Roots

Something was going wrong and my efforts ended up taking up space over at anyway. So I thought I’d draw some pictures!

#1

thingie-chess

#2 Anika’s Odyssey, an adventure game in the classic style

thingie-anika

#3 Most roleplay games

thingie-highground

I’m aiming for the impact of having #2 and #3 being identical and almost entirely identical to #1.

Though I have to spoil that impact and say that in Anika’s Odyssey, there are hints towards a pre determined solution. In #3, there is no pre determined solution. There is no correct answer. Or to be exact, no person has pre determined a correct answer. Which means there is no correct answer.

It’s hard to describe this. It’s like horoscopes – people take the ‘right answer’ from them, that they want to see. You’ve probably heard the old example of a classroom of teenagers who are handed their ‘personal’ horrorscope. They can’t look at each others. They are then asked how well it describes them. The majority say it describes them really well.

They all have copies of the exact same text.

They all drew from it what they wanted to draw from it.

Same goes here. A player will see the answer they want to see, in regards to whether someone gets high ground.

The problem in roleplay culture at large, is that they don’t see that they do this. It’s not a problem in itself, it’s actually kind of fun to ‘see’ an answer (like pretending wrestling is real is fun, or ‘reading’ tarot cards is fun). It’s only a problem if you can’t see that your inventing answers. It’s only a problem when you think you refer to the imagined space to determine if someone has high ground, rather than simply inventing the result.

This goes against the desire of most sim players, I imagine. Because they want the integrity of some kind of internal truth to their imagined worlds, and they are refering to that ‘truth’ that they ‘see’. For it to simply be self invention utterly is makes it completely flimsy and loses the ‘truth’ that made it so compelling.

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32 Comments

  1. Tommi said,

    10 April, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Naturally fiction is invention of the people playing. It can still be referred to.

    A bunch of characters is in a high tower in a castle. They just climbed a long set of stairs to get there. There’s attackers coming from below. Now they can get +2 for high ground, because they clearly have it, having ascended the stairs. (Assuming the fictional world works pretty much like our own and stairs just don’t disappear for no good reason.) Here, the fiction is referred to.

  2. Callan said,

    10 April, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    As I noted in a comment here: http://www.lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=432#11628

    The fiction can be refered to about as much as tarot cards or tea leaves can be refered to.

    Or if someone went into the stairwell with an express meaning of getting +2, then why are they playing in a game where someone else decides if they get +2? Some sort of thrill of expressing a meaning and having it happen without them pressing the button that activates +2?

  3. Tommi said,

    12 April, 2009 at 10:47 am

    The fiction can be refered to about as much as tarot cards or tea leaves can be refered [sic] to.

    Maybe so, but there’s another dimension to gaming: That referring to is constantly over a long period of time and people learn what different things in the fiction mean. Besides, tarot cards and tea leaves are by far more alien to people than any world similar to ours is. Most worlds in which roleplaying happens are quite similar to our world almost everywhere. Hence, the way people understand them tends to be fairly similar.

    Or if someone went into the stairwell with an express meaning of getting +2, then why are they playing in a game where someone else decides if they get +2?

    Whose permission is asked is wholly irrelevant. What matters is that the fiction can be referred to and works in fairly consistent manner. The +2 is just one way of saying that high ground gives a combat advantage, which is something happening within the fiction, which is what matters.

  4. Callan said,

    14 April, 2009 at 12:22 am

    All you’ll be hearing are words, not worlds. And words are the same as tarot cards. It’s difficult to get that point across, because I’m only using words.

  5. Tommi said,

    14 April, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Words do not have precise meanings. They do have fairly narrow meanings. Exposure to same media and knowing other people further allow people to understand each other better.

    Words define the world to some degree, or, said in other words, restrict it in some ways. Roleplaying can be seen as the process of continuously redefining an imagined world. The ambiguity of words is why human judgement is required, and why computer “roleplaying” games are a very different medium, at least given current technology.

  6. Callan said,

    15 April, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Well, some old couples start finishing each others sentences, they get each others meaning so much.

    It seems rather a pointless to keep ‘refering’ to the prior spoken fiction to finally get someones meaning, when they could just tell you to begin with. As I said before, is there “Some sort of thrill of expressing a meaning and having it happen without them pressing the button that activates +2?”

