The connection between abstract rules and game fiction

edited March 2012 in Story Games
I feel that in many indie games attributes and the like are so abstract they don't mean anything concrete in the fiction (i.e. stuff that's happening in the game world). No, I don't want to go back to counting bullets. But stats like "Willing" and "Positive condition: Supported" are so abstract they hardly evoke any imagery. Here are some questions that came into my mind:

-In the games you play, can you trace the fiction back to mechanics ("Jo shooting Jim clearly means that Jo's player used her Condition: armed")?
-If not, does it imply you're creating the fiction without much help from the system, mechanics and fiction each staying in their own realm?
-Do easily reskinnable mechanics mean there was not that much flavor in them in the first place?
-In the games you play, do you ever have things happening in fiction that you absolutely didn't want or couldn't foresee happening, as in, you can't just always interpret the mechanics so that you get something you wanted in the first place?
-If some mechanical element doesn't come up in the game fiction at all, can it still be relevant in some way?

I guess they could be split to different threads, but I think they all revolve around the same theme.

Comments

  • Have you read about Clouds and Boxes? If you haven't, it's enormously helpful before engaging in any discussion of these matters: http://www.lumpley.com/archive/156.html
  • edited March 2012
    This definitely can be an issue in some indie games (and other games), without a doubt. In fact, the "Cloud and Boxes" discussion that Matt linked came out of some concerns about these kinds of issues. Games in which players invent traits in a freeform manner (including classics like Dogs in the Vineyard, etc.) can be subject to really general or fiction-light traits that are easily "invoked." Plus, trait-invokation itself can be somewhat problematic if it isn't tied closely to the fiction, especially if there is mechanical or social pressure for players to invoke as many traits as they possibly can in order to succeed.

    The best solution I know of is to focus on the fiction as hard as you can and try to develop a group consensus that the fictional circumstances always rule the day. Or play games in which it's really difficult to invoke the mechanics without a strong grounding in the fiction (i.e. "fail-fast" games).
  • In the games you play, can you trace the fiction back to mechanics?

    Yes. I don't find conditions like that very "abstract." Something like "condition: armed" is very specific. The fact that it could mean a gun, a sword, or a chair just makes it flexible to the fiction.

    When random results come up that are too specific, sometimes it works and sometimes it feels random and forced.

    Do easily reskinnable mechanics mean there was not that much flavor in them in the first place?

    Depends on what is being reskinned and what is left untouched. I've only heard of one instance of people playing Smallville in the written setting, and yet it's going to drive relationship drama regardless of the reskinning. You can play anything you want with Primetime Adventures, as long as its a TV Show. FATE on the other hand does handle action genres well, but it also does hard sci-fi and I imagine could work with a somber parlor setting (not very well, in my opinion, though). Easily reskinned mechanics can be a sign of lighter theme or genre controls in the mechanics, but I'd say more often it's a sign of the player(s) not having an attachment to whatever sort of flavor they're changing. Like, I don't get why so many people enjoy HERO games for superheroes, but they're after a much different flavor of superheroes than I am in the first place.

    In the games you play, do you ever have things happening in fiction that you absolutely didn't want or couldn't foresee happening, as in, you can't just always interpret the mechanics so that you get something you wanted in the first place?

    Oh, sure. If I'm reading you correctly, that's the entire point of game mechanics for me (instead of just playing an improve game or storytelling with friends). The results are often surprising and unexpected. This can be simply die rolls, but the more memorable moments go beyond the mechanics.

    There are always times where someone says or does something (usually dialog though) that wows everyone and changes the course of events. I was in a Dogs in the Vineyard game, where we were in the middle of a heated conflict, and every raise so far has been promising a no-holds-barred bloody fight. Then someone said something unexpected, but emotionally true to what was going on, and the other person immediately gave in. The conflict ended without bloodshed because allowing that moment to happen was better than trying to win by any other means.

    If some mechanical element doesn't come up in the game fiction at all, can it still be relevant in some way?

