2014-07-18 : Non-Endstate Objects, Strategy & Style

Following from Procedure, Components, Object, Strategy, Style; Strategy vs Style; and Objects of RPGs.

So take it that the object of Human Contact is to create sf in the universe of the Academy, resolving (fictional) situations into new situations from chapter to chapter.

This object supplants* your normal interests while you're playing, right, but it doesn't give you an endstate to play toward. During play, you're either doing it or you aren't, and when you stop playing, you've either done it or you haven't, but it doesn't tell you when to stop playing.

So at any given moment in Human Contact, you have an assortment of procedurally legal plays, and you can choose between them strategically, right? Given that you're trying to make sf in the universe of the Academy, resolving situations into new situations chapter by chapter, you can tell which plays are strategically sound, which are questionable, and which are poor plays.

The object is so open-ended that the set of strategically sound plays is usually going to be very large, but that's fine.

And given this (probably large) set of strategically sound plays, you'll be able to go on to make a stylistic choice about which to make, right?

For example, here's a play that is sometimes procedurally legal to make during Human Contact: "I step up to her, right up in her face. 'Back off or I'm going to drop an asteroid on your home city. Don't test me.'"

The procedures tell you when it's legal. When it's legal, you weigh it against the object of the game - to create sf, resolving situations into new situations, chapter by chapter - to decide whether it's strategically sound. If it is strategically sound, it's a stylistic choice whether to make that play or a different strategically sound play.

Still with me?

1. On 2014-07-18, Vincent said:

Human Contact lives here, by the way.


2. On 2014-07-18, Vincent said:

Haha! Here's a fun thing to think about. What if...

"The object of Human Contact is to create doomed romances in the universe of the Academy, creating situations that resolve into ever-more tragic and romantic situations, ending in a bloody display of murder, revenge, suicide, and marriage."

"The object of Human Contact is to create sf in the universe of the Academy, but to hold the initial situation absolutely unchanged for as long as you're able, no matter what challenges you create to threaten it."

"The object of Human Contact is to see your character come out on top of every situation she's in, situation after situation, chapter after chapter."

"The object of Human Contact is to create a cruel parody of real-world academia, using the universe of the Academy, resolving every situation into one that is more preposterous, more stultified, and more inhumane."

It's obvious that when you switch from "first to 100 points wins" to "first to 100 points loses, lowest points wins" you change your game's strategy. It's just as true when the object of your game is open-ended.


3. On 2014-07-18, Ben Lehman said:

still with you.

getting very happy.


4. On 2014-07-18, J. Walton said:

Yup. Still good. Comment #2 is really important.

My only concern is that you might be collapsing a lot of different things into "Object," yeah? There's the Object of the game as a whole, the Object of a particular session, the Object of a particular scene or other portion of play, the Object of what I as a player am trying to achieve with this particular character, etc. Yeah? Or are you parsing those complexities differently.


5. On 2014-07-18, Vincent said:

J. Walton: Objects are diverse, yes! There's enormous room for weird and wonderful things inside my "object-or-objects-or-none."

There's also lots of room for that stuff in strategy, though. Like, do the opening, midgame, and endgame of Chess have different objects, or different strategies?

I don't think it's very important which.


6. On 2014-07-18, J. Walton said:

Cool, then. We're on the same page. Looking forward to shoes dropping.


7. On 2014-07-18, Simon C said:

Hey, here's another way of asking the same question I asked before:

Depending on the object of the game, a choice in play might be strategy or style or just plain irrelevant, yeah?

In the "get your meeple to the end of the level", choosing a pretty skin for my meeple is just a stylistic choice, correct? It doesn't have bearing on the object of the game.

But in, say, Monsterhearts (object: make the world vivid and exciting, play to find out), if I describe my dude as being super hot and choice-looking, that's strategy, yeah? It's a choice I make that's relevant to the object of the game.


8. On 2014-07-18, Moreno R. said:

@Simon C: from what I have understood of the distinction, I think that the answer is this:

1) Making your PC "super hot and choice-looking is strategy.
2) "Style" is HOW you make him good-looking and Hot. What does "hot" means to you, in aesthetic terms, as a human being at the table?

Does making him "hot" involve making him like Vin Diesel, or like Harry Potter? Or like David Bowie?

Obviously, it's not so simple and clear in actual play: you can use the strategy to ask advice about "what would make him hot" from the other players, ensuring that they will, in fact, find him hot, for example. But I would call this more a social skill than a game strategy.

And here is where differences in styles can ruin the game (or at least a scene) for you: what if the other players and the MC don't see your depiction of that character as hot at all? What if your vision of the character is frustrated and distorted? You played using the right rules, You had a sound strategy....  but you could not like the results anyway!

Vincent, I got it right, or have I completely misunderstood what do you mean with "style"?


9. On 2014-07-18, Vincent said:

Simon: Without knowing the game's procedures, we can't possibly know what effect choosing your skin might ir night not have.

Both of you: Please, please remember that normally in every kind of game, every play you make is foremost strategically sound, as best you judge it. Please think of stylistic decisions as being strategic decisions first and stylistic second, not as being strategically neutral.


10. On 2014-07-19, Simon C said:

Ok, yup, that's true.

And after re-reading your previous post, I think I get what you mean by "style".

I think there's another thing in games, which I was getting it confused with, which is:

"Stuff that has no bearing on the game's object, but which is allowed by the game's procedures".

So, with you so far.


11. On 2014-07-19, Vincent said:

Simon: Great!


12. On 2014-07-19, Jeremy said:

How does player skill & ability play into this?  What about when players bring a different object to the game than what the game assumes?

Like, at one extreme is the novice chess player who literally cannot see all the procedurally allowed moves, much less the strategically sound ones.  Their skill (or lack thereof) is effectively limiting their available moves and thus greatly inhibiting they're style.  At the opposite extreme in the same game, a master's ability to see the impact of a move 4-5 moves in advance greatly changes what she considers to be a strategically sound move. Thus her style is greatly affected by her ability.

Now take the example of the master playing chess against her precocious nephew.  The nephew's object might be "put my aunt's king in checkmate" but the master aunt's objective might be "teach my nephew how to play chess."  Her procedurally valid moves are unchanged (for the most part) but her strategically sound moves are fundamentally different, because her object is different than the stated object of the game.

Switching to RPGs, there are infinite (or close enough) procedurally sound moves at any given moment. Certain player qualities (memory, creativity, experience, charisma, real-world knowledge, visualization, adherence to formal procedure, etc.) unlock or preclude many of these procedurally valid options and greatly affect which of those options are perceived as strategically sound. And that greatly affects what stylistic decisions I am making.

Now suppose that I'm sitting down to play Human Contact with my friends who've all played it a bunch, and they play it to make SF in the world of the Academy, resolving situations into new situations.  But I've come from a long line of power-fantasy wish fullfillment RPGing, and I play with the object of "see my character come out on top of every situation."  I'm going to prioritize procedurally valid moves based on that object, changing my strategically sound options, and it'll probably look an awful lot like I'm just making different stylistic choices.  But I'm not.  My object is different than that which the game was designed for.

I'm not sure if all of this has a point. Maybe it's just an observation.  I don't think I disagree with you, Vincent, about any of your definitions (objects, procedures, strategy, style), but I think it's all a lot muddier than those definitions imply.


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