    Couples who have been together a long time can say stuff without much context and the other person gets their meaning.

  7. Tommi said,

    17 April, 2009 at 4:46 am

    You are thinking of meaning in a distinctly different way than I am.

    Meaning if what you attribute to the activity, and the fiction, as a whole. Like you attribute meaning to the game of chess as a whole in order to participate.

  8. Callan said,

    20 April, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Well, I don’t, by which I mean I don’t have to attribute any meaning to chess to be able to play it, I can just see the procedure and follow it.

  9. Tommi said,

    21 April, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    So, you are presented with chess board, check that it is your turn, check what moves are available and perform one of them randomly? Or the first one you figure out? Since you assign it no meaning, winning and losing are not relevant descriptors, for if they were, the game indeed had meaning. I wouldn’t say you were playing the game any more than a computer program that always made a random move (because it is programmed thusly and has no other options) was playing the game.

  10. Callan said,

    22 April, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Pretty much. When I first play new games, this is pretty much the case. And I realise any meaning I attribute to it latter is my invention, not inherent to the procedure.

    Anyone who thinks they get +2 to hit because some stairs were previously narrated, is inventing some meaning. In default, normal circumstances, just because someone invents a meaning, doesn’t mean anyone else has to carry that meaning as well. If you, for example, invent the meaning that the stairs give you +2 to hit, in default circumstances that doesn’t mean I have to suddenly adopt your invented meaning. I say no to you, they don’t give you +2, because the rules say I decide and by default I don’t adopt every meaning you invent about something.

    I imagine you’ll say that you didn’t invent the meaning that the prior narrated stairs give you +2. You’ll say it’s right there, already in the fiction and if anyone simply ‘refers to the fiction’, they’ll see it too? Am I way off? I wouldn’t normally second guess in conversation, but I’m making up for the slow chat pace in guessing.

  11. Tommi said,

    22 April, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Pretty much. When I first play new games, this is pretty much the case. And I realise any meaning I attribute to it latter is my invention, not inherent to the procedure.

    Are you trying to win when you play a new game? If yes, there is some meaning there.

    When teaching games, I try to always give some basic heuristics and tactics so that the other person can meaningfully play.

    I imagine you’ll say that you didn’t invent the meaning that the prior narrated stairs give you +2. You’ll say it’s right there, already in the fiction and if anyone simply ‘refers to the fiction’, they’ll see it too? Am I way off? I wouldn’t normally second guess in conversation, but I’m making up for the slow chat pace in guessing.

    Stairs may be in the fiction (if it has been referred to previously, or if it can be inferred; in the latter case, it is not as strongly in the fiction, but to some degree, it is). Stairs giving +2 is not in the fiction. Rule such as “+2 for high ground” is not in the fiction. One can, and needs to, refer to the fiction in order to use this rule. (Some other rules, like wizards can cast one spell per day, are in the fiction.)

    So, assuming a rule like “+2 for high ground”, after the existence of high ground has been established and further some character is using it, the +2 is given. There’s no arguing about it. Them’s the rules. (Assuming, of course, that rules like “spears negate high ground advantage” do not exist.)

  12. 24 April, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    […] dice, cloud-to-cloud, moment of judgement, dice and cloud and finally GM fiat. Callan also posted something related. The conversation may continue there or elsewhere; it is supposedly related to old school gaming in […]

  13. Callan said,

    26 April, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Are you trying to win when you play a new game? If yes, there is some meaning there.

    No, I’m trying to figure out what it is, before I try and beat it. Until I figure out what it is, it doesn’t exist in terms of my perception. You may as well mention the card game ‘sdfdsfds’, because as much as that game does not exist except for a name, nor does any other new card or board game exist to me, except for a floating name. At one point, ‘chess’ existed to me as much as ‘sdfdsfds’ does now. You can’t beat what doesn’t exist. So no meaning at the start. When I do add meaning, the particular meaning I add clearly isn’t needed to follow the procedure since I just went through it with no meaning attached. It can be followed like a math equation can be followed.

    When teaching games, I try to always give some basic heuristics and tactics so that the other person can meaningfully play.

