Dissociated mechanics

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  • edited November 2018
    Also, to correct a misconception about narrative games. Narrative elements are meta-fictional. This means they are also fictional, by definition.

    They are those fictional elements that are meta-stable. I could translate this into "they are how things are, disregarding the details" or "they are not the state, rather the rules of things" and how we talk about these rules. But I'd rather the one who doesn't understand do some research than take me as a teacher.

    Improv and many narrative games thrive on problem solving. They simply deal with elements like Karma or "The role you've been framed in" rather than HP and traps. To me, they look much more like real life in this respect. In many of its uses, the term "dissociated" is therefore a strawman, used by people confused by the abstraction of "meta". Hence my plea for a definition.

    With the new definition, I can tell : It is subjective, it is about realism, it is about abstraction in certain aspects. So I don't understand why we were repeatedly told otherwise since the start of the thread. And I understand why I was pulling my hair. I suspect these terms (realism, abstraction, etc.) were made taboo or unclear by the ghosts of their uses in older discussions. I have no control over this. Having done my homework early in this thread, I have read disgusting threads, mixing delusion, fallacies, good faith, etc. Let the "ass/diss rules" concept rest. It brings nothing good.

    Like Paul_T I'd be very interested in the psychological concept of dissociation seen through TTRPG lenses. Getting out of roleplaying through roleplaying.
    « Pour moi, dès qu’on fait quelque chose, il s’agit d’en sortir. Il s’agit à la fois d’y rester et d’en sortir. […] Moi, je veux sortir de la philosophie par la philosophie. » Gilles Deleuze, dans Abécédaire.
    (For me, as soon as we do something, it's about getting out. It is a question of both staying there and going out. [...] I want to leave philosophy by philosophy.)
  • edited November 2018
    OK, so disassociated mechanic is a term for traditional roleplaying gamers to explain why they don't like games more focused on creating a story.
    .
    This wasn't what its purpose was. It came out of the early arguments about 4th edition, and was an attempt to explain why some people didn't like many of the powers in the game. At the time, it wasn't about story or narrative mechanics. It was just about abilities some players felt were disruptive to their immersion for some reason, and Justin Alexander provided an explanation that made quite a bit of sense to folks at the time (at least it made sense to people who were not super enthused about 4th edition). He's elaborated and tried to clarify the concept since. I think if anything, most of us who were critical of 4E at the time, and who found the Alexandrian's concept useful, would have said our issue with 4E was its gaminess (not its narrative or story qualities)---in fact, I didn't even hear about people using it for narrative stuff until years later.
    I don't really care about it's original purpose and interpretation. I'm interested about the how the terminology is defined now, even if I had to read all the three articles a couple of times to form a conclusive thought about it.

    As I said, some of the game mechanics are disruptive too, but I used other examples (immersion, storytelling) in attempt to show this. I really like @ValyrianSteelKatana's questions because they shows how people are used to sliding in and out of certain game mechanics: "Why can't I try to parry an attack? Why do I need a feat to Cleave two goblins at once? Why does a healing spell heal the wizard more completely than it does the fighter?" ...

    ... but the Alexandrian primer recognize this:
    Ultimately, this explains why so many people have had intensely negative reactions to dissociated mechanics: They’re antithetical to the defining characteristic of a roleplaying game and, thus, fundamentally incompatible with the primary reason many people play roleplaying games.

    Does this mean that dissociated mechanics simply have no place in a roleplaying game?

    Not exactly.

    First, dissociated mechanics have always been part of roleplaying games. For example, character generation is almost always dissociated and that’s also true for virtually all character advancement systems, too. It’s also true for a lot of the mechanics that GMs use. (In other words, dissociated mechanics are frequently used – and accepted – in the parts of the game that aren’t about roleplaying your character.)
  • edited November 2018
    Isn't it clearly absurd to say that creating your character is not about roleplaying your character ?
    And what is to say about the "intensely negative reactions to dissociated mechanics" when these "dissociated mechanics have always been part of roleplaying games" ?
    Enough syntactical distance and they lose sight of the most elementary logic.
    "virtually all character advancement systems" (are dissociated mechanics) This is so ad hoc to the D&D crowd it's silly.
    "The mechanic is dissociated because the decision made by the player cannot be equated to a decision made by the character" This is (a call to) delusion right there !

    There never was a sound concept there. It's someone mistaking their intuitive rhetoric for a sound analysis. Dementia by verbosity.

    Let this article rest, it is anecdotal.
  • Isn't it clearly absurd to say that creating your character is not about roleplaying your character ?
    I would say no. As little as writing an adventure is playing a roleplaying game, or setting up a board game is actually playing it, it seems to me that the correct conclusion is that you don't act in character, or take choices based on from your characters perspective, when you create your own character ... most of the times anyway.
  • edited November 2018
    I think @DeReel says it well here:
    Now I see what is association. It is a certain understanding of the rules by the player, using concrete fictional elements [...]
    The concept seems fairly intuitive in a theoretical, abstract sense. However, in my experience, it falls apart immediately in practice if two players who aren't coming from a VERY similar background and aesthetic try to apply it.

    I've yet to see any "definition" which could be reliably applied in the same way by two different people.

    (As can be seen by some people defending D&D by comparing it to other games with more "dissociated" mechanics, whereas others feel the need to redesign the same game from scratch because the rules are too dissociated -
    Why can't I try to parry an attack? Why do I need a feat to Cleave two goblins at once? Why does a healing spell heal the wizard more completely than it does the fighter?

    These things are discussed all the time, and they're the reason that Runequest exists.

    That's why, in my view, it tends to be, in practice, about subjective taste and familiarity.

    (A common point of contention might be, "Do I accept the rather odd expectations of D&D fantasy as reflecting something I can experience as real?" Another one might be, "Do I perceive the nature of the fictional world/adventure/story we are experiencing to operate under any narrative concerns, or only some?" For example, perhaps it doesn't bother me that battlefield wounds don't get infected or that swords don't need sharpening, because I don't *expect* those things in this style of story/reality I'm playing out. So I'm OK that in our game the rules never produce a chance of dying from infection. However, I also perceive the idea that "good triumphs in the end, and nihilism is not the nature of heroic fantasy" is a fundamental aspect of the diegetic world and the 'reality' of being a fantasy hero, so the idea of a character going "from zero to hero" and having very low odds of death are totally in line with my sense of verisimilitude. Someone else might balk at one but not the other.)

    Having said that, here's my take on "dissociation":

    It's a high-brow and abstract attempt to deal with a very real, and, sometimes, unpleasant phenomenon:

    * You're playing a game and try to make choices from your character's perspective... when you realize that you must modify these choices because of the way the rules work.

    If you are able to rationalize these changes in your behaviour in a way which allows you to maintain the illusion of verisimilitude, everything is fine.

    If you are unable to do so, you are suddenly torn between doing the thing which seems natural and organic and "right" and following the rules accurately.

    That's when something feels "dissociated".

    For my tastes, this comes up ALL THE TIME in D&D, so I find it hilarious when D&D players are offended about "dissociated mechanics", but for some people the assumptions of D&D play are so deeply ingrained that it doesn't seem to bother them.

    Some classic examples:

    * The villain is sitting, with his back to us, and we want to kill him. We sneak up and decide to slit his throat from behind.

    However, the villain is a 9th-level Wizard, so we know that slitting his throat, at most, will just deplete some of his hit points.

    However, one of the characters has the Backstab feat, so he could actually hurt him significantly this way. So, now, that character should be the one to do, regardless of other fictional considerations.

    * You're a high-level warrior, walking unarmed through the palace gardens. The King's guards suddenly surround you, pointing crossbows at you. "King's orders; you are under arrest for treason. Surrender, or we shoot!"

    You look at your sheet and realize that, even if they all hit, you could walk away basically unscathed (losing a small fraction of your hit points), and, because of the way the initiative and movement rules work, you'd get away before any of them could load a crossbow for a second shot.

    Indeed, one of the reasons I moved to more " narrative" rules for a lot of my gaming was precisely to avoid such moment of "dissociation". PbtA games, for instance, rarely (or almost never) produce such awkward moments in play for me, despite having, on paper, far more "dissociated" rules.

    (As a perfect illustration, when I play Apocalypse World, the main source of dissociative moments for me is the harm rules, which are the most "simulationist" and least "narrative" aspect of the rules - they rate weapons and armor in numbers based on how likely they are to kill or protect you: the closest that game gets to "physics sim" in terms of its rules. I don't think that's a coincidence.)

    I was going to post, but this here is already a perfect expression of my own thoughts. Thanks, Paul.

