Shared Imagined Space vs Game State; or, In-Game vs Real-World Cues

Vincent wrote this blog post talking about these fundamental parts of a game and I'm probably going to end up referencing them so maybe it's a good idea to read that post.

I think that when we talk about "Shared Imagined Space" or a "Game State," we're often conflating two separate things. Real-world cues--things like numbers on a character sheet or whatever--have a kind of dual nature, where they alternately represent a piece of information in The Fiction, or else produce that fiction itself.

In the latter case, these real-world cues are like shadow puppets. You shine a light on them and they cast a shadow on the wall, and we query the wall to understand what they mean in fictional terms.

In some games you can get up and move the actual shadows (the in-game cues) around by themselves, and if they have a corresponding puppet the puppet will move with it. In Vincent's diagrams these are the ones where the arrows point from the Imagination-Cloud-Bubble to the D6. Or you can go up to the wall that the shadows are projected on and draw (and/or erase) stuff directly on it. These additions are still part of the fiction, but they will never have a corresponding puppet.

But sometimes this relationship is one-way. You can only move the shadow by moving the puppet, because the puppet is privileged in some way by the system. Sometimes games like this are derided for being too boardgame-like, too mechanical, like pushing buttons on a character sheet, etc...because despite the fact that you can still participate in All-Drama play (i.e. play where you only move fictional pieces, without any corresponding real-world cues) by drawing on the wall next to the shadows, you can't use fictional triggers to affect the puppets.

But we all (I think) accept that All-Drama play is still a kind of roleplaying. And even if the In-Game Cues can't affect the puppets directly, we can still use the fiction (including both the shadows and the things we draw on top of them) as a guide when we make choices as to how to move the puppets if we so choose. But even if we don't, as long as we're building off of the shadows, it's hard to argue that the two aren't interrelated.

I think that to some people this is very anathema. "Why would I do anything if it doesn't give me an advantage?" Apparently when I say because it's funny or interesting, nobody ever likes that answer. Some people will never stunt if it doesn't give them a bonus die, or will never drop the flashlight if they aren't rewarded for it.

But I think there's a lot of value in trying to view the two sides--the shadows and the drawings on the wall--as a single picture, even if the processes that create them are divorced from one another. It can be a way to "lose" (fictionally) without "failing" (mechanically), for example, which has implications for Play-to-lose play. Or conversely, it can allow you room to portray a character who is competent and successful (fictionally) even if a game's Fortune mechanics might say that you are failing (or, depending on the system, if you as a player lack the competency that the character you're portraying is supposed to have). You can inject humor or drama into a game without needing to bend the game mechanics towards supporting them.You can do almost anything you can do in an All-Drama game, as long as you continue to respect the positioning of the puppets.

There's a certain current in Japanese game design that has really hopped on this dichotomy--heavy procedural mechanics with low fictional feedback, but leaving ample space for gussying up the shadow puppets with whatever decorations you want to throw at them--and it's one I've found a lot of enjoyment in. (Conversely, there's another school of games that are basically the complete opposite, where the mechanics extend little beyond defining certain types of characters, and most of play is heavily drama-driven and/or GM fiated and/or railsy, lest I accidentally give the impression that all Japanese TRPGs are like this). I mentioned this kind of separation in these games a long time ago and someone (I forget who, I apologize) asked me to elaborate, but at the time I couldn't really put it into words. I figured I might finally try to alleviate that debt before storyhyphengamesdotcom goes kaput.

Comments

  • edited June 12
    The game state isn't just the "dice". It has both dice & cloud stuff in it. Heck of a lot more of the latter tbf.
    But sometimes this relationship is one-way. You can only move the shadow by moving the puppet, because the puppet is privileged in some way by the system. Sometimes games like this are derided for being too boardgame-like, too mechanical, like pushing buttons on a character sheet, etc...because despite the fact that you can still participate in All-Drama play (i.e. play where you only move fictional pieces, without any corresponding real-world cues) by drawing on the wall next to the shadows, you can't use fictional triggers to affect the puppets.
    Yes, that's my position. I want a "braid" of dice → cloud → dice → cloud → dice → cloud. Also the names "dice" and "cloud" are dumb. You were bullying me for the name "blorb" yukamichi but at least that's doesn't sound like some web 2.0 gambling site

  • The game state isn't just the "dice". It has both dice & cloud stuff in it. Heck of a lot more of the latter tbf.
    What I'm trying to articulate is that if you only look at the picture on the wall, you ignore the fact that some things are shadows and some things are drawings. Some people want all of them to be the same ("it doesn't matter if you prepped something 2 weeks or 2 seconds before you say it"), but for understanding certain playstyles or certain games it's really important to differentiate the two.