    This kind of bugs me, in a way I don’t think I can adequately describe, yet feel I must say. Offering some advice that can be declined, that’s fine. But telling them regardless? It steps on them developing their own meaning for the game, if they wished to. Indeed it implies it wouldn’t be meaningful play unless they carry your meaning? Because it’s not the games meaning you’d be telling them, it’d be your own meaning that you’d be telling them.

    So, assuming a rule like “+2 for high ground”, after the existence of high ground has been established

    Who established it? Or if you wouldn’t say anyone established it, describe when it was, at what point during events at the gaming table (ie, what was said) was it established? I’m pretty sure it’ll be right after someone has said something. Which in practical terms means that person established it. And in further practical terms your not refering to the fiction, your refering to his choice.

    There’s no arguing about it. Them’s the rules.

    This is just a black curtain! Did the fictional imagined space somehow develop a real world voice and speaketh “He hath the high ground!”? No? Then someone at the table keeps saying he has high ground, but then says they aren’t saying it, the fictional world is saying it. Except it isn’t. It has no voice. It’s a fiction.

    It’s possible to imagine a world so richly that it seems to speak to you. It seems to compel an answer. I think that’s why many people enjoy the hobbit and the lord of the rings trilogy. Did Bilbo love food? The compelling answer – the answer the fiction seems to speak, is yes. But as much as it seems to speak to you or to me, it is not speaking.

  14. Tommi said,

    28 April, 2009 at 7:57 am

    When I do add meaning, the particular meaning I add clearly isn’t needed to follow the procedure since I just went through it with no meaning attached.

    Of course one can follow a procedure without assigning meaning to it. I just don’t count that is play. (All gaming is play, by definition.) Your definitions may vary.

    Offering some advice that can be declined, that’s fine. But telling them regardless? It steps on them developing their own meaning for the game, if they wished to. Indeed it implies it wouldn’t be meaningful play unless they carry your meaning? Because it’s not the games meaning you’d be telling them, it’d be your own meaning that you’d be telling them.

    You use the word meaning in a strange way.

    Anyways. Games typically have a victory condition. Trying to achieve that is a fairly fixed meaning. Nontrivial games have what is called strategic rules: Heuristics that, when followed, generally make victory easier. For example, in chess the pieces are ranked in power and losing a low-powered piece to remove a high-powered piece from the other player is typically a good idea (but not always).

    I’m not saying that “this is the right way to play”. Rather, I’m saying that “this is a decent way of playing”. Once they get a handle on the strategic rules, they’ll doubtless start creating their own heuristics. Before they do that they are walking blindfolded. If someone enjoys that, fair enough, more power to them. I don’t. Most of the people I have met do not. So, I assume most people do not.

    Which in practical terms means that person established it. And in further practical terms your not refering to the fiction, your refering to his choice.

    Yes. The fiction consists of communication and of what can be inferred from it. “There’s a castle with high towers.” Now people can refer to the fiction, that is, the castle and the high towers. They can also refer to the stairs, though not with as much credibility, as those are only inferred; maybe they are crumbled or something. Who established the castle, or for what reason, is no longer important; we know there is a castle.

    So, in practical terms, I am very, very much referring to the fiction. How it came to be is no longer relevant. Maybe the group decided that we will use this book as a starting point and everything written therein is true at that point in fictional timeline. Now we can refer to whatever is established in the book.

    Then someone at the table keeps saying he has high ground, but then says they aren’t saying it, the fictional world is saying it.

    Of course. This does not contradict my point in any way. Once high ground has been established, that’s +2. Maybe someone says “also take +2 for high ground”. Or maybe you roll dice and say “so, that’s a total of 11 with the +2 for high ground counted in”. Or maybe you just grab two extra dice for having the high ground.

  15. Callan said,

    2 May, 2009 at 9:33 am

    The fiction consists of communication and of what can be inferred from it.

    Why are you inferring anything from it?

    Couldn’t the guy who said it, just tell you? He’s at the table, after all?

    Edit: To be more specific, there seems to be more than the one option (ie, inferring). When their are several options, why are you choosing this one? And in asking why I’m either asking for reasons, or simply to be told it’s your preference to do so. If it’s your preference, that’s fine, but at the same time your preference isn’t supportive evidence for some other idea. It is the way you want to do things, but it isn’t supportive evidence for how something operates.

