2009-05-13 : Now where WAS I...

Oh yes.

There are three things I've been sloppy about distinguishing, and so have you probably, that really need a sharp line drawn between them. They're connected but distinct.

Here's the first: Rules that refer materially to the game's fiction.

- The first time in the conflict that your character shoots a gun at somebody, you've escalated to gunfighting.
- If your character's girlfriend is in danger, you get +3 to your roll.
- If your character has been in the presence of the King Wolf today, your character's enemies bow down before her.

Here's the second: It requires judgment, interpretation, to know.

- "Oh man, that's it. I shoot him. I empty the cylinder." Is your character shooting a gun at somebody?
- "Through the radio, you can hear Melissa screaming." Is your character's girlfriend in danger?
- "Straight from the King Wolf's court, I ride out to meet my enemies." Has your character been in the presence of the King Wolf today?

And here's the third: Maybe the GM should judge?

- "I empty the cylinder at him. Hey GM, am I shooting a gun at somebody?"
- "Through the radio, you can hear Melissa screaming." "Hey GM, does this mean my character's girlfriend is in danger?"
- "I go from the King Wolf's court to meet my enemies. Hey GM, has my character been in the presence of the King Wolf today?"

Particularly, the conversation so far has really tied the first to the third, unnecessarily, and that's my fault too. But no, having rules that refer materially to the game's fiction absolutely does not require that the GM have any kind of final say, or even that there be a GM at all.

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.

1. On 2009-05-13, Mathieu Leocmach said:

Can a Game design supporting Step on Up! use rightward pointing rules of type 2 or type 3 ?

I would say no in order to prevent in-game conflict of interest going to player level. But this may be too definitive, so I'd like to hear your opinion.


2. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

My opinion is, sure, of course it can.

You do have to prevent player-level conflict of interest, it's true. That can be where a GM comes in.

If in your game the GM has conflicting interests already, like "in this game the GM is the other players' opponent, trying to beat them," you'll have to come up with some other clever way to do it.


3. On 2009-05-13, Mathieu Leocmach said:

If you had a plan to write about these rules in no-GM game design, I'd read eagerly. If not ... well it's your blog, go on.


4. On 2009-05-13, Ryan Stoughton said:

Wait... lightbulb possible; are the examples actually just applications of rules like these:

1.  The first time you take an action in the fiction that increases the danger of death in that situation, you've escalated the conflict.

2.  If someone your character deeply cares about is in danger, you get a +3 to your roll.

3.  If your character has been in the presence of someone with someone of absolute authority, your opponents will bow down when you encounter them?


Do you mean the rules should actually refer to the really specific stuff with very clear judgment calls?


5. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

Mathieu: That's what Rob wants too, I think. Talking about it might require me to design a game to use as an example, though, so hang in there.


6. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

Ryan: My example rules are the exact rules I'm thinking of, yes. As though in the rulebook it uses literally the word "girlfriend." Maybe there's a whole different rule for when your boyfriend's in danger.

Now, your 1-3 are still quite, quite specific. They're plenty specific enough for my purposes.

For instance, in Dogs in the Vineyard the rules for escalating a conflict go like this:
- The first time your character shoots at someone, you've escalated to gunfighting.
- The first time your character just talks to someone, you've escalated to just talking.
- The first time your character does something physical but nonviolent to someone, you've escalated to physical but not fighting.
- The first time your character attacks someone but not with a gun, you've escalated to fighting.

"The first time your character takes an action that increases the danger of death" would fit right in, it's not any less specific than "physical but nonviolent." Same with your others.

So ... I DO think that the level of specificity matters, in general. But I wouldn't say "the more specific the better," necessarily. I'd say "choose the level of specificity that suits the rest of your game's design."

(This is one of the serious problems with retrofitting this kind of rule to In a Wicked Age. The rule's same level of specificity has to work whether you're playing a midwife in a mud town or an ancient demon-god of avarice and war.)


7. On 2009-05-13, Roger said:

Here's a non-GM-mediated rule of this sort:

"Any time during an episode, any player except the producer can take a token from the audience pool and award it to another player as fan mail."  (from Primetime Adventures)


8. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

Nope! Where's the reference to the game's fiction? I see player, token and player, no character or character's girlfriend or King Wolf.


