2012-11-26 : Positioning: Two Timelines

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

This is a quick one.

I think of the moment of roleplaying as the point of contact between two timelines. One is the real timeline of the real people at the table. The other is the fictional timeline of the characters in their world. In the real timeline, we talk, roll dice, change things on character sheets, pass the chips. In the fictional timeline, our characters draw their swords, invade wizards' seclusia, fight magical guardians, fall in love with princes displaced in time and possibility, climb their way up from desperate destitute adventurers to wizards and kings.

Fictional positioning is how the fictional timeline touches the real timeline.

Everybody good with that? Any questions?

edit: Here's a picture.
Fictional Positioning & the lumpley principle

1. On 2012-11-26, Piers said:

Absolutely, though I kind of feel that "fall in love with princes displaced in time and possibility" might be happening in both.


2. On 2012-11-26, TMC said:

Wait.  Positioning is how the timelines touch, not the lumpley principle?  I'm sorry to be confused again, but I though positioning was the range of options a player has, while the lumpley principle was how we decided if what was said in real space actually happened in the fictional space.


3. On 2012-11-26, Vincent said:

TMC: Ah, yes!

Fictional positioning is how the fictional timeline reaches out and makes contact with the real one. The lumpley principle is how the real timeline reaches in and makes contact with the fictional one.

I'm going to draw a picture. Stand by.


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This makes...
TMC go "Sounds good!"

4. On 2012-11-26, DWeird said:

If I got this series of posts about right, a more confusing but naughty way to think about it is that the fictional timeline only 'really' exists as part of what the real people at the table do...

So in a way, the real people timeline is touching itself.


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This reminds...
GcL of Boggled Vincent
GcL of More on reality

This makes...
GcL go "Seems to me Real Timeline and Fictional Timeline"*

*click in for more

5. On 2012-11-26, TMC said:

Regarding your new illustration, I notice that the arrows do not go strait from the dice to the cloud or the cloud to the dice anymore.  Was that intentional?


6. On 2012-11-26, Vincent said:

Intentional, yes, but just to unclutter the image.


7. On 2012-11-26, Ben Lehman said:

I am super unhappy with this but I'm willing to sport it to you to see where you're going.


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This makes...
VB go "Good enough!"*

*click in for more

8. On 2012-11-26, Gordon said:

(Vincent/all - as usual, I'm not sure if my musing is gonna help understand the eventual question or not. Feel free to ignore and/or just read the bold)

DWierd pointed at what I wanted to question, but I wasn't sure how to talk about it.  I'm still not sure I've got it, and I know just enough to suspect there's a cliff-edge to fall off of here.  But a stab . . .

No one (I hope) is confused about the fact that an imaginary bus won't hit and kill you, whereas a real bus will.  But the act of imagining a bus is real, the outcome of the various electrochemical (and whatever) reactions we call thought.  We can hear (potentially, if the imaginer chooses to speak), in the real world, a person say "I imagine there's a bus on the street." While I can't be hurt by that bus, or touch/etc. it, the mere fact that I can talk about it at all means that it is in some sense real.

I don't think you disagree with this - the sense in which you mean the bus is unreal is the obvious, and partial, sense in which it is different from a bus that could run me down.  But seeing the Fiction as somehow seperate from The Real World seems (for me, at least sometimes) to open up a knee-jerk "the bus is too real in some ways" response.

I guess what I'd do is to note that the imagined bus is not "actual".  And note (quite importantly) that while what somone said is an actual thing, what that means in the fiction is NOT.  Because while saying "imaginary bus" is almost always clear, imaginary speech in general often isn't.

To handle this concern, rather than divide things into "The Real World" and "Fiction", I'd divide it into "Actual Elements/Timeline" and "Fictional [or Imagined] Elements/Timeline", both of which exist in "The Real World."  But I suspect this is a (important?unimportant?) semantic thing, as you don't mean to say that the fiction is outside the real world in any real (haha) way, just that it does not have the (in my words) same actuality as character sheets, dice, and etc.

I did also have a thought that making The Real World a super-category had other uses - like room for a third timeline, representing real things that aren't part of the fictional timeline or the actual timeline.  But maybe not.  You've already got things in both timelines that aren't "positioning," and maybe later you'll add legitimate/illegitimate, so - that's definitely on hold for now, not even worth a question (never mind disagreement!)


9. On 2012-11-27, Evan said:

This timeline concept also reminds me of those good ol' concepts from Russian formalism ? fabula (the chronological order of a story) and syuzhet (the order in which a story is told).

My only comment is that the fictional timeline can certainly be told out of chronological order.


