Fiat and a working game

In a previous thread on infinite options, Guy asked me this:

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?

Let’s clarify ‘fiat’ first. Were not talking about the car. That’s good to clear up. 😉

But more seriously, in game you could have a rule that whether your dex bonus adds to your gun attack roll is up to the GM, on any given roll. It’s entirely up to him. This is often referred to as fiat. I’ll call this ‘choice fiat’.

In a contrasting situation, the rule might be that your dex bonus NEVER adds onto your gun attack roll (this is the rule in Rifts, btw), but the GM declares you add it on (which is happening in the game of Rifts I’m in at the moment). This too is often referred to as fiat. I’ll call this ‘override fiat’.

And since were having such fun with defintions (being sarcastic at myself here, to try and add some humour to defining stuff!), what is a ‘working game?’

Is it a working game where people stay at the table until the end and don’t talk about non table subjects too loudly or too often?

Or conversely, how would you define a non working game, Guy? People leaving the table? Harsh words exchanged? People with arms folded, cross expressions?

I’d say people can be genuinely smiling pleasantly, talking about game book related stuff and interacting, and the game can still not be a working game.

I’d also say that someone can be using override fiat and people can still be genuinely smiling pleasantly, talking about game book stuff and interacting.

Now, to actually try and answer your question! Ta da! I finally got there!

I would say that people sitting around, genuinely smilling pleasantly, talking about game book related stuff and interacting means something is working. Let’s call it X and say activity X is working.

And certainly a working game would involve this, I think.

Now if that’s enough for someone, for them to consider it a ‘working game’, then that’s what they consider a working game. And apparently override fiat fits into it.

But I’ll be cruel for a moment – if someone considers banging their head against a wall a ‘working game’, then for them, it is.

So one way of sitting around and getting a ‘working game’ when someone decides to use override fiat, is to lower your standards. Way down. Low enough to still call it working.

That’s one way of doing it, where ‘it’ is to have a working game with override fiat in it.

However, people will often present these ‘working games’ as evidence that override fiat is just fine.

But hell, almost anything is just fine if you lower your personal standards enough. Or your standards weren’t high to begin with – though we don’t all have to share the same standards, so that’s okay.

But by the same token, if someone presents a ‘working game’ to you with override fiat and tells you “it’s great”, it kind of demands you have the same level of standards as them. Because if your standard is higher, you really can’t agree with them and talk about it as if “it’s great”.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Fiat and a working game

  1. You’re smelling the meat Callan, you’re circling the goal-post 😉 I hope it doesn’t sound condescending, but I think that while you know what is at the core, you have a hard time approaching it directly. That is, by the by, why most people discuss things, till they can make the breakthrough that will lead to the core and so they could stop circling, or, they got to the core, but others need to be lead in circles. Just like in Zen, all you can do is point.

    Fiat is an issue of what players (GM is a player here) will agree to. If people will not agree to it, the game-play would stop and people would have to hash it out. Then they’ll get to play again until another issue crops up. That’s how implicit but non-shared Social Contract becomes shared by it becoming explicit; an often painful process.

    Likewise, “Working Game”, you know what I mean by that, because a “Working Game” is no more, and no less, than what you will accept. What you will define as a “Working Game”. If something isn’t working for you, then it’s not a working game for you, furthermore, if gaming is a communal act, it could stop being a working game for everyone. Especially if they’re sitting at the table and make surly remarks.

    If you have a more rigorous standard, and play with other people, either you will leave, and it’ll remain a working game for them, or it won’t be a Working Game, either for you, or collectively.

    As for “Fiat” as it regards the rules and “Working Game”. There are two definitions: 1, a working game is about the social interaction, and when all the players are ok with what happens, it’s “working”. Fiat in this sense is ok so long as it conforms to the Social Contract that’s shared, and once something is raised that isn’t shared, the game stops working till the new Social Contract is established. If people disagree, and for instance, one of them has the Fiat control, the game can break and remain broken.
    2, Working Game is so long as the game keeps flowing. Here, not only Fiat, but being unsure about the rules, or any claim that does not fit the rules and is extraneous, can break the game-flow while people discuss the rules. This is not a “true” criteria, as it’s actually an outgrowth of the first, as this action being an affront to the Social Contract that says “The Game Must Flow!”.

    So long the SC holds, the game is working. So long as the Fiat does not contradict the holding SC, the Fiat is ok, and is more about a right inside the SC than something imposed on it (it’s imposed on the rules, but the Fiat is an SC Rule, which is higher, ala “The Golden Rule”), then the game keeps working. When Fiat breaks the game, it’s not because what the Fiat does, it’s because the Fiat breaks the SC.

  2. Callan, are you saying that games with override fiat are inherently worse than games without? Does this apply to roleplaying games? What about other kinds of games? Is it objective truth or personal preference?