    If it comes up mechanically it's ALWAYS relevant. I'm not sure what would come up mechanically that's ignored fictionally? The only type of example that comes to mind are hit points (or stress in FATE) which has no real fiction impact. There's no penalties, no necessary injuries. It's more of an expression of how much "fight" a character has left. You can choose to describe sword blows, scratches, or near misses and wearing down, but you can also skip past it to make things move faster. It's still relevant in the most important way (the game mechanics) even if not expressed in the fiction. Is that along the lines of what you were thinking?
  • Posted By: Upstart- In the games you play, can you trace the fiction back to mechanics ("Jo shooting Jim clearly means that Jo's player used her Condition: armed")?
    - If not, does it imply you're creating the fiction without much help from the system, mechanics and fiction each staying in their own realm?
    - Do easily reskinnable mechanics mean there was not that much flavor in them in the first place?
    These first two are things that clearly vary depending on what game I'm playing. For example, almost all of the character traits in 1001 Nights actually have zero mechanical effect, while the fictional effects for the stories told are all just in the hands of the current storyteller. On the other hand, in my Call of Cthulhu game, there is a pretty clear connection between the stats for the 12 gauge shotgun and the fictional effect of firing it.
    Posted By: UpstartIn the games you play, do you ever have things happening in fiction that you absolutely didn't want or couldn't foresee happening, as in, you can't just always interpret the mechanics so that you get something you wanted in the first place?
    Something happening that I couldn't foresee is pretty rare. The only cases I can think of are where I didn't know the rules for something and was surprised when I looked them up. In most cases, though, I know what the options are that could come up as a result of the mechanics, so I can foresee any of those. For the most part, I enjoy whatever comes up.
    Posted By: UpstartIf some mechanical element doesn't come up in the game fiction at all, can it still be relevant in some way?
    I think this is definitely the case, as long as the players know that they are there. An example I typically use is this:

    In a LARP (live-action role-playing) game, I place a prop gun on the table. In explaining the rules, I say that in this game, anyone can pick up the gun - and if they fire it at someone, that player character is automatically dead. Now we can go through playing the game and it may be that no one actually picks up the gun. However, it could definitely make a difference to the experience of the players to know that the option of firing that gun is there. For example, two characters might have a heated argument in the room, and one of them glances at the table but ultimately makes no move towards it. The experience of the player is undoubtedly affected knowing that they could instantly kill the other.
  • In the games you play, can you trace the fiction back to mechanics ("Jo shooting Jim clearly means that Jo's player used her Condition: armed")?
    "Her excellent strike easily evades your poor attempt at blocking. What's protecting your shoulder?" "Leather." "The dagger cuts through it and you take a moderate wound."
    Yeah, usually. We typically discard rules that don't reflect well in the fiction.
    If not, does it imply you're creating the fiction without much help from the system, mechanics and fiction each staying in their own realm?
    Gee, that would suck.
    Do easily reskinnable mechanics mean there was not that much flavor in them in the first place?
    Loaded question. Easily reskinnable mechanics can have orifices for putting flavour in and they can also not. Easily reskinnable mechanics often have a meta-flavour. This is evident, for example, in the resolution mechanic from Apocalypse World.
    In the games you play, do you ever have things happening in fiction that you absolutely didn't want or couldn't foresee happening, as in, you can't just always interpret the mechanics so that you get something you wanted in the first place?
    All the time. Getting shot sucks. Having to shoot players sucks too because usually they're at high risk of death.
    If some mechanical element doesn't come up in the game fiction at all, can it still be relevant in some way?
    All mechanics reflect in the fiction somewhere because they're part of the conditions of play. Whether the mechanic-fiction meshes well with the non-mechanic fiction is another question. Ideally, both can be dealt with in one motion. Is a piece of mechanic-fiction that is not relevant to the non-mechanic fiction relevant to the overall fiction? It really depends on the goals of the game in question. If a game consists of two distinct and unconnected subgames then it certainly will feel dissonant. I won't say that that's bad by definition though.
  • edited March 2012
    Upstart, your post rings to me of activation conditions. How much fictional information is required to employ a mechanical action or quantity? If the answer is "not much", then the task of connecting the specific fiction of the moment to the mechanics is left to the player(s).