    It's amusing seeing people get bothered by "Healing Surges" while being perfect fine with "Spells per Day", "Classes" and "Levels".
  • edited November 2018
    @Rickard Of course, when there is no character yet, or no fictional element, there can only be "dissociated things". This is by definition, and therefore stupid to say. A tautology. That is why I didn't say that. I think better of you. So read my sentence again. Read your paragraph, and ask yourself why you added "actually". "I read a book about bird watching / I actually watched birds" this is quite disassociated.

    Now read again that sentence in the Alexandrian. It is very possible that he did add vagueness to tautology. That was your interpretation anyway. That is mine also. So what I did was to try a more charitable interpretation (I'am that kind of person ;) ) This interpretation also leads to a dead end.

    Either the statement is tautological or it is false.
    It is logically false in both case.
    THE SENTENCE HAS A SIGNIFICATION (it supports a thought process of sense making) BUT IT DOESN'T MEAN A THING.
    Wind.

    What you did was project your interpretation of the Alexandrian on me. ("Master, I hate him for this. I'll shred the article to pieces.") Of course, we use the same words. Imagine that on the internet. Create a common vocabulary for common concepts. Introduce nonsense. No time to check. Count of ten. No time to think. Gigo-bytes of nonsense. It happens all the time. It's killing us (for those of you who have read Seven eves, this is it, right there).

    Wind muddying the water. Go figure.
    Rickard, you're too clever for that. Let the article rest.
    Stop multiplicating its image, it's unholy.

  • What I wanted is the 4a. "The rule lacks an interpretation in the fiction" don't you mean "representation" ? Again, the interpretation is at the level of the player. So, if there is "a presence of the rule" inside the fiction. Or did you mean there is someone "understanding" the rule in the fiction ? I think you left the character outside, so it must be "presence of the rule". Do you mean material presence ? certainly not by the use of magic example. So it must be physical presence, in the sense that "forces", be them gods, thermodynamic or magic are the "physics" of the world. I have the same question with 5, which only rephrases 4a : is the interpretation given to the player, or to the character ? I suppose to the player because if a character doesn't know magic, it can still be part of their world. So the interpretation in the fiction must be : "an interpretation by the player that relies solely on fictional elements".
    "Associated rules are rules (whose effects ?) the player interprets as fictional elements."
    I had "whose effect", because, if the rule is invoked but has no effect, does it count ? I'd count it had we defined the thing as "breaking immersion", but if the rule has no effect, there's nothing to explain in fiction...
    I am not sure of what the difference between interpretation and representation would be, here.

    If a rule represents something, then it has an obvious interpretation. If a rule has an interpretation, then, at least often, I think it can be said to represent those things.

    But this is getting awfully abstract and handwavy. It would help if you gave a concrete example, real or not, of the difference.

    I think the trigger or the effect of the rule can both be associated or dissociated. If the rule has no effect whatsoever, even indirect effects, on the fiction, then it should just be removed as it does not contribute.

    So, it's about lightening the player's effort for information management and transposition, right ? If this is so, I suggest you abandon this term, "associated" for reasons Rickard already mentioned :
    - its history only troubles the water
    - its vagueness (associating how ?) and the fact that it deals with an abstract subject (reality / fiction) makes it easy to misunderstand in an exchange
    - it is therefore plausible that the definition is not consistent among various groups
    - and my main point : there are better terms out there, that weren't coined by someone from the hobby, but apply as well. An "intuitive" vocabulary and pertinent analogies is a plus for any game. Every designer of mathematical games goes through this step of finding the analogy that will make their rules accessible in an elegant and fruitful way. For instance, playing Go as "circling enemy territories", "taking hostages", etc. The problem with checkers : Abalone found the solution turning pawns into cows : nice !) There is nothing specific to RPG in there. Using the proper concepts would give time to think about the part specific to RPG, that is : the actor stance. Or is it that specific (see Paradox of the actor) ?
    Lightening information management is one good effect of associated rules, indeed.

    I have discussed some other effects in previous posts: aligning player and character understanding (related to actor stance), enabling fictional problem-solving play without strange consequences that dissociated rules often bring in such use.

    Downsides should be obvious at this point: Dissociated mechanics allow a far broader design space.

    I am not interested in historical discussions or possibilities of misunderstandings here; though if someone has a better term that avoids those problems, feel free to mention it.

    Discussing an abstract subject is unavoidable if one wants to discuss them, which I find interesting and useful. This will doubtless cause some people to not be able to participate due to abstractness, but that is fine; they can think harder and practice, or not participate.
    In the end it's a game of wack-the-mouse : someone brings up a rule he can't interpret in fictional terms, and someone else tries to shoehorn the rule into fiction.

    This is supposed to be "quite dissociated" : "Character gains a story token whenever one is used against them." These characters are fortune's fools in a story, and this simulates poetic justice. Or they live in a world where Karma really exists. The proof for the character is that more often than not, one action is "repaid" by another. Have I associated the rule for you ? If so, it was rather easy. Of course, the more complex and absurd the rules, the more difficult. But absurd and complex rules are bad design to begin with, so there's that.
    Yes, the fact that you must specifically expend effort to associate a rule tells that it was dissociated to begin with. And the fact that there are discussing where people do this, like think what hit points mean, shows that it is an important concept for many.

    A similar argument: "System does not matter. I can house rule it to work anyway." "Yes, and the fact that you bother make those house rules shows that the system indeed matters."

    For the karma example: Religious scholars in the world might have great insight on how it all works out, or at least I might want to ask questions about it if playing one. If everyone has karma and plot tokens, then maybe I can write an subtly inaccurate trollish comment on Twitter and have lots of people angrily refute me, thereby getting a bucketload of plot tokens. If only some people have them, then maybe there is some way of identifying them. And so on. If you really and honestly associate the mechanic, then these kinds of questions and actions should be within the spirit of the game; otherwise why associate the rule at all?

    That is: If you just want a reliable mechanism for everyone having equal spotlight time or whatever, you are probably better off with a blatantly dissociated mechanic.

  • I guess the point I was making up there was that I'm an example of a person for whom disassociation is not an issue, and the reason for that might be that I don't conceptualize gaming from an immersive viewpoint.
    Okay, thanks for clarification. Completely reasonable. I asked because a number of people here are making drive-by claims that the concept is useless, which can only be true if it does not help people in general to clarify their thinking.

    These types of examples of how different people might construe gaming, and therefore mechanical disassociation, might then help explain why disassociation matters or doesn't matter. Specifically, I wonder if disassociation is a fundamental issue: can you make a non-working game into a working one by reducing disassociation while retaining what the rule actually does? What kinds of games are the ones where this might be the case?
    Let us say I want to use a game with lots of dissociated mechanics for sandbox play; that is, I want the world to exist and be consistent irrespective of what the player characters are doing or who the player characters are. Suppose I have some motivation and a creative agenda consistent with this. (I trust in your ability to come up with examples of creative goals this would serve.)

    I would want to come up with some standards for how to represent various fictional things with the dissociated rules. Which D&D 4 monsters are minions and which normal monsters, for example, or whether smelling the fumes of the jade mushrooms gives an aspect or causes stress in Fate. This would make the game world more solid and real, which presumably is a goal in this type of play.

    Associating the rules would create good heuristics for choosing the representations. Thus, it would reduce the mental load on the game master and increase the predictability of the world for everyone.

    Regarding old school wargamey D&D, I don't think that it's more than moderately associated mechanically, but if somebody feels differently, then who am I to naysay their experience. I think that getting a keep on name level is storygamey as fuck, but that's just me.
    Suppose, as a player, you hear there is a giant rampaging the countryside and it is as tall as the trees. Presumably you have some idea of how hard it would be to face in combat and otherwise; you might assume it moves faster than you because it is big and can take long strides, it probably has lots of hit points because you doubt it would be easy to kill it by martial means. Attacks by it probably cause lots of damage, so it will probably one-shot weak characters and even strong characters might not be able to endure for a long time. All of this plays into the plans you do to defeat it. None of this would be possible if the mechanics were severely dissociated.

    As a referee, you have taken a nice system-neutral one page dungeon and inserted it to the map. The players got lost in their way and wander there. From the adventure you figure out that the cyaxes living there are intelligent beetles the size of bears, and they can manipulate electromagnetic fields, even inside people. They hunt like that and communicate like that. How do you give stats to them unless the mechanics are reasonably associated?

    I have neither read nor played Swords without master, so please elaborate or use another game as an example.
    Sure. You roll two dice corresponding to the two tones "jovial" and "glum." Wichever comes up higher dictates the tone for either the scene or a character's actions depending on who rolled.

    My thought was that this might appear dissociated to someone who's looking for fiction that is "predictable" in a way that serves their agenda of problem solving.

