What would a "Lumpley Principle" for Solo RP look like? (or, is creative writing & storytelling RP?)

edited February 2016 in Story Games
http://big-model.info/wiki/Lumpley_Principle

What would a "Lumpley Principle" for Solo RP look like?

It may not be important, but it’s sort of interesting to me. I’m also restating things that have been said before about solo RP, but that did not show their reasoning behind the conclusion (maybe because it was obvious).

I hope I’m not mangling the LP. The way I (mis)understand the LP, from reading the definition above and reading various discussions with examples, it suggests that social, face to face, roleplaying could be boiled down to negotiation and consensus. If the group wants to overrule a system they’ve chosen, they can if they’re all in agreement. They could potentially decide to throw all the rules away and roleplay based on negotiation alone (and I think I’ve seen anecdotes where this is what happens exactly).

In solo RP, as in social RP, you can also overrule/ignore a system any time you want (and in practice people often do), with the added plus (or minus depending on your POV) that you don't need to worry about consensus or negotiation (I personally think sometimes it’s a plus and sometimes it’s a minus). As in social RP, you could also totally throw away any system you had chosen…but when you do that, it becomes indistinguishable from creative writing.

In the case of the group, if they were writing things down instead of talking (as in play-by-post), the activity looks a lot like collaborative creative writing.In solo RP, if a person talks to themselves instead of writing, then I don’t know what I’d call that creative activity.

The line between creative writing (collaborative or solo) and roleplaying seems very thin. I don’t know that it means anything. It’s just very interesting to me.

If you were to think of an axiomatic principle to define solo RP, in the way that the Lumpley Principle tries to do for social RP, what would it look like?

edit 2/12/2016: A provisional definition could be something like:

"System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which a person commits to (settles on) imagined events during play."

Comments

  • edited February 2016
    Reading my own post again makes me think that the title maybe should be, "roleplaying without formal rules sure looks a lot like (collaborative) writing." Sort of. It's a bit all over the place.
  • My guess is that most people wouldn't consider the Lumpley Principle as being relevant to "solo roleplaying" (whatever that is).

    I mean, "solo" playing is just making stuff up, right? What kind of "principle" can you derive about that beyond "just making stuff up"? With only one person, there's no need for negotiation or agreement or anything like that.

    Do social principles apply to looking at individual actions and decisions in isolation? I don't know.
  • edited February 2016
    Yeah, I'm more like wondering if there is an equivalent in the sense of there being something axiomatic to define solo RP. It might look similar to the LP or it might be something completely different. :)

    "Just make up stuff" could be it, but social RP could have also been defined as "just make up stuff collaboratively", which is not as useful as the LP.

    It could be something like "System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which a person commits to (settles on) imagined events during play."
    "Do social principles apply to looking at individual actions and decisions in isolation? I don't know."
    I'm thinking that maybe in informing us as to what might make solo fun, if you're looking for something closer to social. Agreement, disagreement and negotiation (iow pushback) seem to be part of the secret sauce that make social RP yummy. You can certainly add pushback to solo RP.
  • Well, the important part of the Lumpley Principle is the "collaboratively" part, not the "making up" part, which is why I don't see how it can have anything to do with solo roleplaying.

    Now your thesis/question is much more clear, though! I have nothing more to contribute, so I'll just read along for now.
  • This seems like an interesting partner to the Czege Principle when in the context of solo gaming. Possibly a corollary! And it's a great point: in group RP, you're applying an objective rules system to subjective narrative situations, and you're only moving forward with consensus. With just one player, you are the consensus, so what is there to stop you from arbitrary application of the rules?
  • edited February 2016
    Hey Paul,

    "Now your thesis/question is much more clear, though! I have nothing more to contribute, so I'll just read along for now."

    Your questioning has already helped me, seriously. :-)

    "Well, the important part of the Lumpley Principle is the "collaboratively" part, not the "making up" part, which is why I don't see how it can have anything to do with solo roleplaying."

    I think it can be related indirectly, but you have to consider solo/social RP in similar mediums (i.e. written or spoken). If you take social RP and say that the medium is written, then I think you have to ask yourself questions like, "Are two authors collaborating on a book also roleplaying?" Well, only if they're engaging in play, but then how do you distinguish what play is if there is no GM role and no crunchy bits in a play by post free form RP? It's not the collaboration or negotiation that will distinguish them, so it has to be something else.

    At that point it's just easier for me to assume that collaborative writing can be roleplaying, and note that perhaps solo writing can be roleplaying...then I take it from faith that the LP might indirectly tell me something about solo RP.

    [I have engaged in longer thought experiments that tell me that it's the "something else" that distinguishes roleplaying from writing, but that's not necessary for this here if I take it on faith that the LP can be informative, if only indirectly.]

    [edit: it's also not super important whether the LP has anything direct or indirect to say about solo. It might be enough to say it inspired a search for a solo equivalent, by the very fact the LP exists]
    With just one player, you are the consensus, so what is there to stop you from arbitrary application of the rules?
    Boys Scout's honor! J/k, but not so far from the truth.

