Dissociated mechanics

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  • Regardless of whether or not he likes the other activity, it's still gatekeeping to say "These games that call themselves RPGs aren't really RPGs, they're instead this other term I made up right now because my definition of roleplaying is too limited to accommodate any playstyle different from the bog-standard mainstream one."
    Yeah, when you have exactly two categories for stuff, one of them is less valuable. I guess in any contex. Sometimes in a non obvious way... but still.

    And even a three way model can be unconsciously biased. Just think GNS :)
  • Exactly.
    Not to mention the fact that trad people who hate storygames constantly use that article to argue why we shouldn't be in RPG communities.
  • The main thing I've gotten out of this thread is the fairly reasonable conclusion that "dissociated mechanics" (as vague as that concept is) are a bad match for in-fiction problem-solving, which, I think, is a very serious and useful idea.

    However, I'd amend that to specify that it really depends on how those mechanics interface with the problem-solving. When they do not, there's really no friction or problem. (For instance, D&D XP rules are quite clearly "dissociated" in most formulations, but this doesn't usually play into character decisions in fictional problem-solving, so there's no problem there. "Director stance" narration powers, however, are not a good match for problem-solving... except when they are separate from the important activity of play. There is absolutely no problem to writing a backstory for your character, describing the dress of your servants, or roleplaying the behaviour of your horses in the stable; we just can't mix those activities in any haphazard way. It's no different to other challenges in roleplaying, in my opinion - wide-open narration powers can short-circuit meaningful conflict in story games, too, so I don't see it as a feature that's particular to any particular playstyle.)

    Ultimately, having a sense of what a game is about and why we're playing it, and then aligning our tools to suit that goal is the key to all successful roleplaying.
  • edited December 2018
    Given that some associated rules also are a bad match for in fiction problem solving, that leaves a poor yield to the application of the concept.
    Where can we see this concept in action ? Which game, which AP? The hits on Google all deal with discussion about opposing playstyles.
  • So it's about whether the player can accept or incorporate an explanation, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. For example, for many players, Hit Points don't seem to be a bothering issue, and they will resort to not-describing with much detail, or at all, combats or characters' health. Is that sort of natural evasion of a description a proof that a rule is associated?
    I would say:

    Dissociated rule: Does not have a unique interpretation in the fiction.
    Associated, and believable: Has a unique interpretation in the fiction and the interpretation is genre-appropriate (such as realistic) and can be imagined by the player.
    Associated, but unbelievable: Has a unique interpretation in the fiction, but it is not consistent with how the player imagines the world or the genre.

    Magic missile spell might be imagined in any number of ways. If the rule is treated as dissociated, everyone might be imagining it in different ways or not at all, and this does not really matter for play.
    But, if you are trying to use magic missile while sneaking around, or while trying to scare or impress someone, or when trying to signal from ship to another via light effects, suddenly the precise manifestation of the spell matters. If you can choose it at will, it is a lot more flexible and powerful spell, than if you are restricted to a given visual and auditory or emotional or whatever manifestation. If people think about such things and discuss them, the rule is associated or in the process of becoming such.
    On the other hand, if people react negatively and comment on the realism of a rule, or just to learn to ignore the relevant narration, maybe the rule is associated but bad, or maybe they are dissociating it (turning it into a dissociated rule), probably because it is unbelievable.

    Houseruling is also a typical reaction to associated but unbelievable rules.
    Hit points are actually a really good example of the kind of thing that happens with this issue:

    When a group is happy enough to describe things in abstract terms, hit points are satisfying and feel quite associated.

    Those groups that look for higher fictional detail, though, start running into the edges of the abstraction, and often will have difficulty with the concept, finding it dissociated, in contrast.

    e.g. "He swings at you with the giant axe! ...it's a hit, take 12 damage."

    "Ok! But wait... did he hit me? Because I can't arrive at the meeting with the Queen if I have blood on my tunic. And how hard? I have lots of hit points left, on one hand, but on the other hand you rolled maximum damage... so that should mean something, too. Right?"
    I use the words in a different way.

    If the hit points are kept abstract and not tied to the fiction, they are dissociated.

    If the groups looks for a higher amount of fictional detail and comes to the difficulties presented above, they are treating the hit points as an associated mechanic, but finding it a flawed representation.

    They are likely to either dissociate the mechanic, change the game, change the rule, or come to a better interpretation of the mechanic.

    The decisions of the players, and how they are reached and modified in play, is far more interesting and improtant, I think, than classifying those mechanics as associated or not.
    The classifications can be a useful starting point and can make explicit some differences that are there, but might not occur to people. Much like the creative agendae of Forge theory can work as broad classifications and starting positions for conversations, regardless of how accurate people think they are.
    So far, I’m not seeing much benefit coming from the use of these terms (dis/associated mechanics). I’m not saying that the terms couldn’t be useful, but they have been defined in a rather slippery way without much caveat. Also, the topics the terms are being used to address have already be discussed thoroughly and in more sophisticated and constructive ways.
    What are the more sophisticated and constructive ways of making the same distinctions?

    Different RPGs have different design and gameplay goals. To say that the more associated mechanics a RPG has, the better it is, is just making a statement of personal preference. Anyone thinking in such stark and simple terms is putting fairly arbitrary design and gameplay constraints on a RPG for what essentially amounts to an ideological stance.
    Has someone here been claiming that the quality of an rpg can be measured by the amount of associated mechanics it has? If I have, please quote me and I will explain or take the claim back.

    As an aside, the claim made in the attached link, which is that real RPGs are the ones that use associated mechanics, is mindless and tribalistic nonsense, and we’ve had enough of this sort of talk in the hobby. I know this view doesn’t represent the OP’s perspective, but I do think it has relevance with regard to the larger subject. If these terms are being used to argue for the superiority of a particular type of RPG over another, than they are probably going to be construed as divisive by many.
    Yes, criticising the linked article is easy and I would guess anyone here could do it. Hence, it is unlikely to lead anyone to learning anything, and therefore is not very useful.
  • Wouldn't it be easier to get to the question the other, pragmatic way ? Namely : "what makes for good in fiction puzzle resolution ?"
    I think there is a second question about "what makes immersion easier for you" and ass/diss is like oxtail soup and chocolate mousse served in the same plate.
  • Wouldn't it be easier to get to the question the other, pragmatic way ? Namely : "what makes for good in fiction puzzle resolution ?"
    That'd be a wonderful subject for a new thread, I think.
  • edited December 2018

    [1] What are the more sophisticated and constructive ways of making the same distinctions?

    [...]

    [2] Has someone here been claiming that the quality of an rpg can be measured by the amount of associated mechanics it has? If I have, please quote me and I will explain or take the claim back.
    1. I think this would be a worthwhile topic to consider and explore.