9. On 2009-05-13, Roger said:

I may have cut my excerpt a bit too short (or maybe not.)

"What the award is for depends on the player awarding it, but it can include snappy dialogue, great use of traits, exciting narration, advancement of the plot, or whatever makes the game more fun."

So, yeah, in theory, I could award you Fan Mail because you brought the pizza to the game.  In my Actual Play experiences, though, I'm awarding you Fan Mail because you totally shot your own mother in the face.  I don't need a GM to tell me that's exciting.

If this just isn't a good example of what you're getting at, that's fine too.


10. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

Yes! That additional sentence changes my answer. A good example.

That's, as you say, IF you read "whatever makes the game more fun" as limited strictly to in-fiction things. Which I believe most people do, and should; it's pretty strongly implied.

So, yes, good example.


11. On 2009-05-13, Matt Wilson said:

A lot of people who play TSOY apply keys without GM approval.

A better example from Primetime Adventures is having a scene on your personal set.


12. On 2009-05-13, Meserach said:

Dogs in the Vineyard already takes a different approach than "GM makes the judgement", though, doesn't it?

Like with whether a trait has been used or not: if I recall my rules correctly, it is closer to "the hardest-to-please player makes the call, backed by the GM".


13. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:


There are a million examples of rules like this that don't depend on a GM to make the call. I think that Rob and Mathieu are looking for more - a whole GAME that uses rules like these and doesn't have a GM at all.


14. On 2009-05-13, Roger said:

A lightbulb just went off in my head—thanks, Matt!

So, yeah, the personal set rule is something like "If you're having a scene on your personal set, uncheck a trait on your character sheet."  No GM involved.

But there's the whole process of getting a scene on your personal set, which involves the GM.  This process isn't about an arrow coming out of the fiction, though.  It's about an arrow going into the fiction.

So that whole discussion in the podcast—"I take the high ground" "There isn't any high ground around there"—isn't about an RPA at all.  That conversation is about an arrow going into the fiction.  If that conversation really was an RPA, it'd be more like "I have the high ground so I get +3"  "Yeah, you do have the high ground, but I'm deciding you don't get the +3" which pretty much everyone agrees is just bad.

RPAs are not about establishing what's in the fiction.  That makes everything in my mind a lot clearer.


15. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:



16. On 2009-05-13, Josh HB said:

If I'm interpreting this correctly... Mist-Robed Gate is composed pretty much entirely of rules that refer materially to the fiction (all the mechanics are pretty much either "when thing X happens in the fiction, use this system" or "you can do X once for each Y in the fiction") but it does not, by default, have a GM.


17. On 2009-05-13, Josh W said:

I've got a step on up game that works that way, but it only applies to physical objects: That game is a specific edition of warhammer 40k! It's the one with the section in the back that says "you can add new scenery rules, just make sure you agree what they do before you get into the game." And "if you can't decide, roll for it, then stick by those rules for the rest of the game."

What the first rule does is forces players to agree on an element before they know who will use it, like cutting the cake and letting the other person chose which side. The second rule allows the rules structure to expand indefinitely, to cover all kinds of weird eventualities.

I've lost count of how many times I've found such a rule useful!


18. On 2009-05-13, Valamir said:

"There are a million examples of rules like this that don't depend on a GM to make the call. I think that Rob and Mathieu are looking for more - a whole GAME that uses rules like these and doesn't have a GM at all."

You Universalis...


19. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

Mm, Universalis is all about the commoditization.


20. On 2009-05-13, Valamir said:

In Universalis I'm playing a character.  On the character sheet it says "Big Frakkin' Gun x3".

We have a scene, there's a bunch of fictional stuff going on.  It leads to a Complication.  I say "I take out my big frakkin' gun and threaten to shoot him in the face".

That means I get to take 3 dice and add them to my pool.

I get to do that because in the fiction something happened that allowed me to call on that trait.

How is that any different from "I empty my cylinder into him" allowing me to escalate to Gunfighting?