    A mechanic that resolves what happens when you fire your 9mm necessarily requires very specific information in order to be activated. "I am holding my 9, I am firing it."

    A mechanic that resolves what happens when you try to stop an enemy from escaping necessarily requires only very general information. "It is possible that I might stop him somehow."

    My opinion is that you certainly can connect that to the specific fiction of the moment, but the rules won't help you, and instructions and advice will only help you so far. To get all the way there, you need the group agreement Jonathan mentions above. Some instructions and advice do a better job of fostering that agreement than others.

    If your group brings that urge for connection to the table, and the skills to make it happen, then hopefully you can derive value from the other things a given ruleset provides -- constraint and/or inspiration, perhaps.

    On the other hand, if doing all the connecting yourselves isn't feasible or enjoyable, I think the only other way to get that strong, specific connection is to have rules that are activated by very specific fictional occurrences.
  • Here's a thought: the more that a mechanic can get you your intent, the less specific its scope (including activation conditions) will tend to be. Many indie games are notable for resolving intent ("Do I get what I want?" as opposed to "Did my specific action succeed?").
  • In my opinion, the game rules are the aforementioned group agreement. Rules text provides suggestions about the configuration of that group agreement. It's kind of like the difference between what you'd write in a recipe and the 'rules' of your cooking process. The text is not necessarily primary, and in some cases doesn't exist.
  • Posted By: bigglesIn my opinion, the game rulesarethe aforementioned group agreement.
    Yup.
    Posted By: David BergUpstart, your post rings to me ofactivation conditions. How much fictional information is required to employ a mechanical action or quantity? If the answer is "not much", then the task of connecting the specific fiction of the moment to the mechanics is left to the player(s).

    A mechanic that resolves what happens when you fire your 9mm necessarily requiresvery specificinformation in order to be activated. "I am holding my 9, I am firing it."

    A mechanic that resolves what happens when you try to stop an enemy from escaping necessarily requires onlyvery generalinformation. "It is possible that I might stop him somehow."
    Not just activation conditions, but the feedback to the fiction too. If there is much leeway in translating fiction to rules and much leeway in translating rules to fiction, I think the rules don't really have a lot of connection with what happens. I guess I want there to be some clear boundaries, like "you only get Karma by beating people up in the fiction" or "the only way you can use Condition: armed is to actually use your weapon in the fiction".
    Posted By: David BergHere's a thought: the more that a mechanic can get you yourintent, the less specific its scope (including activation conditions) will tend to be. Many indie games are notable for resolving intent ("Do I get what I want?" as opposed to "Did my specific action succeed?").
    Hum, now I'm realizing I don't really give a shit about intent per se. In visual media, if somebody's intent is relevant, it's good storytelling to show it. I don't want a clumsy VO explaining what this guy's motivation really was. I want it to be evident from the actual events, even if it's someone just crying in silence or staring at an empty chair. Now, in many games, the motivations, goals and intents are represented in the rules in a quite exact manner, while there's a lot of room for interpreting what happens in the fiction. But for me it'd be compelling if the fiction was quite exact but there was a lot of room for interpreting the meaning of actions. Maybe it'd feel forced and unnatural, I don't know.
    Posted By: J. WaltonThis definitely can be an issue in some indie games (and other games), without a doubt. In fact, the "Cloud and Boxes" discussion that Matt linked came out of some concerns about these kinds of issues. Games in which players invent traits in a freeform manner (including classics like Dogs in the Vineyard, etc.) can be subject to really general or fiction-light traits that are easily "invoked." Plus, trait-invokation itself can be somewhat problematic if it isn't tied closely to the fiction, especially if there is mechanical or social pressure for players to invoke as many traits as they possibly can in order to succeed.