    Off the top of my head, I can think of two better models for this kind of discussion: the first is David_Berg's breakdown of what rules might or might not do, earlier in this thread, and the second is Vincent Baker's "Dice and Clouds" series.

    2. I don't think anyone has said that explicitly, but I can see where people might get that impression - it's strongly implied.

    For instance, the Alexandrian (and others) seem to suggest that, for instance, D&D4E was less successful commercially because it had more dissociated mechanics.

    You've said a few times in this thread that associated mechanics are easier for new players to learn, less likely to confuse people, and make it easier to play the game successfully, or something along those lines (I could probably find the quotes if you'd like).

    Since some people's experience has been the opposite (like Emma), I can see why some people might bristle at such implications. I don't think anyone hasn't been hostile or offensive, though - it's just been a minor point of disagreement, as far as I can see.

    (That's not true of other discussions using the terms, though, like people claiming that games with dissociated mechanics aren't "really roleplaying" and other such nonsense. I can well
    Imagine that some people might be reacting to that, as well.)
  • edited December 2018
    Haha, it seems that within the space of a single forum post the terms “Associated and Dissociated” have been interpreted differently by almost everyone, taken on a number of alternate definitions, and become about as useful and precise as the term “Story Game.”

    When will we learn that the rath of Satan befalls anyone who would dare to try to create a theoretic RPG term. :wink:



  • I don't think it's a coincidence that many people would define "story game" as "a game with lots of dissociated mechanics", Jeff! :D
  • I don't think it's a coincidence that many people would define "story game" as "a game with lots of dissociated mechanics", Jeff! :D
    Without a doubt the Illuminati and Free Masons are involved. These are dark times we live in.
  • edited December 2018
    It's not a malediction, and it's not a tribal grudge against people trying to bring new concepts. It's the simple fact that a theory is worth little if it is not challenged. The Forge name was a hint at that.
    Now if the concept you want to do is the analog of "fine enamels", bringing forth actual play or a game designed by you is the thing to do. That's why the posts where @Thanuir was explicit about the games and situations he thought of were perfect for me. There are many interesting topics in this thread :
    - "in fiction puzzle solving" tools and techniques,
    - mentally slipping from a specific "state of mind" to another (eg trying to make my character win vs trying to win as a player) and what hinders or facilitate that, and specially,
    - plunging into fiction imagery (or is it "thinking like your character" ? but I don't see what that would even begin to mean) vs being 100% at the table, in the real world.
  • It has been a while. If I missed I missed some points, please remind. If I repeat myself too much, please forgive.
    This is an interesting discussion! Many kudos to @Thanuir for keeping a cool head. I'm one of those who find the concept intuitively easy to grasp, even though I don't think that way in my own gaming. In fact, I think I have a tendency to dissociate rules that are supposed to be associated.
    That is certainly a valid way to play, and one that makes the concept of associated or not mechanics less relevant for you.

    I would still guess you do have easier time remembering and processing that strength gives bonuses to climbing, punching and lifting, then that stat A gives bonuses to skills 1, 7 and 4.
    Does this mean that rules can be associated or dissociated from the story, as well as ass/diss from the world simulation? If we're playing a heroic fantasy game, a rule where a character dies at zero hit points would be disassociated from the story, since that's not how heroic stories work. Just a thought.
    An associated rule does not have to simulate anything, though it can be treated as doing so. It has to be comprehensible in terms of the fiction. Taking a traditional rpg and adding a rule that says "Nobody dies at zero hit points. Those kinds of wounds just make you unconscious." is associated. (Or have a special class of people, those blessed with superheroic powers or whatever, have that ability.)

    With World 2 "dissociated rules" would also have to be gamey / social by nature. Supporters of the concept could show that gamey / social (presentation of) rules are less useful in OSR, for instance. I just tried to find an example and I couldn't find one. In other words, how would Hit points be detrimental to OSR if they were presented functionnally as "just points" without any effort from the player to go beyond that ? I guess he'd just ask "how do I get more HPs" when low on them.
    As a player: The more they are "just points", the less I can do in-fiction decision making and problem solving, which are the point of OSR play for me, and a point of OSR play for many.

    As a referee: The more they are "just points", the more difficult it is for me to adjudicate eventualities not covered explicitly by the rules.

    A concrete example: Someone is hiding behind a door, is noticed, tries to retreat but the door is hit with a big maul. The door swings to slam the one who was hiding. How do we adjudicate effects if hit points are a purely formal construction?

    1. Maybe the game has explicit rules for this. I do not remember any in Pathfinder/D&D 3, so I doubt most games have such, and including them is not a very clever thing to do.

    2. We, the people playing the game (or some subset thereof) consider what would happen in such a circumstance, genre and realism and what not considered, and how to translate that into the rules, to the extent relevant in the game system. I think we figured it would hurt but not as much as if the door had not been there, so half damage and stagger some steps backwards. Also, the rolled damage was pretty big, so everyone agreed to the door having a crack, now. We used the intuition of hit points being a measure of pain and damage; that is, we used the fictional association of the hit points.

    3. "It is not written in the rules, so it is not possible. Please try an action that is boring enough for it to be codified by the rules." I have also played in this kind of game, but it was not particularly interesting.

    4. Some other solution. Please elaborate.

    5. Change the goals and style of play away from challenge-focused problem solving with in-fiction means.

    DeReel, how would you adjudicate this situation, given the style of play, with hit points as a completely abstract resource disassociated from the fiction?

    A) rules that attempt to represent, describe or simulate a fictional or real-world object, phenomenon, relation or quality, to some degree of abstraction.
    Both the "Finchian trap-finding", rulings-not-rules OSR approach and the "fiction first" approach of AW, among others, appear to me to be subsets of this "A" type.

    B) rule-first mechanics, that are "just" rules and don't even attempt to signify anything. Rules such as "we take turns framing scenes going around the table clockwise". Both in designing and in applying such rules, their adherence to any non-rule entity is seen as of no consequence: what does matter is their effectiveness towards some end goal (functional or expressive).
    This makes sense.

    My suspicion is that many of the rules concepts that people object to as "dissociated" at the ones that don't fit cleanly into one category or the other -- often because they are a collection of rules around a thing rather than a single rule.
    I agree with the quoted part before the dash. I would say that e.g. scene framing and game master roles and such are so disjointed from the fiction that they do not directly interact with it, whereas e.g. fate points have concrete effects in the fiction (giving bonuses to rolls and thereby making character succeed where they would otherwise have failed), and as such, people are more likely to object to them.

