2009-07-13 : How About Some Q and A

I have a couple things I'm thinking about, but they aren't gelling into blog posts yet. Anybody have any questions meanwhile? Dice cloud and arrows, fictional and real-world causes and effects, secrets, IIEE?

1. On 2009-07-13, Roger said:

Rock of Tahamaat has rules about the transitions in IIEE—moving from Intent to Initiation to Execution to Effect.

But it doesn't have many rules actually about those things.

I'm thinking about games that flat-out tell you what your Intent is, either on a broad scale like "Reclaim the throne" or on a very small scale like "Flee the horrid face-eater."

Or in Execution, a game like RoleMaster will tell you right on the critical hit chart what actually happens during Execution.  Yep, stabbed that guy right in the trachea.

(Actually, I guess RoT does have rules like "The Rock doesn't care about the names of individuals" which is flat-out a rule about Intent.)

So... I guess this should be a question, eh.  My question is:  am I more-or-less correct in the above?  And is there useful categorical differences between rules about the states and rules about the transitions between states?  I would like to read a blog post about that, but that's just me.


2. On 2009-07-14, Callan said:

The group in the smelly chamberlain examples appeared to be cheating/going back on their agreement. My question is why was the state of the fiction the issue in question? It seemed either a missplaced emphasis or I didn't get, from reading replies, what it was trying to get at? Just to disclaim - asking this in case its interesting to answer. I'm not implying there's somehow some requirement to do so.


3. On 2009-07-14, Mathieu Leocmach said:

Is it possible to put on my webpage a summary in French of the cloud and boxes posts ? Giving you all the credits of course and linking to


4. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Mathieu: Absolutely. Please feel free.

Callan: That's one of the blog posts that isn't gelling, so thank you for asking.

Here's the thing. The fundamental mechanisms of roleplaying don't depend on apportionment of authority; they can't. A group can cheat, can act against their apportioned authority, and still be roleplaying. If I limit myself to examples where the group abides by their pre-agreed authority, then it looks like it's the authority that makes roleplaying work, not the ongoing, contingent assent.

I can give you more examples if you like.

Roger: I have a hard time imagining a rule for execution, say, that isn't a rule for the transition from initiation to execution.

"Actually, I guess RoT does have rules like 'The Rock doesn't care about the names of individuals' which is flat-out a rule about Intent."

Yep. That's how I figure the whole thing, in fact. The rule where the GM chooses 3 possible effects, then the player rolls to find out which one happens, that seems to me to be exactly like Rolemaster's crit tables. (Well, I guess that Rolemaster's crit tables collapse Execution and Effect together in a way that Rock of Tahamaat's rules don't, but that's fine.)

In most conventional rpgs, the basic roll falls between initiation and execution, with intent and initiation collapsed together (although sometimes wedged apart with "roll to resist fear") and execution and effect collapsed together (although sometimes wedged apart with "roll damage"). That said, there's a lot, lot, lot of diversity in how games' rules collapse or expand IIEE.

Everyone: I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that IIEE-as-such is Ron's invention. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is an old Forge-head who would already know that.


5. On 2009-07-14, Bwian said:


I've been browsing here and at the Forge site on and off, and I'm struggling a bit with the IIEE terminology.  In fact I am pretty certain that I am missing the point.  I would like to get it, because I suspect you guys have thought pretty carefully about it, and I'd like to benefit from that.

I'm a bit unclear how (or where?) to draw the line between an 'execution' and its 'effect'.  In one of your recent threads you gave an example about climbing a tower, which I think ran something like this:

Intent = climb the tower
Initiate = so you start to climb the tower
Execution = you get to the top of the tower
Effect = choice of: a) stuck clinging in terror to the outside of the tower; b) just barely drag yourself in through the window; c) easily swing self in through window.

What I'm not clear about is how the GM (or whoever) decides where 'execution' ends and 'effect' begins.  In the example above, the GM has interpreted 'climb the tower' as what happens between 'starting climbing the tower' and 'getting up to at or near the level of the window on the outside of the tower'.  Then (in the game you were discussing) the GM's next task is to decide the worst, best and in between outcomes (possible 'effects'?) of this.

First: How does the GM know that 'I climb the tower' is complete ('executed') when the character is hanging off the outside of the tower near window height?  What if the player had intended that the character climb onto the roof of the tower, well above the window?  Or hang off the outside of the tower and look over the castle wall?  Maybe I have misunderstood the relationship between intent and effect (or intent and execution)?

Second: Assuming that the GM somehow knows that the player intended the character to climb in through the window from context, prior conversation or whatever, why wouldn't that have been the 'intent' in the first place?  And if that was the 'intent', why would 'execution' stop before 'intent' was fulfilled?

Player: I climb the tower.
GM: What?  With a ladder?  Unassisted?  You want to hang off the outside of it?  Get on the roof?  Search the roof guttering?
Player: I want to climb in the window.
GM: Just like that?  Bare hands?
Player: Yup.

So then the 'intent' would be 'get into the tower by climbing through the window at the top, unassisted'.  Initiation might be the same as in the original example: 'so you start to climb the wall' (although it might be: 'so you start walking toward the foot of the tower').  And execution might be 'So you climb up the wall and in through the window at the top of the tower'.  Now the GM has to think what is the range of best to worst outcomes _given_ that the character has climbed up the wall and in through the window.

But this would also involve a series of assumptions about the character's values in the situation of 'climbing in through the window'.  I am in danger of some kind of infinite regress.  So I must have missed the difference between 'execution' and 'intent'?

Third: So, (and I'm not sure how to ask this more clearly) how does the GM decide what is 'worst' and 'best' effect of a given 'execution'?

What I'm trying (very clumsily) to get at is: Surely she must make some assumptions about the goals/ needs/ hopes/ fears/ values of the character in this situation in order to come up with 'best' and 'worst'?  But isn't this a sort of covert way of detecting/ inventing/ assuming the character's 'intent' as he dangles off the outside of the tower (or steps through the window)?

I have this worrisome intuition that the story (or the game world events or whatever) are infinitely divisible... and that for some reason this creates a problem.




6. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Bwian: Cool. I think there's serious confusion out there about this, not just you, so it's very good that you asked.

The point of IIEE-based resolution is to resolve a character's intent into its final effect, exactly as you intuit, but to do so through the character's concrete action, not abstractly.

Here, check this out, you wrote this:

So then the 'intent' would be 'get into the tower by climbing through the window at the top, unassisted'. Initiation might be the same as in the original example: 'so you start to climb the wall' (although it might be: 'so you start walking toward the foot of the tower'). And execution might be 'So you climb up the wall and in through the window at the top of the tower'. Now the GM has to think what is the range of best to worst outcomes _given_ that the character has climbed up the wall and in through the window.

See that "and"? That's the break between execution and effect. It's a natural break, it already exists in how you write sentences and construct stories out of cause and effect. All you have to do is notice it.

What if you replace the "and" with a "but"? "So you climb up the wall but can't make it quite to the window." That's a perfectly valid, perfectly possible resolution of your intent. An effect you didn't hope for, but a legit effect nonetheless.

THEN, you can tell when you've reached the end of a resolution, the end of effect, because of the natural next thing for the GM to say: "so now what?" There you hang; what are you going to do next? Time for a new intent and a new resolution.

See it now?


7. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

The tower-climbing example is here, by the way. (Notice that you're exactly right, Bwian: the GM asks the player to clarify her intent in order to decide the best, good, and worst effects. No problem there.)


8. On 2009-07-14, Roger said:

Thanks, Vincent.

A different topic:  A lot of what you're talking about lately seems to be related to what you wrote way back in 2003:  "In order for any thing to be true in game, all the participants in the game (players and GMs, if you've even got such things) have to understand and assent to it."  (Roleplaying's Fundamental Act.)

Something I think I've seen occasionally in my games is a sort of... understanding-in-abeyance, maybe.  "Yes, I know you don't understand quite what I'm doing yet, but trust me, and it will all become clear in time."  So maybe you could talk a bit about assenting to the not-quite-yet-understood.


9. On 2009-07-14, Robert Bohl said:

Hmm. I wonder whether the way the stakes-like thing in Misspent Youth isn't effect? You name the effect you want, and leave open intent, initiation, and execution.

We really need to play my game, V.


10. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Roger: Well, I think that we only provisionally assent to what we don't yet fully understand. "Trust me, go along with me, it'll be clear in time..." is a very good way to set me up to give my eventual full assent, but it's not quite a guarantee that I really surely WILL give my full assent. I might go along with you for now, but nevertheless balk when it DOES become clear, right?

Rob: That's what I expect. (That's how you generally play.) Let's figure out a time.


11. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:


It might be "effect," but it's really intent. You're just saying what you intend for effect, then resolving it through IIEE. When you get to the Effect stage, you've already declared what you wanted the effect to be, so the group rallies behind it and that's that. But maybe you modify it a little bit, add stuff to it, remove stuff from it.


12. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Adam, that's true if you say what effect the character wants. "Intent" means the character's, not the player's. Otherwise it's just as Rob says: you say the effect you want, and leave the character's intent and action to fend for themselves, post-hoc.

I don't happen to remember about Misspent Youth whether you can declare a stakes-thingy counter to your character's intention or not. Some games you can, some you can't.


13. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

I always forget IIEE is supposed to be about the character.

If you have a game where people roll dice for control over narration rights, regardless of what characters are involved, is IIEE not involved in that resolution?

For example, I say, "So it starts raining for forty days and forty nights, and the sea level raises twenty inches." (Maybe we're playing Universalis or something where this might make sense to say and expect rules to get involved.) And if I roll any 6 on, say, 5d6, then my fact enters the fiction. Is there no IIEE here because there's no character here? Is there IIEE here because of some semantic game with the sea level being the "character"? What's up with that?


14. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Adam: Right, there's no IIEE, because there's no character.

Now, presumably you can still break that roll down by "what must we establish in the fiction before we roll?" and "what must we leave unestablished in the fiction until the roll?" IIEE is a character-centric approach to answering those two questions.


15. On 2009-07-14, Robert Bohl said:

Let me know if I'm derailing this thread and making it about my game (I managed not to provide a link under the text "my game," at least).

I really think that in MY it's effect, but it's not effect where you skip IIE and just leave E. It's where you say "I want E-1 and you want E-2," then the mechanics take you through multiple iterations of IIE, always forestalling the final E until it's recorded.

In fact, it is perhaps the case that since you can't narrate until you've rolled, the game may be: Effect, repeat(Execution, Intent, Initiation, Execution), Effect.


16. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Well, you start by declaring the effect you hope for, right, not by resolving that effect yes or no? So it doesn't start with Effect, it just starts with some (binding) table-talk about possible eventual effects. Then you do your repeating IIEE, and the final E of the final repeat is the one you talked about up-front.

I'll have to see it again instead of trying to remember, but I'd be very surprised if it were anything but that.


17. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

"Right, there's no IIEE, because there's no character."

This probably isn't the thread for it, but I don't buy it. I mean, I have to buy it, because that's the definition of IIEE. I just think IIEE structure applies just as well to non-character stuff that you're trying to get into the fiction, so the character/not-character distinction is meaningless.

I don't really see much distinction between a player stating that her character wants to do X and a player stating that she wants Y to happen in the fiction (where Y = character does X).

Is there some critical bit I'm missing that makes IIEE not at all useful for non-character stuff?


18. On 2009-07-14, misuba said:

"Is there some critical bit I'm missing that makes IIEE not at all useful for non-character stuff?"

I'm thinking it's the bit between the two I's, and the bit between the two E's. Why model the difference between intent and initiation when it's the player herself doing the initiating? The intent doesn't live in the SIS and can't. Same deal for the difference between execution and effect - when you're working on the SIS directly, you just ask for what you want. If it doesn't "work," then you asked for the wrong thing.


19. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

Nothing is in the SIS until Effect is resolved, right?

Player's Mind—> Intent—> Group—> Initiation—> Execution—> Effect—> SIS


20. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

Just as a touchstone, here's what the Provisional Glossary says:

Intent, Initiation, Execution, and Effect - how actions and events in the imaginary game-world are resolved in terms of (1) real-world announcement and (2) imaginary order of occurrence. See The four steps of action and What is IIEC? A necessary feature of System during play, usually represented by several Techniques and many Ephemera.

I don't see anything about characters in there but I am happy to grant that I am missing something.


21. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Adam: Nothing is in the SIS until Effect is resolved, right?

Player's Mind—> Intent—> Group—> Initiation—> Execution—> Effect—> SIS

Oh no, no, quite the opposite. The character's intent is settled in the fiction, then the character's initiating her action is settled in the fiction, then the character's executing her action is settled in the fiction, and finally the effect of the character's executed action is settled in the fiction.

I mean, it depends upon your game's rules, but in Rock of Tahamaat, when Iana of the Family Lark starts up the tower, she's started up the tower, we don't wait to find out whether she makes it through the window before we agree that she's on her way up.

I don't really see much distinction between a player stating that her character wants to do X and a player stating that she wants Y to happen in the fiction (where Y = character does X).

Don't see much or don't see any? If you see that one is a statement about what's currently happening in the game's fiction, and the other is a statement about what the player hopes will happen in the game's fiction soon, you see the distinction that matters.


22. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

Don't see much or don't see any? If you see that one is a statement about what's currently happening in the game's fiction, and the other is a statement about what the player hopes will happen in the game's fiction soon, you see the distinction that matters.

I don't see any distinction.

Iana of the Family Lark doesn't start up the tower on her own. A player has to say that she does and the other players have to accept it. Similarly, the tower isn't made of climbable stone on its own. A player has to say that it is and the other players have to accept it.

Character is just one vehicle by which players Explore the SIS. There are also Setting, Situation, etc. I feel like IIEE should apply equally to all of them. IIEE is just Resolution for Exploration/SIS.

I'm happy to acknowledge that maybe IIEE traditionally means something more specific. If it's just a definitional thing, I'm okay with that.

My mind needs more brainfood before it will accept that the steps implied by IIEE, stripped of Character stuff, don't apply just as well to the elements of Exploration.


23. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

In fact, I finally got IIEE! on the Forge seems to suggest that it's traditionally Character stuff. But then someone (you, Vincent) go and say this:

Consider the IIEE of buying a component in Universalis, for example.  Even though there's no character there swinging a sword, the mechanism still comes into play at a well defined in-game moment.

Gah. Help.


24. On 2009-07-14, Roger said:

Well it's tricky, because there's lots of games in which the resolved Effect retroactively amends the Execution and sometimes the Initiation (and Intent is probably theoretically possible.)  RoT isn't like that, yeah.

Thinking about not-player-character agents like, I dunno, the weather, in the context of IIEE leads me to think about our good old friend, conflict.  Where does conflict come from?  I'm starting to feel like it comes from Intent.  I've no idea if that's useful in any way, though.


25. On 2009-07-14, Roger said:

So we've got poor old Iana staring up at that tower.

"I sure hope Iana climbs that tower!" you say.  That's a player stating that he wants something—Iana climbing the tower—to happen in the fiction.

But nothing's actually happened in the fiction.  Iana hasn't climbed the tower, or tried to climb the tower, or started to climb the tower, or even formed the intention to climb the tower.

"Iana wants to climb the tower!" you say.  That's a player stating that his character wants to do something—climb the tower.

That's part of the fiction now.  It might not be a utilizeable part of the fiction, necessarily, but it's still out there and established.


26. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

Yeah, I am pretty sure I understand Vincent's take on IIEE with regards to Iana.

Moreover, if a player says, "Iana climbs the tower," then only the System in use determines if it's intent, initiation, execution, or effect. And because System sits inside Social Contract, that implies that at any time, the players can agree to change their System and "just" go with consent-based decision-making for that instance. In other words, stuff never gets into the SIS without the entire group agreeing that it does. Never.

None of that is controversial, I am pretty sure.

What *I* am confused about is Vincent saying that IIEE only applies to what the character wants to do. That is, Intent = "Iana wants to climb that tower!" I claim that any kind of addition to the SIS goes through the same IIEE steps and that the Character thing is a red herring (even the Initiation one, which might be somewhat troublesome).

Player: "There's a tower on the hill."

Is that intent? ("I want there to be a tower on the hill.")
Is that initiation? ("Okay, guys, I'm gonna try to put a tower on the hill.")
Is that execution? ("I rolled 1 2 2 5 6 6. That's two sixes, so I get to put a tower on the hill.")
Is that effect? ("All right. So we all agree that there's this tower on the hill.")

I don't understand why IIEE doesn't cover this. In fact, I believe that it does, especially after reading some Forge stuff. I'm trying to understand where Vincent is coming from and figure out what I'm not grokking.


27. On 2009-07-14, Adam Dray said:

Sorry to spam post. Roger, you said something that I didn't catch the first time.

"Iana wants to climb the tower!" you say. That's a player stating that his character wants to do something—climb the tower.

That's part of the fiction now. It might not be a utilizeable part of the fiction, necessarily, but it's still out there and established.

Emphasis added.

