Dissociated mechanics

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  • Yeah, that's more or less how I look at it, too. The term resonated with people because it does relate to or seem to label some things which very legitimately do not work well in certain contexts or certain playstyles, and it's a good realization to have. However, it's a little too vague and slippery, in my opinion, and we could do much better, by talking about what's actually happening with games and rules - and thereby avoid throwing babies out OR having raging arguments on the internet. :)
  • Yeah, I was never really bothered by the "once per encounter" / "once per day" stuff in 4E. It's clearly a pacing mechanic (akin to HP!), meant to help us create that sort of "action movie" feel, where the hero doesn't do their awesome-est move all the time, because it would cease to be awesome. There are also Gamist reasons not to allow that, obviously.

    Action Points are similar. People not steeped in RPG theory who played 4E really had no problem with this stuff.

    In fact, IME, where 4E actually had problems was in two areas, the first of which is germane to this discussion:

    1) Skill use and skill challenges often felt quite dissociated / had weak fictional positioning. When I wasn't GMing, I literally saw players pick up the d20 and say, "I Diplomacize the NPC!" and role their Diplomacy skill.

    This kind of thing was pretty rampant, and lead to play that was quite listless outside of combat, which in turn gave 4E the reputation as being "only about combat." It doesn't have to be that way at all, and much of the problem was in the adventure design rather than the actual game design, but it was certainly part of the play culture.

    2) (Off-topic-ish.) The Treadmill Effect. This made leveling-up less fun and meaningful than it should have been. (In fact, to get even more off-topic, this is the major thing that 5E has solved relative to 4E, thanks to Bounded Accuracy.)

    If you're not familiar with it, the Treadmill Effect was the way 4E was "too well-balanced." As the PCs leveled up, the monsters' stats went up proportionally. Same with skill DCs.

    This actually does sort of tie into the ideas of dissociation and fictional positioning. Being a 15th level character tackling level-appropriate challenges should feel very different than levels 5 or 25, but it sometimes didn't.
  • 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.
    This is kind of a side-tangent, but this made me think of how confused I was when I first read some PbtA games, because without knowing all the context, "follow the fiction" and "play to find out what happens" sound antithetical to me, because "fiction" for me is very predetermined. "Fiction" for me has always really represented the literary structure and the story as a cohesive whole, and it's impossible to follow a structured blueprint when that structured blueprint doesn't exist because you're playing to find out.
    I think that just definitely reinforces what you meant about the different meanings though, since I'm pretty sure my definition there is very different from most people's definitions.
  • Yeah, that's more or less how I look at it, too. The term resonated with people because it does relate to or seem to label some things which very legitimately do not work well in certain contexts or certain playstyles, and it's a good realization to have. However, it's a little too vague and slippery, in my opinion, and we could do much better, by talking about what's actually happening with games and rules - and thereby avoid throwing babies out OR having raging arguments on the internet. :)
    One thing people lose sight of, is it was very specific to 4E. Justin Alexander was trying to wrap his head around why 4E bothered him (as were many others, myself included). It was one possible explanation and it seemed to explain a lot of our misgivings. I think he has greatly modified his position since its original posting, and I think a lot of people have changed their view over time as the emotions have faded. I think for the discussion of 4E, it was relevant and useful. Where it got to be a problem, wasn't the vagueness, it is actually an incredibly clear term in my view. The problem was it was applied too rigidly, too universally, without giving to thought on when dissociated mechanics were okay in play (because clearly before 4E, they were a thing, and existed, but they didn't bother D&D players as much because they just were not as noticeable or they flew under the radar). I think with 4E it was the full embrace of them, that drove some people away (and I think again it wasn't just dissociated mechanics, it was a bunch of things 4E embraced). I think the way to look at dissociated mechanics is as one possible answer to the question 'why didn't some people like 4E?'. It is the Alexandrian school of thought on the subject. And it resonated because the people who didn't liked it nodded their heads when he coined that term (again myself included).
  • Yeah, I was never really bothered by the "once per encounter" / "once per day" stuff in 4E. It's clearly a pacing mechanic (akin to HP!), meant to help us create that sort of "action movie" feel, where the hero doesn't do their awesome-est move all the time, because it would cease to be awesome. There are also Gamist reasons not to allow that, obviously.

    Action Points are similar. People not steeped in RPG theory who played 4E really had no problem with this stuff.

    In fact, IME, where 4E actually had problems was in two areas, the first of which is germane to this discussion:

    1) Skill use and skill challenges often felt quite dissociated / had weak fictional positioning. When I wasn't GMing, I literally saw players pick up the d20 and say, "I Diplomacize the NPC!" and role their Diplomacy skill.

    This kind of thing was pretty rampant, and lead to play that was quite listless outside of combat, which in turn gave 4E the reputation as being "only about combat." It doesn't have to be that way at all, and much of the problem was in the adventure design rather than the actual game design, but it was certainly part of the play culture.

    2) (Off-topic-ish.) The Treadmill Effect. This made leveling-up less fun and meaningful than it should have been. (In fact, to get even more off-topic, this is the major thing that 5E has solved relative to 4E, thanks to Bounded Accuracy.)

    If you're not familiar with it, the Treadmill Effect was the way 4E was "too well-balanced." As the PCs leveled up, the monsters' stats went up proportionally. Same with skill DCs.

    This actually does sort of tie into the ideas of dissociation and fictional positioning. Being a 15th level character tackling level-appropriate challenges should feel very different than levels 5 or 25, but it sometimes didn't.
    For me the big things that made 4E a bit hard to buy into were the skill challenges (they just never made much sense to me and approached skills in a way I never naturally did at the table prior to that), the powers system being applied to every class (I felt like my characters all had a hand of cards to play), and the way things like healing often worked. Also some of the individual powers felt kind of off to me. One final thing as well was the overall tone and style of the DMG. I only read it once, and I realize it has been re-examined over the years. But my first impression was that my approach to play was not particularly well regarded. That said, my business partner at the time, Bill Butler, who was as traditional as it gets, loved 4E. He had some quibbles (the ability where you essentially shout people back to health always bothered him for example) but he took the system and used to run it in a way that wasn't how I imagined it being run based on my reading of the books. So I do think what you did with the system mattered a lot. I was just never able to get passed the powers structure and the overall vibe of the game.
  • edited February 2019
    FWIW, my two cents on Fictional Positioning:

    "Positioning" in a game means that your options depend on your current game state. You may have different options depending on whether you are:
    - winning or losing
    - on a red square or a green square
    - holding enough tokens to buy the card you drew
    - at the end of your allotted time
    etc.

    "Fictional positioning" refers that portion of the player's game state which is defined by the character's fictional state. You may have different options depending on whether your character is:
    - alert or distracted
    - 2 feet or 4 feet or 15 feet or 100 feet from their opponent
    - holding weapons
    - fully healthy
    - in possession of memorized spells
    - behind cover
    - inside the castle
    - really strong
    - really short
    - liked by this NPC
    - higher in rank than this NPC
    - backed by the Realm
    etc.

    Some RPGs/groups focus on defining fictional positioning first, and deriving all player options from that. (Let's talk through the fictional lighting and terrain and guard situation until we can determine if sneaking into this castle is easy, impossible, a matter of skill, or a matter of luck, based on the fictional specifics.)

    Other RPGs/groups use abstractions to approximate certain kinds of fictional positioning, with some player options derived from those abstractions. (We haven't talked through it in much detail, but we know that the fiction contains a guarded castle, and that my character is very stealthy. Given that rough fictional positioning, the presence of a Stealth score on my character sheet leads me to believe that I can roll with that score to attempt to get my character past the guards and into the castle.)

    Typically, RPGs/groups provide combinations of the above, where the rough fictional positioning and the game's system combine to indicate one set of player options, but sometimes the GM will add or remove some options by further specifying relevant fictional details.
  • How fictional positioning is established is, to me, a separate topic.

    Brendan, my best guess re: your experience is that the term "fictional positioning" happens to have caught on among folks who like the technique of metagame negotiation. Maybe the term and the technique were both popular at the same place at the same time? I dunno. I certainly don't see any strong link between them.
  • Nicely put, Dave.
  • edited February 2019
    Yeah, I was never really bothered by the "once per encounter" / "once per day" stuff in 4E. It's clearly a pacing mechanic (akin to HP!), meant to help us create that sort of "action movie" feel, where the hero doesn't do their awesome-est move all the time, because it would cease to be awesome. There are also Gamist reasons not to allow that, obviously.
    Exactly. Although, I think it should be pointed out that, contrary to what has been written on the topic, martial daily powers in 4E absolutely are tied in to the fiction of the game's setting. They are first described in the pre-release Races and Classes book and are given their fullest explanation in Martial Power 2. Of course, one is free to conclude the fictional explanations provided are incoherent but I would offer they are no more incoherent than the idea that the cleric negotiates with his or her deity every morning exactly how many and which divine interventions ("Okay, Jesus, today I really need three Cure Light Wounds and 1 Protection from Evil, ok?") he or she will have access to and that this process somehow falls 100% under the control of the cleric's player.