    For me, though, who doesn't care about problem-solving but does care about an authentic and convincing fiction it is very much associated.
    Thanks for the description. Supposing the tones are the result of a coin flip (this seems to not be the case, but for simplicity), and the rule seems like one that would be easy to associate (characters just seem to have good and bad days, which affect how they view the world and how the world responds to them, just like good and bad stuff in Amber diceless). More complicated associations would also be possible. If it interacts in a more involved way with other resolution mechanics, then I can not say.

    So: Fairly easy to associate, but dissociated as is. Since the game is, as far as I understand, not one of problem solving or careful analysis of the local metaphysics, associating the rule might very well not be worth the cost, which would come from questions like should the tone be jovial in relaxed situations and so forth.

    It seems to me that the author is used to switching between these states of mind – making choice based on mechanics or character – and doesn't seem to notice the switches. For LARPers, this jump between choices based on mechanics and choices based on the characters' views are more apparent.
    I think that the ability to think in terms of both the mechanics and the fiction is a common skill among roleplayers, and one that is easier to practice the more associated the mechanics in question are.

    I think it's dangerous to mix these two together, and call it associative mechanics to explain a preferred playstyle, just as I think mixing several things together to call something immersion. From what I noticed, it tends to obfuscate what's really going on and see all the parts that leads up to that specific state. Breaking them apart and seeing associative mechanics as an emerging result from two sources is more beneficial in my book.

    However, the article(s) is really good at explaining this: taking actions through mechanics to simulate what a character is doing in-game (read: in the game world) is a preferred way of playing (for some people, my remark).
    I did not quite get what the two sources are in the quote. Could you clarify?

    Also, I would be interested in your comments on my suggestion for a useful definition of mechanics being associated, rather than comments on the blog post of Alexandrian (which I linked to for context).
  • I feel the need to bring up games like torchbearer, where, for example, actions in the camp phase depend on the player using the character's traits against himself. Or artha, where certain character actions trigger meta game currency gain the player may then use to improve his rolls. Both, especially the camp phase actions, are totally disconnected from the fiction but, at the same time, totally necessary to the tone and atmosphere the game is trying to convey. And both make Torchbearer (and Burning Wheel) amazing games on their own.
    Yes, these are examples of dissociated mechanics that support the design goals (mechanically complicated gameplay where one can improve by analysis of the rules and practice, and which encourage flawed characters whose flaws appear in and influence play) of the games in question.

    This has a benefit: Allowing dynamics that would be otherwise difficult to create.
    This has a drawback: A number of players do not enjoy such rules, and learning and understanding them requires more effort.

    The players should be accustomed to different types of rules in the same way that people should be accustomed to different types of exotic foods or literature etc. - probably useful for those who want to excel at a particular craft, but there is a severe opportunity cost (you could be doing anything else with the time), so it presumes a lot to say people *should* do it.

    Also, happily, you can start a new thread about the outcomes of camp phase in Torchbearer. Those are largely orthogonal to it being hard to learn or not. I think dissociation is part of the reason why it is hard to learn, but the entire system is fairly intricate and thus hard to learn, also by design. So there are several causes, in any case.

    More detailed discussion about immersion should go elsewhere.
  • edited November 2018
    @Rickard Of course, when there is no character yet, or no fictional element, there can only be "dissociated things". This is by definition, and therefore stupid to say. A tautology. That is why I didn't say that. I think better of you. So read my sentence again.
    Isn't it clearly absurd to say that creating your character is not about roleplaying your character ?
    Oh, I missed the "clearly" which changed meaning of the entire sentence. My mistake. :)
  • I think it's dangerous to mix these two together, and call it associative mechanics to explain a preferred playstyle, just as I think mixing several things together to call something immersion. From what I noticed, it tends to obfuscate what's really going on and see all the parts that leads up to that specific state. Breaking them apart and seeing associative mechanics as an emerging result from two sources is more beneficial in my book.

    However, the article(s) is really good at explaining this: taking actions through mechanics to simulate what a character is doing in-game (read: in the game world) is a preferred way of playing (for some people, my remark).
    I did not quite get what the two sources are in the quote. Could you clarify?
    Mechanics + thinking in character --> associated mechanics.

    It's possible a "accustomed to think in mechanics" is in there too, as well as several other things, but the article only talked about those two.
    Also, I would be interested in your comments on my suggestion for a useful definition of mechanics being associated, rather than comments on the blog post of Alexandrian (which I linked to for context).
    Hey, man. This is the third time in this thread you ignoring my point, to answer something unrelated instead.

    I made a simpler definition of associated mechanics that was easier to read than your suggestion: taking actions through mechanics to simulate what a character is doing in-game is one preferred way of playing.

    And that's my comment on your definition. It doesn't need to be that long and complex.
  • edited November 2018

    This has a drawback: A number of players do not enjoy such rules, and learning and understanding them requires more effort.
    In my experience, mostly players with a background of only playing d&d or similar games struggle with this. I've introduced people to rpgs with BW, TB or some PbtA games, and in general they don't have any issues with their "disassociated" rules, which for me at least points towards traditional games crystalizing some notions in their minds about how games should be.

    I think this concept fails when you try to apply it to new players with none of the baggage most of us have. In fact, some new players will naturally try to step into the role of GMs at times and declare stuff about the world, proving that hardcore player-character identification is not a universal need for most roleplayers nor something every designer should have as a priority.
  • edited November 2018
    @Thanuir "But this is getting awfully abstract and handwavy. It would help if you gave a concrete example, real or not, of the difference.(between interpretation and representation)" Interpretation takes place in your head, it is a thought process, while representation is an output. it can be on paper, on the stage, or - even - in your imagination (^^).

    "(the rule) was dissociated to begin with." This is all in your head. No disrespect : the understanding takes place in your head. You cling to this idea that "it's in the rule", but really, it doesn't do anything for you. How could it be in the rule when you can change the "ass/diss status" without changing the rule ? OK, I understand that "associated rule" is a short hand for "a rule that someone can use and understands without entering the dissociated psychological state", but don't make it a "thing" (positivist phlogistic fallacy strikes again).

    "it is an important concept for many." ?! wake up your brain we need you here ?! are you selling a belief or making a concept ?

    I like your Karma and token story as it reminds me of the main narrative device in Hunter x Hunter (focusing on the exact wording of powers). But to be exact, the fictional elements are Karma, good event, bad event. Tokens are a real world prop, a representation. When you get a token, your character maybe has the feeling that some day some good event will "repay" the present bad event, or maybe it is so and they don't know.

    If the character knows for certain Karma exists, "Let's dig for karma then" is the exact conclusion. And guess what : people actually do the strangest things according to the strangest believes they hold. Historical evidences abound : picture the monasteries as Karma factories, and natural disasters and wars as Karma bonanzas. The poor, the disabled ? Karma springs. No kidding, it's LIVE now.

    For me Karma exists in the fiction, but maybe the character doesn't know it. In the definition, the character is out of the picture. The character doesn't understand anything. It doesn't even exist in the first place. The problem is that you seem to insist that the character knows for certain all the rules of their world for them to be associated. But that's just you insisting on something that's not theoretically possible (because of some math study), certainly not desirable, less necessary, and -mind you- not even realistic. Maybe you prepare this caricature for a later counter-argument, I don't know, due to ghost discussions or something, but this is really problematic. Because bad faith would be the best case.

    The worst case would be that you are really deluded about the real world. I already mentioned the fact that the body of scientific knowledge in the real world is ad hoc most of the time, it is also, by definition, always temporarily true, that is, false for the most part ;) . And, as I said, I like it like that. We humans don't know the rules of this world. It may be the case that we have theoretically no access whatsoever to truth. Some optimists like me add "except by chance, unknowingly". But this is me reveling in metaphysics on the side. The point is this : "In the definition you provided, the character is out of the picture. Of course. The character doesn't understand anything. It doesn't even exist. "

    So, I don't need to know why you say this, you just need to stop with this "character must know" nonsense.

    Anyway.

    Let's carry on with the discussion.


    @Rickard : (Chibi me pulling my hair) "about" ! The word you missed is "about" !
  • edited November 2018
    *mod time*

    quoting @DeReel: " This is nonsense ! It's like you don't know what you are talking about, changing definition according to circumstances and interlocutor, even without knowing or intent. As in : rhetoric over logic. That also explains why some people are refraining from yelling at you in this thread. You pretend to explain and you blow air : a trollish trait (no offense, this is merely descriptive)."

    @DeReel: You can so it's no offense, but it seems pretty rude/agitated. You can find ways to express that you wonder if a definition is changing while still being polite to the other person. If you need a break from this thread, take a break. But consider this a warning that you seem to be losing your zen in this thread, and that's not okay.
  • edited November 2018
    OK, I'll step back.
  • edited November 2018

    Thanks for the description. Supposing the tones are the result of a coin flip (this seems to not be the case, but for simplicity), and the rule seems like one that would be easy to associate (characters just seem to have good and bad days, which affect how they view the world and how the world responds to them, just like good and bad stuff in Amber diceless). More complicated associations would also be possible. If it interacts in a more involved way with other resolution mechanics, then I can not say.