I disagree that it's part of the fiction. The other players could say, "Iana isn't even near the tower. She doesn't know it's there. She can't want to climb it." It gets shot down between Intent and Execution.


28. On 2009-07-14, Vincent said:

Adam: This is super important stuff. I'm glad you're asking.

Each act of resolution happens at the intersection of two timelines. Timeline 1: what the players are doing. Timeline 2: what's happening in the fiction.

Timeline 1 is this: Who says what about what, when, and how do we negotiate about it?

Timeline 2 is this: What must we establish in the fiction before resolution? What must we leave unestablished in the fiction until resolution? Emphasize in the fiction.

Here's what goes on in timeline 1: Who gets to say that there's a tower on the hill? Under what circumstances should we agree that, yes, there's a tower on the hill? Do we roll dice? Who can contradict whom, and when?

IIEE goes on in timeline 2, though. What must we establish in the fiction before we resolve whether there's a tower on the hill? I dunno, that there's a hill? That there could reasonably be a tower on it? That's probably all already implicit. Certainly we don't have to establish that a tower intends to be on the hill. That's what makes IIEE character-centric; non-characters don't have intent.

For the alphabet soup-happy, here's a dense little sentence: just like IIEE is a character-centric approach to timeline 2, DFK(itM/atE) is a mechanics-centric approach to timeline 1.

Adam, you're talking about DFK(itM/atE). What steps does something have to go through in order to be established in the game's fiction, right? Well, first a player has to say it. Then we all have to agree to it. In Rock of Tahamaat in particular, we agree to it if the player rolls certain dice and they come out a certain way, so it's a Fortune mechanism. It happens to be FitM, but whatever.


Does that help?


29. On 2009-07-15, Callan said:

Hi Vincent,

"The fundamental mechanisms of roleplaying don't depend on apportionment of authority; they can't."
It can't as in there is some physical incapacity to do so, or it can't because it's been decided it can't?

I'm just...well, authority to me is just another agreement. It's just that you made it perhaps an hour ago or longer, rather than two seconds ago like when we agreed my PC ran across the room. Isn't authority part of ongoing, contingent assent? It's all the same thing?


30. On 2009-07-15, Vincent said:

Callan: The physical incapacity one.

It's simply that, demonstrably, we can agree to things moment-to-moment that violate our previous agreements about who has authority over what.

Our outstanding authority agreements contribute to our moment-to-moment agreements, absolutely. But they don't constitute them.

That's all! Authority is part of ongoing, contingent assent, yes, totally. Depending on the game's system (maybe meaning its design), it might even be the most important part.


31. On 2009-07-15, Bwian said:

Fascinating thread - thanks all.

*Vincent:  Thanks for the quick response!

Sorry to drag you back to what is now ancient history; feel free to carry on if you are on a roll with the other stuff.

Your reply at 6 was helpful for me, especially (I think) when you wrote:

"The point of IIEE-based resolution is to resolve a character's intent into its final effect... through the character's _concrete action_, not abstractly." [my emphasis].

So the 'execution' is what the character _does_ in terms of 'the character's concrete action' - walking up to the wall, and looking at it, and climbing up?

And 'effect' is what the character _gets to/ achieves_ as a result of 'the character's concrete action' in terms of what the character wanted to occur - either 'hangin' out there' or 'gettin' in there'?

I still can't help thinking that climbing through the window is a 'concrete action'.  Couldn't the original example have been played as two separate IIEEs?  1) Climb up to the window (outcomes: at the window, almost at the window but tired, splattered on the plascrete); 2) Climb in through the window (outcomes: inside the room, inside the room but scared, exhausted and hair mussed, splattered on the plascrete?)

If so, how did the group know to treat it as one resolution rather than two?  After all, there was an 'and' in my description of the intended action (as you pointed out).

So maybe I still haven't got it?  I seem to be going around a loop of action vs. outcome.  Maybe it wouldn't be a problem if a player could arbitrarily select an intended outcome (if that's a phrase you use) at any scale?  But this might create problems of its own?

Concrete action

I'm also curious about the 'concrete'  in 'concrete action'.

This seems to mean that _abstract_ actions like 'managing',  'organising', 'ensuring', 'verifying', 'accepting', 'researching', 'thwarting' are _not_ generally acceptable in statements of intent?

From what you said it seems to imply using only unitary, concrete verbs in intent statements.  I can 'climb the wall' but I can't 'overcome the wall'; and I can 'climb the wall' but I can't 'climb the social ladder'; and I can 'kidney punch the space tyrant', but I can't 'overthrow the space tyrant'?

IIEE as character intent

I found the clarification later in the thread that IIEE is about the _character's_ intent useful, as I was unclear about that.  Most of the time this seems like this would be workable.

I can imagine it might get a bit tricky when one is dealing with a character's reflex or habitual responses (like a catch in slips or bragging about one's wealth).  In these cases the character might act (and the player might have wanted the character to act) without adopting any self-conscious before-the-act _plan_ (assuming a whole bunch about how fictional people are constituted and function in the game-world).

I suppose in some ways this is similar to the example given of the player's wanting the water level to rise - the water has no self-aware desire to rise.




32. On 2009-07-15, Vincent said:

Bwian: Couldn't the original example have been played as two separate IIEEs? ... If so, how did the group know to treat it as one resolution rather than two?


The rule in Rock of Tahamaat is that you resolve when a character goes to do something that would bring her into conflict or expose her to danger. In my example, in my imagination of the scene as GM (which is what we always go by in Rock of Tahamaat), climbing the wall would expose her to danger, but once she reaches the window, going through the window won't expose her to any additional danger.

So that's how the group knows whether to resolve it in one go or two: is there one conflict-or-danger, or two?

If I'd decided that there were some armed guys up there, for instance, I'd do it pretty much like you say. First, she'd climb up to the window, exposing herself to danger, with these possible effects: she sails through (that is, makes it easily), she makes it, she's stuck. Second, she'd try to (let's say) sneak in the window behind the armed guys, bringing herself into conflict with them, with these possible effects: she gets away with it, she arouses suspicion but goes unchallenged, she's caught out.

The game - as any well-designed game should - tells you what to resolve. That's how you know whether to resolve a thing in one go, or more than one go, or as only a step in one go. Make sense?

I'm afraid that all the answer I have for concrete vs abstract actions and characters' involuntary actions is: it depends on the game design. Those are both interesting areas a designer can explore.

Like, if I say "my guy climbs the social ladder," a well-designed game will tell us how to handle it. ("That's not a legit action, do over" is one way.) If you're designing a game and you want it to resolve abstract actions like climbing the social ladder or overthrowing the space tyrant, all you have to do is design your game so that it does.

In my designs right now, I'm paying close attention to involuntary actions.


33. On 2009-07-15, Ben Lehman said:

This is an old one, but I was rereading it recently.

I think you're probably with me on that role-playing games can change someone's life (this isn't exceptional: it's the case with any art.) If you're not stop here.

And probably if I say "they can change people's lives for better or for worse" you'll be okay with that, too.

So what's the responsibility (not in terms of blame, but responsibility) there in terms of us as designers, and of us as players? Do we have a responsibility to try to change lives positively instead of negatively? How?


34. On 2009-07-15, Vincent said:

Ben: An oldie but goodie.

When I'm the judge of humanity and its works, the artists who go into the lake of fire will be the ones who've pandered cynically to human weakness. Whether some roleplaying game designers have pandered cynically to human weakness, we could probably argue. Is pandering to adolescent boys' protofascist power fantasies a thing in roleplaying games? I don't know, probably so. If so, were those designers cynical, or just expressing adolescent boys' protofascist power fantasies of their own? I don't know, probably the latter. I guess we'll have to wait until I'm (or you're) the judge of humanity and its works to find out.

As an artist, I take it as my responsibility to do art with integrity to itself. If sometimes my games change people's lives, great! If for the better, greater still! If for the worse, eh, they'll probably get over it. I haven't pandered cynically to their weaknesses, so I'm comfortable taking it as it comes.

That's me. Other artists will have to look out for their own responsibilities, as they best come to understand them. I could probably write a manifesto, under duress, but I certainly wouldn't try to legislate.


35. On 2009-07-15, Arturo G. said:

Vincent said: "The game - as any well-designed game should - tells you what to resolve. That's how you know whether to resolve a thing in one go, or more than one go, or as only a step in one go. Make sense?".

Well. I think the players may still decide when a given situation is worth to go through resolution, or to be divided into several connected ones. Depends on what they consider is worth of resolution; what kind of complications they think that could have consequential impact on the fiction.

I'm not sure if in some cases we will be just skipping the written rules, changing the system, or overusing it.