    Really, though, the game is rife with X/day powers with no fictional explanation for how they work and why they are limited as such. Everything from the paladin's smites per day to the barbarian's rages to the monk's uses of stunning fist to a rogue's defensive roll abilities. The fact that 5E is absolutely chock full of these abilities and yet nary a word of "disassociation" has been tossed in its general direction is a strong indication that, from the very beginning, this has been nothing but a grandiose exercise in Special Pleading and dissociated is just a buzz word for "unfamiliar".

    That being said, I have experienced the "disassociated" phenomena myself during play and not once did it ever during an "once per X" power. By far the most disassociated and boardgamey elements of D&D are from its very fundamental chassis: initiative, the cyclical round-based structure of combat, hit points, and the general action economy are far more "immersion breaking" than any of the special abilities or traits characters have the in the game. They remind you very loud and clear that this is a wargame-turned-RPG.
    1) Skill use and skill challenges often felt quite dissociated / had weak fictional positioning. When I wasn't GMing, I literally saw players pick up the d20 and say, "I Diplomacize the NPC!" and role their Diplomacy skill.
    This is an issue of GM timidity moreso than anything else, especially given the robust advice for skill challenges found in the DMG2. There is no reason "I diplomacize the NPC" would be a tenable action declaration during a skill challenge than during any skill check from any edition of D&D.
    2) (Off-topic-ish.) The Treadmill Effect. This made leveling-up less fun and meaningful than it should have been. (In fact, to get even more off-topic, this is the major thing that 5E has solved relative to 4E, thanks to Bounded Accuracy.)

    If you're not familiar with it, the Treadmill Effect was the way 4E was "too well-balanced." As the PCs leveled up, the monsters' stats went up proportionally. Same with skill DCs.

    This actually does sort of tie into the ideas of dissociation and fictional positioning. Being a 15th level character tackling level-appropriate challenges should feel very different than levels 5 or 25, but it sometimes didn't.
    I don't agree with this and it hasn't been my experience with the game at all. The world does not "level up" with the players, instead leveling is just another pacing mechanism that gives access to new fictional content in the game. This is quite significant in 4E, which has far more themetically coherent and fictionally charged content than other modern iterations of D&D. If a 25th level character faces a simple wooden door, they don't have the same chance of breaking it open that they did at 1st level --- it should be color or perhaps difficult terrain, if even that.

    The DC-by-level chart is largely intended to interface with the skill challenge system, which assumes multiple characters will be participating during significant non-combat dramatic scenes (as opposed to other iterations of D&D, which generally relegate such challenges to a single character). Because of that, it is important to have a degree of predictability and mathematical tightness when constructing non-combat challenges (which, unlike 5E, are just as significant to XP acquisition and the "encounters per day" guidelines as combat).

    I saw your thoughts on this at rpg.net and I do agree that the half-tier implementation is a good idea, but its also something already found implicitly within 4E's design structure. Prior to Essentials, the DC-by-level table was organized in 3-level clumps (pretty close to a half-tier already) and the XP curves for monsters assumes that roughly every 4 to 5 levels a solo downgrades to an elite and an elite downgrades to a standard monster (it takes 8 levels for a standard to downgrade to a minion, sadly, but there's that).

    ~ Trent
  • I know the whole round cow thing from Alexandrian was a hit job on 4e and on story gaming but… he did have a point. Except it doesn’t end there:

    I think the Dice & Cloud model from @lumpley is recommended reading for this topic.

    I have a hard time closing doors. We can agree on 2097’s way of associating stuff : PCs live in a world where hit points exist.

    That’s right. I use a linguistic conceit as sort of a cop-out explanation: in our translation of the various weird tongues they speak on planet al-Toril to English & Swedish, “xp”, “level” and “hp” represent various things in various sentences such as combat prowess, status, fatigue, physical wounds, positioning, luck etc.

    “Ah help I only have 3 HP left” maybe the characters are saying, in ye Common All-Tongue, something like “I’m exhausted” or “I’m about to collapse” or “I’m under heavy fire, not sure how long I can hold them off” or “I’ve got this eerie feeling that my luck is running out”. For the purps of practically engaging with the mechanics I use the mechanical terms.

    An NPC might say “I heard you guys were level six, want this job?”. Whereas a more literal translation from Midani or Elvish or whatever would be “I heard you guys had done some pretty badass heists in the past, want this job?”

    This is something I do deliberately for two intertwined reasons.

    1. I wanted to shake off my old habits coming from a gaming mode where the mechanics were pretty non-existent. It was all GM fiat all the time. I didn’t want to let myself forget to apply the mechanics and fall back into my very strong habit (at the time) of GM fiat.

    2. I want to make sure that there are plenty of arrows in both directions between the “dice” and the “cloud”. Creating a unified system where SIS and mechanics are interdependent, where they mutually reinforce each other.

    The concept of “dissociated mechanics” is a great observation. “Dissociated” doesn’t mean unsalvageably bad. However, it’s a design pattern to be aware of and it could indicate problem areas in the design.

    Mechanics such as 4e as described in PHB1 (Lumpley uses his own IAWA as the example) where all the arrows go in one direction create dissociation. Instead, we want to unify fluff and crunch.

    The example I use when we talked about this on the big purple was… and this is a repeat to those who have heard me talk about this before…

    I like the adventure system board games. They’re great board games (compared to other boardgames, such as Pandemic. They suck compared to real D&D).

    In the first box, Castle Ravenloft (released in the 4e era) the attack options are called things like “Split the tree”, “Deadly barrage”, “Careful attack” etc. In the fourth box, I forget what the box is called, released in the 5e era, but the attack options are things like “Longbow”, “Sword”, “Axe” etc.

    The exact same mechanic — you choose a card, you choose targets, you roll the dice etc.
    The only difference is the name.
    Castle Ravenloft was already a great game but this little change is such a great evolution on the same ruleset.

    Here’s why:

    In first box (Castle Ravenloft), when I attack I metaphorically hit the play button on a little tiny “movie clip” of my hero splittin the tree or launging a deadly barrage or w/e.

    In the fourth box when I attack I grab my bow and then shoot the enemies the fuck up!

    So while DeReel has it right that I’ve made the map into the territory in some cases – hit points and experience points being very representative examples – there are also examples of me designing in a way where I tear the map to pieces in order to for it to not threaten the strength of the territory itself.

    In this case, the bathwater we are tossing out is very flavorful attack names. “Split the tree” is an awesome mental image. “Why would anyone rid themselves of that?” Because then I can put the bow into my own hands. (PS. The idea of the bow, that is. Don’t do violence IRL. I know there is love♥)

  • Hi Sandra and welcome back. :)
    Mechanics such as 4e as described in PHB1 (Lumpley uses his own IAWA as the example) where all the arrows go in one direction create dissociation. Instead, we want to unify fluff and crunch.
    Hm, the only mechanics I can think of that are unique to 4E were "all the arrows go in one direction" are perhaps action points and milestones (albeit the former are in a variety of D&D and non-D&D games, as well). I've certainly experienced no more "disassociation" in 4E than any other RPG I've played or run. I mean, there's the regular run-of-the-mill D&D gamey stuff like hit points (although 4E has more cloud-pointing arrows here than other versions of D&D because of the bloodied condition) and classes and levels and such, but none of that is particular to 4E.

    Although, the entire Disassociated Mechanics trope is pretty much a case study in cognitive dissonance and special pleading, so there's that too.

    I think you are perhaps conflating three distinct issues here: 1) Disassociated Mechanics, 2) Vincent's Clouds-and-Boxes stuff, and 3) Actor Stance vs Director Stance. In my mind, they are all very different and are all addressing different concerns and issues.

    - Trent
  • edited March 2019
    If by conflating you mean synthesizing then yes♥

    For me "Come and Get It" (IK IK 4e fans are tired of this specific power being brought up all the time) is a unidirectional arrow mechanic. A press of a button that overwrites&clobbers the SIS.

    OTOH with the minis the map is the territory so maybe there key to 4e is…
    "do not try and interact with the SIS. That's impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. There is no SIS. Then you'll see that it's not the SIS that you interact with. It's only the miniatures."
  • If by conflating you mean synthesizing then yes♥
    Call it what you want, but Stance Theory and Vincent's discussion of Boxes-and-Arrows are very different concepts that address different concerns.