    So: Fairly easy to associate, but dissociated as is. Since the game is, as far as I understand, not one of problem solving or careful analysis of the local metaphysics, associating the rule might very well not be worth the cost, which would come from questions like should the tone be jovial in relaxed situations and so forth.
    I disagree. The association the game makes is actually easier than what you propose (good/bad days): The fiction just is in the rolled tone, either jovial or glum. So not "dissociated as is."
  • I think @DeReel says it well here:
    Now I see what is association. It is a certain understanding of the rules by the player, using concrete fictional elements [...]
    The concept seems fairly intuitive in a theoretical, abstract sense. However, in my experience, it falls apart immediately in practice if two players who aren't coming from a VERY similar background and aesthetic try to apply it.

    I've yet to see any "definition" which could be reliably applied in the same way by two different people.

    (As can be seen by some people defending D&D by comparing it to other games with more "dissociated" mechanics, whereas others feel the need to redesign the same game from scratch because the rules are too dissociated -
    Differences are to be expected, because people have different experiences in the world and see different things as true. Furthermore, for some rules it is non-trivial to come up with good associations, and not everyone has done it or encountered those.

    However, nobody is talking about how the strength score in D&D is dissociated (as far as I know). The hit point discussion is very frequent. Then someone tells that you only get hurt when you run out, and many people are happy.

    With Burning wheel, having discussions about resources is common (or at least used to be on the forum). Very few people have similar questions about steel, even though it and the limited list of responses were fairly novel back then. Why do people talk about resources but not steel?

    My answer to both of these would be that strength score and steel attribute are associated - they have obvious fictional interpretation - while hit points and resources behave in a less intuitive manner, so they require more work to associate and people do not simply instantly do it. I would be interested in your explanation of the phenomenon.
    Why can't I try to parry an attack? Why do I need a feat to Cleave two goblins at once? Why does a healing spell heal the wizard more completely than it does the fighter?

    These things are discussed all the time, and they're the reason that Runequest exists.
    That's why, in my view, it tends to be, in practice, about subjective taste and familiarity.
    There are two responses here.

    First is that familiarity does play a role. If you are used to something, you either have associated it in a way that makes sense, or you have learned to not try to associate it at all. Maybe you are playing in a way that does not require association, or maybe that particular rule being dissociated does not have that big an effect for you.

    However: The more associated a rule is, the less necessary it is for you to do the work of associating or ignoring the thing, if those matter to you. I would also argue that more associated rules are, other things being equal, easier to understand and learn, since you can draw connections to things you already know.

    The second response is: If associated rules did not matter, why would people bother to design games that fix those very issues the concept points out? Why would they be discussed so often (as mentioned above)?

    * You're playing a game and try to make choices from your character's perspective... when you realize that you must modify these choices because of the way the rules work.

    If you are able to rationalize these changes in your behaviour in a way which allows you to maintain the illusion of verisimilitude, everything is fine.

    If you are unable to do so, you are suddenly torn between doing the thing which seems natural and organic and "right" and following the rules accurately.

    That's when something feels "dissociated".

    For my tastes, this comes up ALL THE TIME in D&D, so I find it hilarious when D&D players are offended about "dissociated mechanics", but for some people the assumptions of D&D play are so deeply ingrained that it doesn't seem to bother them.
    I agree this is one possible outcome of meeting dissociated rules, or just rules that are a bad simulation of fictional reality that one would like to have. Maybe the D&D players are offended because they have to do more work to absorb new rules that are dissociated?

    I agree that one good way of dealing with this is to move to rules sets that do not simulate the fictional reality as rigidly. I believe this is a question of abstraction more the dissociation, or of sense of realism.
    At last we are talking of dissociation as a psychological state. It has little to do with a rule property, or only accidentally.
    Missing a detail in a description by the GM is dissociating. (Not understanding because the fictional element lacks). Of course, hordes of internetian could grab such a proteiform concept and use it as a bludgeon. When all the time the lumber was in their eyes. Ouch.
    "Does it have a unique fictional interpretation?" is a property of a rule. It does rely on people having somewhat similar understandings of reality, but only to the extent that all roleplaying does - diegesis or shared imagined space or whatever you want to call the fiction relies on constant discussion and clarification, but it is quite possible to operate with it. Any property relating to the fiction must, of necessity, have similar kind of uncertainty around it.

    One thing with the concept is that it cleaves through all my functional concepts : I can see many solutions to the problems it helps to solve, but I think it bundles so many things it is not practical.
    For instance : sometimes you will have to correct the abstraction level for realism, clean the murk with a map, sometimes you will have a discussion with the symptom player about their expectations about the game, etc.
    The very fact that players evoke the sciences of the fictive world is typical of an interest in the simulation. Like in Archipelago, if the Ocean player states there is a certain species of fish used for navigation, the fact is established for future, past and present It's a "mini game" I propose in my game for the Thinker players. But it has little to do with what I consider the rules, actually. It is rather a mode of play, something that the rules allow. I never had to use a funny word to explain this. Except maybe "establish" ?
    If I understand you correctly, I agree that you present solutions to some problems, but I do not understand how this relates to the discussion at hand.
  • Thanuir,

    The issue of "dissociated moments" coming up with Strength scores was actually a pretty common one for me and my group(s) back when we played a lot of D&D. It's also a common "problem point" among people who are serious about designing "physics sim" rules.

    A typical D&D moment is the one where the Strength 18 Goliath Barbarian attempts to lift the giant rock, the GM asks for a Strength check, and he fails. Then the other players want to try, as well, and the Hobbit with a Strength of 8 manages the roll.

    This kind of outcome is very hard to "associate", and would be far easier using more abstract conflict resolution mechanics.

    And that's basically my issue with this whole topic:

    It suggests that "association" and "dissociation" are properties of rules, whereas I often see the opposite results in actual play. A highly "associated" property (like a Strength check) has to be handled very carefully to avoid creating moments of "dissociation" in a way that more "dissociated", highly abstract mechanics handle without a hitch.

    There is so much subjectivity and personal taste mixed into the whole thing that treating it like an obvious and logical description of a phenomenon is very misleading, in my opinion.

    For instance, would purely freeform roleplay be considered more "associated" or less "associated"? It's not an easy question to answer, and I doubt many people would answer the same way.

    By the same token, some players say that freeform-with-a-GM is incredibly immersion-facilitating, while others say it is entirely anathema to their immersion.

    In my experience, looking at roleplaying through the lens of relatively antiquated terminology like "immersion" and "dissociated mechanics" is more likely to get us into trouble, posturing, and arguing than to communicate anything meaningful. It reminds me of the whole "rollplaying vs. roleplaying" debates and seem about equally useful.

    Consider for a moment that most of the arguments and points brought up in favour of the utility of such concepts apply in exactly the same way to "rollplaying vs. roleplaying"; they are strong terms which "immediately make sense" to many people hearing them, and are at least vaguely related to some real phenomena. However, in practice, it is practically impossible to reach consensus, and so they invariably lead to personal arguments based on taste, familiarity, and sensibility.

    It feels funny to be having this discussion in 2018, in other words. :)

    That's my take on all of this, really. I don't have much to add.


    (Except, perhaps, that Vincent Baker's "Clouds and Boxes" diagrams do a nice job of digging deeper into the actual structure of rules and how they operate with the participants of play, without delving into the morass of ancient online debates. If anyone is reading this and hasn't seen those essays, I recommend checking them out for an alternate point of view.)
  • Isn't it clearly absurd to say that creating your character is not about roleplaying your character ?
    I would say no. As little as writing an adventure is playing a roleplaying game, or setting up a board game is actually playing it, it seems to me that the correct conclusion is that you don't act in character, or take choices based on from your characters perspective, when you create your own character ... most of the times anyway.
    I don't make choices based on my character's perspective when I play roleplaying games. I make choices based on what I feel is best as the author of my character's story, what best accomplishes my artistic goals with the character.
    Does that mean I'm never playing roleplaying games?
  • I don't make choices based on my character's perspective when I play roleplaying games. I make choices based on what I feel is best as the author of my character's story, what best accomplishes my artistic goals with the character.
    Does that mean I'm never playing roleplaying games?
    Given the definitions given, that's correct. Doesn't mean I agree with them, because I think roleplaying games are more than just one preferred way of playing, but I can understand the other person's point of view.