I think I remember a explicit text in Universalis (1st edition) saying that each group finds its own standard about the minimum grain of detail that is associated with a resource/coin spending.

Is not happening the same with resolution?


36. On 2009-07-15, Callan said:

"It's simply that, demonstrably, we can agree to things moment-to-moment that violate our previous agreements about who has authority over what."
For myself, that isn't demonstratable/an agreement being demonstrated - it's humouring other people for moment to moment gain.

For myself, someone shows they aren't capable of agreeing to something if they break previous agreements - particularly agreements about the very activity were in.

I guess it's an add on to the lumpley principle: I have to agree (with myself) that your capable of making an agreement. You can't tell me something between two people is an agreement - I have to agree whether it is.

Are there any standards for who is considered capable of making an agreement, in the smelly chamberlain thread? Like say player 1 says his PC shoots player 2's PC dead. Player 2 nods in affirmation. Then player 2 says his PC walks over to the window, aims and snipes the king, then looks for affirmation? Does the thread include any standard maintained about who it's possible to make an agreement with and who has broken them in such a way that it's not possible (by personal standard) to make any agreement with him? Or was the standard for the thread basically whatever anyone can get away with?

Just to contrast, in terms of my standards no lumpley principle was going on - no one was agreeing in the way I call agreeing, so no lumpley principle. They were just humouring each others idea they had agreed, for moment to moment gain/shits and giggles.


37. On 2009-07-16, Vincent said:

Arturo: Sure. It's always judgment calls, real people deciding what to do, case by case.

In Rock of Tahamaat, the resolution rules make sense at only a certain scale - smaller actions or larger actions, the possible outcomes won't suit. In that way, the scale of resolution is built-in, moreso than in Universalis.

Callan: The possibilities of outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 all contradict you.

I need to give you some examples that don't feature people playing around with their presumed standing agreements, that's clear. I'll work on some, but you're going to have to wait for them.


38. On 2009-07-16, Callan said:

Hi Vincent,

What you might call an agreement, I might not. Unless your going to tell me what I should and shouldn't see as an agreement, those outcomes don't contradict me. They don't meet my standards for being an agreement. That doesn't prove anything in a general sense, but for my particular case there is no lumpley principle going on in those outcomes. People aren't leaving the table, I'll grant - that doesn't mean agreements happening, by my standards...I think I had this conversation with Guy Shalev, once. Or would you say if you call it an agreement, then I have to call it that too - you don't need me to agree it is an agreement?

For example, by my standards if the GM gave all the players a thump with a stick until they shut up about the smelly chamberlain, that isn't agreement. Giving that example because by your standards, it probably isn't agreement either and we probably share common ground on atleast that. Gads, I hope so, anyway.

I think you shouldn't change your examples - playing around with presumed standing agreements, as you put it, is something important to examine. Something I for one would never have guessed otherwise.


39. On 2009-07-16, Bwian said:

Thanks again for your patience.  I am feeling more comfortable with this.

You said:

The rule in Rock of Tahamaat is that you resolve when a character goes to do something that would bring her into conflict or expose her to danger.

In my example, in my imagination of the scene as GM (which is what we always go by in Rock of Tahamaat)...

OK.  I guess that is pretty clear to me:

A) player says "my character does x", then
B) GM thinks "hmmm, sounds risky" or "hmmm, I think Diddums wouldn"t want that", and then
C) says "Stop! 1) Roll Craven"; then
D) the player rolls some dice etc.

So in Rock o'T how far a good die roll will take a character in terms of outcomes depends on the GM"s imagination of the danger(s).

So, in the example, if

A) the player says "She climbs the tower", and

B) GM imagines there are some hidden bad guys with orders to stop anyone approaching the tower, then

C) the GM's call for resolution might be about whether the character can reach the foot of the tower - even though the original "intent" was "climb the tower"?

Then if the character"s "effect" for that conflict was "OK, they take the silver you offer and leave you in peace" (for example), the GM might call for a separate IIEE for the actual climbing of the wall.

Interesting how the asymmetrical rules for Rock vs. the Others highlight two different kinds of potential player frustration.

Curious about different ways of dealing with "involuntary actions".




40. On 2009-07-16, Ben Lehman said:

Hey, Vincent: Yeah, I wasn't asking you to legislate. Legislating art seems like a terrible plan all around. Just curious as to your opinions.

When I'm the judge of humanity and all its works, everyone gets a bye except me. And maybe a few other people, who, like, tried *really* hard for the Lake of Fire.

With that in mind, I take a much harder line than you.

Thanks for answering!



41. On 2009-07-16, Mathieu Leocmach said:

A no-IIEE question.

In the right to dream context, you often have a notion of initiation. The GM knows the deepest meaning of something (from text or from his own imagination) and the players don't. In game, the characters and the players altogether will gradually understand this meaning. The whole story generated by the game revolves around this progressive initiation to this deep meaning. The characters evolves as the same pace as their understanding.

Nephilim is a great game to do so, but some Cthuluh play style act like this. I believe that some Ars Magica groups also do so.

My question is :

is their any possibility of initiation in a Narrativist context ?

Of course, the meaning cannot be sanctifies so it must emerge from play and not decided upfront by the GM. What is left is then:
In game, the players (including GM if any) will gradually build a meaning as the characters understand this meaning. The whole story generated by the game revolves around this progressive initiation to this deep meaning. The characters evolves as the same pace as their understanding.

May provide a new GM agenda.


42. On 2009-07-16, Vincent said:

Callan: We can talk about playing around with presumed standing agreements later, I suppose. It's a social topic, not an rpg theory or -design topic, so I don't know what I'll have to say about it.

Bwian: Yep.

Maybe I'll make a whole post about non-voluntary actions. It's a current topic, I think.

Ben: Sure thing!

Mathieu: I'm pretty sure that I don't understand you. But if I do understand you, then yes, I imagine that possibility exists within the range of possible story-now play.


43. On 2009-07-16, Adam Dray said:

Vincent, I took a couple days to really think about your answer to me in comment 28.

I get what you're saying. I had not thought to consider them (DFK and IIEE) as separate (sorta overlapping) timelines. It's a very interesting take and I don't think I've encountered it before (or I did and totally missed what you and others were saying).

I'm not sure I like IIEE as an in-fiction timeline. It has been far more useful to me, as a designer, as an OOC timeline that establishes the fiction in steps. And that perhaps is splitting hairs, but there it is.

I understand tying IIEE to characters, better now, but part of me wants to back away from that and tie IIEE to any event in the fiction. IIEE still serves as the IC timeline for resolution of that event. DFK still serves as the OOC timeline for the resolution of that event (probably Drama, naturally).

But I get that nothing happens in an RPG without the character. When I say there's rain, it's rain that affects the character. When I say there's a monster, it's a monster that threatens a character. The character is the lens through which the fiction matters at all to anyone.

Anyway, this is me acknowledging that I think I understand what you're saying. Thanks for the discussion so far!


44. On 2009-07-16, Vincent said:

Adam: Cool! Sure thing.

I take a less character-centric view overall than (for instance) Ron does, I think. I consider IIEE to be a pretty specialized answer to a much more general question - "hey, what about the in-fiction timeline?" What matters, I think, is that the designer answers the question, not that the designer uses IIEE-as-such.


45. On 2009-07-16, Callan said:

Vincent, I don't understand? If "playing around with presumed standing agreements" is a social topic and not RPG theory, why was it part of the smelly chamberlain examples? Weren't those examples about RPG theory?


46. On 2009-07-16, Vincent said:

Callan: I included it to show that contingent, moment-to-moment assent is independent of, trumps, standing agreements. THAT'S the theory point. You aren't getting past the part where the people are playing around with their standing agreements - a social concern - to see my theory point.

If I can come up with examples where contingent, moment-to-moment assent trumps standing agreements, but where the people aren't playing around with their standing agreements, maybe then you'll be able to see my point.

While I'm trying to come up with some examples for your benefit, you could do me the same and try to see past your outrage at the imaginary players' social behavior, to see the theory point that they're illustrating. I'm not hopeful, but you could try.


47. On 2009-07-17, Mathieu Leocmach said:

Vincent, thanks for the answer. Now reading my own writting I don't understand myself. So I bet you had a hard time.

Anyway, I take your answer as "This game may exist if you can design it". So I will try. Don't be too impatient.


48. On 2009-07-17, Josh W said:

I've got two questions, one to chill your heart and another more streightforward:

In the old "right to dream" threads, where's the exploration?

What do those super acronyms you made for Adam stand for? You're sending info in such a compacted form it's pretty much encryption!