  16. Tommi said,

    4 May, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Why are you inferring anything from it?

    Couldn’t the guy who said it, just tell you? He’s at the table, after all?

    The world is a complicated place. If we were seeing a castle, we would know a lot about it. When describing a castle I have to rely on your ability to complete the picture, because I simply can’t describe everything I would see if I were looking at an actual castle (or what I see when I form a mental image of a castle and observe it carefully). The first reason for making inferences is inability to completely describe any given scene.

    As to why I infer a particular set of facts and not some other one? That’s hardwired in people, as far as I know. Imagine a car. It probably is of come colour, and possibly of some particular model.

  17. Callan said,

    4 May, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    When describing a castle I have to rely on your ability to complete the picture

    I don’t know what you mean by ‘have to’? To begin with, we were talking about the guy who thinks his PC might get +2. Dealing with him first, he could easily think this “Hey, that description makes me think I might be higher up on the steps and get +2. I know, I’ll ask Tommi to see if thats the case, since he described it.

    So there’s still more than just the one option of him inferring whether he gets +2.

    And back onto ‘I have to’, why do you have to and in the aid of what? I thought we were talking about the guy and whether he achieves +2. What are you trying to achieve in the example, that you ‘have to’ do anything? So far I’d thought of the GM trying to achieve nothing except to describe something he’d imagined.

  18. Tommi said,

    5 May, 2009 at 11:39 am

    I thought the conversation had already drifted elsewhere and commented accordingly. Hence, I have no idea where to take this conversation right now.

  19. Josh W said,

    13 May, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Hey Callan, some words are coming at you, in a reply frame. I bet you’ll guess a person sent them! What kind of thing is a person? Well you can import details from pre-existing people, or even your previous experiences of the same supposed person.

    You build a thing in your head, and maybe you talk to it out there, assuming there really is a person to reply to, and then you fit it’s replies into the picture in your head, shifting your understanding of the thing your talking to.

    This is a basic perceptual mechanism, the ability to import properties via similarity and then adjust via experience of differences.

    You can do the same when in an rp context; the social contract idea of describing the world, like this reply frame, puts a context on the words said by people. You can know when they say “you see a castle” they are not starting a rap, they are talking about imaginary things, if that’s still too ambiguous, use ritual/special language to mark out when you are doing it. You can import your previous pictures of a castle, and then say “so does it have crenulations on top” or something else. Now this questioning and answering makes conversation very different to tea leaves; you can ask the tea leaves “did you mean this?” and try to have a conversation, but the lack of pattern will convince you that talking to tea leaves is a waste of time!
    But with talking to people about a fictional element, you can fine-tune your interpretation by continuous feedback. Then once this has been done, you can use the shared understandings you have created by this meaning transfer loop, and you can use them as a basis for games: People have played games of chess with imaginary boards, so not only was the “meaning” imagined, the board was too. But because they could create a sufficiently nuenced conversation, they could keep a coherent mutual picture, and even trick another player using elements of the imagined board. Tricks the other player could work out the roots to and agree with!

    What you are basically denying is the capacity to reach agreement on what something is via conversation, the ability to make our mental pictures match up in all the details we consider important. If we can do this, we can use these mechanics. Me and my freinds can! It has reality and substance in that it is imported from the outside world, which is tested by experience, and it has substance in that it is formed out of our mutual patterns of agreement. We can rely on that substance in order to play rpgs without irresolvably disagreeing on whether gravity makes things go up or down.

    You say that no one person has determined the answer means that there is no answer is false; if I pick a row of a map, and you pick a column, which square did I pick? None. You? None. But together, we picked that one. Our previous agreement to pool our deciding efforts means that together we choose something, as a group. The same is true for SIS events; we could each choose the region in which it will occur, and those restrictions add up until we have a small region of events, that we hand to the dice.

    So we decide possible outcomes by checking the pre-agreed items, or pluming the owner of the object’s brain for more info, or asking the GM, or some other mechanic we choose. Then we apply the rules to those assertions “OK we established you are higher than them, [check rules] in that case the rules state you get a +2”.

    The moment the mutual agreement of a specific fact has been established, you plug it into the rules and see what pops out. The only question is whether, and how, you agree that “fact”.