  3. Hi Tommi,

    Well, that’s actually what I’m asking Guy, as ‘working game’ has been used in terms of it being an objective truth rather than based on personal standards/preferences.

    Why do I have to call what I want a personal preference, but treat as objective fact the idea there is a working game?

    But yes, these standards are my own personal preference. And my own standards do say games with override fiat are worse – indeed, they seem to contain evidence of it beyond mere preference. IE, Why do they need override fiat if they were so good to begin with? But back to my own standards, my own preference, yes, they are inherently worse and it applies to roleplay games too.

  4. Guy,

    I can’t really see your point, in a literal sense. You keep saying the game is working, when really that means for you the game would be working. This isn’t making any point to me except to state your values and personal preferences, over and over. It is fair enough to have personal preferences, but I think your trying to make a point based on objective truth. I don’t think I’ve overlooked any objective facts in your post, but if I have, can you quote them?

    “When Fiat breaks the game, it’s not because what the Fiat does, it’s because the Fiat breaks the SC.”
    How can fiat be an agreed to part of the SC if it can break the SC? I’m just going to focus on this since it baffles me?

    Surely if all of fiats capabilities are agreed to, then they are by definition agreed to. None of those capabilities could break SC because, well, their agreed to??

    Do you mean capabilities of fiat that aren’t known to begin with, and thus can’t actually be agreed to?

    Because I’d define something as being a problem when it does things I did not expect and do not like. And that’s why override fiat, with it’s unexpected capabilities, is shit. That is, based on my personal standard of not liking being surprised by shit I didn’t agree to and don’t actually like.

    Do you just look at the other side, where it does things you didn’t (in the past) agree to, but do like, upon experiencing it?

    I’ll just note that using an agreeable way of using fiat to counter the previous shit uses of fiat doesn’t redeem it. Slipping into crude humour for a moment, that means it can hose the game down after taking a dump on it. Fantastic!

  5. Hi Callan. I’m not saying you have to think in some particular way.

    Right now, the reason you are saying games without fiat are better than those with is that they just are better. There are two options here. First is that you hold fiat in game to be simple undesirable. The second is that you hold fiat undesirable because it does something you dislike. I should also say that people often want to justify even the preferences and beliefs they have that really can’t be justified. Do you want to and can you explain yourself more?

  6. Before responding to the previous post I’d like to know in which, if any, of the following examples there is working play. All assume there are two people playing.

    1. Two players moving pieces on the board according to rules of chess, but making no attempts at winning or anything else, really. They just move the pieces.

    2. One player is trying to have the other win without the other person figuring it out.

    3. One player is using a gun to force the other to making certain moves.

    4. The players have agreed to always eat the queens of each other when possible. Other than that, they play to win.

    In practice: Do the intentions of players matter as to whether something is working game? Is it sufficient that they follow the rules? Can they voluntarily close some options?

  7. Callan, Fiat to me is the option of someone to make a statement and that statement will be true, by force of that person having said so. Performative Speech. Like a GM who says “You fail.”

    If the Fiat is agreed to, it is all fine. If the Fiat is not agreed to, the game breaks up. It is of little consequence whether it had been discussed before or not, what matters is when it is uttered, whether it is accepted or not. Talking about it beforehands is useful, so people will be more likely to only use accepted Fiat.

    As to the Objective-Subjective, I do not think that you overlooked anything, you, as you said, don’t understand my point. The point is this: If, for your subjective taste, the game works, then it objectively works for you. It is almost tautological. It doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t have enjoyed it Callan, not one bit. It matters whether the players actually playing the game do. And if they do, the game works.

    No, not the game-rules as written, which may be disregarded, but the game as the social activity.

  8. Tommi,

    From here it looks like your focusing on my personal preferences and how they can be dismissed because personal preferences can’t be justified.

    I don’t think your thinking about whether what you take to be objective fact about a ‘working game’ is actually just your own personal preferences/standards and not objective fact at all.

    If you keep focusing on my personal preferences, I genuinely think your trying to avoid that. I’ve specifically said those are my preferences, and I think it’s pretty clear by saying that they are no galactic standard. By focusing on it, you kind of avoid any question of whether what you take to be objective fact about a working game may simply be personal preference. So ask yourself whether what you take to be objective facts on a working game are just your personal standards.

    On your examples, those are very strange people (ignoring #3 for now). If your the sort of odd person that likes someone who does those things and decides to play with them, then it’s a working game for you two.

    If your playing with someone odd and you don’t like the things they do, why are you playing with them? Either you kinda dig the odd things they do, or don’t play with them – making rules to block out the odd things they do seems kind of like blocking out the kind of person they are, rather than making a choice about whether you game with them, warts and all.

    Rather than voluntarily close some rules, decide if you want to play with that person or not. The weird play is an expression of their own personal self – closing some rules is just denying that personal expression. Best to just not play with them if you want to block that.