    The best solution I know of is to focus on the fiction as hard as you can and try to develop a group consensus that the fictional circumstances always rule the day. Or play games in which it's really difficult to invoke the mechanics without a strong grounding in the fiction (i.e. "fail-fast" games).
    Yeah, exactly. Can you think of any examples of these fail-fast games?
  • Well, Dogs is really pretty good as long as you really make people justify their use of their Traits—something I've been a little lax on a time or two when GMing.

    Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard are both great (as is Burning Empires), as far as I'm concerned, and although sometimes the MG conflict system (and Range and Cover in BW, though BWG made it better) can feel a little too abstract for some people, it's not hard to keep it very fiction-grounded if the GM has a level head about such things.

    Matt
  • Most of the fail-fast games I can think of (like Apocalypse World, where you have to reference the fiction in order to engage most of the mechanics) don't have freeform traits at all, which is one of the benefits to not using them. Nowadays when I review a game with freeform traits (like in Game Chef or just when somebody asks me to look at their draft), I tend to tell them that telling people to make up their own traits, without any further guidance, just doesn't cut it as a game design technique anymore. Dogs is actually pretty decent about explaining what makes good traits, but it's not on the character sheet and doesn't always get transmitted in play (falls on the GM). Better games have more concrete guidelines on trait creation or lists of traits for you to choose from.

    I'll try to think of other games with freeform trait creation + fail-fast. None immediately come to mind, but I'm sure there are some.
  • The best fail-fast element in Dogs is a raise in conflict. You have to say exactly what you do, in the fiction, when you raise, otherwise the game stops -- because I can't decide whether to take the blow or not unless I know exactly what it is.
  • edited March 2012
    Upstart, I'm curious: Your stated preference here is for tighter rules-fiction translation. You can get that in lots of trad games, and also in lots of independently published games outside the Forge and S-G fortés. But you also mentioned "indies", so I'm guessing there's something about those Forge/S-G-favored systems you also like. Are you looking for a fusion of tight translation with something indie? If so, what is the indie thing you want to keep?

    I was all set to delve into resolving "Do you get what you want?" with tighter translation, but if you're not into the "intent" focus then I guess that'd be beside the point.

    In my opinion, most Dogs traits and Apocalypse World moves, while tighter than "Willing" or "Positive condition: Supported", are nowhere near as tight as, for example, skills in d20. Burning Wheel resolution is generally tight but can also mix in a lot of loose, depending on how you approach it.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonThis definitely can be an issue in some indie games (and other games) [...]

    The best solution I know of is...
    I don't know if Jonathan meant it this way or not, but there's been a certain movement/trend in the "indie community" over the last two years or so to design towards "fixing" this issue. People have been looking for ways to reconnect mechanics and fiction in various ways, after a period of looser and looser games (such as games where your intent is stated and then the resolution rules give you a result, all potentially without any connection to concrete fictional events).

    However, it's worth mentioning that there are many gamers who do not consider this to be a virtue at all. They *love* the freedom of a looser connection between fiction and mechanics and very firmly want it to stay that way in their games.

    (I like a tight connection, personally, but I also understand where they're coming from and very much enjoy certain types of very loosely-connected mechanics.)
  • Posted By: Upstart-In the games you play, can you trace the fiction back to mechanics ("Jo shooting Jim clearly means that Jo's player used her Condition: armed")?
    -If not, does it imply you're creating the fiction without much help from the system, mechanics and fiction each staying in their own realm?
    -Do easily reskinnable mechanics mean there was not that much flavor in them in the first place?
    -In the games you play, do you ever have things happening in fiction that you absolutely didn't want or couldn't foresee happening, as in, you can't just always interpret the mechanics so that you get something you wanted in the first place?
    -If some mechanical element doesn't come up in the game fiction at all, can it still be relevant in some way?
    My answer to this brought me way out there, so I opened a new thread.
  • Posted By: Paul T.