    But apart from all that I agree with you: Players think they know “how it should go”, and state that they have the high ground. If another player disagrees, then you go though various contortions to agree to the properties of the imaginary chess board in order to come to the appropriate agreement, which as I stated before is whatever the group comes to via the partial answers of the players. You should do that instead of throwing a screaming tantrum! It’s only “how it should go” if we all agree to it, or rather, it’s only “how it will go” if we come to the appropriate level of agreement, you can retain your own opinion of how well a job we did!

    What do you think? Does that cover it? I’m happy to be defeated if wrong. 😛

  20. Josh W said,

    13 May, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Actually that specific situation of the imaginary chessboard may be an urban legend, as I can find no record of it! I’m sure there are other examples though.

  21. Callan said,

    13 May, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Hi Josh,

    This is a basic perceptual mechanism, the ability to import properties via similarity and then adjust via experience of differences.

    Which doesn’t mean its given a correct result.

    In terms of your arguement, your refering to plugging in imaginary information into a pre-agreed construct. The rules of chess are pre-agreed. The rules of warhammer quest and what squares are classed as high ground, are pre-agreed. What your refering to is “I’m imagining I’m on this square *points at pre-agreed high ground square*, am I?”. That works, I totally grant.

    However, your trying to apply it to a situation where there is no prior agreement and here, your arguement totally collapses. It does not matter how much you talk to people to fine tune your interpretation. There is no prior agreement – you can’t fine tune so much you get agreement from someone, without having asked them for it. Fine tuning interpretations does not generate agreements.

    You can’t fine tune so much you can simply assume you have high ground, like you could in the warhammer quest example, because in that example the square you pointed at had prior agreement about it being high ground. In that case all you did was fine tune the interpretation until it finally made contact with a prior agreement (ie, which exact square your guy is on). Then you went with what was previously happily agreed to, ie, that it was a high ground square.

    If you think you’ve fine tuned the castle example so much you can just apply +2, your just cheating. No ones granted it to you and no prior agreement grants it to you.

    Obviously you can ask directly “Do I get +2 from height advantage”, but what you’ve been refering to is fine tuning your understanding so much you know without asking. In my warhammer quest example, your completely right – you just need to know if your guy is on a certain square, to know without asking. In any situation without prior agreement to come into contact with, your wrong.

  22. Josh W said,

    13 May, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Ok, I’ll explain what I mean: Imagine a car. I’ll agree to set a scene inside the car of your choice. That’s a social contract. Now I’ll ask, how many seats does that car have? Or what colour is the outside? These kinds of properties form the chessboard. Now how can I act without asking a million questions? Well you can give a description of the fictional car, but I’ll still need to ask questions to check I understood you right
    We also add something else to the social contract. You agree to imagine a car that is like one that we drive around in, or that is different from it in ways you mention. That’s the “realism” clause that people often put into roleplaying games. The second clause that is implicit is that the world won’t change massively without you telling us. IE you won’t suddenly imagine a car that is twice the size and expect me to deal with it without telling me. And when I say, you won’t imagine it, I mean that you will set apart in your head all the crazy stuff you could imagine from the stuff you are imagining for me.

    OK so far? Now at this point I’ve suggested all that stuff, if you agree, then we can start putting things together. You ask me about my stuff and I ask you about your stuff and we put the two together to form the finished scene, or at least what happens next. Say I imagine someone chops the car in half. The agreement to attach parts of our imaginations to each other, a real agreement between human beings, requires you to change your current picture of the car as one that is in half. Now apart from being in half, what else is it like? Is it an electric car that is sparking? Is it a petrol car leaking fuel?

    You get to decide these events, from scratch. But I can still go “So the car is leaking fuel yeah?” And you look at your imaginary car and say whether you think it should be or not. You might then ask me “Which way did he chop it in half, side from side or top from bottom?” and then I’ll say “Right down the direction of travel, cutting the passenger seat from the driver’s seat”. Then on the basis of your prior commitment to realism or explanation you could say. “A little fuel dribbles out of the engine, but the car wasn’t filled up, so there’s not much in there.”

    I adjust my imaginary car appropriately to fit your ability to decide these things.