Above you have:

"If your character's girlfriend is in danger, you get +3 to your roll."

In Universalis the rule is:

"If you demonstrate how your Trait applies, you get to add that many dice to your pool"

Not seeing any difference there.


21. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

Fair enough!


22. On 2009-05-13, Matt Wilson said:

Hmm. Is there a difference between the RPA being "as it's happening" and "after it happens?"

I think Uni's traits could potentially end up working like "I'm doing this with love, so I'm rolling a d8."


23. On 2009-05-13, Vincent said:

It's a thing. "You get the die if you justify it" is not a good solution, overall (although it might be perfect for a given game). Often that winds up with the player creating a pointless insertion into the fiction, never to be referenced again, instead of the group treating the fiction as though it were real and salient.

Whether and how often Universalis falls prey to this, I don't know. I know you can play it rigorous, like you can In a Wicked Age, but I don't know how easy it is to play lazy. (In a Wicked Age is pretty easy to play lazy.)


24. On 2009-05-13, valamir said:

I'm not sure I see the distinction you're making.

Ultimately all such rules come down to having to justify you note yourself in your example above of
"I empty the cylinder at him. Hey GM, am I shooting a gun at somebody?"

This is essentially asking the GM to confirm that your statement of emptying the cylinder is sufficient justification to claim the escalation.  The only question is how obvious the justification Dogs is it enough to just point the gun?...what if you fire it in the air?...what if you fire it at someone but intentionally miss as a warning shot?  Aren't those just different attempts to justify grabbing the dice that require judgement? (I can't remember if in Dogs the rule is specifically that you have to be shooting at someone...but you get the idea).

Same thing with "+2 from taking the high ground"...also subject to lazy play issues.  How many times can a character jump up on a table to claim the high ground?  Is standing on the tree stump sufficiently high to get the bonus?  Etc, etc.  All such rules can be "worked" all such workings require judgments all judgments must weigh the proposed justification.

I can't see a hard line distinction here.


25. On 2009-05-13, Roger said:

It's the difference between the arrow pointing out of the cloud and the arrow pointing in to the cloud.

"I'm going to get a +3 on my roll by taking the high ground" is a deposit into the cloud—the arrow is going from the player into the cloud—that also has a mechanical effect.  "Since I'm on the high ground, I get a +3 on my roll" is a withdrawal from the cloud—the arrow is coming out of the cloud.

It took me approximately forever to figure this out.


26. On 2009-05-14, Callan said:

Is this a thread about specific games? If not...
"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."

If I were programming a computer game, I would have to tell it that emptying a cylinder is classed as 'firing a gun'.

So you do need a GM, or more precisely, a human, to make that call. Somebody has to do it. I don't see roleplay as getting away from what computer game design faces? Does it?

The problems arise when it's not clear exactly who is to do so. Though if no one contests/challenges you declaring your cylinder emptying is gun firing, then this problem doesn't show up - atleast for now.

Disclaimer: If I'm more pointed in this post, it's because I've thought were talking about facts rather than goals. Someones goals can't exactly be challenged (well, maybe if they hurt people, but otherwise no), but asserted facts aught to be challenged and tested. That always takes more 'pointiness'. :( And if this is a thread that has required reading/play, then I'll leave it there (just please don't hit me with any more facts after I've stopped so as to forfil an agreement on needing to have played the right games and can't contest the fact - that's no fair!)


27. On 2009-05-14, Christian Griffen said:

That's the point, though, Callan.  Some calls are obvious and don't require judgment, as long as all people involved are rational.  A rule like "when your character bashes in a window with bare hands, the character takes 1 point of damage" doesn't need a GM.  Every rational person will be able to tell when someone in the fiction of the game does this.

A problem with GM-less games and these kinds of rules is that the same people who have the authority to establish the fiction are the ones whose characters benefit from the rules regarding the fiction.  That is, in a GMed game, the GM says "There's a hill" and the player says "Aha, I use it to get the high ground."  In a GM-less game, the player simultaneously says "There's a hill, and I use it to get the high ground."  So players in a GM-less game have a strong motivation to let the fiction be influenced by the rules—that is, we get left-pointing arrows rather than right-pointing arrows.

