2012-11-12 : Where were we...?

Looking back, I discover that there hasn't been any rpg theory here on my blog since June. What's up with that?

Evan Torner wants me to write a piece about fictional positioning. Fictional positioning is a great topic - it's right at the crux of both timelines, plus negotiating assent and occult shared ownership, plus this whole fiction-first / concrete imagery kick I've been on, and furthermore its name contains a reference to Ron Edwards' components of character that the idea backs up but that isn't obvious, while at the same time being an idea outside of the Big Model. And on top of that, it's a term of Emily's and she's sometimes thought I've appropriated and misused it, and I can see why but I don't think I have, so there's some personal tension involved too. SO MUCH to dig into!

Of those, anybody have any opinions where I should start?

Series table of contents:
Emily on Fictional Positioning
Positioning: the Big Model vs Emily, reconciled
Positioning: System and gameplay options
Positioning: My Premature Conclusion
Positioning: Some Looly Pooly Groundwork
Positioning: Two Timelines
Positioning: Two Timelines in Text
Positioning: Legitimacy and Occult Co-ownership
Positioning: Retroactive
Positioning: what about Resource and Effectiveness?
Positioning: the Okay Cycle
Positioning: Disagreements?

1. On 2012-11-12, Alex F said:

What's your favorite fictional position?

Mine is the missionary. Ripe for conflicts.


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This makes...
R go "Is that because good conflict requires staring into each other's eyes, or...?"
AF go "Totally"*
R go "Oh, sure!"*

*click in for more

2. On 2012-11-12, akooser said:

Here please:
"contains a reference to Ron Edwards' components of character that the idea backs up but that isn't obvious"

Also the intersection of fictional position and the Big Model and what about fictional positioning lies outside of the Big Model.


3. On 2012-11-13, David B said:

Hi Vincent. It's exciting to see you're getting back into theory on this blog! That said, I'm eager to see how you can keep this topic concrete. Lots of good examples, as usual, please.

One place to start is at the beginning. What is fictional positioning and how does it fit in with the other most essential aspects of RPG game design? Set the stage for a deeper discussion.


4. On 2012-11-13, Simon C said:

Occult shared ownership! I have no idea what that's about, and I want to know!


5. On 2012-11-13, Kristian JR said:

"fiction-first / concrete imagery"

I want to know what this is. And what kick you've been on. Do tell!


6. On 2012-11-13, Evan said:

I thought the bull should just be grabbed by its horns...


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This makes...
VB go "Good choice."

7. On 2012-11-13, Weeks said:

Uh, I'm sure you'll get to the good theory stuff either way, so if I'm being honest, I'd most like you to tell stories about tension between you and Emily.  Do you two mean something different when you employ the term?  What's the term's origin story?


8. On 2012-11-13, Damian said:

Personally, I'm very interested in the "plus this whole fiction-first / concrete imagery kick I've been on" part. :)


9. On 2012-11-13, Terwox said:

Crux of both timelines?  Please start before the beginning, ha.  Which timelines?


10. On 2012-11-13, Marhault said:

Concrete Imagery.

Yeah, I capitalized it.  Can you feel the jargonification, Internet?  Can you?


11. On 2012-11-14, Greg Pogor said:

It's all WARRGRBL in my head but I'll try to get it out, so if you don't get it, blame me for not saying things smart.

I have this nagging suspicion that if you want people around the table to do a thing while playing your game, having a rule that say "do that thing!" is dumb and doesn't work. Because that's not a rule, that's the effect you want the rules to have.

So you design a rule (or rules) that, if the players follow them, will produce the thing you want the players to do.

Like, in Dogs, you want the PC to risk their life to solve moral conundrums, but you don't say "GM, make moral conundrums! Players, solve them!". You make rules that will produce moral conundrums and give the PC means and needs to solve them.

Or like in AW, you want the players to produce concrete imagery but you don't say "hey, players, produce concrete imagery!". Instead you design your moves so that they don't work if you don't produce concrete imagery ("I'm going aggro!" "Okay, cool, how? With which gun of yours, and what do you actually do? Cause if you don't tell me I can't decide how much damage, AP or not, if the other one caves...")

0) anybody gets what I'm trying to say ?
1) am I alone thinking that ?
2) how do you do that !?


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This makes...
GcL go "0-Think so 1-No, 2-With deep, sweet pain"
GP go "nodding with approval."

12. On 2012-11-14, Gregor said:

David B wrote: "What is fictional positioning and how does it fit in with the other most essential aspects of RPG game design?"
I think this has been covered by the previous fictional positioning posts? Although re-stating or re-phrasing it might be useful.

Greg Pogor: What you're describing sounds like the fruitful void. You don't design rules for what the game's about, you design rules *about* what the game is about, thus keeping the thing it's about in the eye of the storm.

I'm most interested in clarifying:
-how it's not obvious it's referencing Ron's components of character
-how and why is it outside the Big Model
-what is this feud with Emily and how have you misused her term?
What I actually want you to write:
-the concrete imagery kick


13. On 2012-11-14, Greg Pogor said:

Greg Pogor: What you're describing sounds like the fruitful void.

Nah, I think it's a bit before that, if you see what I mean. It's what makes the fruitful void interesting and pushes the players to go there.


14. On 2012-11-15, Vincent said:

Attention voyeurs!

Make sure you've read Emily on Fictional Positioning and Positioning: the Big Model vs Emily, reconciled.

So my misuse of Emily's term was like this. Emily was all "fictional positioning, right?" And I was all "fictional positioning, woo," but then what I talked about was the in-fiction part of the Big Model's positioning as a character component. The expanded definition was in my head, but I was talking to you all, and it was just more convenient to presume mechanical one-player-one-character GMed games, and in those games that's what positioning looks like. So it seemed to Emily like I was taking her much bigger, more far-reaching idea and presenting it as a modest expansion of the Big Model's parochial idea.

She was all, "Vincent. You claimed my term and made it weaker than it is. What the hell."


15. On 2012-11-20, Vincent said:

Okay! So far I've hit the relationship between fictional positioning and positioning in the Big Model, and how it led me to apparently appropriate the term, to Emily's displeasure, even though I didn't really so that's okay. I've also made a solid start on Evan's question about the interface between positioning and system, although I haven't quite said out loud yet that the lumpley pumpley inevitably creates fictional positioning, that the two ideas are inextricably linked. Soon!

Still to come:
- both timelines
- negotiating assent and occult shared ownership
- fiction-first / concrete imagery
- teasing out what Greg Pogor means above
- Evan's question about players becoming good at positioning
- my conclusion, as Carsten asks, sooner than later


16. On 2012-11-20, Vincent said:

- an aside about interpersonal positioning


17. On 2012-11-21, Vincent said:

- wait, what does this mean for effectiveness and resources?


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