    So getting back to your example, imagine an empty chessboard representing a hillside. I first ask whether my guy is on that square, you say yes. Then I ask which way the hill is sloping in terms of the squares around me. You tell me, and then I say, “well in that case I have higher ground than this person”.

    So what’s the point of all this? It means that people who get the rules and bonuses and stuff have to engage with all this stuff about syncing up imaginations. The point of such rules is to force us to have this kind of conversation, and to assert in rule form the importance of such agreement.

    Is there another point to it? It also avoids front loading all of the detail into a map. IE if the map is the decider, if it’s not on the map, it doesn’t exist. But if the map is just an imperfect representation of the world you are trying to create, then you can add details to it over time. You don’t just agree to a map and thus form the limits of expression of relevant world details.

    Now you mentioned cheating, and that’s pretty important; if a player just decides he has a mechanical bonus from something he did. Like he knocks over a square pillar and stands on it for high ground, then is that cheating or just inventiveness? In a boardgame that might be impossible, but part of the value of playing an rpg and not a boardgame is that you can make new tactics like that! Now notice the action and how it relates to “chopping the car in half” earlier. You control the grid, I control my character, who may be able to change the grid’s properties by his actions. If he chops over the pillar, he has given me the right to change part of the world, although the exact behaviour of the pillar is up to you. I might say “he chops down a pillar to make a platform to fight off” but you could say that the pillar crumbles into an unsteady mass from the hight of the fall. Now the rules might state that unsteady has a meaning to resolution, perhaps even that an unsteady surface cannot be used as high ground. But if it can, then the rules state my guy gets the bonus, from the new agreement we created now. In my personal experience, such a point is not generally covered by the rules, so either we decide it applies, and ignore unsteadyness (by whatever agreement rules the game runs under, classically GM decision, sometimes unanimity), or we create a rule for unsteadyness and roll to see if it applies. Agreeing to let the dice decide what we cannot.

  23. Josh W said,

    13 May, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Oh, to clarify the last two sentences, either we agree by the usual ways whether we add a new rule for unsteadyness or ignore it, or we agree to let the dice decide whether a new rule is added. It can work both ways obviously!

  24. Callan said,

    13 May, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Ok, I’ll explain what I mean: Imagine a car. I’ll agree to set a scene inside the car of your choice. That’s a social contract. Now I’ll ask, how many seats does that car have? Or what colour is the outside? These kinds of properties form the chessboard.

    As I’ve said, fine tuning your imagination does not create an agreement between you. A chessboard is an agreement. Unless for some reason your refering to a square piece of wood with smaller squares on it, some white, some black, in a chequered pattern – in which case, I don’t understand what you mean by refering to such a chequered object?

    Were running over the same ground here already, just repeating ourselves.

    Say I imagine someone chops the car in half. The agreement to attach parts of our imaginations to each other, a real agreement between human beings, requires you to change your current picture of the car as one that is in half

    As I understand it, it requires both people to change their imaginations, not just me to change my current picture. And if they are working it out together, there is no room to go and just tell the other guy you have height advantage or whatever. It’s a negotiation – and as such it’s the same as directly asking someone ‘Can I have height advantage?’ rather than asking whether your on square X/a square that grants height advantage.

    If your trying to say that because you imagined the car cut in half, I have to imagine it exactly as you say, well then if you have the right/rules backing to do that, you may as well tell me if you get height advantage or whatever is involved. We’d be working exactly from your imagination. I don’t know why you’d ask someone else whether it’s leaking fuel, if everyone else has to match your image?

    So getting back to your example, imagine an empty chessboard representing a hillside. I first ask whether my guy is on that square, you say yes. Then I ask which way the hill is sloping in terms of the squares around me. You tell me, and then I say, “well in that case I have higher ground than this person”.

    Unless you’ve come into contact with some prior agreement, then your certainly skipping any negotiation as well. This is just cheating.

    but part of the value of playing an rpg and not a boardgame is that you can make new tactics like that!

    Is it? Where’s that written down? Officially noted?

    In other words, what stops you from, every time you want to get something, saying what you do to get it is ‘part of roleplay!’?

    I don’t mean deliberately – I mean that you genuinely think you get to do something, but really you just invented it in your head in your enthusiasm. I’ve seen plenty of people do this and sadly I’ve done it myself. What stops you from doing that, without intending to?