    "Disassociated", on the other hand, is just a toxic buzzword for "unfamiliar". I consider it just as incoherent and meaningless as "immersion" in most corners. Its just a way of reifying one's personal tastes to pedestal status.
    For me "Come and Get It" (IK IK 4e fans are tired of this specific power being brought up all the time) is a unidirectional arrow mechanic. A press of a button that overwrites&clobbers the SIS.
    Cloud: "the fighter stares down the monster" > Box: "the player makes an attack vs the monster's Will defense" > Cloud: "the monster engages the fighter and is struck down". You can certainly argue that the effects don't make sense or are weird or something something Realism something something Game With Magical Elves, but the fact arrows are flowing both ways is not really controversial here.

    It also conveniently ignores the fact that over 95% of 4E's powers are not remotely like Come and Get It. I can speak from personal experience that at the table this stuff just does not come up. Like, ever.
    OTOH with the minis the map is the territory so maybe there key to 4e is…
    "do not try and interact with the SIS. That's impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. There is no SIS. Then you'll see that it's not the SIS that you interact with. It's only the miniatures."
    First off, you don't have to play with a map and minis. I can also speak from experience on this. Secondly, it is not remotely true that "the map is the territory" in 4E. Nobody seriously thinks your character is just standing there motionless waiting your "turn".

    Honestly, a lot of this stuff sounds like it comes from message board posts and not from personal experience with the game.

    - Trent
  • Call it what you want, but Stance Theory and Vincent's discussion of Boxes-and-Arrows are very different concepts that address different concerns.
    Yeah, but my mental model of how games work rely on both these concepts and sometimes intertwine them.
    "Disassociated", on the other hand, is just a toxic buzzword for "unfamiliar". I consider it just as incoherent and meaningless as "immersion" in most corners. Its just a way of reifying one's personal tastes to pedestal status.
    The concept of dissociated mechanics have helped me sharpen my designs and for me it's not just a buzzword or an insult. But I understand that the Alexandrian's original articles came at the game negatively.
    Cloud: "the fighter stares down the monster" > Box: "the player makes an attack vs the monster's Will defense" > Cloud: "the monster engages the fighter and is struck down". You can certainly argue that the effects don't make sense or are weird or something something Realism something something Game With Magical Elves, but the fact arrows are flowing both ways is not really controversial here.
    ELFGAMES!? are you joking rn? why do people always want to put down their own games as "it's not serious anyway so who cares"

    "The fighter stares down the monster" that never happened in any of our games. It was all "I turn on my Monster Magnet" Like, everytime.
    It also conveniently ignores the fact that over 95% of 4E's powers are not remotely like Come and Get It.
    Which I acknowledged in my post.
    I can speak from personal experience that at the table this stuff just does not come up.
    [...]
    Honestly, a lot of this stuff sounds like it comes from message board posts and not from personal experience with the game.
    It happened all the time in the games we played. I think this is one of those rough corners of the game that because you have played hours & hours have gotten sanded down and don't notice them or don't experience them, while since I only played a couple of sessions were very bothered by them.

    And while I've only played a couple of sessions of real 4e, I've played hours and hours and hours of Adventure System which has some similarities, some differences. And seen a ton of 4e AP videos.
    Secondly, it is not remotely true that "the map is the territory" in 4E. Nobody seriously thinks your character is just standing there motionless waiting your "turn".
    I do have exactly that experience. It feels exactly like my character is a tiny little statue and I look down at her from above. I'm not sarcastic. That's what it feels like. That is what has guided many of my design choices afterwards; both getting rid of the turn structure and getting rid of the top-down representation.

  • Also, that map is the territory thing was meant to throw 4e a bone. If I get into that mindset I can have fun with 4E. Just as I absolutely love Zelda, and chess for that matter, even though they are top-down games. But if I instead see the SIS as separate from the representation I get frustrated af with the 4E.

    Opening the PHB1 just now… almost every single power give me that vibe.
    This is the first page of powers in the book (cleric is the first class):

    image

    Every single one of those powers (Healing Strike being the clearest example) give me the vibe of "it's not really… ME doing this…"

    To me they're all ← arrows.
    Nothing in the SIS triggered these things.

    1. I, the player, decide to engage with mechanic.
    2.This leads to PC saying prayer, and to a canned cutscene of divine radiance gleaming from PC's weapon, enemy being smoted, and my deity bestowing a minor blessing in the form of healing for you or one of your allies.
    3. Except the target isn't really smitified, only marked and hit with 2[W] (which, granted, might kill it)
    4. And then we need to check the dice world — not the SIS — to see if my friend is close enough (in terms of squares) to be healed.

    What's lacking for me is interaction with the situation. These consequences were initiated in the dice world and all stemmed from the dice world.

    Now, not every mechanic need to have both directions of arrows. As long as there is a good mix of both directions overall. For me I get the vibe that these mechanics start in the dice world and then launch a barrage of unidirectional ← arrows.

    Again, subtle design cues like names, flavor text (or lack of flavor text) etc cause this feeling. Because they don't come from my experiences in the game world. It's not me dealing with verbal, somatic and material components.

    This is also what DeReel was going after when saying
    We can agree on 2097’s way of associating stuff : PCs live in a world where hit points exist.
    In exactly the same way I made spell slots something that exist in the game world, diegetically. Because it was dissociated and I wanted it to be associated and now it is.
  • And also because “dissociated mechanics” is only and forever will be only a bludgeon to attack 4eD&D with. I mean, maybe you could try to reclaim it, but now that 5e exists people have abandoned it in a hurry because if you start applying it to 5e, then the conclusion might be that 4e was actually good, and this cannot be.

    Similarly how I reconciled 5e’s abstractions such as AC, HP, XP and slots, maybe if I really invested in 4e I’d make Come And Get It something that was diegetically part of the world. Actually… I just did codify monster hatred & monster behavior with my Dragon Union derived rules. Såattöh…

    For the official written & carved-into-stone record I think 5e — my favorite game — has plenty of dissociated mechanics! It does. It literally has AEDU which is the first example Justin used when coining the phrase. It also has the super dissociated & frustrating “hit dice” resting system.

    And. AEDU was one of the things I really liked when I got into 4E [I need to remember to type 4E with an uppercase E as was the fashion at the time. Unlike 5e].

    When I see a dissociated mechanic, I think two things.

    1. Is this a good/necessary/enjoyable mechanic? If not discard it, but if so, ask the next question which is:
    2. Is this mechanic dissociated? If so, try to make it not dissociated if (but only if) possible. Regardless, keep it. It’s a mechanic that makes the game better.

    Just changing the name can make all the difference in the world. Like, healing potions are awesome. If they were named “heal rolls” that would be dumb. “I’m hurt, let me make a heal roll” “No, we already checked off all our heal rolls in the last room”. Dumb.

    “I’m hurt, let me drink a healing potion.” “No, we already drank all our healing potions in the last room.” FLA-VOR-FUL!

    My approach to programming is similar to my approach to game design in some ways. I want to become hyperaware of patterns and factoring and I want to care about small things like from where is a method called, and what is its name etc etc.

    A “dissociated mechanic” is a valuable pattern to recognize. Doesn’t mean immediately condemn it. But it is legit.

    And yeah the six second round is a dissociated mechanic too… which is why I threw it out!

    Like, when I designed the inventory sheet one of my design goals was that I wanted the item slot boxes to be horizontal (as if they were lines on a list) rather than square. It might sound stupid af to care about that but to me square slots reminded me of puzzle games & toys whereas the horizontal text fields could belong in any dungeon traveller’s notebook.

    If “dissociated” was only a bludgeon then all of 5e’s focus on spell components, natural language spells etc was just unnecessary empty ritualism with no purpose and no results. But… somehow it managed to convey a feeling of “this is a spell I’m casting”, “this is a sword I’m picking up”. (Wonder if that means that if 4e had been the game there would’ve been no anti-D&D panic in the 80s.)

    It’s to a large extent a manner of presentation and phrasing. This is why factoring and refactoring of rules is such a valuable endeavour.

  • OTOH with the minis the map is the territory so maybe there key to 4e is…
    "do not try and interact with the SIS. That's impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. There is no SIS. Then you'll see that it's not the SIS that you interact with. It's only the miniatures."
    As a side note, I'd count interactions with map and minis as interactions with the SIS. After all, those are representations of what happens in the fiction.
  • Well, that's the mindset I need to adopt when playing with them. I need to get invested in the representation as if it were the territory and not just a map. I'm veering kinda close to just saying empty semantics at this point though
  • [side note on : They say identification with minis works better with a dose of Chew Z.]
  • Hi @2097 , thank you for relating your experiences and perspectives on these issues. Here's my take on things:

    The term "Disassociated Mechanics": This was quite clearly a hit job on 4E and a fairly transparent one at that. D&D has always had what we might call "disassociated mechanics" --- everything from hit points to spell slots to classes to levels to turns to rounds to the action economy --- in fact you could argue that the vast majority of D&D's rules architecture is "disassociated mechanics". The fact that 4E's specific mechanics were singled out here AND the fact that nearly identical mechanics in 5E have not been singled out by the same communities by and large shows it was a thinly-veiled attempt to elevate one's preferences to a reified status.