    I am not convinced about the part of after the dash. Maybe some examples would help, here?
    I think Fate Points are not Karma nor a measure of anything spiritual in the fiction. Same with HP, it isn't a measure of anything physical in the fiction. There's another point of view/philosophy applying here: it's the Narrative.
    You can treat them as purely narrative, but that is problematic for some style of play, e.g. fiction-based problem solving, where one precisely does not want narrative concerns to have much of an effect.

    Trigger association means the mechanic is trigger by the character doing something in the fiction. Think a lot of AW moves.

    Positioning association means the mechanical positioning has an analogy in the fiction.

    Take a positioning rule like ‘You can only declare your love to Lucy if she declares her love to you first.’ This is the same as ‘you can only use hyper strike twice per encounter.’ and the same as hit points.

    I think a lot of confusion comes from treating the above two things like they’re the exact same thing. Which isn’t helped because a lot of trigger rules can also act as positioning rules.
    Trigger association is a kind of positioning association, by this terminology, right? The character doing something requires a position in the fiction that allows doing that thing, and, hence, has a (very clear) analogy in the fiction. If this is not the case, please clarify.

    Of course some games are created this way or that way. Traditional games are made by bricolouring existing rules. Designing from scratches also existed but only the forge made it into a subculture.

    This does not mean than they cannot be played with the other approach. You could try to use MLwM for dungeon delving with bricolouring. And most of the clashes between D&D players might originate from these different attitudes.
    Could you give some more explicit examples here? I am not quite figuring out in what sense traditional rules use more bricolage than Forge games do (maybe related to the latter being more formal, i.e. more independent from the fiction?); I am especially not figuring out how using MLwM for dungeon crawling or clashes among D&D players are related to bricolage.



  • But not to be so negative, I found the discussion useful to analyze how different have Burning and PbtA games been in my experience:

    PbtA games try to stem rules trigger and changes in the fiction from the fiction itself, and thus seem more friendly to new players, since they can mostly resort to just describe what their characters are doing, and the GM will trigger the necessary rules.

    Whereas Burning Games seem to impose a structure to the fiction that comes from the outside (rules), and some players will try to struggle with those limits, thinking about what would make sense in the fiction, when it doesn't work that way for, say, Torchbearer. Moreover, in Burning Games players can't just say what their characters are doing, they should engage the mechanics at least to some extent, or they'll struggle a lot against the game and miss opportunities.
    I would say that clarifying these issues is the point of the concepts.
    @Thanuir,
    If you look at some of the comments here, you'll notice that Emma was talking about that player as an example of something she's seen a lot. A few of us have mentioned that we've seen the same thing. It's hardly uncommon, in my experience. It just depends on the mindset with which a given player approaches the activity of roleplaying.
    My adult life has had a strand of noticing that people are worse at reading and counting than I had imagined before; so I guess this is part of it. I do wonder how these people cope with, for example, star ratings of hotels and movies, school grades, and all kinds of feedback expressed in words and numbers.

    Does the GM constantly ask for new Stealth rolls from you, every time your actions are being described? That aligns nicely with the tension of the moment, and might "feel" appropriate - after all, the character is constantly trying to keep quiet and out of sight, and it could go wrong at any moment.

    However, doing that means that the character's odds of success drop very quickly - after all, it just takes one failed roll to be noticed; roll enough times and you'll get a failure sooner or later. That doesn't work well for the stealthy character, and a savvy player would avoid such a situation, rush forward to try to reduce the number of rolls made, or some other choice which could potentially feel quite "dissociated" from the fiction.

    I can easily imagine a conversation where the player says, "I do this!", the GM replies, "Ok, make another Stealth roll!", and the player is forced to think, "Wait a minute! Is there something different I can do which *wouldn't* trigger another Stealth check? I'd rather do that."
    A classical example, indeed.

    The way I would frame this, in an OSR context, is to consider how easy it would for an average person to succeed at those tasks and set the difficulty and number of rolls based on that. Then we can have the interesting, fiction-based discussion of how easy or hard it is to sneak around in this particular situation. and how to improve the chances, and if you ask for rolls every meter than nobody can ever sneak to any place and that is not realistic/does not emulate the genre, because I have sneaked around and so did Tarzan.
    (The solution, in an extended sneaking scenario, might be to roll once every N minutes and whenever you do something that requires attention or might make noise, with N calibrated according to the situation.)

    For a contrast, consider a game where a story consists of three dangerous scenes and you have two plot points. Use a plot point to triumph. Otherwise the character fails. Here, if the situation is declared as dangerous (which it presumably is as you are sneaking around), the outcome and the resolution is completely disjoint from the fiction. Someone will hopefully narrate an interesting cinematography of sneakery.

    I would say the problem with the stealth skill comes, again, from an associated rule being bad or unfit for the game. I would say the particular problem is taking general abstract rules and not treating them as an abstraction that can be adjusted when it produces unrealistic/unemulative results, or, equivalently, taking the rules as the fundamental laws of physics of the game world.
    (An aside: Actual physics is a bunch of abstractions that work at particular levels in a good way, much like many "physics engine" roleplaying game rules. Thermodynamics, for example, is the art of ignoring what a single particle is doing and looking at what all of them are doing in aggregate, just like mass combat rules in traditional roleplaying games, and for the same purpose. Physicists also care about elegance of the mathematical representations and have to balance that against them producing results close enough to measurements. I do not know enough about string theory to say if comparing them to designers of formal games is accurate. "Rulings, not rules" is engineering, or using whichever solution works right here without trying to abstract it to cover all possible cases, but still basing it on known principles and laws, where possible.)

    @Thanuir : it looks we're close to same-page, except I am not sure your concept is the same as TheAlexandrian 's, hence the renaming.
    I am not sure, either. I would have to reread Alexandrian to know.

    One thing though : Karma technicians are possible in a world with Karma ( Reve's Dragon physic might interest you, in english it's Reve The dream Ourobouros) but they are not necessary. Many previous answers take the later for granted an roll with the idea of rules the characters just have no clue about. They are indistinguishably ass- or diss-. Hence the confusion.
    Je ne parle pas français, but I can read a little bit. This seems to be the game: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rêve_de_dragon . I'll add it to the end of my near-infinite list of things to read. If I ever get there, I should be good enough to read it.

    * 1. Being undetected in one situation/action requires completely different skills than being undetected in another situation/action.
    2. In traversing terrain, what matters is knowing what to look for, and assessing if there is in fact an option to be stealthy, and if so, taking that option. A cautious player playing a cautious character can do this themselves with no reference to any ability scores, just by asking the GM useful questions and acting on the answers.
    3. Even in matters of character skill, it is extremely rare to find a "maybe" situation which suits a die roll; the majority of the time, in the real world, you can either do something or you can't.
    Elaboration on this (in another thread) would be useful for running a fiction-based game. Maybe that is the perception thread? I have not yet read that far.
  • The main thing I've gotten out of this thread is the fairly reasonable conclusion that "dissociated mechanics" (as vague as that concept is) are a bad match for in-fiction problem-solving, which, I think, is a very serious and useful idea.