    If he chops over the pillar, he has given me the right to change part of the world, although the exact behaviour of the pillar is up to you.

    I’m just being pedantic on this, but its worth mentioning. ‘he has given me the right’? By he, you mean your PC? A fictional character is granting you rights?

  25. Josh W said,

    14 May, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Not quite, repeating; you mentioned that we cannot create agreement by fine tuning. I can agree with that, but I suggested that we agree to an underspecified thing! It’s like I set up a function that takes an input from you, and as long as it fits the requirements of typing etc, then my function will accept it. I don’t know what you’ll tell me, only that it will be within bounds we agreed at the start. Now that is obviously hypothetical, but the idea would be that we would create a shared “space” to operate in, that is the context for our actions. It behaves like the chessboard in that it structures interactions, and it is a board we agree’d to use.

    On the rights thing
    Yep, the fictional character, like a police badge that is lawfully mine, is granting me rights! The character is obviously only doing so because in such games he is created as a shared fictional element with those properties. And the properties are set by the original loosely bounded agreement.

    So let’s get through to what I think is the crucial bit here, which I will state more strongly than I mean: I love it when people cheat cleverly!

    More restrictively, expandable rulesets and GM rulings of player tactics outside of the explicit textual rules have been considered my me and a number of people I play with and know to be an intrinsic advantage of the tabletop rpg over strictly defined games such as boardgames or computer games.

    Why? Because they allow players to play with the level of rules fidelity and subtlety they want, by adding to the base.

    Also, I don’t necessarily just want a bonus, it’s more like playing a first person shooter in a level based on giant version of your living room, you might want to see if you can create tactics to fit out of curiosity and that! So I’m trying to play in the world you created, as part of the challenge, so if you put a hill there, I want the +2, if you put it somewhere else, then I want to get my character to stand over there instead, or if some other tactical feature intervenes, stand somewhere else!

    That’s just one of the ways we play, and we say at the start that we are doing it.

    Oh I also missed a step with the hill example; I should have included

    is he here?
    is opponent there? <—-
    does ground slope down from me to him?
    then I have the high ground!

    although you could argue I missed out rather more steps:
    http://www.ditext.com/carroll/tortoise.html

  26. Josh W said,

    14 May, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Ah, typo there, I meant to say

    More restrictively; ……

    as in “a more restrictive formulation of what I mean is ….”

  27. Callan said,

    14 May, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Not quite, repeating; you mentioned that we cannot create agreement by fine tuning. I can agree with that, but I suggested that we agree to an underspecified thing! It’s like I set up a function that takes an input from you, and as long as it fits the requirements of typing etc, then my function will accept it. I don’t know what you’ll tell me, only that it will be within bounds we agreed at the start. Now that is obviously hypothetical, but the idea would be that we would create a shared “space” to operate in, that is the context for our actions. It behaves like the chessboard in that it structures interactions, and it is a board we agree’d to use.

    I don’t really understand what your describing, Josh? From my perspective it seems like your describing talking into a box, then the words constrict how you can talk into it latter. As if there are pre agreed ways that words constrict latter words.

    If we were throwing counters into a box and had pre-agreed if I throw a fire red one in, no blue water one can be thrown in, yeah, that works. I think your trying to say that obviously if you threw certain words into the box, that would clearly restrict latter words that could be put in or grant a +2.

    Over on anyway ( http://www.lumpley.com/comment?entry=448 ) there was this example:

    “Oh man, that’s it. I shoot him. I empty the cylinder.” Is your character shooting a gun at somebody?”

    Vincent then went on to say

    Example: Notice how stupid this would be to actually say: “I empty the cylinder at him. Hey GM, am I shooting a gun at somebody?” That call isn’t one that anybody needs a GM to make. Any group is perfectly capable of interpreting “I empty the cylinder at him” to mean shooting a gun at someone, no GM required.

    In that thread, I said that if I were programming a computer game, I would indeed have to tell it that emptying a cylinder is ‘shooting a gun’. The game wouldn’t know, because the connection between the ideas is pure invention on the part of humans.

    Your box relies on peoples contextual inventions being the same. And I’ve seen so many threads and had not a few experiences, where such an assumption leads to uproar – with everyone thinking they are right.