    4E's Powers and the SIS: You're missing a lot of context here as well as misrepresenting Vincent's position in his articles (as an example, "when your character attacks mine, roll dice" is not meaningfully different from "when I cast my lance of faith prayer, I roll dice" --- both "attacks" and "lance of faith" are things that exist in the SIS). I know some of this is due to your lack of familiarity with 4E, but it absolutely has the equivalent of spell components in its power framework: power sources and keywords. The fact that those Cleric powers are called prayers, the fact they all have the divine keyword, the weapon keyword, the implement keyword, or the radiant keyword absolutely *means something* in the fiction. It is tied into 4E's presumed setting and other fictional interactions. Keywords are 4E's version of fictional triggers (as well as more mundane things like range).

    The battlemap: I'm strongly with @Khimus here. This is clearly a representation of what's going on in the fiction. To use your terminology, the map is not the territory.

    - Trent
  • edited March 2019
    The term “Disassociated Mechanics”: This was quite clearly a hit job on 4E and a fairly transparent one at that. D&D has always had what we might call “disassociated mechanics” — everything from hit points to spell slots to classes to levels to turns to rounds to the action economy — in fact you could argue that the vast majority of D&D’s rules architecture is “disassociated mechanics”. The fact that 4E’s specific mechanics were singled out here AND the fact that nearly identical mechanics in 5E have not been singled out by the same communities by and large shows it was a thinly-veiled attempt to elevate one’s preferences to a reified status.

    You’re absolutely right that the Alexandrian missed these, or gave undue allowance to them because they were grandfathered in due to their history with D&D.

    But 4e introducing a whole new slew of these is what caused the term to come into existence.

    As you see in my posts in this thread, I’ve been more than willing to concede to you that 5e does have dissociated mechanics and that, as DeReel pointed out, I’ve been putting efforts in to associate them again. Even going as far as saying “Hit points exist in the world”.

    The fact that those Cleric powers are called prayers, the fact they all have the divine keyword, the weapon keyword, the implement keyword, or the radiant keyword absolutely means something in the fiction.

    Yes, and I do appreciate that, but

    1. it’s not written in the language the characters would use, and
    2. the way it’s presented with the little flavor text really takes me out of it.
    The battlemap: I’m strongly with @Khimus here. This is clearly a representation of what’s going on in the fiction. To use your terminology, the map is not the territory.

    What I’m saying is that I’ve had three different experiences with maps&minis RPGs.

    1. I see the map as the territory and really get invested in the little dolls. It’s ants, but I care about the ants. Very fun. A very good experience can be had. I sometimes play solo games this way
    2. I try my best to ignore the map and not look at it, instead just look at each other and our gestures and faces as if we were playing a totm game. Frustrating if the game [a particular table’s interpretation of the game, a table that is actually relying on minis, not the tables that are running mini-less 4e] is set up to depend on me being aware of it.
    3. I try to see it as a semiotic representation separate from the SIS but giving valuable information about the SIS. In this model “3” there is map and there is territory. For me there’s an endless row of taking me out of it. I might as well be trying to roleplay a desert scene while being in the shower.

    You and Khimus are having success with the dialectics of 3 but it’s something that brought me personally no end of frustration. 2 or 1 comes so much easier and especially 1 is very synergic with a lot of mechanics in the game.

    Maybe it’s like Feynman’s experiment where some people can count while they read, but not when they talk, while otherpeople can count while they talk, but not when they read. I have an IQ of 280 in a quiet room but as soon as someone is rattling their keys or w/e my brain borks out and I can’t do simple kids’ connect-the-dot puzzles. What I’m getting at is that the processes I use for imagining myself being in another world, for reaching under that red velvet cover and putting my hand up against that cursed looking glass… are kinda the same process I need to use when looking at maps&minis and they collide with each other, using the same resources.

    And… I designed our home game as a direct reaction to this sensation. The entire spatial relational taxonomy was born out of this.

  • The more I read about this, the more I start to think that "dissociated" is not just *similar* to the term "immersion", but it might even be the same thing.

    Both are terms that people feel very strongly about, intuitively - it sounds like it describes something utterly fundamental about our gaming. And yet no one can actually agree on what it "evidently" is, or how it could be defined in any clear way.

    It's more about how something "feels", fundamentally, kind of like the word "romantic". Or like pornography, perhaps. You can't really define it, but, darn it, you know it when you see it!

    For instance, I find it hilarious to think that either 4E (for Trent, perhaps) or 5e (for Sandra) could feel even remotely associated, but I do remember playing a lot of 2nd Edition (AD&D) back in my youth, and it felt more "real" than other games, simply due to familiarity.

    I think Sandra's analogies about the "map and the territory" here are correct; we can learn to see certain elements as familiar enough that we automatically "translate" them into fiction at the table, so that the map and the territory become one. And yet, how much and how little is utterly personal and individual (and can change over time - I certainly wouldn't feel the way I did as a teenager if I were to play 2nd Ed D&D now, for instance).

    It's really cool to see how much effort Sandra puts into those elements "feeling right" (the line-by-line equipment "luggage game" is a wonderful example!), even when (as she admits) most of the things are highly "dissociated" by anyone's definition - everything from the luggage game to the monster decision matrix as well as basic D&D ideas like hit points, classes, and levels).

    I think that shows love for the hobby and a fanatical devotion to detail - always a fundamental part of evolving any hobby or art to a higher level. Lovely!
  • I have a few other comments after thinking about this for a while:

    1. I think that the aspect of "dissociated" that everyone can relate to comes down to something like one of these two things:

    a) "I'm playing this game, and I know what I - as my character - want to do! But, wait... apparently I can't just do that. I have to ignore those instincts and turn to the rules, instead: they say it's not one of my available options. Damn: the game just got more frustrating and less fun for me."

    (Note that this is very common whenever you first play a new game: whether it's accepting that you can't narrate actions on behalf of other characters, that you have to get used to being overruled by the judgement of the GM, or that you have to obey turn-order in combat, those are constraints informed by the rules of the game. It can happen later in play, too: let's say you're playing D&D, and you decide your character is too scared of the dungeon and wants to go home, instead. Sounds reasonable... but it's not a valid option in the game - at least not usually, not in most D&D games. Same goes for your wizard who's not allowed to pick up a sword and use it, or similar restrictions we eventually learn to internalize and maybe even rationalize within the fiction. Next time you play with newbies, watch them struggle with these things! Most people catch on quickly, though.)

    b) "We're going through this rules procedure or rolling these dice... and I have no idea how to translate that into the vivid fiction in my head. What does it mean? What does it look like?"

    You're taken out of the fiction for a moment, and left scratching your head. (That is, unless you're familiar enough with that process - like marking XP after defeating a monster or completing a Milestone, or marking off Inspiration - that it doesn't distract you anymore.)

    I agree that these are problems, and worth keeping in mind as a designer. I DO think that D&D 4E seems to have a lot more of those "sticking points" than many other RPGs, at least for some people, but I don't think we'd all agree on where those are.

    2. My other issue with the term "dissociated" is that it implies or assumes that "associated" is better.

    Look at any discussion of the term by someone who finds it useful, and you'll find that assumption at least strongly implied in their words.

    I think association is *desirable* in the abstract, sure, but I don't think we should assume that it's "better". (Even if and when we agree on what it is!)

    I would never have thought this is a younger gamer, but after many years I've seen far too many examples of entirely "dissociated" rules making for better, smoother, more fun (and sometimes even "more immersive") gameplay. Far too many.

    I think Sandra is experiencing this with a lot of her "funny" rules mods (like the luggage game) which are contributing to her having more fun at the table and more consistently enjoyable games.

    It's not as simple as "dissociated = bad" and "associated = good", because we're dealing with abstractions and practicality and familiarity, all which are tradeoffs in various directions and they all affect each other in unpredictable ways.
  • Seems like that just means dissociated = bad but there are other dimensions and maybe dissociated + quick + cheap = good, but then still associated + quick + cheap > dissociated + quick + cheap.
  • Paul, thank you;
    I want to add to your A and B a third option, a C, where… it feels like the presentation of a mechanic kicks me into another stance. It's an "out of body"-experience where the character asserts herself to be truly distant from me. I do believe that this is one of those "sharp corner that gets sanded down over time" things, where after a while maybe you're over the presentation and it does start like you using those powers again and not just you "watching them do it".

    Guy, I think you're on to something. Usually a dissociated mechanic have plenty of things in the pro-column that made it a worthwhile inclusion. I mean let's take Fiasco where you draft the elements that's going to be part of the game. "Element drafting" isn't associated with anything in the real world. It's still a mechanic that's worth having in the game..

