Fiction ‘Material reference’ mechanic

I was thinking about a discussion in the ‘Roots’ thread here and at ‘anyway’ about materially referring to the fiction.

In roots I’ve argued with Josh that no matter how much you refine your understanding of the imaginative space, you still don’t make contact with an agreement.

But here’s an idea…

Okay, the focus is on scrap metal and what’s good enough to repair a point of your armour, in this example.

The GM describes the piece of metal. Players can ask questions or whatever.

The thing is, the player has, by the rules, the ability to write down that the scrap gives a point of repair. It’s actually the players choice.

BUT in play it’s simply presented as the GM describing some scrap metal and then the player, should it appear to them as being able to repair armour, says “Okay, so that’s a point of armour repaired”. The GM never gives them a point of armour repaired. They refer ‘materially’ to the prior narration/description, and by refering to it they ‘know’ whether they can repair some armour. The description and such does not refer to the players ability to choose – it just describes what the metal looks like, and the player refers materially to the fiction to determine if he gets a point of repair. We don’t wave flags around with “Players choice” printed on them.

“BUT BUT”, you might say, “I would just always give myself the armour no matter if the description was of a rusted hairpin!”

And here I throw my hands in the air and shrug? I don’t know how so many gamers can say they are so much into imagination, but then say they are utterly and uncontrollably compelled to ditch the imaginative world and just always give themselves the point?

Even if you were playing gamist, it can be taken as adding personal challenge, by not giving yourself the armour when it’s a rusty hairpin. That acknowledgement of extra difficulty taken might take some extra organising at the start, but it’s still entirely doable.

Or am I just imagining this response and most readers would say “Oh yeah, I’d just go with whether it seemed to give me an armour point or not”? I’m really anticipating that former response though, and from people who think they can just materially refer to the imagined space already. Which seems a total contradiction to me.

Anyway, I really quite like the idea of this. It…how to put it? It decouples direct currency exchange? Like if you have 32 points to distribute on stats, that’s just a direct currency hand over to the player. But here the GM does not hand over any points. He just describes the metal. That’s all he does. Then the player gets a point! It’s not a point that’s handed over, it just kind of manifests from the imagined world – from that fluffy cloud Vincent keeps drawing.

That sounds rather nice to me – not earth shattering. But really nice. I think it might help give a feeling that usually only develops after an hour or so in my play experiences. Reflecting on that, that’s because after an hour the players are usually relying on something the GM’s said, in order to operate, rather than on the pure stats/currency the char gen gave them.

I often think of how my designs atleast start with a stark currency exchange. With this rule, they still would be a currency exchange. But at the same time it seems to draw from the imagined world. The world were trying to be inspired by, and so more attention to it as the source is a good thing.

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4 thoughts on “Fiction ‘Material reference’ mechanic

  1. Yes, this certainly is an interesting idea. I’d say that everyone needs to know that the integrity of the fiction is in their hands, as typically the game master or some other player takes that responsibility.

  2. Actually I see it as everyone else taking responsiblity for following where the player leads. If he sees a rusty hair pin as an armour point, everyone else has the responsiblity to follow that, even if it makes their teeth grate. Because the rule is he decides.

    Perhaps I should write that in, because it’s not supposed to be him having a responsiblity to give an answer the GM or someone/everyone else at the table would give.

    Now if he wants to do so, if he wants to try and answer in a way that everyone else would, thats nice and can be cool. But he isn’t handed some dreadful responsiblity to do that – he does it if he finds it fun to do. And if it is a fun thing, no doubt he’ll do it because of that.

  3. Oh, good! I thought you would have argued with that?

    In terms of the latter idea, It’s a fairly fun thing to have that sort of harmonised understanding between everyone, and everyones sort of trying to hold that up because it’s a fun thing. Sometimes it’ll fall by accident even though people are trying, or fall because someone just isn’t that into the particular subject at hand (and everyone isn’t into every subject, that’s understandable). But it’s not dreadful wrong that it drops, just normal and mundane. I think if its treated as dreadful when it drops, that sucks the fun out of holding the thing up. It should be treated as just being normal or mundane if it falls – just a flat thing, not a terrible thing.

    Also it’s a matter of making clear if it’s one particular fun thing to hold up the harmony during play, or if the fun point of play is holding it up. But again, even if its the point of play and that point isn’t met, it isn’t/shouldn’t be treated as a dreadful thing. Just a bit ho hum.

    Just being pedantic on some gaps in the agreement/procedure.

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