49. On 2009-07-17, Vincent said:

Mathieu: That's pretty much always my answer, yep. Good luck!

Josh: Which old "right to dream" threads?

DFK = Drama, Fortune, Karma, which is how Jonathan Tweet broke down different kinds of resolution in Over the Edge. Drama means just talking, Fortune means randomizing, Karma means (uh) straight comparison of numbers or descriptors or something, I forget.

itM/atE = in the Middle/at the End. Conventionally it's limited to Fortune: Fortune in the Middle vs Fortune at the End, but that's just a convention. It means how the resolution rules treat the die roll (or D or K), broadly; I can maybe make a front page post about it sometime.

So "DFK(itM/atE)" just refers to the negotiation part of "Who says what about what, when, and how do we negotiate about it?"


50. On 2009-07-17, anon. said:

Fortune in the Middle means that the player rolls dice between Intent and Execution: I(FitM)IEE or II(FitM)EE [or both]. The d20 attack rolls in D&D are II(FitM)EE—your PC is trying to hit (Intent), but does she succeed (Execution)?

Fortune at the End means that the player rolls dice between Execution and Effect: IIE(FatE)E. The damage rolls in D&D are IIE(FatE)E—your PC has hit (Execution), but what did the hit do (Effect)?


51. On 2009-07-17, Vincent said:

Anon: No! Oh no! That's not it at all, a WORLD of that's not it.

I'm waving my hands like there's a fire, like maybe my cat is on fire, and I don't know what to do about it. You should see the (comical) look of panic on my face.

Seriously, no, that's not it at all.

itM means that there are still factors to be decided, influences upon the roll or its determination, salient decisions still to be made, after you've rolled the dice. Otherkind Dice are Fortune in the Middle: after you've rolled the dice, you still have to decide where to assign them.

atE means that you establish everything you need to know about the roll before you roll it. The attack roll in D&D is Fortune at the End: you calculate all your modifiers and target numbers before you roll, you roll, and the roll tells you whether you hit or not, with no further decisions to be made about the die.

itM/atE refers to the real-world timeline, not anything in the fiction.

Here's an example of Fortune at the End that comes way up-front in IIEE: Rolemaster's fear check.

GM: Here's a monster! Make a fear check.
Vincent [calculates all his modifiers, rolls, has no more decisions to make]: I fail.
GM: Yep. Your character's intent is: run away [I]. Your character starts running away [I]. Your character is running away [E]! Your character runs back to the previous room [E].
Vincent: Rr.


52. On 2009-07-17, Adam Dray said:

That was me not only being accidentally anonymous but also squatting in the house of wrong. Good thing I did, though, or I wouldn't have gotten you to set me straight. It's amazing that I can think I get this stuff after 5 years of reading and playing with it, but I apparently don't.

And sorry about your cat. Satan's minion told me he'd clear up my acne if I did that.

Lemme see if I have this right.

So atE is sorta mini-stakes-setting for that roll. By the time you roll, you've already agreed what the outcomes of that roll can be and what the different dice results will mean in the fiction. The roll just puts an exclamation point on it.

Then itM uses dice as a currency (rather, might use). The roll finalizes very little. For example, you might roll, then choose which trait to use it with. Or, like in Dogs in the Vineyard, the roll just goes into your dice pool, and their use hasn't yet been determined until you complete a round of raises and sees.


53. On 2009-07-17, Bwian said:

Hi Adam,

This is quite a tangent to your point, so please feel free to ignore it.

At 43 above you said:

'But I get that nothing happens in an RPG without the character. When I say there's rain, it's rain that affects the character. When I say there's a monster, it's a monster that threatens a character. The character is the lens through which the fiction matters at all to anyone.'

I'd just like to speak up for the (perhaps minority) who sometimes want the whole imaginary universe to keep grinding on even when no-real-body is playing.  Part of the enjoyment can be the idea that this 'imaginary place' and its imaginary inhabitants exist (like the sources of the Nile) and have lives of their own (like Princess Di).

But probably you intended to include that anyway, and I have misread your text.

At risk of taking things too far...

I guess you could say that the existence or non-existence of squirrels in The Deepdarkwood - even though no 'character' has ever entered The Deepdarkwood - still 'matters to a character' because some hypothetical character say - who had heard of the place might wonder about it sometimes ('I wonder if there are squirrels in The Deepdarkwood, mused Thorg Squirrelsbane as he drifted off to sleep.')  ;i




54. On 2009-07-17, Bwian said:

RE: in-the-middle

How would you classify a resolution method where:
- someone introduces the Intent and then
- a die roll decides who narrates the rest (iIEE)?
- The range of possible motives, methods or outcomes is not discussed in detail, but the rules explicitly determine how the die roll selects a narrator.

There are three players:

Player 1: 'Badsea wants to enchant the fishwife, so she falls into a deep sleep'

Player 2: 'OK.  Roll a die. '1-4' Bob [player 3] gets to say what happens, '5-6' I do.  But nobody gets more than 1 minute to narrate, either way.'

Player 3 [Bob] & Player 2 together: 'Cool'

The die is rolled. '5'

Player 2: 'Oh, bother.  Hang on.  Ummm.  He is about to zap her with his hell-glance.  But he stops.  Peering closer in the flaring firelight, he sees a faint silvery shimmer in her pupils.  She is already under some kind of spell.'

Is that FitM?

a) Because none of the participants has an explicit idea of the range of likely outcomes in the game world at the instant the die is rolled?

b) Because Player 2 hadn't yet decided what to say if the die fell his way?  I.e. a salient decision remained to be taken.  Or is this not a salient decision?

Is it FatE?

a) Because they know before the die was rolled that either 'Bob' (on a '1-4') or 'Sue' (on a '5-6') would narrate.  I.e. the only salient decision is 'who narrates'?

b) Because there is nothing more to be done with the die after it is rolled?

c) Because there are no player-world decisions (no more 'rules to be consulted/ tested') after the die roll?

Or is it just a bad example?

I guess my main question is about game-world vs. player-world.




55. On 2009-07-17, Vincent said:

Adam: Yep.

I don't think that anybody's quite managed to say that there are two timelines before, although we've been groping for it for a long time. Here's how I've usually said it before: "your game's rules coordinate what happens in the fiction with what the players do in the real world."

Bwian: There's no earthly reason to classify existing rules into atE or itM. As a concept, atE/itM can serve to draw your attention to the range of possible ways you can treat the die roll when you're designing rules. Once the rules exist, though, how they actually do treat the die roll - that's all that matters.

We know that in your example rules above, for instance, the die will tell us who gets to narrate, and the narrator will have freedom to say whatever. THAT'S what matters. I can tell you its itM/atE classification if you want, but that won't improve our understanding of the rules, right?

So first, whatever. Distant second, it's FitM.

Here's a nuance I'm mentioning for the first time: with-teeth and without-teeth. FitM with teeth = there are game-mechanical decisions left to make after the roll, like assigning dice or spending points to change the roll or whatever. FitM without teeth = the decisions left to make after the roll are all in-fiction, like when the roll assigns a narrator and the narrator gets to choose after the roll what happens in the fiction.

Thus: your example rule is FitM without teeth. FitM because the narrator has decisions to make after the roll; without teeth because of precisely the distinction between real-world and fiction you raised.


56. On 2009-07-17, Adam Dray said:


I guess you could say that the existence or non-existence of squirrels in The Deepdarkwood - even though no 'character' has ever entered The Deepdarkwood - still 'matters to a character' because some hypothetical character say - who had heard of the place might wonder about it sometimes ('I wonder if there are squirrels in The Deepdarkwood, mused Thorg Squirrelsbane as he drifted off to sleep.') ;i

It doesn't matter to a character that isn't being played. Imagine you can bring your character to life with a computer. It's really advanced artificial intelligence software. You ask it, "What are you thinking?" and it answers, "I am thinking about the squirrels of The Deepdarkwood!"

Turn off the computer. Now ask it what it is thinking. No answer. It is not thinking of squirrels or anything else.

Not-playing is like turning off the computer. The character "comes to life" only in the imagination of the player, and in a technical sense, only during play. I don't consider "lonely fun" imagining to be "play." (I also really like lonely-fun activities, so don't take me wrong there.) If you're riding the bus and imagining your character thinking about squirrels, you're really either making plans for play or playing with hypotheticals to better understand/develop your character. The squirrel-imagining didn't really happen, because there's no player group to affirm that it happened.

I suppose you could write on the character sheet, "squirrels matter to me," and expect it to be fact in the game later. Did you establish it right when you wrote it? Only as a plan. It isn't true till it comes into play and is affirmed by the group. See Vincent's thread on secrets.