    However, I'd amend that to specify that it really depends on how those mechanics interface with the problem-solving. When they do not, there's really no friction or problem. (For instance, D&D XP rules are quite clearly "dissociated" in most formulations, but this doesn't usually play into character decisions in fictional problem-solving, so there's no problem there. "Director stance" narration powers, however, are not a good match for problem-solving... except when they are separate from the important activity of play. There is absolutely no problem to writing a backstory for your character, describing the dress of your servants, or roleplaying the behaviour of your horses in the stable; we just can't mix those activities in any haphazard way. It's no different to other challenges in roleplaying, in my opinion - wide-open narration powers can short-circuit meaningful conflict in story games, too, so I don't see it as a feature that's particular to any particular playstyle.)
    Yes, precisely.
    Given that some associated rules also are a bad match for in fiction problem solving, that leaves a poor yield to the application of the concept.
    Where can we see this concept in action ? Which game, which AP? The hits on Google all deal with discussion about opposing playstyles.
    I have tried to give some examples in this thread.
    Wouldn't it be easier to get to the question the other, pragmatic way ? Namely : "what makes for good in fiction puzzle resolution ?"
    I think there is a second question about "what makes immersion easier for you" and ass/diss is like oxtail soup and chocolate mousse served in the same plate.
    I do not have an opinion on the immersion question.

    For the puzzle question, I would say that using associated rules (with the qualification of Paul, above) is a necessary condition, but there are other things about how to construct good puzzles. If you are interested, I can point out some OSR blog posts about the subject. This is a good place to start: http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2016/02/osr-style-challenges-rulings-not-rules.html

    [1] What are the more sophisticated and constructive ways of making the same distinctions?

    [...]

    [2] Has someone here been claiming that the quality of an rpg can be measured by the amount of associated mechanics it has? If I have, please quote me and I will explain or take the claim back.
    1. I think this would be a worthwhile topic to consider and explore.

    Off the top of my head, I can think of two better models for this kind of discussion: the first is David_Berg's breakdown of what rules might or might not do, earlier in this thread, and the second is Vincent Baker's "Dice and Clouds" series.

    2. I don't think anyone has said that explicitly, but I can see where people might get that impression - it's strongly implied.

    For instance, the Alexandrian (and others) seem to suggest that, for instance, D&D4E was less successful commercially because it had more dissociated mechanics.

    You've said a few times in this thread that associated mechanics are easier for new players to learn, less likely to confuse people, and make it easier to play the game successfully, or something along those lines (I could probably find the quotes if you'd like).

    Since some people's experience has been the opposite (like Emma), I can see why some people might bristle at such implications. I don't think anyone hasn't been hostile or offensive, though - it's just been a minor point of disagreement, as far as I can see.

    (That's not true of other discussions using the terms, though, like people claiming that games with dissociated mechanics aren't "really roleplaying" and other such nonsense. I can well
    Imagine that some people might be reacting to that, as well.)
    1. Maybe I'll reread those. I did not find Vincent's post on the matter particularly interesting when I first encountered it. Maybe I had already had those same ideas and the representation did not work for me.

    2. I stand by what I wrote. In particular, I used Primetime adventures as an example which makes the formal rules more comprehensible by associating them with producing a tv series (IIRC).

    For discussing what is a real roleplaying game, one has to draw the boundary somewhere. I draw it at shared creation of fiction, where verbal or written representation created by the players in a fairly free manner is a central component of play. This throws away solo play of Tunnels and trolls, many computer games (though an MMORPG where main content for some players is the social interaction of their characters would qualify), some very physical boffer larps, etc. Someone else would draw it at inhabiting a character, which keeps Fallout the computer games and solo Tunnels and trolls, but throws away Universalis and other games of shared story creation. For analytic purposes these kinds of divisions are clear and necessary, and one only has to be explicit about them. Without drawing the lines, analysis is impossible.

    However, the definitions are also used for politics.

    My impression of Alexandrian is that they are used for analysis, there, but the results are used for politics, too.

    But this is another subject for another thread.
  • Thanuir,

    I'm glad that we have some points of common understanding. I do think this is an interesting and useful discussion.

    However, I still feel that the "dissociated" label is overly simplistic and misses really important elements of how and why RPG rules actually work. The people I see using such distinctions tend to wield them as hammer, seeing everything as a nail, and, as a result, they go wrong as much as they go right.

    My point with the "Stealth rolls" example is that your own preferred solution (to abstract the action using a smaller number of rolls) is, quite precisely, what you are arguing against: that using a more gameable abstraction, instead of a more closely "associated" technique, is actually preferable. I see these situations come up very often.

    My second example (speaking about narrative authority) was meant to illustrate how this has to do a with a lot more features than just "associated" and "dissociated". If I'm playing Dogs in the Vineyard, for instance, I am very explicitly NOT given narrative authority to declare that the Steward of the Town is actually secretly a "good guy", and in line with my beliefs. That would undercut the whole point of the game. Contrariwise, in a challenge-based adventure game like megadungeon-exploration OSR D&D, there is no harm in allowing players to have narrative authority over what the cultural mores are in their homeland - in fact, the game will be better for it, in most cases.

    It's not narrative authority itself that is the problem, in either case.

    In my opinion, far more important than trying to figure out whether something is "associated" (which, as we've seen, is almost impossible) is determining what the purpose of our play is, and then using the tools we have to serve that purpose.

    I like your analogy of "rulings, not rules" for engineering solutions. That seems quite apt to me.
  • edited February 2019
    Sorry, I'll pass. I don't believe there is any profit in this format : the field is too wide, too many moles to whack.
    Also, the article in Goblin punch is meh. Puzzle solving is better when there are constraints and you don't use a game whose rules are made for bypassing puzzles. Or if you must use such a game, don't use those rules. Seriously ?
  • What Alexandrian calls "dissociated" is just what Vincent would call "boxes-to-boxes," right?
  • I don't know. It seems to me that, at least based on the discussion we're having here, the concept of "association" is somewhat subjective. (It can depend on a player's framing of the idea, or the way a group handles it.)