The same is true for Universalis, Ralph.  Sure, justifying the use of a trait looks a lot like using the fiction to trigger a rule.  But because every player in Universalis has the same authority as to the fiction, there's at least a temptation to establish the fiction in a way that will let you use your traits.  That's just not possible in a GMed game.


28. On 2009-05-14, Callan said:

Oh, I'd just rather follow rules on who gets to say what, than to get into who is or isn't rational in what they say. But that's me, wanting to avoid that sort of ground.


29. On 2009-05-14, valamir said:

Not buying it.

Everything in the game world is made up.
Everything in the game world is "inserted into the fiction".
Everything that is inserted into the fiction has to first be suggested by someone.
Everything that is suggested by someone has to be accepted by everyone else.

That's all basic system stuff.

Who does the suggesting, who does the accepting, that's all just design choice.  It doesn't change the direction of "arrows".  It doesn't even make sense that it would.

The only distinction one could make is to recognize that at any given time some of the people doing the suggesting will have a vested interest in what they are suggesting while others have a vested interest in something else, and others have no particular interest one way or the other and (at least for this instance) are thus said to be "objective".  However to postulate that once we designate some individual as "The GM" that we can rest assured that this person will now always be that "objective" party strikes me as a whole lot of wishful thinking.

No matter who is wearing the GM hat, 1 person or noone, you're going to have a distribution of people with a vested interest in seeing the suggestion get accepted. a vested interested in seeing in not get accepted, or no particular preference one way or the other.

One can try to set up the GM as the impartial aribiter who never has a preference (although for my money I'd just as soon put a down payment on some prime Florida real estate than rely on that) but even so all you're doing is creating a mechanism for vetting what gets suggested before it becomes accepted.

Even in a game with a GM I'm going to be all like "is there a hill here so I can get a +2" and the GM is either going to say "sure" or "I don't think there is".

This is in no way functionally different from my saying "I'm going to use this hill to get a +2" and the GM then saying "sounds good" or "no, there isn't a hill here"

At which point it becomes pretty clear that all you have to do is come up with some other mechanism for saying "sure" or "no" and you have the exact same effect with no GM.

Universalis uses Challenge mechanics to accomplish that.  But whether the game vets suggestions through a GM or through a group based Challenge mechanic doesn't change the direction of the arrows.  Its all just fiction being made up.


30. On 2009-05-14, Josh W said:

I can agree with that, challenge protects the logic of the setting, and complication deals with it's uncertain events. I notice that if people have been having too many rules disputes, then they will have quite low pools of coins, encouraging them to go full pelt into complications to refresh them. One interesting feature of this is once you get into a situation that starts causing loads of fractures in your understandings, the natural response is to change loads of stuff!
That way groups hopefully will skirt situations where they get really bogged down, if only because they random-walk out of them.


31. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

Ralph, do you see the difference between these two?

- If you insert into the fiction that your character's girlfriend is in danger, you get +3 to your roll.

- If in the fiction your girlfriend's already in danger, you get +3 to your roll.


32. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

I'll add: in the Dogs in the Vineyard example, those two collapse to the same thing. Something like "if in the fiction your character shoots someone, you've escalated to gunfighting, so if you want to escalate to gunfighting, have your character shoot someone." The moment of insertion is the moment of interpretation.

The other two examples don't collapse in the same way, normally. (In some games they could, but not in most games.)


33. On 2009-05-14, Weeks said:

Vincent, I don't.  I mean, I do, but I think it's an illusion.  Someone, at some time, made your girlfriend's danger.  Presumably, the creative agents behind that situation knew the rule about the +3, right?  So it seems like a trivial difference regarding in what slice of time the change in situation takes place.  Or is the difference that you're getting at, WHO the creative agent is?


34. On 2009-05-14, Matt Wilson said:

Even in Dogs, I bet the fiction is often better when you set a trait up for use a move or two in advance.

I have nothing to back that up, so feel free to quiet me down.


35. On 2009-05-14, valamir said:

Week's answer is exactly how I would respond to your question, Vincent.