    Even if in blorb play you are still referencing the shadows, blorb is meaningful because the shadows are cast by puppets, rather than being drawn on the wall. If you make both layers totally fungible, then you miss out on the meaning that comes from only allowing certain strict interactions with specific elements. How things get into the SIS changes their meaning beyond simply whatever role they happen to play there.
  • But once it's up on the wall it's up on the wall which is why I want to be really careful in how we add things up on the wall? Especially since in "braid" style things go back from wall into puppetland.
  • PS much appreciated that you are engaging with this idea; sorry for being curt. thank you again
  • If I can echo DeReel from earlier today, I think Game State as a synonym for SIS is a poor choice of term. Just like we don't communicate through telepathy, (almost) nobody interacts with a video game by reading the game state directly. There's a whole other abstraction layer the point of which is to present the game state to the player; even in video games where the game state is presented directly (simulation games and rpgs tend to do this a lot), it's usually only in partial form.

    When people who don't know what Big Model Gamism is still try to act like they do, this is usually the thing that they're talking about: a puppet-layer that is visible and directly manipulable, rather than having to work through the abstraction of the SIS.

    True, in as much as In-Game Cues can influence other things, they also have a place in the "game state," but at the same time, Real World Cues are not imaginary, so I think that still supports the idea that they need to be treated as occupying a separate space, no? At least inasmuch as things there can also be known and queried directly, separate from what they represent/produce fictionally.

    But like you say, when things are "braided" it does become extremely important to understand the whats and whys and hows, doesn't it? So sometimes that's why people have to do the "single deer antler" if they want to talk out of character or whatever.

    I just want to argue in favor of the fun of un-braided interactions; tavern talk, blue booking, some kinds of narrative wargaming and solo rpging, I think they're all types of fun that lean heavily on un-braided play but with a really heavy puppet-layer underlying it. Because I'm really interested in games that have that strong separation between the two spaces, I also want to try to figure out an easy way to explain to people who are used to braided play how you can have these two separate things going on that rely on each other even when there's a lack of strong feedback from one into the other.
  • @yukamichi , Vincent's got some stuff fundamentally wrong in the post you linked.

    The physical queues like the character sheet aren't casting a shadow on the wall.

    Alice does not have 13 hit points because my physical character sheet has "NAME: Alice HP: 13" written on it.

    If I just go through creating the character in my head, and Alice never has a character sheet to begin with, she still has 13 hit points.

    If I burn the character sheet, she still has 13 hit points.

    Alice does not have 13 hit points because I share it with anyone else. She has 13 hit points when we've started playing, but have never had a combat yet, and I've never needed to mention her hit point total.

    Alice does not have 13 hit points because I know she has 13 hit points. She has 13 hit points when we've started playing, but I haven't really finished calculating and writing down her stats; but I've written that she's a level 1 Fighter with 16 Con, and we're playing D&D 5E. I have no idea how many hit points she has until I do the math. That'll tell me she has 13. Did she have some other number of hit points until I checked? No. Did she not have a hit point total until I checked? No. She had 13 hit points the whole time, even though not a single human being in the entire world was aware of that fact.

    We don't "move the shadow by moving the puppet." We don't change Alice's hit point total by crossing out 13 and writing 21. If I just decide to do so, I haven't changed her HP total; I've just created a mistake on the character sheet. The character sheet is simply a sign to help us track and communicate the game state. It is not the cause of the game state.

    Vincent, in his post, claims that hit point totals are a property of interactions between players.
    Here's a rule: "2. Subtract the roll on the damage die from your character's hit points."

    image

    This rule coordinates our interactions with the real-world cues we're employing. The leftward-pointing arrow is "the roll on the damage die," the rightward-pointing arrow is "subtract from your character's hit points." The die represents every real-world thing we're using: dice, character sheets, life stones, everything.
    This just ain't right.

    Say Alice gets hit by a sword for d8 damage. It rolls a 7, but nobody glances at the die, it's just lying there on the table. Combat is fast! The action moves on!

    How many hit points does Alice have left? She has 6. Even though not a single human being on the planet is yet aware of that fact.

    When I look at the die, and write "6" next to "REMAINING HP" on my character sheet, I'm not changing Alice's HP total. I'm updating a record to help me remember an HP total that already existed in the game state before I even did the arithmetic.
  • Speaking as a GM whose Players notoriously forget to update their notes, causing us at times to go so far as to pull up the video and review what we said, I must agree.