    I do have sympathy with Trent for having a distaste for a particular phrase, it's like with me when people have been trying to reclaim the world "railroading" and turn it into something more value neutral, it took a while for me to warm up to that. I'm def not denying the hit job origins of the phrase.

    Overall I have to admit that I do agree with many Alexandrian's brutal criticisms of 4e, but Trent is right that other D&D mechanics, such as the six-second round (or one minute round in some editions) might be in a bit of a glass house in that regard.
  • You’re absolutely right that the Alexandrian missed these, or gave undue allowance to them because they were grandfathered in due to their history with D&D.

    But 4e introducing a whole new slew of these is what caused the term to come into existence.
    Which is precisely the point I've been making since the start of this thread. Its not that 4E was *disassociated* (whatever one wants that to mean, we've already seen multiple interpretations in this thread alone) but that 4E was *unfamiliar*. From the very beginning, "disassociated mechanics" tells us next to nothing meaningful about game design but tells us quite a bit about the prejudices, biases, and comfort zone of the person using the term (not unlike the term "immersion" as @Paul_T pointed out). I think this is related to some of Ron Edwards' recent observations on how Dungeons & Dragons is basically something of a folk religion to a lot of people (so 4E wasn't merely making something different it was actually committing blasphemy in many people's eyes).

    I mean, for crying out loud, if the very fundamental resolution mechanics and character components in the game are "disassociated" (as many including yourself have already admitted) does anyone really have a leg to stand on here?

    As you see in my posts in this thread, I’ve been more than willing to concede to you that 5e does have dissociated mechanics and that, as DeReel pointed out, I’ve been putting efforts in to associate them again. Even going as far as saying “Hit points exist in the world”.

    Sure, but as I pointed out almost all discussion about "disassociated mechanics" evaporated when 5E came out --- despite the fact it shares many of those self-same mechanics with 4E. This speaks volumes.

    Yes, and I do appreciate that, but

    it’s not written in the language the characters would use, andthe way it’s presented with the little flavor text really takes me out of it.
    I don't dispute what you write here (although I *would* argue that the vast majority of D&D mechanics are "not written in the language the characters would use"), but my point was that powers like Lance of Faith absolutely do have arrows flowing both ways. The SIS isn't exclusively a first-person space but encompasses third-person perspectives as well.

    The larger point I was making is 4E's fictional triggers (namely, keywords) may be different than some other iterations of D&D, but they are still fictional triggers nonetheless. In many ways, 4E's keywords are actually quite analogous to AW's tags.

    What I’m saying is that I’ve had three different experiences with maps&minis RPGs.

    I see the map as the territory and really get invested in the little dolls. It’s ants, but I care about the ants. Very fun. A very good experience can be had. I sometimes play solo games this wayI try my best to ignore the map and not look at it, instead just look at each other and our gestures and faces as if we were playing a totm game. Frustrating if the game [a particular table’s interpretation of the game, a table that is actually relying on minis, not the tables that are running mini-less 4e] is set up to depend on me being aware of it.I try to see it as a semiotic representation separate from the SIS but giving valuable information about the SIS. In this model “3” there is map and there is territory. For me there’s an endless row of taking me out of it. I might as well be trying to roleplay a desert scene while being in the shower.You and Khimus are having success with the dialectics of 3 but it’s something that brought me personally no end of frustration. 2 or 1 comes so much easier and especially 1 is very synergic with a lot of mechanics in the game.Maybe it’s like Feynman’s experiment where some people can count while they read, but not when they talk, while otherpeople can count while they talk, but not when they read. I have an IQ of 280 in a quiet room but as soon as someone is rattling their keys or w/e my brain borks out and I can’t do simple kids’ connect-the-dot puzzles. What I’m getting at is that the processes I use for imagining myself being in another world, for reaching under that red velvet cover and putting my hand up against that cursed looking glass… are kinda the same process I need to use when looking at maps&minis and they collide with each other, using the same resources.
    Hey, I totally sympathize with you here. After years of running 4E, we got sick of counting squares and bounced hard into 13th Age. Its particular take on TotM was totally a breath of fresh air for my players. Of course, the absolute best combat I ever had in 13A was basically breaking out a map and putting everything into visual zones like FATE or the new Conan RPG so make of that what you will.

    The current 4E game I'm running for my wife was largely TotM for the first few sessions and I experimented with a homebrew zone-based system for one session, as well. My wife wanted to try the battlegrid out, though, and for her it just *clicked*. It actually enhanced her immersion rather than damaging it. Some people just need that visual representation and purely verbal description just won't cut it.

    As for me, I think I generally prefer mapless play (which is why my non-setpiece combats are all run as skill challenges) but it is really really hard to do interesting, complex combats with unique terrain features that way. So for dramatic setpiece encounters we bust out the battlemap, otherwise its 100% TotM. Different tools for different jobs, right?

    Trent
  • edited March 2019
    It's not as simple as "dissociated = bad" and "associated = good", because we're dealing with abstractions and practicality and familiarity, all which are tradeoffs in various directions and they all affect each other in unpredictable ways.
    @Paul_T Despite what you say being true in theory; in practice, any native-speaker and many of our talented second-language speakers of English, here, know implicitly that the morpheme {dis-} means "away from", or "having a negative, or reversing force", e.g. disconnect, disagree, distrust, disapprove, dislike, disrupt, disallow, and discolour. So dissociated is not a neutral term--it's use in this agrument is prejudical. Language matters.

    At the top of this thread there were people vociferously complaining about the use of this term (and what they saw as the not-so-hidden agenda behind it), but they seem to have been by-passed. Since then, a fiddly, comparative argument between lumpers and splitters has ensued trying to get around the fact that that the term and perhaps the concept itself is essentially flawed.

    I don't think that you can wipe the discursive slate clean by abstracting a term away from it's pejorative meaning, or by attempting to re-define it, or managing its negative implications. Language doesn't (usually) work like that unless there are powerful political forces and big media budgets behind it. And it never works like that at the morphemic level. Sometimes a word can be reclaimed by a community, but I don't think that is the case here. Speaker, intention, place, time, etc. all bring traces that can't be ignored.


  • I mean, for crying out loud, if the very fundamental resolution mechanics and character components in the game are “disassociated” (as many including yourself have already admitted) does anyone really have a leg to stand on here?

    So there has been confusion, on my own part admittedly, between dissociated (please stop calling it disassociated – maybe that’s why you are provoked? disassociated would be a horrible thing to call a mechanic. it’s dissociated) and just abstracted.

    Dissociated mechanics are a… subset of abstracted? Or is it not a strict subset but there is just overlap.

    Like the entire idea of “to determine whether your character succeeds with this task we’ll roll a die” falls under the overly broad definition of dissociated that the Alexandrian originally used. So I can definitely see a case for that being so broad it’s meaningless.

    But in Magic the Gathering there is this idea of Vorthos vs Mel. Vorthos is all about the lore, all about the stories and pictures on the cards. Mel is all about the mechanics. “Oh, this card does something very interesting with the components of the game”. Like, the card “Soldier of Fortune” which has the ability to shuffle your library. That’s a card that exists for Mel. There is a weak flavor justification in the name (which was given post-hoc). But the act of shuffling cards isn’t something that is relevant to a magical duel.

    The Vorthos vs Mel axis has become something that’s worthwile being aware of when designing rules and cards for Magic.

    That’s why the idea of becoming aware of whether or not a mechanic is dissociated was appealing to me.

    I’ve conflated dissociated with abstracted several times including over in the new chases thread.

    Sure, but as I pointed out almost all discussion about “disassociated mechanics” evaporated when 5E came out — despite the fact it shares many of those self-same mechanics with 4E. This speaks volumes.

    5e has three types of dissociated mechanics.

    1. Those brought back from pre-4E editions (including some that were in 4E and some that were skipped 4E)
    2. Those that were introduced in 4E and carried over. (AEDU for example.)
    3. Those that were new to 5e. The main of these was the new hit dice mechanic which was called out for being dissociated.

    Why should 1 or 2 be criticized when that criticism has already been lifted in the 4E era?

    I don’t dispute what you write here (although I would argue that the vast majority of D&D mechanics are “not written in the language the characters would use”), but my point was that powers like Lance of Faith absolutely do have arrows flowing both ways. The SIS isn’t exclusively a first-person space but encompasses third-person perspectives as well.

    So what are the things coming from the “cloud” world when using, well, I said Healing Strike was a much clearer example than Lance of Faith and of course Come And Get It is the poster child so that’d be the clearest example of all?

    The SIS isn’t exclusively a first-person space but encompasses third-person perspectives as well.

    That’s a good point, it becomes a stance issue at that point rather than a SIS issue.

    The easiest way to perceive the difference is to look at the player’s decision-making process when using the mechanic: If the player’s decision can be directly equated to a decision made by the character, then the mechanic is associated. If it cannot be directly equated, then it is dissociated.