"If in the fiction your girlfriend's already in danger..." simply means someone inserted it into the fiction previously.

(where of course "inserted" means suggested and had accepted as part of the SIS through the System)

Your next post I find very interesting...where you indicate that in Dogs the two collapse together.  That me says..."these two things are for all essential purposes...the same thing"

Which actually puzzles me more how your trying to distinguish them.

It strikes me that the primary difference is one of timing.  In one, things inserted into the fiction earlier are being used now.  In the other, things inserted into the fiction now are being used now.  Either way the mechanism of suggestion and acceptance are the same, only the timing is different.

A useful observation...but really just a routine pacing, reincorporation thing.  Not some fundamentally different approach to the fiction.


36. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

Weeks: What I'm getting at is delayed gratification, intermittent and unpredictable rewards - Pavlov stuff.

Significantly, delayed gratification, intermittent rewards, and unpredictable rewards - they're all counter to fairness, counter to "you get what you pay for." "You get what you pay for" has been driving indie rpg design for a little while now and I'm clearly seeing places where it doesn't give me what I want. As a designer and as a player both.


37. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

Ralph: I don't care one measly bit about the mechanism of suggestion and acceptance. Not one! I haven't for years.

This is all about how the fiction gets used, not how it gets created.


38. On 2009-05-14, valamir said:

You can't seperate those things Vincent.  Fiction can't be used until it get created.  Unless you're postulating game play where absolutely nothing can be used or even thought of unless the GM has previously listed it as being present, then a big part of the fiction is ALWAYS going to be created simultaneously with its being used.

In a computer game you can't (typically) invent new stuff in the fiction, you can only play with what's there.  And you accept, as a limitation of the medium, that not everything that should be there will be.

But around the table, that's not how it works.  If we're in a bar and I want an improvised weapon bonus I'm going to say "I grab the nearest bottle and bash this guy with it".  Until that moment no bottle had been mentioned.  But we're in a bar, it makes sense for there to be one there, so POOF a bottle magically appears in the SIS.

That bottle already existed in every single one of our PERSONAL Imagined Spaces (cuz we all know there are bottles in a bar) so it was painless to move it to the SHARED Imagined Space.

But, regardless of how painless it was, that's still fiction being created at the moment its being used...and by the person who's benefiting from its use.

There's no way around that.  How fiction gets used is inescapably tied to how it gets can't discuss one without the other...unless you're talking a computer like platform where there are no bottles in the bar unless they're listed in the inventory block in the prewritten scenario description...which I don't think you are.


39. On 2009-05-14, Mathieu Leocmach said:

Valamir #29
However to postulate that once we designate some individual as "The GM" that we can rest assured that this person will now always be that "objective" party strikes me as a whole lot of wishful thinking.

By the way, is "GM" in the 3rd type rule always "Game Master" ? Or could it be "Gina Mary" ie a third party player ?

I must say that I like pushing further and further hypothesis. Is it possible to design a game with only type 1 right pointing arrows ? Can a Step on up! game work without GM and still be a roleplaying game ?


40. On 2009-05-14, Graham said:

Weeks: What I'm getting at is delayed gratification, intermittent and unpredictable rewards - Pavlov stuff.

It will kill me if I don't point out that this isn't Pavlov stuff. Skinner stuff, perhaps.



41. On 2009-05-14, Adam Dray said:

I love the bottle example. Just saying.


42. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

Ha ha! Well, lord, don't let it kill you, Graham. I am cheerfully corrected.


43. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

Here are some example rules:

When your character attacks with a weapon that you invented and introduced as a player just within the last half hour of play, roll 1d6.

When your character attacks with a weapon that you invented and introduced longer than half a real hour ago, back to the beginning of the game, roll 1d8.

When your character attacks with a weapon that somebody else invented and introduced just within the last half hour of play, roll 2d6.

When your character attacks with a weapon that somebody else invented and introduced longer than half an hour ago, back to the beginning of the game, roll 2d8.

Here's the rule for inventing and introducing things: If you say something's there, it's there, unless anybody else genuinely thinks it's stupid, in which case it's not there. (Complain about this rule and you'll get the quick dismissive answer you deserve.)