    This is a very useful side-effect of the fact that these days I play mostly via Hangouts. Reviewability.
  • I think we're approaching a point where we discover we are dealing with different beliefs about the fundamental nature of Truth.

    If Alice is a Fighter with 16 CON and we're playing 5E, but I miscalculate and write 15 HP on my sheet, but nobody ever notices my mistake the entire campaign, and all the events that occur during the campaign that rely on the amount of HP Alice has are resolved based on the information that her max HP is 15, then I would argue that Alice's HP was, in fact, always 15. Gamestate be damned.

  • This might be due to a failsafe rule of pragmatics: "Mistakes become canon once they pass a reasonable limit of retconability."
  • edited June 13
    Oh, no, in that case her HP actually becomes 15. I'm not gonna try and say it was really 13 all campaign long. (EDIT: AsIf beat me to it.)

    The analogy here is a cat wanders across a chessboard, knocking the pieces astray. We put them back together as best we can, by a process of mutual agreement, and keep playing the game. Later, we check some security camera footage and find out we didn't put the pieces back correctly.

    Oh well.

    Error-and-repair can and does change the game state!

    Alice's HP was 13 until your mistake and everyone's acceptance of it made it 15. Game state isn't isolated in a high castle; it affects and is affected by the social layer.

    EDIT: The game state is entirely licensed by social contract! This is as true for Chess as it is for an RPG. It doesn't exist without us agreeing to it. But we can easily agree that the state of the game contains a whole lot of stuff that most of the people at the table don't know, or only one person knows, or zero people know. I think many real RPG tables include a ton of stuff like this—and many don't!
  • Alice can only have 13 hit points because that's what it says wherever we happen to store that value. It can't exist anywhere else. There is no "ideal" game that exists separately from the things we reference and use while playing.

    Even if you disagree with the shadow puppet metaphor, certain system-privileged elements exist separately from the fiction, even if they play a role in creating it. In a game like Shinobigami I can stab someone through the heart, kick them into a pit of lava, throw them off a helicopter, etc... and their hit points will never change because of it. I can decide that my character has feelings for another character, but it won't be the same as giving that character an Emotional Bond, a system-defined element that can only be acquired in very specific ways.

    In order to affect any of those privileged elements, I have to do so extra-fictionally. Fictional positioning has zero teeth. In terms of Vincent's diagrams, there will never, ever be an arrow that goes from the Cloud to the Dice (except, arguably, when filtered back through the players; I will likewise leave open the question of whether Dice ever actually affects Cloud without being similarly filtered). It's the complete opposite of Fiction First play, so clearly there has to be Something-Else First there.
  • The shadow puppet model is 1° extremely classy and 2° makes me want to try new things with a light source and finger puppets.
    But "Fictional positioning has zero teeth." seems wrong to me. The base of most RP systems is that what is likely to happen requires lower level authorization, and on the other hand, an extraordinary happenstance requires a very explicit rule to be authorized. But you can consider FP has 0 teeth and then most systems begin by adding denture on it. To me, the act of play pretend is this basic act of putting on denture, be it ontological (for creating imaginary things) or argumentative (for comparing possible outcomes).
  • Alice can only have 13 hit points because that's what it says wherever we happen to store that value. It can't exist anywhere else. There is no "ideal" game that exists separately from the things we reference and use while playing.
    In some games, the amount of hit points can be deduced from other stats.
    In some games there is a random factor when determining the hit points; maybe one group wants to see you roll them, maybe another relies on trust in such matters.

    In both cases, the number written on the character sheet is not the source of the amount of hit points, but rather a means of keeping track of that number. The source of the number is the game mechanical procedure, random or not, used to generate it.

    In fact, if I were playing a first level modern D&D character, I might not even bother writing down my maximum hit points, because that is simply the hit die size plus constitution modifier plus rarely a +1 or +3 due to some special ability or feat, depending on the edition. That takes no effort at all to calculate, for me.

    (I would write down stats, special abilities and spells, and maybe armour class if armoured and maybe some weapon details, because I do not remember those and they do not easily follow from other stuff on the sheet. A list of skills, too.)
  • edited June 13
    Alice can only have 13 hit points because that's what it says wherever we happen to store that value. It can't exist anywhere else. There is no "ideal" game that exists separately from the things we reference and use while playing.
    Wait, so would you agree that "wherever we happen to store that value" is, in D&D 5E, NOT the character sheet?