    In that sense, it's far more fluid than Vincent's "boxes-to-boxes", since it has to do with the way a player or group conceptualizes the mechanics in question - if a fictional justification can be found (and "sticks"), then the mechanic "becomes" associated, for that group.
  • Sure, that's a fair point... but I'd argue that in a Vincent diagram that would just be making up a cloud to stick in the process somewhere.
  • My impression is that, while Vincent's clouds and boxes describe what's happening at the table and how the rules actually work, this is more about a player's attitude towards the rules being used, and how they are imagined or conceived, subjectively. (i.e. One player could see a mechanic as "associated", while another in the same game might not.)

    We had a number of those examples earlier in this thread, if I remember correctly.

    (For me, this is a major problem with the whole concept, as you might imagine.)
  • But how we view the SIS is always individual and subjective! So whether or not a given player interprets a particular rule as having a fictional tie-in is to be expected. It doesn't make the concept meaningless.

    Anyway, there are so many examples in modern RPG design that are unambiguously, entirely "box-to-box" that it is an important thing to be able to understand. A great example is how checks work in Mouse Guard / Torchbearer. You get the checks by doing something in the fiction, but once you have this resource, its expenditure is entirely meta. That's not a bad thing—I love MG, and only love TB less because I've played it much less—but it's unquestionably exactly the sort of thing the Alexandrian was talking about. And, I've seen that sort of thing make it very hard for trad gamers to enjoy certain games, including the whole Burning family.
  • Yes, I kept bumping into the wall of "but my description was accepted and my results are meh". Never did try MG with Fortune-in-the-Middle in mind, which likely would've helped.
  • Deliverator:

    Oh, absolutely! I'm just illustrating why I find Vincent's formulation (like the "boxes-to-boxes" you just used) far more incisive and functionally useful.
  • Never did try MG with Fortune-in-the-Middle in mind, which likely would've helped.
    I think giving the player the spotlight after the roll is key to this. If the player does all their narration up to the roll, and then what the GM says happens instead, it feel pretty off. If players can describe their own success and failure while not reaching outside the scope of the established intent of the roll, it can feel much more satisfying as a fortune-in-the-middle system.
  • Yes, basically, although it's more like a very weird "Yes, but".
  • If the player does all their narration up to the roll, and then what the GM says happens instead, it feel pretty off.
    Not really related to the discussion, but the same thing can be said about modifications. If you got a +5 backstab bonus, and you fail, the bonus feels pretty off. The thing is, roleplaying gamers are used to this, but I feel it's more apparent if I spent a resource for a bonus that didn't help in the end. FitM avoids this too.
  • edited February 2019
    "Dissociation" at first blush does sound very much like a statement about the procedural relationship between moment-to-moment fictional positioning and the mechanics, as laid out by Vincent. In particular, it sounds very much like the problem where games feel "floaty" or allow for "lazy play" that occurs when a game lacks mechanics that respond to fictional causes (cloud->dice). But it doesn't seem like that is what it is really about at all. Or at least, is only partially about that. Taking the Alexandrian's example of a dissociated rule:
    ...a character has the One-Handed Catch ability: Once per game they can make an amazing one-handed catch, granting them a +4 bonus to that catch attempt.
    This is absolutely a fictionally responsive mechanic, in that only when you are attempting to make a catch can you get +4 for the roll that attempt (cloud->dice). Even the "once per day" is fictionally responsive, because it's obviously fictional days, not actual days.

    The Alexandrian's example of "re-associating" this mechanic is particularly enlightening:
    The player activates his gravitic force gloves (which have a limited number of charges per day) to pull the ball to his hand. Or he shouts a prayer to the God of Football who’s willing to help him a limited number of times per day. Or he activates one of the arcane tattoos he had a voodoo doctor inscribe on his palms.
    But check this out: Which one, of the two rules, continues to re-invest the fictional positioning with significance? Which one makes moment-to-moment positioning continue to matter beyond the immediate use of the move itself? Which one gives more meaning, context, and energy to the fictional positioning than it takes?

    When you look at the One Handed Catch rule as first stated, it only has one element which is not associated to a fictional causal element, which is the "once per day" clause. "Once per day" does a good job of giving players a way of making the kinds of aesthetic judgement calls that are required for people use fictionally responsive rules. Has a day passed yet in the fiction? No? Then you can't use the ability again. But it doesn't have an in-fiction reason or cause in and of itself.

    What giving "once per day" an in-fiction reason (like being a sci-fi gravity glove with a certain number of charges) does is invest more meaning into moment-to-moment play by making it conditional upon even more of the fiction. The magic one-handed catch is now gloves, existing as real things within the fiction. Can they be stolen, lost, broken? What if I forget to charge it? What if there's a power outage the night before? What if there's an EMP pulse?

    Of course it's easier to make character-based decisions in that context! By contrast, the old "once per day" move is sluggish, almost extractive in nature. It doesn't feed new, relevant, context back in to the fiction. In fact, it operates at a context that is utterly irrelevant to the context of the action at hand. What does the day matter when you've got a football game to win?

    Here's what I'm taking away:

    What matters here is not whether or not it makes sense from a character's perspective, but whether a mechanic has a "corresponding reality within the fiction". It naturally follows that something with a corresponding reality within the fiction would aid one in making decisions from the perspective of their character, because that is something that the character could reasonably make decisions about and act upon, but the procedural implications are much broader.

    It's not mechanics from the perspective of the character, but mechanics that, by being designed from the perspective of the fiction, re-charge the fiction (of which the character is necessarily a part) with continued and ongoing meaning relevant to the context in which the mechanic takes place.
  • Yeah, I think that's much closer to it.

    In theory, it's about whether the repercussions of the mechanics can make sense from an in-character perspective (note that the "charges in the glove" have to be known to the character, or at least discoverable by the character, for that rule to become associated - it's not just about the players!).

    In practice, though, I find it has to do with familiarity more than anything.
  • edited February 2019
    This looks very much like immersionnist metaphysics.
    Look : my football toon thinks the glove is magic. In fact it is a pulp-alien artifact. If they pour holy water on it, it short circuits. They must place it near an energy source to recharge it faster. So now the character can experiment.
    The "real" nature of the constraint doesn't matter as long as it's knowable in some way. Then you pick your flavour : knowable to the character, to the player ? (And known by : the player, another player, the GM, other.)
    Ain't that simple ? Epistemology ftw !
  • No, all of this follows from Vincent's work on fictional positioning, which is straightforwardly procedural and stands outside concepts of "creative agenda". At every point I have avoided creating or slotting these concepts into a typology, like "immersionist" and instead focused on the actual movements and relations created by the different mechanics. I'm attempting to side step entirely the question of "what is it" and instead ask "what does it do?" because that is always the more meaningful and useful question.

    You've quoted Deleuze earlier in the thread, so you should know what I mean by that.