    I've heard things like 'discipline', etc. It's probably like committing to not use cheat codes in a video game, or not looking ahead when you play a game book, or something like that. Maybe not that far from trying not to cheat with dice rolls when playing social. You definitely need to commit to some limits or rules of thumb like respecting the dice results, or whatever you decide you will do ahead of time.

    In practice, though, when people solo RP, a lot of times they're not even engaging with the rules or with "oracles"-- it would be really cumbersome to check with the rules or with the oracles each time you wanted to advance the fiction. The question sometimes is how much of the fiction they commit could be said to be generated directly by their contact with the rules or oracles, how much of it is being generated by the player under their own impetus? Kinda like, at what point can you say that the crunchy bits are having no effect on what fiction you're creating?

    Shameless plug:

    I've tried to tighten up that part where I feel there are no crunchy bits influencing what your imagination generates: http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/20343/looking-for-feedback-writingwithdice/p1 I think it's OK for a draft. I have other ideas.
  • What would a solo RPG look like if you were beholden to an outside party? For example, if you were required to post your actual play (with mechanics) in a thread where people could call you on misapplication of the rules?

    (This is me totally spitballing here.)
  • edited February 2016
    In solo roleplaying the "counterparty" of the consensus is the "Nature" which is (obviously) following the system and rules procedures.
    In that sense, no consensus is needed. This does not imply that the principle is violated.
    Rob
  • What would a solo RPG look like if you were beholden to an outside party? For example, if you were required to post your actual play (with mechanics) in a thread where people could call you on misapplication of the rules?

    This is the thought that was running through my head too. While very few actual activities exist in a vacuum, theories often do, so I wasn't sure if it would be that helpful. That being said, I think that there reason why a person is engaging in a solo roleplay in the first place can be of major importance in determining with what (rather than with whom) you are negotiating when determining when/if/how to apply the rules.

    I recall (perhaps not entirely accurately) an anecdote from Michael Stackpole that, back when he was writing for Battletech, when he had to do a battle scene he would actually pull out map sheets and stuff and work out the battles per the rules of the boardgame; I can't remember any specific justification as to why, but I assume that he wanted to create verisimilitude between the fiction and the game itself, which is only reasonable for a franchise where the two are fairly heavily intertwined, and something the fans of both might expect.

    Formal compositional rules (I'm thinking stuff like Dogme 95, constrained writing, having to write a song to be played on a sound chip with a limited number of channels and sounds, etc...) are very much a thing in other kinds of creative pursuits; if you want to challenge yourself to stay creative within that framework, or finding what kind of things those rules can produce, for example, then you have a strong incentive to "play by the rules." I know lots of people think, "I can't be creative unless I have 100% freedom," but I also know many who espouse the view that real creativity only comes from constraints and restrictions.

    Of course, rules fidelity is just one ideal that you can aspire to. You could rip apart or undermine the rules precisely to get an effect you want, and that's okay too; as long as you have a rhyme and reason to your method (maybe you want to turn your solo roleplay into a feminist critique of the system you're playing, for example) and you're negotiating with that ideal as you play, I think that could be enough of a basis for a kind of Lumpley Principle of solo roleplay.
  • What would a solo RPG look like if you were beholden to an outside party? For example, if you were required to post your actual play (with mechanics) in a thread where people could call you on misapplication of the rules?

    (This is me totally spitballing here.)
    Hmm.

    If we assume that someone will invest the time to read the AP regardless, I think you could take any old system that has actual rules and play it with a standard oracle. Then you'd wait for someone to check the crunchy bits for you and give you feed back. You'd have to completely respect any outcomes stemming from the rules of course, and have mastery of the rules.

    From actual experience, though, I think that we'd need to look at the motivation of the audience for engaging. A lot of reports aren't really that fun to read except for the person who read it, or persons who are interested in learning a system. How could you make it fun or interesting to read an actual play looking for instances where the rules are being misapplied? Maybe make the AP into something visually appealing? Or make reading the AP quick and easy as if you were giving a CEO an executive report? You'd probably have instructions to present specific outcomes visually...

    Did you have in mind something along those lines? :)
  • In solo roleplaying the "counterparty" of the consensus is the "Nature" which is (obviously) following the system and rules procedures.
    In that sense, no consensus is needed. This does not imply that the principle is violated.
    Rob
    In this interpretation, does system include any mental (conscious or unconscious) procedures one might follow when not engaging with rules procedures? In actual play, there are many instances where the player does not make contact with any rules per se, but may be guided by something much more amorphous like their understanding of a genre, or any other sensibilities about the fiction. I tend to think of these as a “system” that you use in lieu of not having any other people to haggle with.
  • What would a solo RPG look like if you were beholden to an outside party? For example, if you were required to post your actual play (with mechanics) in a thread where people could call you on misapplication of the rules?