    The store of value is a chain of actions at the social contract level: We establish that Alice is a fighter. We establish that Alice is 1st level. We establish that Alice has 16 Con.

    And that those actions are valid, even when unshared?

    And that the character sheet is NOT the store of value, just a record of and summary of those social-contract level actions? And that the character sheet can be wrong or incomplete?

    Like, say it's one of those D&D games where we show up for the first session with fully completed characters. I've forgotten to write down Alice's class and level on her sheet; I know she's a 1st level Fighter, but nobody's asked me, so I'm the only one who knows. And I haven't written down her HP total, I haven't even bothered to calculate it yet, 'cause like Thanuir I've played so much D&D that I'm just like, duh, it'll be obvious from context when I have to know.

    There's no physical record of the elements required to established Alice's hit points.

    There's no human being in the world who knows Alice's hit points.

    But I have legitimate social license to decide that Alice is a 1st level Fighter, and I have done so.

    Via my legitimate, licensed decision (which has not been shared or recorded), and the consequences of the rules we have agreed upon to use, Alice must have 13 hit points.

    .

    So, which of these is true, @yukamichi ?

    1. You believe that Alice isn't really a 1st level fighter until I write it down.
    2. You believe that Alice isn't really a 1st level fighter until I share it with someone else.
    3. You believe that Alice's hit point total is undefined until I calculate it.
    4. You believe that Alice's hit point total is undefined until I write it down.
    5. You believe there is, in fact, an ideal game state that exists separately from the thing we reference and use while playing.

    .

    The game state does not exist at the level of physical objects and real-world cues.

    It does not exist at the level of communication, semiotics, and performance.

    It does not exist at the level of platonic ideals and mathematics.

    It exists at the level of social contract, license, credibility, and authority.

  • But "Fictional positioning has zero teeth." seems wrong to me.
    Note that this is my description of one very specific game, one where a player is empowered to do literally anything (fictionally) during their turn. I treat the defanging of fictional positioning as a defense mechanism to preserve the underlying mechanical structure of the game, which essentially needs to be played separately from (or at least, without any explicit links to) the fictional part.

    You can "do anything," but doing those things can't damage someone, can't form an emotional bond, can't allow you to learn information (basically the three major concrete game elements that are variable over play), in and of themselves. In order to do any of the latter, you have to explicitly invoke the rules that allow you to interact with those objects in prescribed ways. The largest bone the game throws to a link between fiction and mechanics is that the GM may tell you to find another way to do something if they feel your explanation doesn't make sense, but even then the chosen mechanical outcome exists prior to the description; it's not up for interpretation that your fictional description actually had a different a different effect.

    In some games, the amount of hit points can be deduced from other stats.
    Okay, and...?
    I don't see how there being a mechanical process for determining a certain number changes any of what I'm trying to say. Whether we reference the number on the sheet or reference the rules for determining a character's hit points they still exist prior to and independent of fiction.

    Your choice to play D&D, to choose fighter as your class, to assign a 16 to Con, none of these are fictional choices. The fact that, as you seem to be arguing, we can know how many hit points Alice will have through solely mechanical means, without there ever being an Alice or a world for her to inhabit or an actual played-game for her to appear in, supports that, no?

    Just because you're super-duper smart and can memorize an entire character sheet doesn't suddenly change the function of ability scores or hit points or the number of arrows in your quiver or which spells you have memorized. They aren't any more or less fictional just because you didn't write them down.

  • It exists at the level of social contract, license, credibility, and authority.
    This is really well said, and super clear. Nice.


  • I don't see how there being a mechanical process for determining a certain number changes any of what I'm trying to say. Whether we reference the number on the sheet or reference the rules for determining a character's hit points they still exist prior to and independent of fiction.
    I read you claiming that the hit points only existed because they were written down on the character sheet. since the character can be generated before play starts, obviously the number of hit points can be fixed before there is fiction.

    Your choice to play D&D, to choose fighter as your class, to assign a 16 to Con, none of these are fictional choices. The fact that, as you seem to be arguing, we can know how many hit points Alice will have through solely mechanical means, without there ever being an Alice or a world for her to inhabit or an actual played-game for her to appear in, supports that, no?
    I do not think I have claimed these would be fictional choices. Could you clarify your position and the position you think I hold?

    Just because you're super-duper smart
    That was uncalled for.
  • I.o.w. all of the lumps insights but beyond just talking (whether verbally or somatically)… going all the way into prep, imagination, etc and the rest of the game state
  • @yukamichi I was not disagreeing with the rest of your post, just with the part that I read as you claiming that the amount of hit points is true only because it is recorded in a particular, unique location.
  • edited June 13
    @yukamichi , I think I may have misunderstood your position.