    I.e. if I play Fiasco and say “maybe it’d be cool if our characters were married but you are stealing from me” that is a dissociated mechanic.

    He goes on to say:

    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.)

    (To be clear, both of these quotes are from his 2012 post and not his original 2008 series of anti-4E texts.)

    My wife wanted to try the battlegrid out, though, and for her it just clicked. It actually enhanced her immersion rather than damaging it.

    But to which extent is it “1” vs “3”? Iow does she (1) love & care about the doll, the “ant”, or does she (3) rapidly/constantly translate between signifier and significant? 1 and 3 are both immersed via buy-in, via caring about the conditions and consequences of the situation.

    For 3 to qualify, does she imagine vividly a FULL-SIZE battle field with the characters really moving, hitting each other etc. (Uh, I get that this got weirdly personal about a third party so if you’re uncomfortable with that line of convo feel free to answer from your own perspective instead.)

    For me, having maps & minis out makes those “visions of battle” come much seldomlier.

    As for me, I think I generally prefer mapless play (which is why my non-setpiece combats are all run as skill challenges) but it is really really hard to do interesting, complex combats with unique terrain features that way.

    For me, the biggest kick I get out of RPGs is making rules (or dissecting and reassembling rules) and creating interesting TotM fights is a work in progress. The fact that designing rules for it is challenging is what makes it interesting♥

    For the record I started out with rules that were pretty much exactly as 13A (invented independently) but my system rn is different from that and are now closer to The One Ring (not as independent that time, that was more of a direct influence).

    Feeling pretty good about my newest system, will get to try it out tomorrow♥

  • any native-speaker and many of our talented second-language speakers of English, here, know implicitly that the morpheme {dis-} means “away from”, or “having a negative, or reversing force”, e.g. disconnect, disagree, distrust, disapprove, dislike, disrupt,disallow, and discolour. So dissociated is not a neutral term–it’s use in this agrument is prejudical. Language matters.

    Discourse, discuss, discrete, disclaimer, disappear, distant (I almost added disco as a joke but that has a separate etymology).

    The act of separation or distancing isn’t always negative. “My headache has disappeared”. Relief!

    Since then, a fiddly, comparative argument between lumpers and splitters has ensued trying to get around the fact that that the terms and perhaps the concepts themselves are essentially flawed. I don’t think that you can wipe the discursive slate clean by abstracting a term away from it’s pejorative meaning, or by attempting to re-define it, or manage its negative implications. Language doesn’t (usually) work like that, not at the morphemic level anyway.

    As for me, I’m trying to explore whether or not it’s flawed and unsalvagable. I’ve certainly had a lot of useful design come out of it.

    You are absolutely right that connotation is hard to “wash away” and a word originating from a particular “camp” can make it a word that you’ll never accept or like. Purps of this post is just to disagree that the word is inherently linguistically an insult. As a linguist I can’t sign off on that. Mechanics can be great and still be dissociated and the dissociatedness of the mechanic is what makes it great; we were wrong earlier in the thread saying it’s a “good, quick, associated” triangle; sometimes you need to look at things from an OC stance to introduce or set up interesting things; the obvious example mentioned previously being character generation.

    However, if the argument instead is that “any term coined in those Alexandrian hit piece articles is forever tainted and can not be used in game design”, well that’s another matter and I’d have a hard time arguing against that. It’s your fandom, your emotions, your history with his blog. I can’t take that away from you or deny that. Personally even though I did enjoy 4E a lot (partially because I hadn’t discovered OSR games yet, which I ended up liking better, and then 5e even more) I thought those articles had a mix of good insight and flawed shortsightedness and I liked them overall.

  • Got to say that… kiboizing through mentions of me while I was away I seem to be remembered as an absolute fanatic, passionate for 5e and that it's my favorite game. And that is a correct characterization, I love the game.

    But 4E fans, I often point out, or agree with, things about 5e that are super bad.
    Whereas, by contrast, I often get the reaction from 4E fans that it's a sacred perfect untouchable jewel of a game that did nothing wrong.

    Maybe that's an underdog thing, 4E was so polarizing. Creates the Amiga persecution complex.

    I'm glad 5e didn't throw out everything from 4E. It seems to build on it. Some things from 4E have still been sacrificed and I can understand missing those things.
  • edited March 2019
    ...this post is just to disagree that the word is inherently linguistically an insult. As a linguist I can’t sign off on that.
    As a linguist myself, I can definitly sign off on that! I can think of a half dozen words off-the-top-of-my-head that are inherently insults, and are only marginally redeemed depending on who is using them, with whom, and when. Context matters, but sometimes "snarl words" can never truly be redeemed. In our little world of game design, this is one of those cases.

    Generally, Sandra, I respect your opinion, but in this case I think you are wrong. Look to the top of this thread and see who has baled and you will understand where I am coming from.
  • I was saying that the word inherently&lingusitically (before its usage in the context of game mechanics and 4E) wasn't inherently insulting.

    I was not disputing that it could have picked up insulting connotations during&post its usage by Alexandrian, and that those connotations might be unshakable.

    I'll go read the start of the thread. I was kiboized into the middle of it♥
  • edited March 2019
    @2097 Fair enough. I'm not going to comment anymore here unless I'm mentioned. I said what I had to say.
  • For instance, I find it hilarious to think that either 4E (for Trent, perhaps) or 5e (for Sandra) could feel even remotely associated, but I do remember playing a lot of 2nd Edition (AD&D) back in my youth, and it felt more "real" than other games, simply due to familiarity.
    Hi Paul, just to be clear on my position I don't feel that "association" or "immersion" are useful concepts when discussing how a game is designed or functions in play so I would never argue 4E or any other game for that matter is "associated". My only strong claim in this discussion is that the majority of 4E's mechanics have both fictional as well as mechanical triggers and consequences, and that 4E's keywords are analogous Apocalypse World's tags.

    Honestly, I fail to see what the term "association" provides that isn't explained better and more honestly with stance theory.

    Trent
  • Yep! No disagreement here.
  • Oh, that means that I misunderstood another thing about your position, Trent, I thought you also wanted to throw out stance theory. Thanks for clarifying.
  • For the linguists: why is dissociated meaningfully different from disassociated?

    I know we've distinguished between them in this conversation (as far as I know, dissociated is like "narrational", a word made up purely for the purposes of gaming discussion), but beyond that I see no reason why the two words would mean anything different.
  • Dissociated → Scalar opposite of associated. "Non-associated"
    Disassociated → Something that has had its association ripped out. "De-associated"

    Since the "a-" prefix is already prepositional it also reads almost tautological to me.

    Like if something is to the right of the house rather than the left and you'd write rightlefthouseward instead of just righthouseward.

    There are some such constructions in English but usually where they make sense, such as "inside out" or "upside down". They have a stronger connotation that something is wrong or out of place than the single-prepositioned word "dissociated".

    dysergic and "dyssynergic"* have the same relationship almost.
  • Seriously ? I'll get pragmatic : what are dissociated mechanics good for ? They give "friction", they ensure clear player input, they prevent confusion between convoluted subreptation and fictionnal positionning.
  • DeReel, they're not arguing against that kind of mechanics, they're arguing against the name used for that kind of mechanics because they don't like where it originated. If I understand it correctly.
  • Slowly working my way down the discussion...
    I DO think that D&D 4E seems to have a lot more of those "sticking points" than many other RPGs, at least for some people, but I don't think we'd all agree on where those are.
    Paul, thank you;
    I want to add to your A and B a third option, a C, where… it feels like the presentation of a mechanic kicks me into another stance. It's an "out of body"-experience where the character asserts herself to be truly distant from me. I do believe that this is one of those "sharp corner that gets sanded down over time" things, where after a while maybe you're over the presentation and it does start like you using those powers again and not just you "watching them do it".
    Hi Paul and Sandra, so you both bring up some interesting points here that I wanted to speak on but didn't really get a chance to in prior discussions.

    One thing the 4E designers went out of their way to do was to make the rules as user-friendly as possible. We all know about the phenomenon of "lonely fun" when it comes to RPG books, yeah? You know, where people read an RPG rulebook for pleasure or inspiration or get a feel for the fiction of the game, right? Well, most of the 4E books (especially prior to the Essentials re-formatting) are very clearly not trying to do that. They are first and foremost reference books and are 100% written with that purpose in mind: trying to communicate to the reader how to use a particular rule element (usually a power or a statblock) as precisely and concisely as possible.

    As a concrete example of what I'm talking about, compare the information you need to run a Mummy Lord in 3E vs 4E vs 5E: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/457962153966567446/536763667631570944/dnd_3p5_to_4_to_5_01.png . The 4E version is insanely simpler, more accessible, and more concise and that's pretty representative of the game's design as a whole.