    (This is me totally spitballing here.)
    Hmm.

    If we assume that someone will invest the time to read the AP regardless, I think you could take any old system that has actual rules and play it with a standard oracle. Then you'd wait for someone to check the crunchy bits for you and give you feed back. You'd have to completely respect any outcomes stemming from the rules of course, and have mastery of the rules.

    From actual experience, though, I think that we'd need to look at the motivation of the audience for engaging. A lot of reports aren't really that fun to read except for the person who read it, or persons who are interested in learning a system. How could you make it fun or interesting to read an actual play looking for instances where the rules are being misapplied? Maybe make the AP into something visually appealing? Or make reading the AP quick and easy as if you were giving a CEO an executive report? You'd probably have instructions to present specific outcomes visually...

    Did you have in mind something along those lines? :)
    I don't know where to go from there, but I do think that is a very promising tack.
  • I think that there reason why a person is engaging in a solo roleplay in the first place can be of major importance in determining with what (rather than with whom) you are negotiating when determining when/if/how to apply the rules.
    From actual play, and from what many folks articulate, they engage solo RP because they actually want to experience an RPG rules set that they couldn’t find anyone else to enjoy with them. Another common is that they want to play test. For the former, maybe one can dig a bit deeper and get to the “real why” by looking at what the rules have to offer and why they appeal to the player. Once you get the why, maybe you can get the “what” with which you’re negotiating.

    At the same time, though, I’m thinking of games like Scarlet Heroes (and other dungeon/hex crawling games). There are very strict procedures on how to explore the setting and how to engage in combat. For this type of solo game, I’m not really seeing much in the way of negotiation. You just follow the procedure as written.

    Maybe the negotiation, if there is any, is with the rules (or rather with yourself), but it happens before play? Like, you decide what rules you will stick to, and what rules you’ll omit beforehand, and those will be the ones you will use to figure out what events you commit to / settle on during play.
    I also know many who espouse the view that real creativity only comes from constraints and restrictions.
    I think I like limits, in the context of solo RP, as things that I have to “negotiate” my way around of when trying to figure out what “really happens” in the fiction when the RPG rulesets have no prescription for a situation (not to muddy your use of negotiation). I guess is a bit like adding more rules on to of an RPG ruleset.

  • edited February 2016

    I don't know where to go from there, but I do think that is a very promising tack.
    I kinda like that direction, yeah. A person could probably take a page from How To Host A Dungeon, or The Quiet Year
  • Maybe the negotiation, if there is any, is with the rules (or rather with yourself), but it happens before play? Like, you decide what rules you will stick to, and what rules you’ll omit beforehand, and those will be the ones you will use to figure out what events you commit to / settle on during play.
    Most solo RPG engines are "universal" and are supposed to work with any system. They also require a lot of interpretation of results by the player. So I would say the Lumpley-system involves all of: the choice of core game, choice of solo RPG engine(s), and how the different rules are used together. So playing Fate with Mythic GME would be a different system than playing Fate with Perilous Intersections or Apocalypse World with Mythic. The system also includes "When do I use the solo engine?" and "How do I incorporate the engine results into play?"

    With something like Scarlet Heroes that's a lot game-ier, the system would mostly include stuff like "How much do I let myself cheat and reroll?"
  • Ah, i see. I forgot about interpretation in some sólo rules. That kind of gave new meaning to what has been said.

    I think I tripped over the word 'negotiation'. I'm thinking I like introspection better because I think it captures that feeling I get when I'm debating whether it feels OK to cheat or not.

    Potato-potahto. :)
  • In solo roleplaying the "counterparty" of the consensus is the "Nature" which is (obviously) following the system and rules procedures.
    In that sense, no consensus is needed. This does not imply that the principle is violated.
    Rob
    In this interpretation, does system include any mental (conscious or unconscious) procedures one might follow when not engaging with rules procedures?
    I guess so.
    Rob

  • In solo roleplaying the "counterparty" of the consensus is the "Nature" which is (obviously) following the system and rules procedures.
    In that sense, no consensus is needed. This does not imply that the principle is violated.
    Rob
    In this interpretation, does system include any mental (conscious or unconscious) procedures one might follow when not engaging with rules procedures?
    I guess so.
    Rob

  • Thank you folks, for all your responses. I'm happy with that definition for solo rp. If I can think of a name that doesn't incriminate Vincent but still gives credit (since I stole most of the definition from him), I'll make an update here. :)
  • So, what is the definition?

    Care to make a "summary post"?
  • edited February 2016
    @Paul_T :

    "System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which a person commits to (settles on) imagined events during play."

    The only difference is that instead of "agreement", what you're looking for is a process for comitting to or settling on a version of events.
  • Well, that makes sense! But it also seems like a big spoon of 'duh'.

    I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing.
  • edited February 2016
    Yeah, but maybe that 'duh' impression only occurs in retrospect.
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