57. On 2009-07-17, Callan said:

Vincent, I think your looking past the observation I offered - you could see agreement in your outcomes, I could not, as much as if I were colourblind and were not seeing a colour you could. If that's not engaging for you, fair enough. But don't just write it off as a moral outburst.


58. On 2009-07-18, Vincent said:

Callan: I don't buy it.

You know that thing where one player says "my guy picks up the can of peaches," and the other players and GM go along with it? Like, "okay, your guy has the peaches." What would you call that, if not "contingent, moment-to-moment assent"?


59. On 2009-07-18, Mule said:

Q: I'm interested in hearing about the big show-stopping problem with Storming the Wizard's Tower.  I haven't found people to help me playtest it myself, but I'm very interested in the game's design.  Learning about what's not working sounds like a good opportunity for insight!


60. On 2009-07-18, Bwian said:

Hi Vincent

'...with-teeth and without-teeth.' [from 55]


Also agree that classifying things is not something we do for the sake of it - unless we like collecting, of course.

I guess I was just trying to understand the terms, and have a bit of fun with it at the same time.




61. On 2009-07-18, Bwian said:

...that there are two timelines... [from 55]

Maybe not explicitly, but its pretty much integral with the whole concept of tabletop role play: players - characters, real time - game time, real world - imaginary world.




62. On 2009-07-18, Callan said:

"You know that thing where one player says "my guy picks up the can of peaches," and the other players and GM go along with it? Like, "okay, your guy has the peaches." What would you call that, if not "contingent, moment-to-moment assent"?"
There doesn't seem to be any prior agreement there that could have been broken (and thus, per standards, show the person can't hold an agreement (atleast for now))?

I'm not sure about contingent, because there seems to be no prior agreements for it to be contingent on. But moment to moment assent, yeah - so far. No ones broken any prior agreements as yet (since there seem to be no prior agreements). Does this sound bad as a responce? That's just what comes to me?


63. On 2009-07-18, Bwian said:

...that there are two timelines... [from 55]

Maybe not explicitly, but its pretty much integral with the whole concept of tabletop role play: players - characters, real time - game time, real world - imaginary world.




64. On 2009-07-18, Bwian said:

Sorry all

Bit of a wardrobe malfunction between me and my browser.




65. On 2009-07-21, cc said:

" then it looks like it's the authority that makes roleplaying work, not the ongoing, contingent assent."

Thats tautologiocal; the authority only exists as a manifestation of consent.  Consent can be withdrawn simply by refusing to play the game, or several less dramatic actions.

All authority, even military dictatorships, depend on consent.  The consent may or may not be that of a broad based group, but authority never exists without consent of some kind.

But consent can be passive, and the authority is always an active agent.  It is granted consent to do certain things.  Hence, you cannot split consent from the authority as if they were different entities - one is merely the concrete expression of the other.


66. On 2009-07-22, Mathieu Leocmach said:

Related to the "A moment of Judgment" post.

I don't know if you have such a custom in the US, but in France when we have to share something (usually food) between two persons, one cuts and the other chooses. The one who cuts has to make equal parts


the one who choses will take the larger piece for herself.

Isn't it illustrating your point about the IIEE with teeth ?

BTW, the French translation/summary is here.


67. On 2009-07-22, Carsten said:

In the majority of games , there really only one act of assent to in-game authority rather than an ongoing continuous ones. That a person defined as the GM (such as in Storming the Wizards tower) has authority over the world, and can even veto player actions etc. is implicit in agreeing to play the game. This initial agreement needs no more moment-to-moment renewal than adhereing to the bidding rules when you play poker. If all of sudden decide that someone bidding out of game in pocker needs your "moment-to-moment assent", be prepared to come off as someone who doesn't understand the game (to say it nicely).

So if say in Storming the Wizards tower, your character has a streak of bad luck and goes down, and all of a sudden you decide to withhold your "moment-to-moment assent" and say:"no,no, my character doesn't go down, instead i want him to win." Be prepared to have us (the other players) say you cannot withhold your assent to what happened, either you play the game with us according to the rules or you don't. If you don't, you're welcome to run off and play Universalis with yourself, we others will contine to have fun within the evil old-fashioned authorative game rules.

Well, there ARE games where the "moment-to-moment assent" is important, e.g. Universlis, but even there are rules to handle the situation in a manner where your assent doesn't mean anything. If you still insist on not assenting, well, you're out of the game.

You may still hold on to the metaphyiscal theory of "Not actively dissenting implies passive assent". that theory, being metaphysical can't be proven or disproven. I merely wanted to indicate that there are also other, equally valid ways to construct authority, i.e. including it into the definition of how the game is played. Many good games do this, incuding Storming the Wizards Tower.


68. On 2009-07-23, Christian Griffen said:

Comparing roleplaying with poker misses out on a lot of what makes roleplaying potentially so powerful.  In poker, everything's mechanical.  There is no fiction.  There is no room for people to say things, within the confines of the game, that can gut punch the other players.

I played in a D&D 2e campaign for a while, in which the GM had the character of the 14-year-old player mutilated (cut his ears off etc.). He basically ruined the character for him. I should have said, "Hey, I know we gave you GM powers, but this is dickish and you're ruining his and my fun. Do something else." (At the time, though, I was still brainwashed with the whole "the GM gets to do whatever, I guess" idea, something I deeply regret now.)

As a sidenote, most trad games have Rule 0 (the GM can overrule anything), which means that it is perfectly in the rules for him to let my guy win even if the dice say he loses. So if I appeal to him for that, I'm not breaking the rules, I'm appealing to one of the rules of the game. There are several trad games I could dig up that even advise the GM to overrule the mechanics overtly or covertly (fudging) to have players win when they would lose.

I'm just saying that roleplaying games are much more complex and have such a focus on the fictional space that they require much more buy-in and have many more opportunities for people to have occurrences within the game that they couldn't foresee when they started playing. I know everything that could happen in poker. I'm far from knowing everything that could happen in the fiction of any roleplaying game I could think of. And for roleplaying to be fun, it matters that the fiction we develop together keeps everyone interested and doesn't push any one player away.


69. On 2009-07-23, ffilz said:

Actually, I don't think bringing up poker is so bad. In my opinion, even poker requires ongoing consent. The fact that the consent may be almost automatic doesn't still make it consent. At any moment, the host may decide "Hey guy's it's late, I need to get some sleep." Another player might decide it's time to stop putting up with a third player's slightly obnoxious behavior. There is continued ongoing consent in any social situation.

As I see it, the social dynamics of role playing aren't really any different. There is a built in power imbalance for most RPGs since they have a GM, but there are plenty of other activities that have a similar imbalance.



70. On 2009-07-23, Christian Griffen said:

How about we compare it to collaborative writing.

Say four people want to write a novel together. They figure out the genre, chat about characters, and make some rules. Primarily, they distribute authority: each one is going to take turns adding 300-500 words to the story, then pass it on to the next guy.

Now, 25,000 words down the line, one of the players writes something that totally destroys my investment in the characters and the story.  S/he took a hard turn and just totally ruined, in my mind, all the cool stuff we'd built up. Maybe s/he wrote "And then they realize they've been in the Matrix all along, and none of it really happened!"

So sure, s/he had the authority to do that, and I agreed to it. But I'm still going to say, "Come on, you just totally spaceangeled* our novel. I can't keep playing/writing like this. How about you do something else instead?"

That's not me refusing to play by the rules, that's me telling the other people that they're losing me. Now maybe the other two agree with me, and suddenly it's not the "complainer" who might find themselves on the outs, but the person unwilling to take back what they did with their previously-granted authority.

In either case, stuff like this comes up in creative endeavors, and it doesn't matter that we agreed to a certain authority structure in the beginning. It matters that we find a way to stay invested, by working out a compromise that will retain everyone's assent.

* see the last few episodes of Battlestar Galactica.


71. On 2009-07-24, Callan said:

Christian, I'm kind of amazed how you can vilify rule zero when it cuts some PC's ears off, and laud it when it can make someone win when they rolled a loss, in paragraphs that are right next to each other?

As I said before, for my standards it does matter that we previously agreed to a certain authority structure. In the very least it matters as I will avoid and decline joining a game with someone who says it doesn't matter, as it's just breaking agreements and promises, to me.

I'm pretty sure alot of the world, in many activities, shares this standard. I can't walk into a store, take a can maked $4 and pay $2 as if it would take my ongoing consent for it to be $4. I'd give more pedantic examples, but it takes up space.

Does one have to have this standard? No. So does the smelly chamberlain have to include it? No. But given it's predominance in the rest of the worlds activities, it's strange that it doesn't. I'm not laying a big moral trip, I'm pointing out something that may be of interest. Or it may not.