    So, that's something to keep in mind here: the 4E rules are not the game itself, they are reference materials for the game. And, those reference materials go out of their way to be as brief, explicit, and unambiguous as possible. Other versions of D&D will usually have a paragraph or two accompanying the Fireball spell explaining how it combusts things around it and sets aflame flammable objects and various other "by the way, this makes fire" information. 4E communicates the exact same thing by simply giving it the fire keyword and having the spell do fire damage. Its three words of text vs three paragraphs of text.

    There are a lot of emergent properties in the 4E game itself that are not obvious from its reference materials, including how they interact to create new fiction. This is something to keep in mind when reading a power or statblock.

    Trent
  • Love that 5e mummy lord so much♥♥♥
    Spellcaster monsters were such a headache when I first started running and it took a while for them to become my absolute faves. So I can definitely see the appeal of not wanting them
  • So there has been confusion, on my own part admittedly, between dissociated (please stop calling it disassociated – maybe that’s why you are provoked? disassociated would be a horrible thing to call a mechanic. it’s dissociated) and just abstracted.

    Dissociated mechanics are a… subset of abstracted? Or is it not a strict subset but there is just overlap.
    You know, before you wrote that I never even realized I was reading and writing it as "disassociated" instead of "dissociated". Good times. :dizzy:

    Also, to be clear, I'm not provoked by the term or anything like that. I just think that the Alexandrian's original argument and the way it has been used by online communities since then has largely been nonsense and pretty much textbook examples of Special Pleading.

    As to your question about dissociated vs abstract mechanics, yeah, that's the issue isn't it? The example Justin seemed to want to use over and over was the Rogue's Trick Strike daily power. The objection being that daily abilities don't "make sense" for martial heroes (even though classes like the Kensai have had X/day abilities since 1E), but that's a very different thing from saying that Trick Strike doesn't exist in the fiction or you can't inhabit a first-person perspective while using Trick Strike. I mean, near as I can tell the real argument here is basically "I don't like the fiction, therefore the fiction must not exist" or something. Its weird.

    That's why I don't think association is a useful way of framing game mechanics. It conflates and confuses so many different real meaningful concepts --- Actor Stance vs Fictional Positioning vs Abstract Mechanics --- that its not really helpful. That it has historically been used to accuse certain games of being Not Real Roleplaying is just icing on the cake here.

    So what are the things coming from the “cloud” world when using, well, I said Healing Strike was a much clearer example than Lance of Faith and of course Come And Get It is the poster child so that’d be the clearest example of all?

    I don't have my 4E books with me, so I'll tackle Healing Strike since you printed it upthread.

    So, it has the following relevant keywords: Melee, Weapon, Divine, Healing, Radiant. That actually tells us quite a bit about the fiction of the power: The Cleric is positioned within 5 to 10 feet of their enemy, channels divine power (connected to the Astral Setting in the implied mythical setting) through their melee weapon to smite them holy energy while simultaneously channeling restorative healing energy to someone within 25 feet.

    That seems pretty straightforward fictional positioning to me, no?

    But to which extent is it “1” vs “3”? Iow does she (1) love & care about the doll, the “ant”, or does she (3) rapidly/constantly translate between signifier and significant? 1 and 3 are both immersed via buy-in, via caring about the conditions and consequences of the situation.

    For 3 to qualify, does she imagine vividly a FULL-SIZE battle field with the characters really moving, hitting each other etc. (Uh, I get that this got weirdly personal about a third party so if you’re uncomfortable with that line of convo feel free to answer from your own perspective instead.)For me, having maps & minis out makes those “visions of battle” come much seldomlier.
    I talked with her about this yesterday and I think its mostly 3, but its hard to comment about anyone but oneself about this sort of thing. For me personally, I'd say its both 1 and 3 simultaneously. We're both visual and kinesthetic learners, so the visual aids help immensely in picturing and imagining the situation.

    For me, the biggest kick I get out of RPGs is making rules (or dissecting and reassembling rules) and creating interesting TotM fights is a work in progress. The fact that designing rules for it is challenging is what makes it interesting♥

    For the record I started out with rules that were pretty much exactly as 13A (invented independently) but my system rn is different from that and are now closer to The One Ring (not as independent that time, that was more of a direct influence).Feeling pretty good about my newest system, will get to try it out tomorrow♥
    Yeah, I hear you there. I actually have been spending quite a bit of time trying to house rule in some of 13th Age's positioning rules in our 4E game but she likes the battlegrid so much that that little project is on hiatus for the time being.

    Trent
  • Whereas, by contrast, I often get the reaction from 4E fans that it's a sacred perfect untouchable jewel of a game that did nothing wrong.
    Hi Sandra, I'm not sure who you've been interacting with but that's not true of the 4E communities with which I'm familiar.

    There are legitimate criticisms of 4E and these have been acknowledged by 4E fans since, what, 2009 at least? I mean, everything from the early adventures to lackluster magic items to pre-MM3 monster math to feat taxes to the potency of multi-hit powers to skill challenge DCs to overemphasis on alpha strike rounds. Of course, a considerable number of these things were corrected or improved upon as the edition developed but that's neither here nor there. Speaking of myself, I modify or house rule many things in my own 4E games (we currently don't use magic items or feats, for example) so its not like I hold the rules as written as sacrosanct.

    I would add though, that its important to distinguish between those legitimate criticisms and bullshit criticisms. Things like there is no fictional positioning in 4E (which is not true) or it has nothing but combat (laughable given the existence of skill challenges, rituals, and quest xp) or warlords yell people's arms back on or its an MMO on paper are clearly nonsense and not informed by any kind of meaningful experience with the game.

    Trent
  • Oh, that means that I misunderstood another thing about your position, Trent, I thought you also wanted to throw out stance theory. Thanks for clarifying.
    No worries, Sandra. I like stance theory and think it does a much better job of explaining what association kinda sorta seems like it wants to. I do think games like 4E mesh a bit better with director stance than actor stance, but the idea that its impossible to inhabit actor stance when using a power (as the Alexandrian article seemed to suggest with Trick Strike) is clearly absurd.

    Trent
  • edited March 2019

    So I think what the Alexandrian, in his 2012 followup at least, was trying to say was that some mechanics favor what I’ve called identifying stance and some favor pawn stance or other detached stances.

    This has been an observation I’ve gotten tons of mileage out when designing.

  • edited March 2019
    I have to cover a lot quickly! I will try; ask if I'm so brief as to be entirely unintelligible.

    1. Dissociated vs. Disassociated (linguistically speaking).

    Ah, that makes sense! I understand where you're coming from. Thank you for explaining.

    I doubt most casual readers (and especially native English speakers) would be consciously aware of that difference, though, or to get anywhere near being able to explain it.

    2.
    Seriously ? I'll get pragmatic : what are dissociated mechanics good for ? They give "friction", they ensure clear player input, they prevent confusion between convoluted subreptation and fictionnal positionning.
    Is this a serious question? Are you suggesting that RPGs would be better if they didn't have "dissociated mechanics"? Given that the vast majority (maybe all?) RPGs have such mechanics, would excising them immediately improve all our games?

    For instance, is D&D more fun if we remove Experience Points and Leveling? (Let's imagine a new version of D&D where we replace them with something that's easier to parse in "actor stance", like getting "training points" for spending X hours of study on a particular skill. Is that version of D&D more fun to play?)

    It seems entirely uncontroversial to me.

    But maybe I'm misunderstanding what you've written!

    3. I really like Sandra's "Three Versions" of how someone can interact with and react to a map with minis. I think it's very insightful!

    This is also where I get off the bus with this whole discussion: as we're seeing, even just from that very specific example, every person's intuitive reaction and parsing of a thing is different. It's a subjective experience, much like "immersion". For instance, it might help me to imagine a scene if I see a diagram of the layout, and I'm confused otherwise, because I suck at parsing verbal descriptions (let's say). But it might distract you from the fiction to see that same diagram, because you're now staring at a piece of paper instead of imagining the water dripping from the ceiling. Well, we're different, right?

    That's why I think this whole line of argument is pretty flawed. This whole "dissociated" business depends not just on each person's personal biases, but also on the group's attitude and how any given rule is used. How do we present these things to each other when we play? For example, are distances on our battlemap sacrosanct (you can get out a ruler and check your crossbow's range), or agreed to be approximations, where we will just slide miniatures around when something doesn't match what we're imagining? Two different games...

    I don't think it makes sense to label rules "dissociated" or not when a given player can be given an explanation or an example of something, and, within 2-3 minutes, go from seeing a rule they previously saw as "dissociated" as "associated" (or vice-versa!). I have another example of this below...

    I get much more mileage out of my two "problem cases", as I outlined above: when does this actually become a sticking point in play? At those moments.

    4. D&D4 versus other editions.

    I don't have a good argument here, because I've actually never played D&D4. (Which maybe means I should shut up as far as this part of the discussion is concerned! That wouldn't be unfair. Take everything I say here with a grain of salt, please.)