    I don't know if Jonathan meant it this way or not, but there's been a certain movement/trend in the "indie community" over the last two years or so to design towards "fixing" this issue. People have been looking for ways to reconnect mechanics and fiction in various ways, after a period of looser and looser games (such as games where your intent is stated and then the resolution rules give you a result, all potentially without any connection to concrete fictional events).

    However, it's worth mentioning that there are many gamers who do not consider this to be a virtue at all. They *love* the freedom of a looser connection between fiction and mechanics and very firmly want it to stay that way in their games.

    (I like a tight connection, personally, but I also understand where they're coming from and very much enjoy certain types of very loosely-connected mechanics.)
    Care to give examples of indie games that support tight connection?
    Posted By: David BergUpstart, I'm curious: Your stated preference here is for tighter rules-fiction translation. You can get that in lots of trad games, and also in lots of independently published games outside the Forge and S-G fortés. But you also mentioned "indies", so I'm guessing there's something about those Forge/S-G-favored systems you also like.Areyou looking for a fusion of tight translation with something indie? If so, what is the indie thing you want to keep?

    I was all set to delve into resolving "Do you get what you want?" with tighter translation, but if you're not into the "intent" focus then I guess that'd be beside the point.

    In my opinion, most Dogs traits and Apocalypse World moves, while tighter than "Willing" or "Positive condition: Supported", are nowherenearas tight as, for example, skills in d20.
    I turned into indies precisely because I disliked the toolbox mentality prevalent in trads. I want the mechanics to produce a certain kind of story even if the players are going to hate it. Isn't that quite far removed from usual trad ideals?
    Posted By: J. WaltonMost of the fail-fast games I can think of (like Apocalypse World, where you have to reference the fiction in order to engage most of the mechanics) don't have freeform traits at all, which is one of the benefits to not using them. Nowadays when I review a game with freeform traits (like in Game Chef or just when somebody asks me to look at their draft), I tend to tell them that telling people to make up their own traits, without any further guidance, just doesn't cut it as a game design technique anymore. Dogs is actually pretty decent about explaining what makes good traits, but it's not on the character sheet and doesn't always get transmitted in play (falls on the GM). Better games have more concrete guidelines on trait creation or lists of traits for you to choose from.

    I'll try to think of other games with freeform trait creation + fail-fast. None immediately come to mind, but I'm sure there are some.
    I thought you were talking about fail-fast games generally. I usually hate freeform trait creation because it gives the players too much options to do what they want.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: UpstartCare to give examples of indie games that support tight connection?
    This might take someone smarter than me.

    Personally, I find the "tight connection" (which seems to be a term we've invented in this thread) is a very personal and subjective issue. Some people feel that certain types of mechanics are very "immersive" or tightly wound to the fiction, and others disagree completely.

    For instance, some people would consider d20-style task resolution to be very "tight" in this sense:
    Posted By: David Bergnowherenearas tight as, for example, skills in d20
    And some others criticize d20 for precisely this problem: some guy rolls his Diplomacy skill and now the NPC is supposed to be Friendly, but we don't really know why.

    Especially interesting studies, I think, are rules-light resolution games, like The Pool and Ghost/Echo. Are those mechanics "tighter" in terms of rules-fiction connection, or looser?

    Edit: Joe McDaldno's "Gun Thief" is also a good example, as is JWalt's Ghost Opera/Nine Suns. Neither involves any dice at all, but both are pretty heavily fixated on the fiction that's happening at any given moment.

    A lot of people tote Apocalypse World as one of the best "tight" designs in this sense, but many disagree with that too.

    I think it depends a lot on the techniques you and your group use to play in a certain style, and how the mechanics of a particular game interface (or fail to interface) with your preferred techniques. (It also depends a great deal on what's "familiar" and comfortable and what isn't to a certain gamer.)
  • Posted By: UpstartI want the mechanics to produce a certain kind of story even if the players are going to hate it.
    I think combining that with tight fiction-mechanics translation is a genuinely difficult spec!

