Measuring the impact of rules/crunch

edited September 2017 in Story Games
From the crunch vs character thread:
I tend to prefer "low crunch" but I want my rules to have definite and meaningful impact, for example.

Is there a way you could measure the impact of a rule/mechanic, even for a single session? Not the potential, but the actual impact in a game that happened? I'm mainly interested in the impact in the fiction.

Comments

  • Yes, it will be measured in units of death.

    If you want to get really technical you'll need a ratio of units of boredom over units of death.
  • I don't how you could quantify impact, but surely you've played games where each character had two pages of stats and everyone read 300 pages of rules, but in practice the GM just put everyone on her railroad? That's one extreme.
  • My intuition says that, for me, it's a question of how much of the fictional material or events took place BECAUSE OF the game's procedures, mechanics, or constraints.

    How different would the game have been if we had just been playing freeform or ignoring the rules and winging it?
  • From the crunch vs character thread:
    This thread. I missed it, because I don't follow actual play and threads I don't follow wont show up when I use the forum search. Also, for better archiving, if people revisit this thread a year from now, it's better to link to threads.
  • edited September 2017
    To answer the question. One thing that I noticed with rules lite games, are that they are more dependable on the group. If the group has to provide most of the things, elements in the game are bound to repeat itself. It can be themes, type of conflicts, or type of relations.

    I had one group that loved to play to shock the others. In order to get maximum effect with minimal effort, we through in rapes. It didn't matter what kind of rule lite game we played, sooner a later the rape got in there. I blame the group, but I also mostly blame the rule lite games for it, for not providing means of differentiate conflicts and situations.
  • My intuition says that, for me, it's a question of how much of the fictional material or events took place BECAUSE OF the game's procedures, mechanics, or constraints.

    How different would the game have been if we had just been playing freeform or ignoring the rules and winging it?
    Yeah, it's kind of hard to know. Some kind of A/B testing?
    This thread.
    Thanks.
  • One way is to transcribe and RPG session. And then code it like this:

    image
  • edited September 2017
    Then you can compare how much Procedural is followed by Fiction. It's time consuming but interesting.
  • Yeah, studies like this could do a lot for game design. There would still be some things missing there. I get that the social column indicates how many times something outside the scope of the system and the fiction changed how the rules were used or the fiction went; The procedural column indicates how many times system mechanics or rules were called to decide how things went in the fiction, and finally the last column indicates how many things were decided in the fiction itself.

    Compare this to the opinion the players got of the game (if they felt it was too crunchy, or too streamlined, or if the game flowed and they didn't paid attention to any problem with the mechanics. It's still inaccurate but it could give a really good starting point to decide if a game is definitely too crunchy for your audience or not enough.
  • @WarriorMonk Totally! Coupling this with a well planned survey would give us some awesome data. This is actually an older coding scheme. I'd need to go poke around to see what the updated one is. It has levels of Social, Procedural, and Fiction so they can bleed into each other.
  • Coding scheme here:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/11_ic8-Gba6hwUbHHUqmesMjBgqZM-XBQ5LyrMvvABPA/edit?usp=sharing

    But it's not mine. Levi Kornelsen proposed it back 2015-ish.
  • The method is really interesting (if hardcore), but IMO it doesn't measure the link between the procedure and the fiction.
  • @Upstart it totally can! But that's further downstream in the process then what this project was for. You can tie the procedural stuff to the fictional or amount of fiction being generated.
  • Is there a way you could measure the impact of a rule/mechanic, even for a single session? Not the potential, but the actual impact in a game that happened? I'm mainly interested in the impact in the fiction.
    Two points about this whole question:
    * You're implicitly assuming a speculative counter-factual: to "measure impact" we would need to somehow have access to control data, but that doesn't make any sense when considering a single instance of play. If the group was playing without this rule, or with a different rule, then it would be a different instance of play, so we don't really have anything to compare a given case against - not unless we consider statistical impact over a larger set of actual play instances.
    * You're implicitly assuming that "a rule" exists in the course of actual play. I do not underwrite this claim myself insofar as precise technical analysis goes: what actually goes on in a normal rpg session is that the players are relying on a holistic systemic framework that offers them procedural structures to follow while playing. From this viewpoint one could say that all rules always have the same amount of impact in a real instance of play: the rule either is part of the system in play, or it isn't, and whatever system of play is being followed always has a complete and thorough "impact", no more and no less.

    Due to the above two concerns I'm not at all convinced that your question is answerable in this form. I'll emphasize that this is not a round-about way of saying that it's a stupid question; it's very common in philosophical pursuits to formulate questions that seem superficially valid, but that prove inherently meaningless under further analysis.

    This doesn't mean that there is no meaningful way to speak of the impact of individual rules, but I would be inclined to do that via system analysis that compares two systems (one with the rule, and another one otherwise identical, except lacking that rule). We do this in game design all the time, but the concerns are not quite as simple as "how much impact does the rule have"; rather, the real question is "what alternative system will the players choose instead, if we remove this rule?"
  • Is there a way you could measure the impact of a rule/mechanic, even for a single session? Not the potential, but the actual impact in a game that happened? I'm mainly interested in the impact in the fiction.
    Sure. Test a bunch of times and note patterns, or play once with people you know well and see how they play differently.

    Compare lethal and forgiving combat rules. The former produces either fiction about planning and sneaking and cleverly avoiding fights, or a long trail of corpses of protagonists you never really get to know. The latter produces heroic fantasy. You can see this across dozens of sessions, or in the one moment when the player decides to charge into battle or not.

    Look at all the special playbook moves in a PbtA game. Picking those predicts chunks of the fiction's direction. An AW game with a Hocus using Hocus moves is gonna create fiction with an element of leading followers; an AW game with a Brainer using Brainer moves instead will add a very different element to the fiction. Part of it is just the selection of fictional elements, but another part is the rules that make those elements effective. Using your Hocus and Brainer moves gets you stuff.
  • edited September 2017
    I think the fundamental draw of PbtA is actually the relatively direct fictional impact of the rules.

    I agree with Eero about the inherent statistical problem. The second point about rules not existing in play I didn't really get.

    As playtesting has its limits, could the impact of a rule be measured based on the game text?
  • As playtesting has its limits, could the impact of a rule be measured based on the game text?
    That's a really good question. I've done tons of text mining of RPGs but I've never thought about that. Or even thought about how to approach that. So maybe?

    Like the number and complexity of rules to engage with a unit of fiction?

  • I'd like that, at least as a tool for special cases or something.
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