2012-11-20 : Positioning: My Premature Conclusion

Positioning series table of contents: Where were we...?

Down here, Carsten says:

What I really like to request is that you tell us the conclusion in the next post, otherwise it is hard to stay close to what interests you, and not just extracting what interests me about this topic.

Fair enough!

Here's my conclusion. I still have several topics to get through before I finally reach it, so this is premature, but if it helps you to stick with me, it's my pleasure.

For a decade now I've been saying that what distinguishes a roleplaying game from other kinds of games is that a roleplaying game works by the (so-called) lumpley principle (2nd construction): "Roleplaying is a social act."

Now I'm going to say that what distinguishes a roleplaying game from other kinds of games is that a roleplaying game includes fictional positioning. Chess, Scrabble, Poker, Eat Poo You Cat - they have cued positioning, and interpersonal positioning, but fictional positioning is what makes a roleplaying game a roleplaying game.

This means that there's a very strong link between the lumpley principle and fictional positioning. My conclusion: the fact that roleplaying is a social act makes fictional positioning happen. Fictional positioning shows us that roleplaying is a social act.

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

Warning! Nobody better go chasing off after how we define roleplaying games. That's not what I mean to do here, even though to some of you it may look like it.

I'll reiterate my conclusion: The lumpley principle makes fictional positioning exist in a game. The existance of fictional positioning in a game reveals that the game works by the lumpley principle.


2. On 2012-11-20, Gordon said:

Two things, phrased as many questions.

1)  I want to add a word - "a roleplaying game includes xxx fictional positioning."  But I'm not sure what xxx should be. Relevant? Meaningful? Socialized? Significant? I guess I'm worried about the near-universal applicability of 'mere' fictional positioning - do you share that concern? And your future posts may help reveal this, but - if you do share that concern, do you have a particular word/clarified understanding of "fictional positioning" to recommend?

2)  I'm seeing a very strong link between "fictional positioning" and "Color-first."  Am I crazy?


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

1) I tried to put a word somewhere in there too. So, maybe, yeah.

I guess it's important to remember that "positioning" implies availability to the game's currency systems. It's not just that an in-game fiction exists, it's that the details of the in-game fiction are gameplay-significant.

So, yeah.

2) I think that color-first design (here's another preview!) plays to roleplaying's strengths, and cue-first design doesn't.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that color-first design is right and cue-first is wrong, or anything like that. I'm not the boss of you. I would go so far as to say that I think that roleplayers respond better, overall, to color-first design, and that makes sense to me.


direct link

This makes...
GcL go "Cool! Although I wasn't focused on just Color-first design"*

*click in for more

4. On 2012-11-20, Evan said:

Great! Now to edit this series of posts into a book section. Fortunately, that's where I come in...


5. On 2012-11-20, Gordon said:

I think/hope this is about a complete understanding of fictional positioning, not defining RPGs.

An example: We're playing Chess, my pawn is diagonally adjacent to your queen, and it's my move. You say, in a threatening tone, "if a mere pawn strikes down their Queen, my people will be very, very put-out."  That kinda looks like fictional positioning - I might change my move because you said that.  It might have made me suspect you were sacrificing the Queen for a sure checkmate in x moves, or maybe I translated it to "if you take my Queen, there'll be no sweet, tasty home cooking for you later."  But it's not fictional positioning, because there's no currency involved?  The current Big Model definition of currency includes positioning as a component, so that becomes circular - if I decide the "my people" statement counts as positioning (which I might, because it can change player actions), by definition we're using currency.

Aside: I guess I kinda knew this, but it's now super-clear - the component-of-currency positioning of the Big Model is a quite different thing than this-here fictional positioning.  Vincent, what components would you put in "currency" nowadays?

But here, the fictional statement about "my people" only influences player choice, not anything about what moves are possible or the immediate consequences of them.  That only seems sorta-right, as "mess with the other players head" does seem to be a "move" - any other/better ways to describe it?

And obviously, I can just wait and see if this issue still exists when the rest of Vincent's posts roll out.


direct link

This makes...
GcL* go "Maybe this: Saying "my people" is interpersonal positioning"*

*click in for more

6. On 2012-11-20, Ben Lehman said:

That makes sense.


7. On 2012-11-21, Roger said:

The only thing here that's making me unhappy, and I have a lot of faith that you'll be getting to it sooner or later, is that it's easy to establish anti-social fictional positioning.  Just sit down and write some fanfic or something.


8. On 2012-11-21, David B said:

I'm struggling with your "second construction" of the lumpley principle, that "Roleplaying is a social act" and what that implies about the first construction, that "However you and your friends, moment to moment, establish and agree to what's happening in your game, that's your game's system." Because, you know, Chess, Scrabble, and chatting with strangers at the bus stop are social acts too, if you take "social act" to mean that it involves other people.

It's not just that roleplaying is an activity with other people, but that roleplaying is defined by the unique mix of people your bring to it, right? In this aspect it has more in common with chatting with strangers at the bus stop than with Chess and Scrabble, because it's flexible and open to the personalities, interests, and feelings of the players in a way that doesn't fit within a regular game's more limited parameters.

I think you're saying that this allowance—nay, invitation—for a piece of each player's own unique self in the rules of the game is what opens the door to fictional positioning, and fictional positioning is the little baby that comes out when the group's personalities and the game rules come together.

(I would suggest that there are other... erm... babies? that could result from the union of personalities and a different sort of game rules (such as Dixit), but as far as roleplaying games are concerned, this is certainly the hallmark.)


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

Gordon: Positioning isn't about which moves you choose, but which moves are available to you. If we're playing Chess and I tell you a story about how much my people love their queen and how bloodily they'll avenge her, it doesn't change your available moves, right?

Taking my queen with your pawn is still a legal move, even if you decide not to do it. In Chess, my telling a story can't change that.

Roger: I hope it works out, then!

David B: Oh, yeah, no, that's not it at all. I'll lay some more groundwork.

Everyone: I forgot to say it, but let's still have questions, not disagreement. Thanks!


10. On 2012-11-21, Gordon said:

Hoping that this is questioning, not disagreement, and that it's useful to someone other than me . . . and I can always go back to just waiting.

Going back to "It's not just that an in-game fiction exists, it's that the details of the in-game fiction are gameplay-significant," my concern was that the chess story obviously could have gameplay significance if it changed my move.  But by combining "the DETAILS of ..." and the alteration of AVAILABLE moves, maybe I see a distinction.

Even if we call the Chess-story a (non-piece-on-the-board) "move" that might well (not MUST) affect my future (non-piece-on-the-board) "moves". . . Is the expectation that a fictional statement MUST have a constraining (in the very broadest sense) effect as play continues what makes it a position?  A fictional statement might be a "move" in Chess in the sense that it produces a result in play, but the details of the statement itself create no limits unless the players happen to allow them to - and they can change their minds at any time.

I mean, in the absolute sense this is also true in RPGs, but the expectation is that, cues or no cues, such statements persistently matter.  In Chess, only the result matters.  It's not just that the statement has an effect (even a significant one), or that it has SOME continuing influence - it's the particular kind of effect and continuing influence it has.

Huh - unless the answer to my "Is the expectation ..." question is "No, not in any way at all," I think I'm close enough here.  Thanks for letting me ramble.


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

I think you're good. The mechanism in action that provides the effective constraint is the lumpley principle.


12. On 2012-11-21, Carsten said:

Thanks for the answer.

In turn, I will read, think, reread and not discuss before you had all your say on the topic.


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