    We could equally flip the question of relations on its head and say, okay something like hit points doesn't continue to re-invest significance into the fictional positioning. Broadly speaking, it's a pacing mechanic, but what does that invest significance to? What does it do instead? These mechanics, each directing flows of creative energy in different (and not necessarily opposite) directions often exist in the same games!
  • edited February 2019
    "Dissociation" at first blush does sound very much like a statement about the procedural relationship between moment-to-moment fictional positioning and the mechanics, as laid out by Vincent. In particular, it sounds very much like the problem where games feel "floaty" or allow for "lazy play" that occurs when a game lacks mechanics that respond to fictional causes (cloud->dice). But it doesn't seem like that is what it is really about at all. Or at least, is only partially about that. Taking the Alexandrian's example of a dissociated rule:
    .
    I have noticed a lot of conflict between immersionist players and people online who talk about Fictional Positioning. I am frankly not sure I 100% understand fictional positioning as a term, so I may not be the best to weigh in. But I suspect, based on what I know about Justin Alexander and Vincent, they have very different end goals and ways of thinking about these things. With immersionists it is mainly about seeing things through your characters eyes, avoiding getting into meta mechanics that take you out of character etc. Of course quantity and trade offs matter matter here. The chief complaint if I recall with the Alexandrian's original article was it just felt so disconnected from to have mechanics for pretty mundane actions being Vancian. I think the problem with it is immersionists tend to think in terms of intent and don't like having content that is restrained by mechanics (even if those mechanics are there to enhance player impact on the setting). For something that is basically a mundane physical action that a person could try to succeed at all the time, they want to be able to try to succeed at it all the time, and not be limited by x per day or once per encounter. But again, not terribly knowledgeable the terminology being used regarding fictional positioning (though I have seen it come up in a number of discussions and explained by the posters using it).
  • edited February 2019
    @KirkMitchell
    Sorry, then, if I misinterpreted. Could you just explain what "extractive in nature" is ? I read it as "it extracts me from the immersion", but I see how I was totally off track, so I have no clue what extraction could be, outside of espionnage, dentistry or mining.
    "By contrast, the old "once per day" move is sluggish, almost extractive in nature"

    Apart from this, "Existing in the fiction"=associated =intradiegetic seems alright.
  • Ass/Diss origins in NLP? Maybe
  • @KirkMitchell


    Apart from this, "Existing in the fiction"=associated =intradiegetic seems alright.
    Alexander defined dissociated as a mechanic that isn't linked to the game world where the player and character are both making the same choice about the action in question. I think existing in the fiction, seems slightly inaccurate here to me. It comes from a viewpoint that thinks in terms of setting and what is occurring in it. While my understanding is 'the fiction' can include the setting in that sense, it also seems like it has broader meaning than that (at least judging by the way I see it used on online discussions).
  • I will say this. I found the term dissociated to be very useful at the time it came out. It offered an explanation for something I was experiencing with 4th edition, and it seemed to hit on something that was really going on. I think one issue though is you can take that insight, which is useful in explaining the problem some people had with 4E because so much of the game felt that way to people; but take it too much to heart (i.e. any amount of dissociation is bad) or to fail to see there were other moving parts in the game that were also contributing to the negative reaction (just the way classes were structured around the Vancian powers would be an obvious one, where the negative reaction often had nothing or little to do with dissociation). Still I think it is useful. It is just helpful to remember why Justin Alexander came up with the term in the first place and why it caught on with so many people.
  • edited February 2019
    I actually think the "use this ability once per day" format is a pretty good example for the sake of this discussion.

    It mingles in-fiction/diegetic limits (a "day" only exists in the game, in other words) with an arbitrary limitation which doesn't have any relevance to the actors in the fiction (the characters cannot understand that or interact with it in any way). That's poor design, in my opinion. (I was always frustrated with this kind of ability design from the very beginning, when I started playing D&D as a kid, and I fully understand why having a label for something like this is handy.)

    Where I have an issue with the concept of "dissociation" is just that it's sloppy - it's referring to a lot of unrelated things and grouping them all together, which makes it really easy to miscommunicate with each other when using it.

    Let's take the One-Handed Catch again and look closer...

    It's pretty interesting to consider how the following variations interact with a feeling of "dissociation", from form to form:

    * Once per day, your character can use her One-Handed Catch ability, granting her a +4 to catch a ball.

    * Once per game session, your character can use her One-Handed Catch ability, granting her a +4 to catch a ball.

    Does that change the implications of the rule a little bit? It certainly makes clearer where the limitation lies, and that it has nothing to do with fictional causality. For some people, that changes how they view the rule.

    How about:

    * Once per game session, you may announce "...and that was when she made another amazing catch!" to the group, and then describe how she attempts a One-Handed Catch. Take +4 to your roll.

    A little different again, right?

    Now, how about:

    * Once per game session, you may announce to the group that you are making a Character History Reveal. In-game events are paused while you may tell the group, as though describing a flashback, about a time when your character learned something about baseball from an important Backstory Figure in her past. Afterwards, when you resume play, take +4 to make your roll for the One-Handed Catch.

    Each formulation of the rule moves us more clearly towards a form which is about player interaction (i.e. at the actual table), rather than something the character does. I'd imagine that every player will have a slightly different reaction to each version, depending on the context of the game they're playing, their play history, and so forth.

    As another example, the way the rule is cued probably makes a difference, too.

    For instance, "once a session, you may make a One-Handed Catch" can lead to uncomfortable moments, like where you might say, "I'm making a One-Handed Catch!", and then we have to try to remember if you've already done so that day or that session, and you have to choose something else if you've already depleted that ability.

    That's not a fun thing for anyone, and produces a sort of "hiccup" in gameplay which is pretty unsatisfying. We have to effectively go back and start over. ("I'll do something else, instead, I guess!") No fun.

    However, what if you give the player a card to hold? The card says, "Your character occasionally makes killer One-Hand Catches. Play this card, putting it in the discard pile, to gain a +4 to your Catch roll."

    For a player who's familiar with the whole "discard a card to activate a special ability" trope, that might feel quite natural. And they certainly won't "accidentally" try to use the ability twice in a row, because they no longer have the card in front of them.