There. A batch of rules that are all about when and how you USE fictional details, but the mechanism for creating the fictional details is identical.

These rules are going to have a significant effect on what the players say and what they pay attention to each other saying. Compare Dogs' rules for weapons:

The rule for inventing and introducing things is identical (if you say it's there, it's there, unless somebody thinks it's stupid). However...
When your character attacks with a weapon:
If it's normal for what it is, roll 1d6
If it's big for what it is, roll 1d8
If it's high quality for what it is, roll 2d6
If it's both big and high quality, roll 2d8
If it's crap for what it is, roll 1d4
If it's a gun, roll an additional 1d4

These rules will have a whole different effect on what the players say and what they pay attention to each other saying.

This despite the fact that the rules for inventing and introducing details are the same.

So Ralph! Of course you can separate the two. They're distinct. Sometimes they collapse together, but only sometimes, and even when they DO collapse together you can still talk and think about them AS distinct.


44. On 2009-05-14, Weeks said:

delayed gratification, intermittent rewards, and unpredictable rewards

OK, sweet.  So, in one scenario we have a player adding to the fiction with the primary goal of immediately reaping a mechanical reward.  And in the second, the player adds to the fiction and may or may not reap a reward later.  I totally get how that produces a different look'n'feel.

So, what are you thinking about the delay between fiction creation and the use of the rightward-pointing arrow?  What's a good way to make that delay happen?  Is that part of the requiring judgment that you're talking about above?  (It doesn't seem like it, but that might be the ultimate expression?)

And since I'm here writing, I'd like to jump back up to the top here and ask what you're saying about these three things.  Just that they're things?


45. On 2009-05-14, Weeks said:

You answered at least the most important of my interested in the crosspost.  Neat!


46. On 2009-05-14, Moreno R. said:

I see a big difference in the two cases in comment #31. Weeks stated it in comment #33, but it seems doesn't see it's significance. But for the way I play and I like to play, it's really a big, big deal: in one case, I am not the player who narrated (or added in some way to the SIS) the fact that I later used.

In one case, I am playing alone, narrating alone what serve my own objectives.

In the other case, I am building on what another player contributed. (and, I think, he will build on what I contributed), our narration mesh, creating something much bigger and better, because is common for the entire group, not a simple sum of separated narrations. And THIS is role-playing for me.  If I have to put my character's girlfriend in danger myself to get that +3, it's not fun (It's another form of the Czege principle, I think).

It's for this reason that I love Spione, where this is mandated, and prefer other games where it's encouraged (Annalise, Trollbabe, DitV, etc.) to games where it's not (the one example I always think up is Contenders, but I don't want to single it out, it's something common to many games: it's only that Contenders is the game that made me realize this about what I want from rpgd)

Ralph, if that arrow was described not like "from the fiction to the cues" but "from the fiction CREATED BY THE OTHER PLAYERS (or by the same player, but some time before)" to the cues, you would see a difference from an arrow that started instead from that one player's cue, went to the fiction, and then got back in a single movement?


47. On 2009-05-14, Piers said:


Are you positing that there is a) no empirical difference, b) no logical difference, or c) the difference is dysfunctional at the game table.

Imagine a Universalis game with the following tenets:

i) Tenets can have exceptions associated with particular individuals.

ii) Coins associated with components cannot be used until three scenes after they are placed except with the permission of Gina Marie.

(I've never played, so interpret generously if I've got the language wrong.)

Is this game experienced differently?  Does it promote different outcomes?  What might you need to add to make the game socially functional?

Here's the deal: if you believe system matters—and I think it is pretty obvious from your arguments for a particular type of system that you do—you pretty much have to concede that these changes cause different game-play.  That game play may or may not be functional—the group may have to make up a series of formal or informal rules to make it "work"—but it will be different.

Vincent is arguing that there are a series of emergent properties that arise from this different configuration, properties that produce more careful attention to the fiction and and he is trying to explain why he thinks that happens. These properties may be a logical subset of the way fiction works in other games, they may produce dysfunctional play, but they will produce different play. The question is, how is that play different?