    I like it, though. I'll see if I can come up with anything...

    The most "produce a certain kind of story" games I can think of don't even have mechanics that enter the flow of roleplay. Grey Ranks, Fiasco, and Montsegur 1244 all basically take turns between "now we're establishing some key content or criteria for the fiction" and "now we're doing stuff in character".

    Perhaps the solution is just to build the right situations: the right combo of starting scenarios, character objectives, and rules for what happens when the PCs aren't making stuff happen. This is a large part of how Dogs produces the kinds of stories it does. Within such a structure, you could introduce just about any type of fictional causality-modeling mechanics. A problem with "any old mechanic" is that it might not contribute to the story. But hey, maybe just an agreed-upon way to move forward is sufficient in the right fictional situation.

    It's worth noting, though, how Dogs' mechanics do contribute to the story, basically by saying, "You can't get the ends you want (set things right) without resorting to means that might sully that (violence)." Of course, other modeling systems could produce that too. But one that didn't would produce very different stories.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: Paul T.some guy rolls his Diplomacy skill and now the NPC is supposed to be Friendly, but we don't really know why.
    I think that particular skill is the worst culprit of the bunch, but yeah, good point. A player could always grab a d20, announce a skill, and roll, without bothering to integrate that with the fiction. I think the reason this doesn't tend to happen is that the resulting achievement is equally hard to integrate. "Okay, you Climbed. So, uh, now where are you?"
  • edited March 2012
    That's true. Most skill names give you some sense of what might have happened in the fiction during the roll (in this case, presumably some kind of climbing action).

    Still, it's a matter of taste and application.

    For instance, it's very easy to play out a character searching for and disarming traps, negotiating to buy something, doing some research, etc, without having much sense at all of what actually happened and how. ("Ok, you find a trap in the room. Roll to disarm it. Good, it's safe to go through now.")

    Repeated skill tests are probably the worst offender (like d20 combat). We're potentially rolling and rolling, and subtracting hit points (or not, maybe it's all whiffs) or just asking for a reroll because we're waiting for a failure so we can bring in the next planned scene, and there's really NO sense at all of what's happening in the fiction in any concrete sense. We know that there's a dragon and a warrior and they're both fighting each other (and the term "attack" suggest they're trying to stab each other or something similar), but beyond that it can be hard to say. (The usual D&D conundrum, for instance, is when you roll to hit, based on the opponent's armour class, and roll a hit--does that mean you avoided the armour, or what? But then you subtract some hit points, which could stand for "luck" or "fighter's reflexes, and ability to get out of the way"... so now, did you actually hit your opponent or not?)

    Is it arguable, perhaps, that the character who uses "I've got a voice like a nightingale, 2d8" to seduce the village Steward is operating at a similar level of abstraction? Or someone rolling their "Incredible Acrobat" trait and saying they want to get inside the mansion?

    Maybe. I'd have to think about it!

    Edit: I think I totally missed your point about the "achieved result". Can you talk about that some more?
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: Paul T.I think I totally missed your point about the "achieved result". Can you talk about that some more?
    It's the difference between rolling to get to the top of the wall (stakes, intent) and rolling "climb" (task). In the former, we can fail to know how you got there; in the latter, we can't.

    If you resolve the task, and then figure out where that resolution gets you in the fiction, that's different from simply resolving where you get in the fiction. Technically, we could say it's just a difference in scale -- climbing doesn't tell us whether you're primairly using your fingers or your toes, for instance -- but practically, I think that scale difference maps to important differences at the table:

    1) Details we care about ("how did the steward go from hostile to seduced?") vs details we don't care about ("fingers or toes?").