    However, here's my general experience: everyone I know who has played it has made a comment somewhat along the lines of, "It was great! But we just stopped roleplaying and enjoyed it like a boardgame."

    Many of these people were not in any way prejudiced against the game (some were playtesters when it was coming out, and very excited about it!).

    Why does that happen? (An honest question; I have no idea!)

    The examples being used in this thread from 4E are interesting. And I think they further illustrate how subjective and personal this is, and how tied in to other things (even cultural referents!) this whole issue is.

    Let's take that Healing Strike:

    I don't have my 4E books with me, so I'll tackle Healing Strike since you printed it upthread.

    So, it has the following relevant keywords: Melee, Weapon, Divine, Healing, Radiant. That actually tells us quite a bit about the fiction of the power: The Cleric is positioned within 5 to 10 feet of their enemy, channels divine power (connected to the Astral Setting in the implied mythical setting) through their melee weapon to smite them holy energy while simultaneously channeling restorative healing energy to someone within 25 feet.

    That seems pretty straightforward fictional positioning to me, no?
    It does, in many ways, doesn't it?

    However, for me, at least, it's missing some fictional referent. What is actually happening here, and why? What else can the cleric do with this, for example?

    When I see "cast a Fireball at your enemies", or "cleave through minor foes", for instance, I have a clear sense of what that is in fiction. I've seen that happen in fantasy stories, right? So many times!

    But this "Healing Strike" is foreign to me. I don't really understand what's happening there, what it means, or its implications. I've never seen Conan or Gandalf do that.

    Based on rumours I've heard [rumours: the best information source, clearly!], I would assume that it's something coming from MMORPGs. Somehow I can imagine that happening on a computer screen, with flashing lights and sound effects. HP totals change and figures flash or shimmer and BAM!

    Where did I get this idea? I'm not sure. Is it correct? Is there a fictional referent of some sort?

    Now, lots and lots of D&D rules are like this (down to the classic example of Gandalf, in old-school D&D, not being allowed to use his sword). I don't see this as in any way specific to D&D4. But my assumption all along has been that this kind of thing quite consciously got brought in from MMORPGs.

    I have no idea if I'm right, though! Nor do I know whether D&D4 has more stuff like this than other editions. It's just the reputation!

    That shows, I think, how the whole concept of "dissociated" is rather fragile. After all, let's imagine that, instead of The Lord of the Rings, I'd just read some awesome fantasy novel which illustrates in beautiful and inspiring ways how clerics smiting their enemies heals nearby allies. Now I would read the Healing Strike rule and grin and rub my hands, because this is exactly what I've been imagining, and it reeks with purpose and inspiring imagery, and I can't wait to play. It's vivid in my head and using it makes total sense!

    And that, to me, shows that it's not (or not only) about game design, which is why this is such a complex topic to handle. It's the same reason Sandra isn't bothered by HP and AC and XP, but finds use a battlemap takes her out of the "realness" of the game.

    Right?
  • edited March 2019
    To clarify my brief and obscure post :
    1) Talking linguistics seemed like hair splitting.
    2) The intent in OP was to form this new concept with an old word. Instead of clobbering the word, we could as well try to see what's good in it.
    3) Like, when I say dissociated rules give "friction", that's a good thing. Like cross country skis : slickness in some parts, friction in others, or the whole thing won't work.

    Now, the more you explain "dissociated", Paul_T, the more I read "gamey".
    On a side note, Healing strike to me evokes Marvel comix superpowers.
  • DeReel, I’m with you af on the friction. Having played some games where I sanded away all dissociated rules, including character generation, it didn’t work well. The mood was sustained throughout the entire session and we never spoke a word out of character but there wasn’t much sense of players actually having a say in the outcome of things. (Now, a good idea might be combining such a sanded-down experience with heavy sandboxy prep so that the world interactions are still open-ended & meaningful might be an awesome idea.)

    After all, let’s imagine that, instead of The Lord of the Rings, I’d just read some awesome fantasy novel which illustrates in beautiful and inspiring ways how clerics smiting their enemies heals nearby allies. Now I would read the Healing Strike rule and grin and rub my hands, because this is exactly what I’ve been imagining, and it reeks with purpose and inspiring imagery, and I can’t wait to play. It’s vivid in my head and using it makes total sense!

    But it doesn’t feel like me doing it. Selecting actions from a list vs selecting tools (such as a sword, or a spell) from a list. Yes, the clerics “actions” are specific prayers (spells) and that is a mitigating factor, don’t get me wrong. But where other editions are “this is what I have, not let me see what I do with it”… like Zelda where you get your sword, your flute, your raft, your blue ring… whereas in 4E it feels like selecting a move from a menu.

    In 4E’s defense, knowing how to “do” things was something I could absolutely not grok for the longest time and 4e puts it front and center. You can do these things. [Also makes it harder to understand that you can do other, “off-menu” things but that’s the flipside.]

    4E helped me play something vaguely resembling RPGs, it was an amazing bootstrap. 5e (or, rather, 4E Essentials’s “slayer” fighter) helped me put the weapon into my own hand rather than me instructing the character to do things.

    Yes! Just felt like I stumbled upon what’s hopefully a perfect description – selecting from 4E’s AEDU menu makes me feel like I am instructing the character to do things. “Cleric, please do a healing strike.” Like in the video game Radiant Historia, which I love, but where I never am the characters, I… “oversee” the characters.

    It’s the same reason Sandra isn’t bothered by HP and AC and XP, but finds use a battlemap takes her out of the “realness” of the game.

    Oh I was absolutely bothered by HP and AC and XP at first!

    I would’ve had a lot more fun w/ the 90s RPGs like GURPS, WoD, Drakar, even Everway/Fudge etc if I had played something like B4 The Lost City first, if I had read the Moldvay box and a good module.

    Instead on the internet at the time we were told “Oh noooo stay awaaay from D&D it sucks. AC is so unrealistic how does heavier plate makes me less likely to be hit…!? How come I can’t roll defense rolls!?!?? What the eff is HP am I a tree being slowly chopped down…!?!?”

    I stayed away from D&D for years because of rants like that! (Hope I’m not scaring anyone off 4E – that it’d really click for – in the same way.)

    Once I got familiar with D&D I found that yes the rules are derived from a boat shooting game but they are fast and they are exciting and they work. GURPS is broken (GURPS Ultra Lite’s combats are endless and even the real game had endless fights — two armored knights can wack at each other for hours — until they introduced options like “all out attack” and similar which you are now expected to know about and take) and Runequest / Drakar’s combat takes hours and hours. D&D’s combats are fast, and are familiar from all the video games being inspired by it.

    • AC means a combination of armor and dodging. It’s absolutely awesome that they’re combined into one thing. The name is a boat shooting game name, nostalgic only, not that good
    • The asymmetric “only the attacker needs to roll” cuts down on fights by half the time and also makes them much less likely to succumb probability mistakes or broken games
    • HP is a great pacing mechanic a la Blades in the Dark’s clocks. The name (boat shooting again) sucks. “Death clock” would’ve been a better name for them

    In fact combining AC & HP into one thing would’ve been even more better.

    Instead of rolling a boolean product of a scalar (two rolls + three operations; two operations for the “to hit”, one for the damage) we could just be rolling a scalar directly (instead of to hit + damage we’d just be rolling damage. Hard-to-hit-ness would be represented by having super high HP, ior damage expressions would have some chance of producing 0 damage), or implement clocks that tick directly of the booleans (instead of having HP, pretties and hobos would have a number of hits needed to kill them). ← why in carnation am I hiding game design gems like this in a paragraph in a long post on page five of an edition flamewar :bawling::bawling::bawling:

    But back to the point.

    HP and AC are associated mechanics that does concern the character intrinsically. Not dying is pretty relevant to their best interest. No stance conflict.

    XP is a dissociated mechanic. Instead of being motivated by whatever I feel like gosh, it’s an extrinsic motivator. Not mandatory, just like it’s not mandory to use E powers once per fight in 4E (I am perfectly allowed to not do them). But making decisions with XP in mind is making desicions based on extrinsic factors. Now, some games like ACKS put in effort to tie XP to political power and/or wealth. Associating it (in a convoluted way). Or you can cook up something like it represents training – who wouldn’t want to become more experienced (not necessarily stoned, but beautiful)? Similarly, the limitations on EDU powers can be framed as the character’s fatigue, or as semantics like “they can only do their best effort once, anything you can do more than once is by definition not the strictly, unmatched best”.

  • HP and AC are associated mechanics that does concern the character intrinsically. Not dying is pretty relevant to their best interest. No stance conflict.
    That seems like a very odd criterion. Having or not having your martial daily power is also very relevant to the character's best interest, and those seem to be the most prominent example of dissociated mechanics.
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