    All these things influence how we perceive the rules and whether they cause hiccups in play or not.
  • @Bedrockbrendan - "fictional positioning" is just a fancy term for "the stuff we're imagining matters", nothing tricky. In many types of purely freeform play, fictional positioning is more or less all there is, for instance. This is probably a good overview, with a good insight into how different groups might treat its impact on gameplay differently.

    https://bankuei.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/fictional-positioning-101/
  • @Bedrockbrendan - "fictional positioning" is just a fancy term for "the stuff we're imagining matters", nothing tricky. In many types of purely freeform play, fictional positioning is more or less all there is, for instance. This is probably a good overview, with a good insight into how different groups might treat its impact on gameplay differently.

    https://bankuei.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/fictional-positioning-101/
    I think one of the issues I see with the term (and not saying the term is a problem, just a bump in the road I experience), is it is very easy to go from the term fictional position to the ought of there is some kind of social negotiation in play. And I think that is where you have some fundamental differences in play style between people who would hold up dissociative mechanics as a negative and those who would invoke the term fictional positioning (not sure if I being clear as I just finished running a game and am a little fuzzy headed).
  • edited February 2019
    Yeah, I'm not following, sorry! Try again? I don't see why those two hypothetical people you're talking about couldn't be the same person. (Fictional positioning is absolutely vital to game styles which "hold up dissociate mechanics as a negative", after all.)

    For example, I just used the term "fictional positioning" in a D&D thread over here, and I would think that conversation would be quite relevant to anyone, regardless of what imaginary "camp" they belong in. "What do we need to establish in the fiction in order for a player to be allowed to roll the dice?" is a fundamental question for just about any rule to function, and an important question for both design and practice.
  • Yeah, I'm not following, sorry! Try again? I don't see why those two hypothetical people you're talking about couldn't be the same person. (Fictional positioning is absolutely vital to game styles which "hold up dissociate mechanics as a negative", after all.)

    For example, I just used the term "fictional positioning" in a D&D thread over here, and I would think that conversation would be quite relevant to anyone, regardless of what imaginary "camp" they belong in. "What do we need to establish in the fiction in order for a player to be allowed to roll the dice?" is a fundamental question for just about any rule to function, and an important question for both design and practice.
    What I am saying is, and again, I may not understand the term itself well enough, is I often see conflict on threads in other forums between people who identify immersion as a value and between people using that term. I’ve found found myself in negative interactions with people advancing that term as a step toward arguments for players having a hand in shaping setting content (what they would call the fiction) by either limiting normal GM authority or enhancing player authority and giving them meta resources or access to mechanics. I am not saying this stuff is bad. I just am wondering if fictional positioning naturally suggests people are negotiating over fictional outcomes rather than simply acting through their character. If so, someone bothered by dissociated mechanics would probably take issue as well with some of the assumptions imbedded in the term. Keep in mind most inmersionists are not even going to accept the term fiction to describe setting content. Like I said, this isn’t a term I have a particularly good grasp of. It is just one I have started seeing used in discussions recently.
  • edited February 2019
    "I just am wondering if fictional positioning naturally suggests people are negotiating over fictional outcomes rather than simply acting through their character."
    If you mean "negotiating" like outside of character, this is gross, stereotypical, and plain false. Nobody's responsible for how other people use a word, but you should reconsider your sources and mindbleach your computer.

    Check this :
    - What's in the room ?
    - A bed, a painting on the wall, and a bedside table with a drawer.
    - What's in the drawer ?
    (See : the player just fictional-positioned their character close enough to the table to open the drawer, staying in character)
    - Who is the painting by ?
    - It's above the head of the bed, and the letters are very small.
    - So, I'll take my shoes off and step on the bed and look at the name.
    - OK. It's a Brendan.
    (Look : the player just negotiated a convenient fictional position that enables their character to do something they couldn't do otherwise - without smearing the sheets, still in character - except for the commentary words "so" and "ok", I confess.)

    Also :
    setting : the place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place "a romantic house in a wonderful setting beside the River Wye"

    fiction : literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people. synonyms: novels, stories, creative writing, imaginative writing, works of the imagination, prose literature, narration, story telling

    The fiction takes place in the setting, which is itself partially part of the fiction ;) Mind boggling ? I don't think so.

    Finally :
    "Alexander defined dissociated as a mechanic that isn't linked to the game world where the player and character are both making the same choice about the action in question."
    And I don't care much about what he defined it. You noticed I was replying to @KirkMitchell, so it is very probable you use another definition for ass / diss. Which fits nicely as an illustration of my point. Have you read the previous posts in this thread ?

    Why would people need other words than the proper ones ? I am aware that diegesis, fiction, story and narrative are not strictly equivalent, and that the terms and their distinctions are not easy. But if you're going to use something, take those, along with character, setting, plot, etc.
  • I am not saying the term always gets used this way. Just pointing out how I see some of the divisions in the hobby lining up around it in online discussions. I think the issue people have with it sometimes is it kind of frames the discussion in narratives terms. I think back in the day, when Story and fiction were used more loosely this would be less of an issue. But a central debate in the hobby is whether RPGs are intended to tell stories, and how you answer this question impacts things like what constitutes good design. One thing that can happen in these discussions is equivocation around ‘story’ or ‘fifction’ gets used to people to accept conclusions that don’t follow from their assumptions (i.e. there is a big difference in meaning between story or fiction that means fake stuff that happened in the game versus when it means a novel, literature or something that contends with meaningful themes). Personally I think using these words is fine, and I just make a point of pinning down the precise use to avoid equivocation. But personally ‘fictional positioning’ doesn’t really click with me as a description of what goes on at the game table.
  • "I

    -

    Also :
    setting : the place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place "a romantic house in a wonderful setting beside the River Wye"

    fiction : literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people. synonyms: novels, stories, creative writing, imaginative writing, works of the imagination, prose literature, narration, story telling

    The fiction takes place in the setting, which is itself partially part of the fiction ;) Mind boggling ? I don't think so.

    Finally :
    "Alexander defined dissociated as a mechanic that isn't linked to the game world where the player and character are both making the same choice about the action in question."
    And I don't care much about what he defined it. You noticed I was replying to @KirkMitchell, so it is very probable you use another definition for ass / diss. Which fits nicely as an illustration of my point. Have you read the previous posts in this thread ?

    Why would people need other words than the proper ones ? I am aware that diegesis, fiction, story and narrative are not strictly equivalent, and that the terms and their distinctions are not easy. But if you're going to use something, take those, along with caharacter, setting, plot, etc. "Immersionism" begins to look like a sect, really.
    Your definitions illustrate part of the conflict. Not everyone views the stuff that happens as story or fiction as you defined it. If you are just using ‘story’ to mean ‘stuff that happened’, they might agree. But that definition of fiction carries many other assumptions with it that not everyone wants to bring into the game. For a lot of people they don’t want or expect a story in that sense. They just want to play their character and see what happens as they interact with the setting and it’s inhabitants.