    It doesn’t work – it works as much as a minefield works as a path. It only seems to work when bull headed, loud participants wield social contract like a whip and crack it, either just talking over other people or declaring people jerks or whatever so as to try and prove it works but what went wrong was someone was being a jerk, but not calling them so much of a jerk that they stand up and walk out.

    People start calling friends jerks, in the name of preserving a stupid game. And it’s because they are all certain their little inventions for the context of words and strings of words are somehow at a galactic level, not an invention, but the RIGHT one. It’s like a bonsai version of a holy war, I say to add some dark humour.

    But your still certain your strings of words mean X, or whatever you think they mean, right? So much so that your certain that when you use them, the are touching on some great agreement between all men on what words mean. And in touching that, your certain the whole thing works like the warhammer example works (where you touch onto the high ground square).

    It doesn’t work. There is no great agreement to touch on. Call it the babel principle, if you like.

    I wont even touch on the contextual inventions that ‘cheat cleverly’ might involve in every individual present.

    If you want to walk the minefield, but when someone else steps all over your context you don’t blame them but blame the babel principle, that seems problematic and an often breaking down play, but atleast not socially distructive play. That could work, in a break down and repair it potentially every five minutes way. Saying that as to try and work out some contructive direction you might be refering to, rather than just saying ‘no, your wrong, your idea does not work and is a trip through a minefield’.

  28. Tommi said,

    15 May, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Your box relies on peoples contextual inventions being the same. And I’ve seen so many threads and had not a few experiences, where such an assumption leads to uproar – with everyone thinking they are right.

    It doesn’t work – it works as much as a minefield works as a path. It only seems to work when bull headed, loud participants wield social contract like a whip and crack it, either just talking over other people or declaring people jerks or whatever so as to try and prove it works but what went wrong was someone was being a jerk, but not calling them so much of a jerk that they stand up and walk out.

    Personally I have not experienced this.

    The key is to accept the contributions of the other people unless they seem flat out impossible. If something is unlikey, maybe get a die and roll it. Regardless, the base assumption is to accept what others suggest. Another key idea is that everyone can veto what is suggested, but this right is rarely used, because again by default people accept what each other suggest.

    It is not assumed that people understand what is narrated in the same way. It is assumed that the understandings are similar, which is true most of the time.

  29. Callan said,

    15 May, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Hi Tommi,

    I’ve really been focusing on Josh’s idea that prior narrations can ‘structure interaction’. If your pretty much accepting anything, there’s not alot of structuring of interactions going on – I think you may be talking about something else entirely?

  30. Tommi said,

    17 May, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I am talking about the same subject. Example time.

    “I [meaning my character] cut the car in half! Does any fuel leak out?”
    “Yes, invisible unicorns do.”

    That prior narration structures interaction means that the above dialogue won’t happen, assuming cars work roughly as they do in our world, as opposed to by using invisible unicorns. I’m fairly certain that among most roleplayers it is clear that invisible unicorns are not a form of fuel that leaks out of cars.

    So, what did I mean then by being accepting of what the other player suggests? My point is that there are almost always several reasonable potential ways a situation could go, and players should be open to accepting any of them.

    Prior narration determines a (fuzzy) set of ways a situation could develop. It is up to players to find some particular way in which the situation does develop and keeping an open mind is a useful technique for making the process easier.

    This contrasts with your example, where evidently someone first decides that fuel must come out of a car cut in half and then they ask if that indeed happens, arguing if a wrong answer is given. I could hardly call that functional gaming.

  31. Callan said,

    18 May, 2009 at 3:41 am

    That prior narration structures interaction means that the above dialogue won’t happen, assuming cars work roughly as they do in our world

    I don’t really see any evidence for the assertion that dialog wont happen? I don’t see how a piece of fictions existance alone will ensure this dialog would not happen?

  32. Tommi said,

    18 May, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    The dialog won’t happen because people respect the prior narration. Actually, let me take that back. Respecting prior narration is one form of respecting the established fiction, which also includes agreements about the genre of the gameplay and what sort of world the play happens in and so on. That general process of respecting the established fiction is what prevents invisible unicorns. How? Adding the invisible unicorns would be in contradiction with the established setting and hence it is not done.


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