    Probably the last thing I will write in this thread.
  • Ah, I thought you were talking about your own definitions, and I was confused. Thank you for clarifying. :)
  • Also, to correct a misconception about narrative games. Narrative elements are meta-fictional. This means they are also fictional, by definition.

    They are those fictional elements that are meta-stable. I could translate this into "they are how things are, disregarding the details" or "they are not the state, rather the rules of things" and how we talk about these rules. But I'd rather the one who doesn't understand do some research than take me as a teacher.
    Meta-stable means a physical system that is at a local strict minimum of its energy, but not a global one. I do not understand how this relates to the subject matter at hand. Up to you whether you want to act as a teacher or not.

    Improv and many narrative games thrive on problem solving. They simply deal with elements like Karma or "The role you've been framed in" rather than HP and traps. To me, they look much more like real life in this respect. In many of its uses, the term "dissociated" is therefore a strawman, used by people confused by the abstraction of "meta". Hence my plea for a definition.
    I used problem solving as a shorthand for solving fictional problems with tools available within that fiction.

    I think I have addressed the question of abstraction and realism in other comments, earlier than the one I am writing now.

    Like Paul_T I'd be very interested in the psychological concept of dissociation seen through TTRPG lenses. Getting out of roleplaying through roleplaying.
    « Pour moi, dès qu’on fait quelque chose, il s’agit d’en sortir. Il s’agit à la fois d’y rester et d’en sortir. […] Moi, je veux sortir de la philosophie par la philosophie. » Gilles Deleuze, dans Abécédaire.
    (For me, as soon as we do something, it's about getting out. It is a question of both staying there and going out. [...] I want to leave philosophy by philosophy.)
    I do not understand what you mean here.

    It's amusing seeing people get bothered by "Healing Surges" while being perfect fine with "Spells per Day", "Classes" and "Levels".
    I think healing surges are roughly as reasonable an abstraction as hit points are, and not particularly dissociated

    I would be interested in your take on the definitions posted here, rather than examples taken from elsewhere.

  • I made a simpler definition of associated mechanics that was easier to read than your suggestion: taking actions through mechanics to simulate what a character is doing in-game is one preferred way of playing.

    And that's my comment on your definition. It doesn't need to be that long and complex.
    Thank you for being explicit. I think the definition make captures a more restricted and related concept than what I have in mind and have tried to define.

    For example: It only applies to actions, whereas many traditional rpg rules describe things.
    It only applies to characters taking actions, rather than for example game master using settlement rules in Dungeon world.
    It is not really a definition at all, since it the obvious claim that some people like a well-known style of play. As such, it is pretty useless as a tool for discussing design or analyzing games.

  • This has a drawback: A number of players do not enjoy such rules, and learning and understanding them requires more effort.
    In my experience, mostly players with a background of only playing d&d or similar games struggle with this. I've introduced people to rpgs with BW, TB or some PbtA games, and in general they don't have any issues with their "disassociated" rules, which for me at least points towards traditional games crystalizing some notions in their minds about how games should be.
    My conjecture is that, when introducing people to Burning wheel or Torchbearer, you will have to spend more explaining concepts that do not directly and simply map to the fiction, when compared to the things that do so (when they are of similar complexity otherwise). Let me know if this corresponds to your experience. I would be particularly interested in counterexamples.

    I think this concept fails when you try to apply it to new players with none of the baggage most of us have. In fact, some new players will naturally try to step into the role of GMs at times and declare stuff about the world, proving that hardcore player-character identification is not a universal need for most roleplayers nor something every designer should have as a priority.
    This seems to be unrelated to the discussion at hand, which is about dissociated mechanics, not hardcore player-character identification. Also, I do not think anyone here has written that it should be a priority of every designer. If I have, please quote me and I will retract it or explain what I meant.
  • I just wanna say, I think I actually got something out of this thread. We'll see whether I eventually find the to write down a summary and contribute.

    Also, I feel sorta co-responsible for starting a trash fire, with my snarky comments in the other thread which were based on assuming a common ground that wasn't actually there.

  • My conjecture is that, when introducing people to Burning wheel or Torchbearer, you will have to spend more explaining concepts that do not directly and simply map to the fiction, when compared to the things that do so (when they are of similar complexity otherwise). Let me know if this corresponds to your experience. I would be particularly interested in counterexamples.
    I don't think it 100% matches my experience. I don't usually need to explain how and why every mechanic exists. Some few players try to understand what's the purpose of a rule, but they're a few. Most of them will just learn by experience the rules, or by trial and error. If they were to ask me why there's artha, I might have an answer prepared (hero qualities that stem from fighting for what you believe), but they usually don't. In any case, it takes mere moments to explain.

    The other thing about stepping into GM's role, I think it's relevant because it shows players can take an author or even director stance very easily and intuitively, and those stances are needed to fully operate mechanics like traits in Torchbearer or Artha in Burning Wheel.
  • @Thanuir "But this is getting awfully abstract and handwavy. It would help if you gave a concrete example, real or not, of the difference.(between interpretation and representation)" Interpretation takes place in your head, it is a thought process, while representation is an output. it can be on paper, on the stage, or - even - in your imagination (^^).
    Use representation if it suits you better. I think there is a relationship between them that is almost one-to-one, so the same for me.

    "(the rule) was dissociated to begin with." This is all in your head. No disrespect : the understanding takes place in your head. You cling to this idea that "it's in the rule", but really, it doesn't do anything for you. How could it be in the rule when you can change the "ass/diss status" without changing the rule ? OK, I understand that "associated rule" is a short hand for "a rule that someone can use and understands without entering the dissociated psychological state", but don't make it a "thing" (positivist phlogistic fallacy strikes again).
    It is a property of the rule in the same way that a story can have a meaning, a painting be beautiful, or a book be clearly written. While they are all personal interpretations, there are also definite trends - some interpretations are rare, others common.

    "it is an important concept for many." ?! wake up your brain we need you here ?! are you selling a belief or making a concept ?
    The latter.

    If the character knows for certain Karma exists, "Let's dig for karma then" is the exact conclusion. And guess what : people actually do the strangest things according to the strangest believes they hold. Historical evidences abound : picture the monasteries as Karma factories, and natural disasters and wars as Karma bonanzas. The poor, the disabled ? Karma springs. No kidding, it's LIVE now.
    Yes, this type of karma is one interpretation. Yes, as often, associating rules creates interesting play, but that specific type of interest might not be the point of any given game.

    I am not insisting that a character knows all the rules. I am stating that a character who starts figuring out the rules is a viable one, and if the rules are associated and metaphysically interesting, also something that such interesting metaphysics encourage (by being interesting). For example.

    In particular, an associated rule can be one that does not directly affect any character at all.

    I disagree. The association the game makes is actually easier than what you propose (good/bad days): The fiction just is in the rolled tone, either jovial or glum. So not "dissociated as is."
    Okay. You did not tell me it was explicitly associated, but if it is, then it is.

    The issue of "dissociated moments" coming up with Strength scores was actually a pretty common one for me and my group(s) back when we played a lot of D&D. It's also a common "problem point" among people who are serious about designing "physics sim" rules.

    A typical D&D moment is the one where the Strength 18 Goliath Barbarian attempts to lift the giant rock, the GM asks for a Strength check, and he fails. Then the other players want to try, as well, and the Hobbit with a Strength of 8 manages the roll.

    This kind of outcome is very hard to "associate", and would be far easier using more abstract conflict resolution mechanics.
    Right. I'll try to explain my take on the matter. I would appreciate if you confirmed you understand the difference I am trying to make clear (even if you choose to disagree).

    A given rule can:
    1. Have a clear interpretation in the fiction and conform to one's intuitions about whatever it is trying to represent. It might be realistic or suitable to the genre the game is trying to replicate or something like that.
    2. Have a clear interpretation in the fiction, but break one's intuitions about whatever it is trying to represent. One might call it unrealistic or a poor fit for the genre or whatever.
    3. Not have a clear (and unique) interpretation in the fiction.

    I would call both 1 and 2 instances of an associated rule. Number three would be dissociated. I think the strength example is 2 - you and everyone I have ever talked to has a good idea of what it means to be strong in D&D (if they know about D&D and ability scores) - you can carry lots of stuff, hit hard, and can accomplish feats of strength.

    Do you see the difference between options 2 and 3?

    Incidentally, I do agree that abstract conflict resolution mechanics are a good way of creating realistic play (or play conforming to other genre assumptions), much like rulings are. They both allow changing the level of abstraction, whereas straightforward "rules as physics of the game world" or rules as written approach typically lead to inconsistencies when edge cases or wrong scale of abstraction are met.

    For instance, would purely freeform roleplay be considered more "associated" or less "associated"?
    Since "purely freeform" can include many of things, it is pretty hard to discuss.