Old school GM centered play may be partially a game of mother may I, or please the GM, but it pays attention to the fiction in different ways.  The first wave of indie games attended to the first of these problems, and their solutions changed the second part of the game as well.  What was that part of the game?  What was valuable about it, and can we use it without falling into the old GM traps?  I think that's the question, here.

(Cross-posted with Vincent)


48. On 2009-05-14, Moreno R. said:

My own comment #46 was cross-posted with comments 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 (I have to learn to write more quickly in English...)


49. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

Weeks: What I'm saying about them overall is pretty serious, I think. It's here: 2009-04-27 : Dice & Cloud: a Symmetry.

(I see that you posted in that thread too, so maybe you're asking something else?)


50. On 2009-05-14, Weeks said:

I'm thinking a lot about Universalis play in this discussion.

Throwing down "fast engines" as a trait on one of my components right as a complication starts—for the primary purpose of getting an extra die is entirely appropriate.  I'd even say it's the source of the magic behind the game.  Throwing down "fast engines x10" for ten dice sucks and will be challenged.  But drawing a die from a trait held by an opposing component is virtually always met with more appreciation around the table.  And it feels better internally—less cheesy or something, to draw dice from traits that were previously established.  Or at least to establish traits that refer materially to the recent narration.


51. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

Here's a closely-related Forge discussion: [Legends of Alyria] Traits! Traits!


52. On 2009-05-14, Valamir said:

It seems like this discussion has taken a pretty hard turn that I don't understand.

The issue being discussed in the last several posts seems to be that:

"Its better if my current fictional contribution builds on your previous fictional contribution than if it just springs out of thin air and doesn't build on any previous fictional contribution."

To which my only response is...duh...

That's a pretty fundamental concept. I don't think there was ever any question of that, I've certainly never contended against it.

I mean...Universalis (again)...already does that.  Already acknowledges that contributions that build on previous contributions are better than those that are spontaneously invented...and that contributions built on someone else's contributions are better yet.  That's how the Coins and Traits work...

Sure you can create "fast engines" at the moment of the Complication...and yes that's alot of fun.  But you essentially paid 1 Coin for 1 die.  The real payoff will be down the road when you reincorporate those fast engines over and over again for another die each no further cost...much more cost effective than paying 1 Coin each time to come up with something new.  And better yet is when someone ELSE paid the Coin for the fast engines that you're now using...cuz then you get the die...for free.  So in are always rewarded for building on and using other people's fictional contributions more than your own...and you are always rewarded for reusing fictional contributions made previously more than inventing new stuff on the spot.

I'm not only not denying that...I designed an entire game based primarily on that principal.

What I don't accept is that there's something magical about relying on the the judgement of a GM given absolute policing authority over the fiction that is going to reliably generate / protect / enable this effect better than other vetting mechanisms.  I'm not saying a GM can't serve that function, but its a solution with a ton of pitfalls...pitfalls made worse if there are no backstop rules allowing the players to hold the GM accountable.


53. On 2009-05-14, Vincent said:

> What I don't accept is that there's something magical about
> relying on the the judgement of a GM given absolute
> policing authority over the fiction that is going to
> reliably generate / protect / enable this effect better
> than other vetting mechanisms.

Oh. I'm not saying that there is, for certain. (I don't think that even Christian said that.)


54. On 2009-05-14, Paul T. said:

Would it be correct to say that this all boils down to "whatever is important is what people will pay attention to?"

For instance, imagine that, at a certain point, in that hypothetical Universalis game, no one is allowed to create any more facts or traits (I forget the actual term from the rules). Now the ONLY way you can get a bonus is to reference previously named traits, like those "fast engines".

In that game, it would be very understandable if play centered heavily around the previously named traits (those "fast engines" are really important now, aren't they?). Does the crew of the ship hire a mechanic to tune up those engines when they stop to refuel? We don't really care; we can skip over those details.

However, in the presence of rules that reference the fiction that lies outside the scope of those resources, it would be more likely that the players will pay more attention to other parts of the fiction.