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This makes...
ET go "I hates that my hyphens turn to ?'s!"
VB go "Me too."*

*click in for more

10. On 2012-11-27, Tim Ralphs said:

I am a bit suspicious of introducing time lines. Did we not accept, during the Smelly Chamberlain saga, that every point in the fictional timeline is subject to decisions made at every point in the real timeline? And that whole chronological arcs within the fiction may vanish, be retconned, etc as time progresses in the real world. To me, it would seem more accurate so show the time lines running perpendicular to each other. Each moment of real time would correspond with a more or less complete chronological arc of fictional time.

Maybe, during normal play,  our successive real world interactions concern successive fictional events. I guess that's what this drawing is trying to show?

Also! I want to know why Ben is unhappy.


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This makes...
BL go "Pretty much that"*
TR go "There's more to say"*
GcL go "Admitting complications and nuances, these timelines don't seem inaccurate"*
TR go "I don't think so."*
GcL go "FicPos is (as V says) where/how Fic touches the people"*

*click in for more

11. On 2012-11-27, Weeks said:

I'm thinking that the fictional timeline isn't the timeline as would be perceived by the characters were they real, it's more like the timeline of changes made to the fiction by the players.  Is that right?


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This makes...
TMC go "ditto"

12. On 2012-11-27, Vincent said:

Evan: Yes!

Weeks: Not definitely, no.

Hey, everybody: you know how first Luke Skywalker lived on Tatooine with his aunt and uncle, then droids came, then stormtroopers, then he went to Mos Eisley with Ben Kenobi and met Han Solo, and then they went to the Death Star and rescued Princess Leia? That's a fictional timeline. Roleplaying games have them too.

Fictional timelines are wicked interesting. They have many bizarre features. For instance, when Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia swung across the bottomless shaft in the Death Star, (a) did Princess Leia kiss Luke Skywalker on the lips for luck? If so, (b) were they brother and sister when she did it? Answer: it depends! And that answer is wicked interesting.

But the wicked, interesting, and bizarre qualities of fictional timelines aren't really to the point here.

Admitting all the complications and nuances, does everybody see what I mean when I say that fictional positioning is at the crux of the two timelines?

If not, ask away. If you do see but you disagree, cool, please make a note of it and hold off until the time comes.

Warning: Unless you're new here, you've been perfectly happy with the idea of a fictional timeline when I've called it IIEE. Anybody still quibbling is going to have some explaining to do.


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This makes...
TR go "Yeah, I think I see."
J W go "Fortune in the middle/end coming up soon?"
GcL go "Explaining"*

*click in for more

13. On 2012-11-28, Damian said:

I'm thinking about a non-linear Fictional Timeline (such as in Microscope), and I have the feeling that I'm either completely understanding what you are trying to say in here or that I'm completely missing the poing. Either way, I think that what you say about fictional positioning is really resonating with me in a very personal way.


14. On 2012-11-28, Greg Pogor said:

Unless you're new here, you've been perfectly happy with the idea of a fictional timeline when I've called it IIEE.

Holy fucking shit. The penny. It dropped.


15. On 2012-12-03, Jay Loomis said:

Uhh, so I'm cool that there are both fictional and real timelines. I'm also fine with the idea that our interactions with each other in the real world make the fictional timeline happen. I don't understand why the position on the real-world timeline matters at all in that interaction.

Does it matter because our motivation to assent or dissent to what's going on in the fiction changes depending on the real world circumstances at the time of interaction? (e.g. I'm having a shitty day today, so I'm less willing to go along with stuff I don't love than usual)

Or are you coming from some totally different place that you will reveal in your next post?


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This makes...
R go "This is about positioning, thus..."*

*click in for more

16. On 2012-12-07, Carsten said:

Well, I kind of see the point. it all seems very high-level and abstract.

I propose that in all all cases systematic elements also play large role, whether real (rules, books, randomizers, dialog keywords, moves) or fictional (previously established fact, convention, implied genre assumptions). Its probably impossible to define positions without systematic toolsets. At the very least toolsets greatly facilitate positioning. (you will probably say that "freeform" has no systems, but i would argue that any form of freeform *builds on* implied knowledge systematic bodies of rules that you simply mastered to the point where you can improvise over it - take jazz for example).

I am not saying I am disagreeing with the graph above. I can even find representation of system elements by the dice you included. Maybe I would just include a third arrow/timeline: an ideatic timeline, that holds the toolsets, implements, traditions, the lore of expression in RPGs.

This timeline would influence the concrete gaming experience (real timeline) as well as the fictional timeline and be in turn influenced by them (a houserule that becomes part of the implied assumptions even beyond this session/game, or even a new system that captures your insights from playing lots of games, but in turn gives tools of expression to others, maybe a certain system with moves at the center).


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