    I would say that the traditional GM and player roles are quite associated - one's own character has a clear fictional interpretation, as does the rest of the fiction.

    Something like Primetime adventures offers a nice case study, I think. Working off of memory (it has been years since I read the game and I have not played it), it seems overall fairly associated in that the television series interpretation ties together stuff pretty well. If one imagines a game that has precisely the same formal rules with different names and with no explicit tv interpretation, it would be a lot more dissociated. Understanding why you draw a variable number of cards in each scene (or session? whichever) and why you can give bonus tokens to others and so on would be more difficult, I conjecture.

    By the same token, some players say that freeform-with-a-GM is incredibly immersion-facilitating, while others say it is entirely anathema to their immersion.

    In my experience, looking at roleplaying through the lens of relatively antiquated terminology like "immersion" and "dissociated mechanics" is more likely to get us into trouble, posturing, and arguing than to communicate anything meaningful. It reminds me of the whole "rollplaying vs. roleplaying" debates and seem about equally useful.
    *Antiquated*, here, is a pretty strong term. You should fight that fight with someone more vested in immersion. I see the term in use and do understand a bit about how people play when they describe their play of a traditional game as such.

    Roll- vs roleplay is almost dead and good riddance.

    It feels funny to be having this discussion in 2018, in other words. :)
    I feel like talking GNS theory on rpg.net: There are people having emotional reactions to the terms and attacking their pop meanings, and there are people criticizing old essays even when I am trying to formalize something new.

    Thank you for the response; I think it is useful.
  • I don't make choices based on my character's perspective when I play roleplaying games. I make choices based on what I feel is best as the author of my character's story, what best accomplishes my artistic goals with the character.
    Does that mean I'm never playing roleplaying games?
    Given the definitions given, that's correct. Doesn't mean I agree with them, because I think roleplaying games are more than just one preferred way of playing, but I can understand the other person's point of view.
    Just to be explicit: These are presumably Justin Alexander's or someone else's definitions, which people for some reason are discussing in this thread.

    Personally I do not useful to draw the line between roleplaying and not based on taking a character's perspective.


  • I don't personally have a gripe with the definition of disassociation you present here (I don't know what's difficult about it), but I'm interested in its applications: do we simply believe that there is an underlying preference for strongly fiction-associating game mechanics in some gamer demographics, and that's why one should attempt to "simulate the game world" wherever possible, or does the concept have some further implications? Or, stated in a more pointed manner: is there a theoretical point to the distinction?

    anyway.
    As someone who has recently realised I’m an immersionist, what my character would do, hater of disassociated mechanics, I think it does have deeper implications. Well for me anyway.

    There is a certain aesthetic approach to the fiction that some people innately take and others don’t. I think immersion, disassociated mechanics and most importantly, the theory of stance, all point towards it.

    Apologies for jargon: The Big Model theory of stance is rubbish. If the old threefold stance model had been retained, expanded upon, then we’d have an easier time explaining the approach. What me and my ilk prioritise is ‘important stuff happening in actor stance.’ Which is pretty much the conclusion the Alexandrian comes to, with the extra barb thrown in that other stuff isn’t ‘real role-playing.’

    From this viewpoint it’s not that disassociated mechanics are always bad, evil and wrong. They just have to justify their inclusion far more strongly than in a game orientated towards author stance.
  • I just wanna say, I think I actually got something out of this thread. We'll see whether I eventually find the to write down a summary and contribute.
    That's good.

    I don't think it 100% matches my experience. I don't usually need to explain how and why every mechanic exists. Some few players try to understand what's the purpose of a rule, but they're a few. Most of them will just learn by experience the rules, or by trial and error. If they were to ask me why there's artha, I might have an answer prepared (hero qualities that stem from fighting for what you believe), but they usually don't. In any case, it takes mere moments to explain.
    Suppose you are explaining a pre-made character to someone, or helping a new player with character generation.

    You'll say something like here are the stats, power means strength, forte means how tough you are, and the other probably explain themselves. You'll say a few words about beliefs (how they are player priorities and character goals), or a lot more if they are not pregenerated. Maybe you'll need to explain steel, or maybe the meaning is obvious in your language. Instincts are if-then statements. So on.

    My conjecture is that artha requires more work to explain than other things, due to the dissociation - it is not enough to refer to a real word concept.
    Also, in play, resources will require a few more words, because people are used to thinking about giving money and receiving an item or service, rather than an economy of gifts, debts and trust. So you'll be asked explain when someone fails a roll. This is at least my experience when teaching the game.

    I would guess the same is true of Torchbearer - many of the numbers are easy to explain ("nature" is how dwarfy or elfy you are are, conditions explain themselves reasonably, and so on) while the checks and usage thereof is a new concept without obvious interpretation, so you will have to explain it.

    Again, I would be particularly interested in specific counterexamples, where someone has very hard time understanding what "reflexes" could mean, but immediately understands what artha is with little explanation. Or something like that.

    The other thing about stepping into GM's role, I think it's relevant because it shows players can take an author or even director stance very easily and intuitively, and those stances are needed to fully operate mechanics like traits in Torchbearer or Artha in Burning Wheel.
    I have observed players taking control over things aside from their character with great ease, and players restricting their perspective to their character with great ease.

    I do not yet see how this relates to the discussion at hand. I have not claimed that in-character perspective is more natural than other options; or if I have, quote me and I will retract or explain.
  • I actually have some specific counterexamples. Not specifically with arthra, since I don't play BW, but with the general idea of players being confused by "associated" mechanics and immediately understanding "disassociated" ones.
    There's a player in my group who back when we played trad and neotrad games (basically, back when we played games with primarily "associated" mechanics), she had a lot of trouble grasping the game. She would have to study the rules for a really long time to keep track of them, and had a lot of trouble remembering them in play. She always had to ask for a lot of help, but it was the sort of situation where we couldn't reasonably be upset about it, because she was clearly trying her best. She just couldn't parse how mechanics directly mapping character abilities and stuff functioned, because it wasn't anything at all like how she was used to thinking about roleplay and stories and stuff. Her natural approach was a combination of Author and Director Stances, and the whole concept of Actor Stance was foreign and confusing to her.
    Then when we started playing Chuubo's, the moment she saw all the very "disassociated" stuff (especially the stuff for planning and scripting character arcs from a deeply authorial perspective), she was like a fish in water, because it was the sort of stuff she was paradigmatically used to from her experience of roleplay and her experience of the way she looks at stories (which is very deeply rooted in in-depth literary analysis-type stuff).
    So ye.

  • I would guess the same is true of Torchbearer - many of the numbers are easy to explain ("nature" is how dwarfy or elfy you are are, conditions explain themselves reasonably, and so on) while the checks and usage thereof is a new concept without obvious interpretation, so you will have to explain it.
    I teach Torchbearer a lot and I think this is either very clear or very strange depending on how it's introduced.

    It usually goes well if you say: this is a game about played flawed characters acting under pressure. If you find ways to incorporate the flaws of your character into a test, describing how your character traits make something riskier for you, then you earn a valuable reward called a check. A check lets you take special actions in camp (like recovery and mapping) that you would otherwise have to do in town. This is a cost/benefit analysis you'll make as a player, and it might get your character into trouble in interesting ways.

    It goes poorly if you say: you can't camp without a check, and you earns checks by using a trait against yourself. The you explain those three terms and people ask what your roleplay has to do with their character camping.

    In the first instance, most players have seen that checks allow them to make a troubled/ flawed character without undermining the cooperative effort of the party. Without this incentive to highlight the inconvenient side of your character traits, the game would encourage you to make totally bland and effective characters because the party is trying to succeed and survive. In the second instance, you end up in conversations about something like 'association' that can derail the flow of the session.
  • edited November 2018
    Hit points are a fully associated mechanic because they collate a number of factors into a single abstraction: how close you are to not being able to defend yourself in a fight. If you have a hit point you can defend yourself. If you don't, you can't, and might fall unconscious or die. That's it!

    Fate Points are a fully associated mechanic because they collate a number of factors into a single abstraction: how likely it is that an element of your personality or situation will spring out to your advantage. Spend a fate point and that probability is 100 percent. Don't spend a fate point and it's between 0 and 100 percent. That's it!
  • But Jason, how about "Luck"? Is that an associated statistic? Inquiring Tunnels & Trolls players want to know.
  • edited November 2018
    Of course it is : the fiction doesn't have to be realistic ("modeling real life"). It is enough if the rule models something existing in the fiction (realist). If Luck exists in the fiction, then why wouldn't the statistic be associated. Wits, Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma are not realistic either.
  • Yes, Luck is associated - it's how much God feels like testing you.