If there is a rule that says, "if your ship has been serviced by a mechanic more recently than your opponent's, you get a +1", then whether or not the crew hired that mechanic while in port becomes an important detail to establish in play.

In the hypothetical "old-school dungeon crawl" game, where anything in the fiction could grant you a bonus, players tend to establish as many details about the fiction as possible ("Wait! As I walk down the corridor, I'm leading with my left foot. Remember, that boot doesn't have a hole in it...").

It has nothing to do with a GM or when something was established, but simply with the fact that some human entity is judging the state of the fiction to create adjustments to the mechanics in play. (This can introduce a lot of fiat into the outcome, yes.)

Vincent, have I hopelessly over-simplified your argument to the point of missing its value? Or is that on?

(By comparison, in Universalis, the players establish what's meaningful in the fiction and what isn't with their Coins. There's no need for interpretation, so no real need to deal with subtle details of the fiction—if I only care about the outcome of a spaceship race, I can pretty much stop listening to the narration until my opponent plonks down a Coin for something.)


55. On 2009-05-14, Jesse Burneko said:


I think I have a way to phrase this that might help.  Vincent can confirm.  Vincent brings up timing which I think is clouding the issue.  This is really about cross-player communication.

Yes, the core point is that building on previous established fictional facts is better.  Which is a big DUH.  But the thing is System can promote this by requiring cross-player communication to function.

If the rule is, "Invent something, get a bonus" then it takes work to enforce the "invent" part.  If no one steps up to enforce it then you can let it slide because YOU invent it and YOU benefit from it.  The mechanic works just fine if you say, "I'm using an improvised weapon, so I get a +3"  Someone then has to step up and say, "Heh!  So.... what weapon?"  And then you say, "Oh, it's a bottle."  And then someone says, "and what are you doing with it?"  And you say, "Oh, I'm hitting the guy over the head with it."

I see this a lot in Mouse Guard with the Helping Die.  Someone is using their Pathfinding skill and someone says, "I'm helping with Cartography" and I have to step up as GM and remind them, "And what does that look like?"  It gets exhausting and indeed tends to start slipping later in play.  That's why Vincent has been saying, "It takes discipline."

However if the rule is, "identify something, get a bonus" then it requires that something has to have been communicated from one player to another.  You can't put your own girlfriend into danger for a bonus, someone ELSE has to put your girlfriend into danger which you then recognize and reap the bonus.  Communication has happened.  If you can't see that your girlfriend is in danger then communication hasn't happened.

That's how Humanity works in Sorcerer.  You do stuff and it has to have enough detailing for the GM to see it and say, "Humanity Check!"  But it doesn't need to be the GM.  It just has to be across players.  Player A makes a contribution which causes Player B to execute a mechanic.

Does that make more sense?



56. On 2009-05-14, Christian Griffen said:

Yeah, I didn't mean to say that the GM was magical in any way, just that there's a thing that happens when the very same person introduces fiction and immediately benefits from it: it tends to make the fiction secondary, an afterthought, rather than the main part from which my actions develop organically. So, I feel what Moreno wrote.

And in Step On Up play, if I can make my own tools, it feels like cheating.  It's no big challenge at all.  Taking what others have provided and using the pieces in a way they didn't see coming, that's the height of creatively stepping up for me.


57. On 2009-05-15, Alex D. said:

So, in terms of actual rules, where would something like this fit:

1 - On your turn, define a Fact.
2 - On your turn, use a Fact defined by another player to advance your goals.
3? - Facts improve each round.

Where would rules like these fit?

Am I on the right track for what people are talking about?


58. On 2009-06-01, Christian Griffen said:

So I remembered something about IAWA where this actually applies: restrictions on powers.  I had a Morbid Curses power, an indirect one, that required a piece of someone to use against them.  So I could only get the power die if in the fiction, my character had a piece of hair, clothing, etc. From the opponent.  Instead of "there is a hill, so i get the high ground bonus" it was "I have a piece of your shirt from that earlier scene, so I can use my power!"

Maybe more focus on these kinds of power requirements could bridge that "gap" in IAWA.


59. On 2009-06-02, Vincent said:



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