same thing, were not compatable. That’s how it is, because that’s how I am. Any general assumption that ‘it doesn’t matter if the two players care about different stuff’ is broken upon contact with the being that is me. It matters – even if it never mattered before in the history of man (which I doubt).

    In terms of your passive agreement arguement, the same could be said for knifing the other player. People are capable of knifing each other. Players must continuously not knife each other for play to continue. It’s passive non-knifing. Continual passive non-knifing is part of gameplay.

    Except it isn’t. Or I’ll be more even – if a player is constantly considering whether they knife the other player, I wouldn’t call it a game.
    And if a player is constantly considering whether they keep within the original agreement, I wouldn’t call it a game.

    By the nature of circumstances, concentration should have centered itself on playing the game, not on whether you continue to play the game at all. That choice aught to have been forgotten and go unconsidered, because of two conditions A: Adulthood and B: The game is compelling in some way. If concentration is on whether to keep playing, A and B have failed, or something else is deeply wrong. Not as wrong as the knife example, but going in that direction.

    I’m looking back at what you’ve said

    The point of this is that even if participants don’t initially agree, they can generally agree to taking it to dice, which are then used to solve the situation.

    I’m thinking you mean the situation is actually whether everyone just stops playing. Whether that involves getting up and walking away, or just sitting back in a chair silently, or talking about a movie they saw, doesn’t matter. Basically the situation you refer to is that “play is about to end”? Is that right?

  42. They aren’t compatible – we don’t care about the same thing.

    When playing, yes, we do. When I play proper games (I have discovered that I don’t classify roleplaying as playing games) I try to win given the limitation imposed by the rules. When playing, I don’t care about the dialogue interpretation. When theorising, I can us the dialogue interpretation or I can see it as an activity based on following rules.

    Come on now. This is not a difficult concept. I can have a different point of view when playing and when theorising. I can switch between different points of view when doing either, too, but that is not relevant to this issue.

    By the nature of circumstances, concentration should have centered itself on playing the game, not on whether you continue to play the game at all.

    Exactly. Hence, “passive”. It is not something people actively think about, most of the time.

    When learning a game where I already know the mechanical rules but have no idea about the strategic rules (or what one should do) I often feel frustrated and consider whether to stop playing. This ends after I have understood how some particular game is supposed to be played. (Likewise, I don’t enjoy roleplaying unless I know what is the meaningful part of gameplay.) I’d still say I am continuously playing.

    <blockquoteI’m thinking you mean the situation is actually whether everyone just stops playing. Whether that involves getting up and walking away, or just sitting back in a chair silently, or talking about a movie they saw, doesn’t matter. Basically the situation you refer to is that “play is about to end”? Is that right?Nope, but I am too tangled in semantic knots to explain the difference. So I’ll have to start again.

    Roleplaying happens in a number of different modes. Normal play is just dialogue: People say what happens in the fiction, taking turns to do so. Sometimes people choose to outsource “what happens”; this is done by using whatever mechanics are in play (I’ll refer to them as dice). This often means that normal play stops, dice are rolled, someone interprets them and normal play continues.

    I’ll have to go now; there’s a bit more to write to complete this post.

  43. I messed the blockquote above. Should be

    I’m thinking you mean the situation is actually whether everyone just stops playing. Whether that involves getting up and walking away, or just sitting back in a chair silently, or talking about a movie they saw, doesn’t matter. Basically the situation you refer to is that “play is about to end”? Is that right?

    Right. So, rolling dice means that what one actually does in the fiction changes. This may kill immersion/flow/concentration (call it by whatever name you will), or, with experience, may not do so.The stop happens even more constantly in the case of involved subsystems, like combat in D&D and various other traditional games.

    A stop of more fundamental nature happens when it is found out that something has been communicated poorly. There’s a large rock and one participant considers it to be the size of someone’s head and another considers it to be a boulder that is several cubic metres in volume. Someone has to reimagine how things really are and someone must make this call (or it, too, must be negotiated).

    A more serious case of the above is when people disagree about how things work or can be. In this case I’d say the game proper is put on hold, unless someone is granted or has outright authority to overrule the subject. These situations are, depending on the game group, very rare or, if horror stories are to be believed, fairly common. Long digressions of other sorts are somewhat similar in nature, except they don’t influence the fiction and as such are not quite as relevant. There’s also rules issues.

    There’s also the rare case of someone, for any given reason, simply stopping to play.

    I don’t know which of these qualify as stopping the gameplay in your opinion. Also, play can often be easily resumed afterwards.

    A few more observations on using dice. Typically they are used when there is significant risk or uncertainty in fiction. Some games (I think Universalis; Burning Wheel does) tell to use dice to solve disagreements relating to the game by rolling dice. I remember at least one time where me and another player disagreed about how some rules worked and we decided to roll a die tosee which way we would use them in this game.

    So, as can be seen, there’s several levels at which dice can be used: Uncertainty in fiction (or other uses mandated by rules), which probably does not count as stopping play; mild disagreements between players, which is something of a borderline case; dice generally do not suffice in broad disagreements.

    Does this answer your question?

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