    B)
  • Yeah, fate points just got me thinking, as the way Jason described them sounds exactly like luck - "Luck" and fate points basically do the same things in the games they appear in, except the former is an oldie idea that's generally understood to be a character property, while fate points are usually understood more as a conceit of dramatic modeling. Both of them actually being associated mechanics makes sense in that regard.

    So what about scene framing, associated or not? I'm going to guess that GM scene framing is usually associated, and implicitly understood as a simple pacing conceit - it's not that reality itself cuts in and out like a movie, but rather we just don't bother to play through every second. (In other words, framing does not "actually happen" in the game fiction, and it does nothing of importance to the fictional world, so it simply can't be disassociated any more than my grabbing a drink during the game is.) When players get to "order" scenes, such as in Primetime Adventures, that choice is associated because the player is simply describing "what my character does next", which is a highly associated activity. Neither form of scene framing requires any player to make disassociated choices.

  • There's a player in my group who back when we played trad and neotrad games (basically, back when we played games with primarily "associated" mechanics), she had a lot of trouble grasping the game. She would have to study the rules for a really long time to keep track of them, and had a lot of trouble remembering them in play. She always had to ask for a lot of help, but it was the sort of situation where we couldn't reasonably be upset about it, because she was clearly trying her best. She just couldn't parse how mechanics directly mapping character abilities and stuff functioned, because it wasn't anything at all like how she was used to thinking about roleplay and stories and stuff. Her natural approach was a combination of Author and Director Stances, and the whole concept of Actor Stance was foreign and confusing to her.
    First: The definition I suggested does not tie association to in-character or actor stance stuff.

    That aside; I think the example you give is pretty interesting. Can you tell which if the following caused problems or did not cause problems to the player:

    1. The GM-player split, in the sense that one mostly decides what their character does, while the GM decides what there is in the world.
    2. The idea that characters are described by numbers and words in a formal way. (Like strength 4, trait: obsessive, ...)
    3. Implementing the mechanics: Picking the number, rolling dice, maybe arithmetic or counting, announcing the result.
    4. Interpreting the result back into the fiction.
    5. That the mechanical rules make decisions about outcomes of actions.
    6. Related to the following: That one does not have full control of what happens to one's character.
    (I'm probably missing something; these are just what came to mind at the moment.)

    I teach Torchbearer a lot and I think this is either very clear or very strange depending on how it's introduced.
    Interesting observation. In my words: You emphasize playing flawed characters (and by the way you get checks which are nice).

    Moving away a bit from that; what would you say are the most forgotten rules (the ones you have to remind people of fairly often) and the rules that are hardest to explain at first, in Torchbearer? Does everyone get nature and depletion thereof, for example, or the learning mechanic, or the use of checks, or the consequences for camping?
  • Those things were all problems. Like, every single one of them.
  • I actually have some specific counterexamples. Not specifically with arthra, since I don't play BW, but with the general idea of players being confused by "associated" mechanics and immediately understanding "disassociated" ones.
    There's a player in my group who back when we played trad and neotrad games (basically, back when we played games with primarily "associated" mechanics), she had a lot of trouble grasping the game. She would have to study the rules for a really long time to keep track of them, and had a lot of trouble remembering them in play. She always had to ask for a lot of help, but it was the sort of situation where we couldn't reasonably be upset about it, because she was clearly trying her best. She just couldn't parse how mechanics directly mapping character abilities and stuff functioned, because it wasn't anything at all like how she was used to thinking about roleplay and stories and stuff. Her natural approach was a combination of Author and Director Stances, and the whole concept of Actor Stance was foreign and confusing to her.
    Then when we started playing Chuubo's, the moment she saw all the very "disassociated" stuff (especially the stuff for planning and scripting character arcs from a deeply authorial perspective), she was like a fish in water, because it was the sort of stuff she was paradigmatically used to from her experience of roleplay and her experience of the way she looks at stories (which is very deeply rooted in in-depth literary analysis-type stuff).
    So ye.
    Thanks, that's the perfect example, and while I don't have a similar one to add, since I've not been GMing trad games for many years, I can add up that most of my players have understood easily rules like the destiny of a character in Archipielago, most of the rules in Fiasco, keys in Shadow of Yesterday, etc.
    I find it interesting that you mention stances when talking about how she plays, since the more I participate in this thread, the more I think this "ass/diss" thing is about how certain rules require certain stances, and players too used to stay in actor stance find it difficult to transition to others. And many rules in story games require an authorial stance over your character.
  • edited November 2018
    "(framing and ordering scenes) does nothing of importance to the fictional world" I think the opposite is true, but I really want to see where this diegetic throw will land. Drink in hand ?

  • I think this concept fails when you try to apply it to new players with none of the baggage most of us have. In fact, some new players will naturally try to step into the role of GMs at times and declare stuff about the world, proving that hardcore player-character identification is not a universal need for most roleplayers nor something every designer should have as a priority.
    Agree! I have years of experience in other fields of roleplay (other than RPGs) and I have to tell you that a lot of our assumptions that we are used to are not natural to most of players.

    My data is not representative but I have found that a lot of people feel that jumping in and out of a role is more easier and more fun than staying in one for hours. Also, that using shallow roles and changing them between scenes is more valuable than immersing ourselves deeply in a fully rounded character.

    I dont want to take sides but a lot of times hardcore RPG fans think that they know what roleplay means, what roleplay is. Like RPG = roleplay. Which is definitely not true. Its a very special, very narrow kind of rp IMHO.

    Actually a definition of 'role-play' from one of the founding fathers of Drama in Education is (paraphrasing) 'any activity in which at least one participant enacts a role'. That is a quite open ended definition, even too much, right?

    Contrast it with one of the direction of this thread ('Looks like a great part of doing RPGs is not actual roleplaying due to the high ratio of dissociated tasks') is in the other extreme.

    ***

    To reconcile these tensioms I have a proposal. Are you familiar with Nathan Hook's D-M Creative Agenda Model? I think it would be useful to think about the process of RPGs in those terms and not in the Big Model's.
  • edited November 2018
    7. The concept of associated mechanics is useful at least for the following people:

    A. People who want their game to be about players engaging in solving fictional problems by fictional means and thinking. Dissociated mechanics retract from this by making the fiction less predictable and by offering non-diegetic tools and restrictions to the problem solving.

    B. People who use a game whose rules affect the fiction, and who want to have vivid and non-jarring mental images of what happens in play. With associated rules, everything discussed in terms of rules is also, at the same time, discussed in terms of fiction.

    Obviously: If one is using entirely formal rules about scene framing and right to narrate, then this is not a concern, as the rules have very little chance of contradicting the mental images.

    C. Character immersion with heavy rules. My info is second hand, here, so I would prefer to not speculate about these people. I would be interested in hearing from any of them.
    Agreed 100%. Although it looks like the term "dissociated mechanics" is such a flame-trigger that we need a different label.

    Here's a thought about a mechanics taxonomy:
    - Fiction-descriptive - serves only to measure established fiction in numbers (example: once "50/50 shot" is established in fiction, that becomes "roll 11+ on a d20")
    - Fiction-additive - introduces new content (events, objects, probabilities) into the fiction (example: "every hour of actual play, roll for wandering monsters")
    - Fiction-prescriptive - establishes what can and cannot happen fictionally at a given time (examples: Combat rounds! Hit points! (If you can make these purely fiction-descriptive in your game, you are a mental ninja master! Mostly that honestly does not happen.))
    - Fiction-independent - changes the player's position without "going through" the fiction; fiction may be adjusted afterward if desired (example: I spend a token to cost you your turn; maybe I then narrate how my character's minions' attacks are depleting your character's resources, and you complete the narration by describing your character's distraction)

    I have a feeling this taxonomy won't hold up, but maybe it's a stab in a useful direction?

    Regarding taste and immersion, some players can integrate any sort of mechanic into the fiction, processing "I spend to skip your turn" as "my minions attack your resources", as if the minion action were the ultimate cause, with the distracted opponent the ultimate effect, and the game's token rules a mere way of tracking and reminding participants that that's how the world works.

    But, y'know, that's not trivially easy, and not everyone can do it, so I don't blame the folks who'd rather not try. It's both a taste issue and a challenge.

    Fiction-based problem-solving, on the other hand, is literally impossible if the mechanics dictate how problems can be solved. The only matter of taste there is the desire to play a fiction-based problem-solving game in the first place.
    A given rule can:
    1. Have a clear interpretation in the fiction and conform to one's intuitions about whatever it is trying to represent. It might be realistic or suitable to the genre the game is trying to replicate or something like that.
    2. Have a clear interpretation in the fiction, but break one's intuitions about whatever it is trying to represent. One might call it unrealistic or a poor fit for the genre or whatever.
    3. Not have a clear (and unique) interpretation in the fiction.
    Maybe part of the friction in talking about "1-or-2 vs 3" stems from the fact that, for someone who prefers 1, 2 is way worse than 3. :tongue:

  • - Fiction-independent - changes the player's position without "going through" the fiction; fiction may be adjusted afterward if desired (example: I spend a token to cost you your turn; maybe I then narrate how my character's minions' attacks are depleting your character's resources, and you complete the narration by describing your character's distraction)
    Could you give some examples of actual rpg mechanics like that/illustrate how the "maybe...if desired" comes into play there?