Carsten, I'm pretty sure I fully agree with your post.


72. On 2009-07-24, Christian Griffen said:

Oh, I'm absolutely not advocating fudging rolls or those kinds of uses of Rule 0. Like, at all. I was just pointing out that that advice is included in many trad games.

Sure, initial setups of authority matter. But that doesn't mean we stick to them no matter what.

If you want to take buying stuff as a comparison, I'd say mutually agreed-upon contracts are a better fit than someone else just setting a price in a store. And as a paralegal, I can tell you that people renegotiate contracts all the time. If both sides have signed it, but then it stops working for one side or another, often they will sit down and amend it, because they want to continue having a good relationship with each other.

To me, it's insane to think that when you play with friends, and they stop having a good time because of something that happens in the game, you just say "Well, fuck off then if you don't like the rules." Insane! :)


73. On 2009-07-24, Callan said:

Yes, insane. But where atleast my culture seperates is in concluding that person cannot accept the outcome of their own previous decisions and agreement. They either cannot handle this game, or games like it, or at worst perhaps, games at all.

And in terms of renegotiating contracts to keep good relations? As in renegotiate or we will have bad relations with you (sorry, I mean they will cease having good relations...I guess that doesn't explicitly say they will start bad relations)? This is just bullying or emotional blackmail, in terms of my standards.

Agreement is an important factor here. Which means what standards an individual uses to determine if something is agreement or if something is bullying/an incapacity to hold an agreement, is important to the theory. Obviously standards may vary between individuals, but if the theory works off one particular set of standards without stating them, I don't think anyone should be surprised if someone with different standards doesn't see how that theory works.


74. On 2009-07-24, Christian Griffen said:

Could you give me one or two actual examples from your play history where this played out?

And Vincent, if we're taking over your blog too much, just let me know, and we'll take it elsewhere.


75. On 2009-07-25, cc said:

The contractual argument is precisely applicable.  When there is a dispute over how things should go foreward, the parties get together and explicitly negotiate.  They are entitled and empowered to do so, and the agreement they come to then remains binding until and unless it is subsequently renegotiated.

That's not the argument being advanced in the smelly chamberlain example, however.  In that example, some of the players have allegedly effected a change in the IS without reference to the other players, and without reference to the GM who has been granted authority over that IS.  This is equivalent to one of the parties to a contract simply deciding for themselves that the contract has changed without negotiations, and indeed without even telling the other party.

Of course a player can appeal to the GM/authority for a specific outcome.  Of course one could request something, or object to something.  Of course one can be more or less forceful in these requests.  Of course the GM can be more or less dickish in responding to them.  But none of this amounts to the smelly chamberlain proposition - that there exists some other power beyond the agreed upon distribution of authority which can and does change the IS.


76. On 2009-07-25, Callan said:

That's a bit of an odd question, Christian? It's like if I had said I was vegetarian and you wanted to know my previous meals - I'm obviously going to report the same thing again - an absence of meat.

Basically the typical place where this has come up is playing some sort of game with a child, like my son when he was younger and even now sometimes, around the nine year old mark - and at some point it becomes evident they can't handle the games commitments. Usually when it comes to losing, either in part, or totally.

In terms of adults, I just haven't encountered it, really. I have a friend who another friend tells me he cheats on dice rolls every so often. I haven't caught him in the act as yet, but it does make me think of whether I want to seriously play, or give up on really playing the game and play a different game that's just there to indulge his little power fantasy. But I haven't seen him cheat yet, in order to decide.

A real factor here is when an individual decides another individual isn't worthy or capable of moment to moment assent, to begin with. For some time period, like the rest of the day, or even longer.

Besides, I thought the whole thing people often seem to get excited about was the (literal?) integrity of an imagined world. That people adhere to the prior idea its a medieval world when in the moment to moment assent, they do whatever smaller events. In the smelly chamberlain example, they are breaking an even larger idea of who gets to say what. If they were to break the idea of a medieval world and pull out a mobile phone, wouldn't that spoil a game for you? Why doesn't breaking the rules on who decides if the chamberlain is smelly, also spoil the game for you just as much as a mobile popping out?


77. On 2009-07-25, Christian Griffen said:

Except that:

a) it's more like an international treaty, because there's no enforcement agency, which means that the term "remains binding" is dependent on whether the people involved continue to feel bound; and

b) there's no IS in actuality; it's a hypothetical construct like "societal norms" or "cultural values." There's only a bunch of people and what they say and think and do, so we shouldn't treat the IS as something that has actual content independently of what the individuals think and say and do.


78. On 2009-07-26, Christian Griffen said:

Callan, I'm not talking about the breaking of authority as the issue. I'm talking about someone using their authority according to their initial agreement, but putting something into the fiction that makes the game unfun for the other players—see my example of the mutilated player character.


79. On 2009-07-26, Bwian said:

Christian & Callan: I'm having trouble following what is at issue here.  In fact I see a fair amount of agreement/ overlap, I think.

If the following remarks are irrelevant, please feel free to ignore them.


At 73 you said:  'to determine if something is agreement... is important to the theory.'

I agree [hah!].  May I suggest that there are several ways in which we use the term 'agreement'?  Off the top of my head I can think of:

0) Being the same or consistent with ('the results are in agreement')

1) A verbal (or other momentary) interaction in which we affirm that we understand each other and hold the same opinion about some matter. [not of much interest in the present discussion].

2) A momentary interaction in which we affirm that 'I/we will do x and y...'

3) A record, such as a document, of an interaction like (2).

4) A hypothetical construct associated with an interaction like (2) that we use to talk about the status of our subsequent actions, preferences and intentions in relation to an interaction like (2).

Note that:

A: many (all?) uses of the word 'agreement' in sense (4) could be replaced with direct references to the corresponding event of agreement (2).  E.g. 'According to our agreement, since the bus was on time, you owe me ten bucks' = 'We agreed the other day that if the bus was late you would pay me ten bucks'.

B: An 'agreement' in sense (4) is not a thing.  We use the word in this sense as a matter of convenience.  No thing is created by an event like (2).  So when we say 'you broke our agreement', this means 'you have wronged me because we agreed x and you did not do x'.  How we respond to this state of affairs depends on how we wish to deal with being wronged, not with the integrity or otherwise of the 'agreement'.  In other words it is a personal/ social matter rather than technical/ causal one.  When we talk about 'we have an ongoing agreement' we mean roughly that there was an event like (2) at which we affirmed that we would do x, y and z until further notice.


Thank you for making the distinction between 'what's in the rules' and 'what's in the field of creative content'.




80. On 2009-07-26, Bwian said:

In relation to Christian's point about '...someone using their authority according to their initial agreement, but putting something into the fiction that makes the game unfun for the other players'

It seems to me that:

1) 'rules' may acquire authority from a number of sources.

2) The rules and their authority may help the participants resolve conflicts or disagreements about 'what the participants may do during the game'.  (Of course 'rules' also perform other functions)

3) Decisions about whether to follow or break 'rules', whether to play or not to play, or how to employ the freedoms permitted within the 'rules' are made in a social context.

4) If the 'rules' permit a freedom that a player uses in a way that is counterproductive from that player's point of view, it is poor play.  'Good play' is not always technically good.  If I play Monopoly with ruthless efficiency, with the result that I upset my younger brother, this might be either good play or poor play from my point of view.

5) But if the 'rules' permit a freedom that a player uses in a way that is counterproductive from the other players' points of view, it is poor play only to the extent that the game is a cooperative game.

6) (I think...) most RPGs are cooperative games most of the time.

7) So 'legal moves' that seem counterproductive to other players would often be poor play in most RPGs.

8) The remedies for this kind of 'poor play' are the usual, socially determined, remedies for 'poor performance' generally - coaching/ training, exclusion, apology, avoiding the issue, changing the rules/ procedures etc.

9) These are the same kinds of remedies as are available for 'rule-breaking' behaviour.

10) In either case, altering the rules may provide a way to improve performance.

11) To the extent that RPGs are cooperative games, one function of rules is to enable/ assist the participants to play well.

I have not addressed the question of 'authority' in the above.

There is also the thorny question about what happens if one player wants to play cooperative and another wants to play competitive...




81. On 2009-07-26, cc said:

Re: "international treaty", sure I agree with that analogy, but it only highlights the problem - there being no external authority the only recourse that either party has is recrimination and hostility.  And it was to obviate that very outcome that we agreed and appointed an authority over the IS in the first place.