    2) Details we can assume, intuit, or otherwise easily imagine ("fingers!") vs those we can't ("uh, the steward was hostile... and then... you sang like a nightingale... and he heard it... and... uh... then what?").
  • Posted By: David BergPosted By: UpstartI want the mechanics to produce a certain kind of story even if the players are going to hate it.
    I think combining that with tight fiction-mechanics translation is a genuinely difficult spec!

    I never thought them as separate things. Rather, tight translation forces the players to include fiction stuff the designer thinks her game is all about, even if the players don't like it.
  • Can you offer an example? Not sure if I get what you mean.
  • Posted By: David BergCan you offer an example? Not sure if I get what you mean.
    In 3:16 the story structure is quite rigid. The characters go on missions, shoot aliens with actual guns with stats, roll for exactly how many aliens they killed. The rules simply won't let you make it a game about anything else than soldiers competing for gear and promotions. You can't just twist the rules until you get the fictional result you want. If you want to kill anything, there are clear rules for what to roll.

    Now, let's look at Shock's Praxis, or whatever its name was. IIRC, you can choose very broad stats and choose about any intent you want in a conflict and roll about any stat you want. The core of the conflict mechanic is almost meaningless, you could practically replace it with both players rolling a d6 and the winner telling what happens and the fiction wouldn't change.

    I don't want to decide what happens, even collaboratively. I want to find out what happens.
  • edited March 2012
    Gotcha, cool. That's where I was going with "the right situations" etc. Not only do the rules provide only for alien-blasting and commander-fragging, but there's nothing else to do in the fiction besides those things. Right? There are aliens to be killed and promotions to be had and fellow officers to out-do, and that's it.

    Or perhaps it'd be more accurate to say, it is clear which fictional things your character would want to do. The mechanical character profiles, fictional situations, and game goals all cohere on that. That's where you get "certain type of story" from, and then the type of mechanical profile determines fiction-mechanics translation.

    What do you think about my climbing example? Does that accurately sum up the relevant tight modeling/loose modeling divide? (As opposed to Shock etc. where there's no modeling.) Stats like "aim" and "weapon accuracy" are preferable to stats like "killing stuff". We don't need to know how you aim, but we do want to know, and see, how you kill stuff.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: David BergGotcha, cool. That's where I was going with "the right situations" etc. Not only do the rules provide only for alien-blasting and commander-fragging, butthere's nothing else to do in the fictionbesides those things. Right? There are aliens to be killed and promotions to be had and fellow officers to out-do, and that's it.

    Or perhaps it'd be more accurate to say, it isclearwhich fictional things your character wouldwantto do. The mechanical character profiles, fictional situations, and game goals all cohere on that. That's where you get "certain type of story" from, and then thetypeof mechanical profile determines fiction-mechanics translation.

    What do you think about my climbing example? Does that accurately sum up the relevant tight modeling/loose modeling divide? (As opposed to Shock etc. where there'snomodeling.) Stats like "aim" and "weapon accuracy" are preferable to stats like "killing stuff". We don't need to knowhowyou aim, but we do want to know, and see,howyou kill stuff.
    I'm not sure if I got you right. It's true that 3:16 has sharp focus, and I appreciate that. But my point was that it has outcomes that are "non-negotiable". You can't use a stat creatively to make your weapon better: there are very rigid conditions for that. It may be that sharp focus makes tight connection easier, but you can certainly have a very focused game that nevertheless has rules that don't really guide the fiction.

    I prefer a stat like "killing stuff" to a stat like "aim". The Fighting Ability/Non-fighting Ability -split in 3:16 was quite serviceable. The important thing is that the limits are clear, so you can't use FA for constructing a tent or convincing a superior. "Killing stuff" is about what happens, not just about the motivation, so I like it.

    As for climbing, it really depends on what kind of game it is. But if climbing is supposed to be some sort of big deal, I want the system to make sure that the player can't just decide his guy will succeed in climbing and then tap all sorts of tangential motivations and intents to ensure that this happens, without any of those motivations really impacting fiction.
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