  • edited November 2018
    @hyades I think it's tricky because one group might narrate the minion attack first, and then say, "So I spend a token, and you lose a turn", while another group might go with, "spend a token, lose a turn" with no fiction. So it's hard to say definitively whether a rule is fiction-independent. Perhaps the closest we can get is to say that it doesn't require the fiction. It is in fact possible to spend a token and lose a turn without fiction involved.

    I feel like there are a ton of RPG mechanics which can be used without fiction, but it's counter-intuitive to do so. So, for me, a fiction-independent mechanic is the kind where you might expect to have to remind a player to contribute fiction, because contributing fiction is not intuitive.

    One example is Trust in Mountain Witch. You can award or withhold your tokens purely as a player, based on which players you want to give leverage to, based on their mechanical positioning, seating position, etc. I think this is a fairly intuitive way to play. After making such choices, some players will then say, "My character is beginning to trust your character because of that last scene," and others won't.

    A counter-example is any game with traits that you can rope into a dice pool when your group doesn't force you to narrate how they apply. What starts as a character attempt to achieve a fictional objective can turn into a player attempt to beat a target number. I remember a Burning Wheel player roping in "tail-wise" from his rat character, a trait that described a physical rat tail, to try to stealthily follow someone ("tail" them, huh huh) -- this player action was dependent on not going through the fiction. He just threw a die in the pool while quickly shouting out a trait name and hoping we wouldn't process it. So apparently this is a thing that can happen. I do not think it's intuitive, though.

    Is that a coherent enough distinction?
  • edited November 2018
    This tail you told is linked to the fiction, with a detour by narration. If the player was a 7yrs old, I would follow you. But I find a trait of humour where you see cheating. Remember, what is intuitive to some is knot to others. For instance you link numerical to descriptive : this is very d&d centered (D&D = RPG) Sometimes habit takes the obvious out of focus.
    I would rather use verbal for description. Verbal slips easily from narration to fiction and back. It is more intuitive. To me.
    Prescriptive is clear. It's the "genre convention" boundaries, right ?
    Your example for additive seem strange to me. Could you expand ? What would be subtractive ?

    @hyades : this part I understand. I play MtG as a fiction game. But honestly, the rules are fiction independent. Sure, they are associated all right, but really, most people playing give colour a tiny fraction of their attention. That's why I rarely play MtG
  • @David_Berg's breakdown:

    I don't know about how well it will hold up to scrutiny (maybe very well! I don't know), but I think that's a pretty solid breakdown of different types of mechanics, certainly a good starting point for discussion.

    As I mentioned before, I find Vincent Baker's "Dice and Clouds" series quite helpful in this regard, as well. A slightly different angle on the same thing.

    I think the connection between fiction and mechanics is a really important feature of game design, whether it's tighter or looser or direct or indirect. I think it's an important thing to consider and to discuss and to explore.

    I do find, however, that the "dissociated" label is unclear and overly subjective to be really useful.



  • From a broader perspective, I have a lot of experience playing with non-gamers, and I've seen a variety of perspectives. There is a small group who immediately grasp the "RPG as virtual reality" metaphor and are capable and interested in playing everything from "actor stance" (that is, through the eyes of their character), but most people have quite a different approach to roleplaying games.

    There are people who focus in on the "game" aspect strongly, and they are quite interested in rules and mechanics, and certainly don't worry about how "associated" something is, but just look to master the rules and get fun outcomes from them. There are also people who see "the larger story" as the point of play, and have trouble doing anything but engaging with that directly (often, being constrained to a single character is confusing or even nearly impossible to remember!). There are others who latch onto the "acting out a role" part, mostly interested in the presentation and interpretation of the character, like an actor. They might seek cues for "how to play correctly", and thereby find directive rules really useful (e.g. XP rewards), or might focus so strongly on the activity of roleplaying/acting out that mechanics and rules, in general, are distracting and confusing.

    And then there are all the people who combine some various aspects of all these perspectives, or can learn to.

    In this sense, I agree with Emma's experience - it's something I've seen quite a lot:

    There's a player in my group who back when we played trad and neotrad games (basically, back when we played games with primarily "associated" mechanics), she had a lot of trouble grasping the game. She would have to study the rules for a really long time to keep track of them, and had a lot of trouble remembering them in play. She always had to ask for a lot of help, but it was the sort of situation where we couldn't reasonably be upset about it, because she was clearly trying her best. She just couldn't parse how mechanics directly mapping character abilities and stuff functioned, because it wasn't anything at all like how she was used to thinking about roleplay and stories and stuff. Her natural approach was a combination of Author and Director Stances, and the whole concept of Actor Stance was foreign and confusing to her.
    A friend of mine used a nice phrase once:

    "Operating within a stance"

    I liked that quite a bit. One of the challenges that some roleplaying games (but not all) pose is that they are best played from a specific stance or perspective, and so the player must learn to discipline themselves to "operate within that stance". Some people find this intuitive; others find it almost impossible.

    I sometimes feel that the culture of roleplaying which plays a very specific subset of traditional games in a very particular way (and, it seems to me, they overlap heavily with the people who find discussion of "dissociated mechanics" highly relevant to their play experience) is a subset of all gamers/roleplayers who are used to and expect a very particular kind of engagement with the game. There's nothing wrong with that (and I find it a really fun way to play!), but mistaking it for the entire field, which people sometimes do, can get people into hot water - and into debates or arguments.
  • edited November 2018
    I think we should try again this study in another thread, without reference to the Alexandrian and without specialised terms, without expressing judgement other than preferences. Something very factual, statement by statement. And then branch into the topics that interest each one with clear road signs.
    I am not saying leibnizian rigour is the only way, or even the best, but this study obviously requires extreme care. Is it a reason to dump it ? On the contrary ! We are close to the bone !
    This barnum-wide ending was necessary Paul_T but is unsatisfying, because OP has been misunderstood in so many ways, and it was too late when the smoke got cleared.
  • Hit points are a fully associated mechanic because they collate a number of factors into a single abstraction: how close you are to not being able to defend yourself in a fight. If you have a hit point you can defend yourself. If you don't, you can't, and might fall unconscious or die. That's it!
    Hit points are not in quite one-to-one correspondence with that. There is stuff like paralysis, poison, cover and armour which also have quite an effect on being able to defend oneself in a fight, and which often do not interact with hit points (depending on the precise ruleset).

    But yeah, in general, that is a useful interpretation of hit points.

    Fate Points are a fully associated mechanic because they collate a number of factors into a single abstraction: how likely it is that an element of your personality or situation will spring out to your advantage. Spend a fate point and that probability is 100 percent. Don't spend a fate point and it's between 0 and 100 percent. That's it!
    That's good for what it means to have fate points, but does not associate using them or gaining them. Associating them seems to bind the world to quite specific karma-like metaphysics, which might not be what one wants in every game of Fate. So there seems to be a trade-off.

    So what about scene framing, associated or not? I'm going to guess that GM scene framing is usually associated, and implicitly understood as a simple pacing conceit - it's not that reality itself cuts in and out like a movie, but rather we just don't bother to play through every second. (In other words, framing does not "actually happen" in the game fiction, and it does nothing of importance to the fictional world, so it simply can't be disassociated any more than my grabbing a drink during the game is.) When players get to "order" scenes, such as in Primetime Adventures, that choice is associated because the player is simply describing "what my character does next", which is a highly associated activity. Neither form of scene framing requires any player to make disassociated choices.
    In Primetime adventures, if we accept the tv show premise, then I would say that framing scenes is very associated. Is this the way it is explained in the game?
    Otherwise, it becomes a question of whether the choice as to which scene to frame can be made based on fictional grounds.

    I agree that the act of scene framing is not interesting to analyze by itself, precisely because it is so disjointed from the fiction.

    This seems to be a general trend; if a concept is too far from the fiction, then analyzing it from association point of view does not seem useful.

    Analyzing the criteria by which the next scene is chosen seems to be more reasonable. Typical traditional techniques focus on uncertainty, danger, or potential to reveal something about the characters. Typical drama game techniques, traditional or not, relate to character motivations, significant decision points and potential to reveal something about the characters. Seeing if these and others can be associated seems to be a worthwhile thing.
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