Consider the problem from the point of view of a third party who has not assented to the "new fact" asserted about the chamberlain; they have not even been asked to assent, and the due authority has not confirmed it.  Should they act on it?  Should they include it in their vision of the IS?  The coherency of the IS, the very act of it being shared has been undermined by the unilateral arrogation of authority over its content - to which arrogation this third party player has not assented either.

On "hypothetical constructs", I think this is a very dubious argument.  Societal norms and cultural values certainly do exist, even if they are not prescriptive at the individual level.  As generalisations they are valid and useful descriptions of really existing positions held by significant numbers of people.  Similarly it is invalid to say that there is no IS in actuality; the IS may not be real, its content may not exist, but the IS does actually exist.  If you read a book and describes the vista of a natural landscape, it evokes an imaginative act on your part.  The vista may not be real, but your act of imagination certainly was.  And while the IS may not be something that exists distinct from what those players do, in the sense of what they imagine, precisely because it is also shared it is synthetic and mediated, and thus independent of any one of them.  The SIS may not have content independent of what the group does, but it can have content independent of what a given individual within that group does.


82. On 2009-07-26, Vincent said:

I've been out of town and offline, so I'm behind. Please no more posts here until I catch up!


83. On 2009-07-26, Vincent said:

I'll make a new post. No more arguments about authority here.

Continuing Q & A welcome, please!


84. On 2009-07-28, Mathieu Leocmach said:

Question for one of my players : In Dogs, can we chose a dead person as relationship ? Especially during character creation.


85. On 2009-07-28, Vincent said:


Read up on the rules for when you get to roll those relationship dice before you do it, though. You won't get to roll them very often.


86. On 2009-07-29, Mathieu Leocmach said:


Another question about Dogs : what is the purpose of the 2b of character creation ?

It perturbed my player a great deal:

  1. He wished something positive for his character = I want to overcome my shyness to women
  2. He has to take the side against the wish he has just formulated


87. On 2009-07-29, Vincent said:

2b is absolutely the only way to play out a certain kind of initiation conflict.

If it's perturbing your player, stop before you roll dice. Back up, say "well that won't work, let's take another look at the stakes. How about, 'I hope I make friends with a pretty girl' instead?" Keep talking until you arrive at straightforward accomplishment-type stakes the player likes.


88. On 2009-07-29, Seth Ben-Ezra said:

>2b is absolutely the only way to play out a certain kind of initiation conflict.

Would it be fair to say that a player should take the side in an initiation that he wants to win?


89. On 2009-07-29, Vincent said:

Not always. The real problem is one of raises and sees in pursuit of the stakes. The player and GM should both take the sides that allow them to make effective, sensible raises and sees.

Player: I hope I learned to stop swearing.
Player takes the side of not swearing, GM takes the side of swearing. They roll; player's up first.
Player: [pushing forward two dice] I ... uh. Um. I don't swear? What's my raise here? Uh. I hit my finger with a hammer but I don't swear. Okay?
GM: [pushing forward two dice] I block! You ... um. You ... don't hit your finger?
Player: [frowning]
GM: Anyway my raise. [pushing forward 2 dice] You totally swear.
Player: But.
etc, awkwardly, until fin.


Player: I hope I learned to stop swearing.
Player takes the side of swearing, GM takes the side of the forces trying to teach the character to stop. They roll; player's up first.
Player: [pushing forward two dice] I hit my finger with a hammer. Dang a blang! Pigsteeple! Rowr my bazzle!
GM: [pushing forward two dice] I block. You get half a word out your mouth and Brother Elias is on you. [pushing forward 2 dice] He punches you in the eye.
Player: [reversing] You mama-borrowing wastrel brimhouse!
etc, far less awkwardly, until fin.

Again, if it doesn't make immediate sense during character creation, the thing to do is go back and revise the stakes until you get something you can both comfortably roll on.


90. On 2009-07-29, Seth Ben-Ezra said:

Awesome. Thanks, Vincent.

Friday we play Apocalypse World. I may have more for you after that.


91. On 2009-07-29, Vincent said:

Cool! I'm looking forward to hearing about it, questions or none.


92. On 2009-07-29, Moreno R. said:

Hi Vincent!

A completely different kind of question: about your games "voice".

Your last games are written in a very different tone (and format) than DitV. So much that if you were accused sometimes to "holding the hand" of the players too much in that game, now you get people asking for more hand-holding for Poison'd and IAWA.

You already said in old threads that you don't think that the text of poison'd or IAWA is less clear that DiTV (If I remember well, you said that you get the some number of questions, right?). But, even if I agreed about this (and I don't), this is not really the the answer to the question asked: it the question is "why" this change.

("I don't know, I just felt like that" would be a sufficient answer, but I hope you will be able to say more about the subject...  ;-)


93. On 2009-07-29, Vincent said:

Moreno: I think that both of those games deserve to be in short books, not long ones.

How do I answer further without answering to the implicit complaint?

Call it an experiment if you want - how little text can I get away with writing? (Answer: not THAT little, it turns out.) How much work can I demand of my audience? (Answer: better make it less, next time.) Can my audience learn rules in example form? (Answer: not across the board.)

The two games I'm working on now, Storming the Wizard's Tower and Apocalypse World, both deserve to be in long books, not short ones. So I'm writing them expansively.

I don't know what to say about it. Do you think that Poison'd would better fill a 64-page digest-sized paperback? It might reach a wider audience that way - only might! - but it'd break my heart.


94. On 2009-07-29, Josh W said:

My first question was about the right to dream posts and associated comment threads that we were chatting in before. The whole "old" stuff is my apology for bringing back up something you were at the time clearly reluctant to engage with. My question is this, in my memory of the thread, the focus on right to dream was what is kept constant. If it is true that all CAs are about exploration, what is the exploration that is also wish-fulfilment/pedestalling a certain thing?

My approximation was that the exploration is more about seeing what it actually looks like "in practice", playing out that combination and enjoying it's various details, with the exploration and the "newness" being like the difference between a play in a book and on a stage. Is that similar to your take on it?


95. On 2009-07-30, Bwian said:

Hi Vincent

I have started running a Storming the Wizard's Tower adventure for my brother, based on a copy of the rules I downloaded somewhere.

Above I noticed you said you were currently working on this game.

I'd like to help by giving you feedback on our experience, IF that would be helpful to you.


1) Are you interested in feedback on StWT?

2) If so, what aspects would you like feedback about? And

3) What form would you like the feedback to take?




96. On 2009-07-30, Mathieu Leocmach said:

Thanks Vincent, that is helpful. Actually we were exactly in the awkward situation you gave in answer to Seth.

Wouldn't it be more understandable to replace the straightforward/not straightforward wish distinction by an the PJ might fulfill the wish actively/passively distinction ?


97. On 2009-07-30, Vincent said:

Josh W: Ah, yeah. My take on it matches yours, yes. Right on.

(If you care about "exploration" as Forge-jargon, ask me, but please-oh-please make sure you actually care before you ask.)

Bwian: 1) Yes. 2) Whatever! Whatever works, whatever doesn't work, whatever you like or don't like. 3) Private email or a post in Playtesting at the Forge work best for me.


I'll write about Storming the Wizard's Tower in more detail, eventually. Meanwhile please do tell me how it goes.

Mathieu: I don't know. Maybe! Glad to help, anyway.


98. On 2009-08-03, Mathieu Leocmach said:

An Epistemological question :

When did you figured out all the Cloud & Dices stuff (including IItEEth) ? Before, during or after designing DitV ? Just before this serie of posts began ?

You are taking Dogs examples and they fit well, but is it a posteriori explanations of why that work or did you design your game thinking somehow that way from the start ?


99. On 2009-08-03, Vincent said:

I was acutely aware of IIEE in Dogs in the Vineyard. I designed its resolution rules as II>E>E quite on purpose, yes.

But for IItEEth, you have to understand, this was before I—E games even really existed. When I designed Dogs, did I know that I—E resolution would create weak, thin fiction? Probably; all of us with a grounding in successful pre-Story Games play have a gut sense for that kind of thing. What I didn't know was that I—E resolution would become so prevalent.

What I've just figured out, the impetus for these posts, is how to talk about it. Not how my games work, but how to articulate how my games work, and how other games might work differently.

Does that answer your question?


100. On 2009-08-03, Mathieu Leocmach said:


You've found recently the logos to talk and think about a problem that did not exist when you created Dogs. That's a great achievement ! (plain admiration, no kidding)

I hope this language will help operatively to make new better games.

Thanks for the answer. I'm new in the Forge's universe so history of the concepts helps a lot.

By the way, is I—E what was once called "scene resolution" ? Are the two notions equivalent ? If not, do they both go to trash or only I—E ?


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