  • edited February 2019
    I don't know if this is necessarily the thread to discuss fictional positioning per se, since we've already managed to drag association/dissociation so far away from its original meaning and context. But in any case, I think the bankuei article is actually very unclear on what fictional positioning actually is, and mixes it with a couple of other arguments that were contemporary to the time it was written in a way that is confusing. Whenever I'm referring to "the fiction" and "fictional positioning" I'm referring to it as defined in this article.
    I just am wondering if fictional positioning naturally suggests people are negotiating over fictional outcomes rather than simply acting through their character.
    So close! There's no "rather than". As far as we're concerned here, "negotiating over fictional outcomes" and "simply acting through their character" are the same thing! Every action you take through your character is subject to the explicit or implicit assent of everyone else at the table. The "fiction" exists as a real thing, sure, but it is a real thing that is fundamentally shared with everyone else at the table. The fiction is, as the old jargon term puts it, a "shared imagined space". In order for anybody to say anything about the fiction, including "I hit the kobold with my axe", we have to share some kind of agreement about what has been established in the fiction and what hasn't (that I have an axe in hand and not, say, back on my horse or knocked away under a table; that the kobold is within range; etc.). What has been established at any given point in the fiction describes my fictional positioning: the range of possible moves that I as the player can make that everybody will accept because of our shared agreement.

    (note that I haven't said anything about how we come to this agreement, or the division of "narrative authority" between different players such as GMs or in GM-less play, but simply that this agreement exists as the foundation of play)

    There is no disagreement between this concept of fictional positioning and people who value immersion! "Immersion", at least in part, is an effect of a game or disciplined play-style which makes your fictional positioning meaningful to the process of play. Without fictional positioning being clearly established and made meaningful, it is impossible for you as the player to make the same decision as the character, because you have no (or a weak) fictional basis for making that decision.

    What association/dissociation points out to me is that for some people simply investing the fiction with significance and making your positioning within the fiction mechanically meaningful is not, in itself, sufficient for immersion! They look beyond the fiction itself, to the experience of using the mechanics, and suggest that the existence of every mechanic and its operation in play could be subject to the fiction. I can't think of anything that would invest more meaning to your fictional positioning in play.

    That's really cool! What an incredible design goal. If you do that, then not only will you be making the same decisions as your character, but the only valid moves you can make as a player will be moves from your fictional positioning. In a single-player single-character game, that would naturally mean acting from the perspective of your character.

    So yeah. It's a good and useful idea, and after a long walk I've circled back to re-stating the concept in the same terms as the people who invented it! I'm just the kind of dummy that needs to re-build any new idea from first principles in order to understand it.

    I'll talk about what I mean by "extractive" somewhere else, because it's an elaboration on these concepts that goes somewhere else entirely. A hint, though: it has to do with what I mean by "re-investment".
  • edited February 2019
    OK, I dig that. "They look beyond the fiction itself, to the experience of using the mechanics, and suggest that the existence of every mechanic and its operation in play could be subject to the fiction."
    Wouldn't contemporary pervasive LARP be the obvious route toward that ? That's where I think you made a whole nother concept. One I really prefer to the old one.
  • edited February 2019
    I think there's a bunch of ways to answer the design challenge this poses.
  • edited February 2019
    For example, we play without mechanics, then when we have to decide if the character can ram the door down, we approximate probabilities and throw a dice to see how it goes. Do you mean that kind of things when you say "every mechanic subject to the fiction" ?
  • edited February 2019
    @Bedrockbrendan, it seems to me that you're taking the word "fiction" to mean something like "narrative" or "story". My impression is that this is reading too much into it. My experience with people who use the term regularly (and this is my use of it, too) is that it's not that deep: it really just means "fiction" - i.e. "that which is not real".

    So, for instance, if the goblin is 10 ft away from me, that's "fiction". It's a fact that's only true "in the fiction".

    Now, it may be that you've experienced people (presumably elsewhere) getting into strange tribalistic battles and noticed that some of those people often tended to use certain words (and I don't doubt that you did!), but why bring that here, into this discussion? Do you feel there's an important point to be made there? (It's an honest question; I'm not trying to be snarky!)
  • @Bedrockbrendan, it seems to me that you're taking the word "fiction" to mean something like "narrative" or "story". My impression is that this is reading too much into it. My experience with people who use the term regularly (and this is my use of it, too) is that it's not that deep: it really just means "fiction" - i.e. "that which is not real".

    So, for instance, if the goblin is 10 ft away from me, that's "fiction". It's a fact that's only true "in the fiction".

    Now, it may be that you've experienced people (presumably elsewhere) getting into strange tribalistic battles and noticed that some of those people often tended to use certain words (and I don't doubt that you did!), but why bring that here, into this discussion? Do you feel there's an important point to be made there? (It's an honest question; I'm not trying to be snarky!)
    I understand. I think I am doing a bad job drawing a line between my descriptions of the conflict I've seen in threads involving immersion and terms like fictional positioning, my personal feelings, and what concepts resonate with me (been a long week so I apologize). My point was that I think fiction=stuff that happened, is fine. Just like story=stuff that happened is fine. Where I see immersionists butting heads with folks invoking "the fiction", particularly in conversations involving a concept like dissociated mechanics, is when the establishment of fiction to mean "stuff that happens" gets equivocated. So it goes from meaning "stuff the that happened" to another meaning like "narrative play" or "literature", etc. When this shift happens the two sides are now talking about two different things. Where this can matter is when people start arguing for what a game should do, how a game should be run etc. So I've seen discussions where fictional positioning was used to heavily emphasize the role of social negotiation, in order to advance something like "Say yes or roll the dice" as more ideal than the GM simply determining whether something is the case in a setting. Personally I am fine with words like fiction and story being used casually. I do have to admit 'fictional positioning' doesn't resonate very strongly with me as a concept, but that is just personal preference.

    I think in terms of dissociated mechanics, that difference after the equivocation, can blur what the term is intended to cover.

    I guess I raised the point because it is important to understand these discussions take place in the context of multiple gaming forums and communities across the net. When it comes to dissociated mechanics, understanding those dynamics, is pretty crucial to understanding the concept I think (because so much of it was forged in online flamewars over 4th edition, and often along the lines I describe in my above paragraph). Dissociated mechanics has an emotional weight that a lot of other gaming concepts don't.

    I am trying to weigh in because I remember this concept when it was proposed and I've followed the Alexandrian for a while because I am a fan of his writing. Like I said earlier, I think it is helpful in identifying potential disruptors of immersion. But I think it can also be overused, and become too firm a line. One or two abilities that are disociated mechanics, especially if they rarely come up, are not that big a deal. Immersion isn't so fragile that a rare class ability will destroy it utterly. I think it is when the dissociated mechanics are prevalent that it really becomes an issue. So I do believe we've thrown out some babies with the bathwater in this respect.
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