    I don’t think #3 is a working game. Though it might be possible, I don’t like to imagine the emotional darkness it’d require.

  9. Hello Guy,

    If, for your subjective taste, the game works, then it objectively works for you. It is almost tautological. It doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t have enjoyed it Callan, not one bit. It matters whether the players actually playing the game do. And if they do, the game works.

    The game works strictly for them, as in their personal standards

    Which is how I answered your original question in my original post

    So, how do people sit around and get a working game, even when someone decides to use fiat?

    I’m kind of uncomfortable with how you finish off, saying “the game works” without the caveat that it only works under their specific personal standards. I feel it’s a tad missleading to finish off that way.

    Talking about it beforehands is useful, so people will be more likely to only use accepted Fiat.

    So there is unaccepted fiat as well?

  10. There is unaccepted Fiat.

    It either begins as something you say which others do not accept and then is negotiated into being accepted, or you talk it out, and it is not accepted (by all or by some), and then either one side has to swallow their hats and accept something they disagree with, or they don’t, and people go home angry.

  11. I think there is no other criteria to “Working Game” than “Working for the group in question”, when talking about “Game” as the “Social Activity”, if you talk about “Game” as “Rule Corpus”, then yeah, people often make a broken game work for them without fixing it for anyone else.

    I think Social Contract as Mechanics join into helping ensure that there’s the ability to transfer discussions; that when you and I talk about “Game”, it is mostly the same thing between both groups, because the two meanings are joined. And even if not, if you just help them discuss it amongst themselves by the “Rule Corpus” you still enable them to have a more successful “Social Activity Game”.

  12. Callan, you misunderstand me. I am not dismissing your personal opinions, I’m just interested in knowing them. Up to you.

    If your playing with someone odd and you don’t like the things they do, why are you playing with them? Either you kinda dig the odd things they do, or don’t play with them – making rules to block out the odd things they do seems kind of like blocking out the kind of person they are, rather than making a choice about whether you game with them, warts and all.

    Rather than voluntarily close some rules, decide if you want to play with that person or not. The weird play is an expression of their own personal self – closing some rules is just denying that personal expression. Best to just not play with them if you want to block that.

    What sort of rules are you arguing against here? All rules? Reactionary rules? Something else?

  13. I brought up the subject of this being a matter of relative standards, in order to look at whether what you might consider to be objective facts are actually standards. Looking just at my personal opinions in issolation is going onto another subject entirely.

    “What sort of rules are you arguing against here? All rules? Reactionary rules? Something else?”
    Could you say in your own words what you think I was saying, in the block quote? I’m pretty sure your answer is there, and I can’t see where it’s failing you?

    Hello Guy,

    I’ve thought about that and I’m thinking no – assuming game first and asking questions latter doesn’t seem a good approach at all. It validates what another person does as being ‘a game’ even when on latter reflection you might not call it that.

    I think for my own standards atleast, I might make a marked change and simply say in future I assume there is no game (in terms of my own standards) until I see evidence otherwise. It’s just activity X until then.

  14. Looking just at my personal opinions in issolation is going onto another subject entirely.

    Yes.

    As for the quote: I see you arguing against rules that close some behaviour. But since practically all rules are restrictive and hence close behaviours, you’d be arguing against almost all rules, which I find unlikely. Hence, confusion.

  15. Tommi, your examples are of people who love to have a certain intent when following the game rules.

    Either you share the love for that intent, or you can find it in yourself to share that love somehow. Either that, or you just don’t share a common interest.

    That’s not a non working game, that’s a non working relationship (atleast in the department that is doing this activity together). The game is working, oddly enough, if they are both following the rules. but if they don’t love the same intent for play, that’s a non working relationship between them. Working game, non working relationship.

    You can’t fix up a relationship with game rules. Your examples are entirely outside the jurisdiction/control zone of rules. I’m not arguing against rules – I’m saying they have no effect on the kind of examples you gave. Your examples are all at the relationship level, where rules cannot reach. Because as said, rules can’t reach there because it’s a matter of whether you like/love the same intention. If you don’t, rules can’t help with that – you just don’t like the same intent as each other. Like that movie title “He’s just not that into you” your just not into each others intent.

    I guess you could invent rules to try and block off behaviour which would show you don’t like the same intent, but that’d just be denial of the fact that you don’t like/love the same intent.

    Edit: Actually the fourth one with eating the queen piece seems to be the insertion of a house rule (unless it’s only eating the queen after capture, or eating it then replacing it with another item which will be treated as the queen anyway). That’s a different subject.

  16. I’m in agreement. Mostly. I don’t think it is a priori impossible to enjoy an activity where the participants have different goals, and further I have no reason to assume that rules could not be used to bring about this state of affairs.

    The standard GM-player thing is, I think, a prime example of this. Two different activities that make each other more interesting and rewarding.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s