    I took it to be:
    1. Only the Shared Imagined Space is relevant; and
    2. We can affect the SIS directly, by communicating with each other; or by using real-world cues, which cast a shadow on the SIS.
    Is that right?

    If that's wrong, please clarify! If it's correct, my response is, summarizing my above post:
    1. Everything licensed by our social contract matters; and SIS is one of those things, but not the entirety; and
    2. Real-world cues do not cast a shadow on the SIS; rather, they are typically one or more of record-keeping tools that help us remember stuff that lis licensed by our social contract, but outside the SIS, like the HP total on a character sheet; tools of communication, that we use to express ideas to each other, like minis on a battle map; or tools necessary to carry out the processes mandated by the social contract, like dice for generating random numbers.


  • @Jeph said;

    1. You believe that Alice isn't really a 1st level fighter until I write it down.
    2. You believe that Alice isn't really a 1st level fighter until I share it with someone else.
    3. You believe that Alice's hit point total is undefined until I calculate it.
    4. You believe that Alice's hit point total is undefined until I write it down.
    5. You believe there is, in fact, an ideal game state that exists separately from the thing we reference and use while playing.

    6. I believe Alice isn't a 1st level fighter. Alice is a fictional character in an imagined world - a world whose qualities are determined by the players in my groups' implicit acceptance of the facts we state about that world and the characters in it, given authority by the methods we have agreed to abide by (the system).

    "First Level Fighter" and "Hitpoints" are rules concepts that we, the players, have agreed to reference when deciding what happens to Alice in her fictional world. Their existence is entirely dependent on the extent to which the group accepts their validity. They are part of the system.

    In the example from earlier where I messed up my calculations, the number that we call "Hitpoints" that we reference when deciding on Alice's current state of health in the fiction has no meaning until it is utilized to make such a decision and the group accepts that that number was properly calculated via the agreed-upon rules.

    Thus, Alice's Hitpoints (which is a misnomer. It's the number on the character sheet, or in my mind, or recorded using pennies, or whatever. It's not a quality that belongs to the character of Alice) were never 13, even if an accurate reading of the rules in the PHB would have calculated them as such. It was 15 for me the moment I miscalculated them and began to base my decisions about Alice's actions on my belief that it was 15.

    It was 15 for the rest of the group as soon as they were told it was. If someone else calculates them and realizes they should be 13, they're 13 for that person and still 15 for me until we come to an agreement. Once we agree, they're whatever we agree upon. The rules that we use to calculate them have no direct effect - they are only agreed upon guidelines which we use to come to agreement about the gamestate.

    Say Alice gets hit by a sword for d8 damage. It rolls a 7, but nobody glances at the die, it's just lying there on the table. Combat is fast! The action moves on!

    How many hit points does Alice have left? She has 6. Even though not a single human being on the planet is yet aware of that fact.

    When I look at the die, and write "6" next to "REMAINING HP" on my character sheet, I'm not changing Alice's HP total. I'm updating a record to help me remember an HP total that already existed in the game state before I even did the arithmetic.

    No?

    TRUE FACT ABOUT THE WORLD: The die came up 7. Nobody's looked at it yet.

    TRUE FACT ABOUT THE WORLD: The number we call "Alice's Hitpoints" is whatever the group believes they currently are, based on agreed upon procedures. Before looking at the die, Alice's HP is still 13.

    *we look at the die* Somebody does a quick calculation and declares, "she's down to six now." Nobody argues.

    TRUE FACT ABOUT THE WORLD: Alice's HP is now 6.

    TRUE FACT ABOUT THE WORLD: I changed the number on the character sheet to seven. This didn't have an affect on Alice's Hitpoints. They're still six.

    Alice take damage again. Once we look at the die, we see it's a 3.

    I look at my character sheet, read the number 7. I don't realize I mess up. The DM asks, "what are you down to now?"

    I say, "4". Nobody argues.

    TRUE FACT ABOUT THE WORLD: Alice's HP is now 4.
    It exists at the level of social contract, license, credibility, and authority.
    I agree, but I don't see how that leads to your earlier interpretation about what is happening with Alice's HP and when they become "real".

    Any observation of the GameState, in order to be true, must be accepted by the group, either because they're aware of it and accept it, or have agreed to give credence to the proclamations of the person who is aware of it. If it isn't known by any member of the group, it isn't part of the GameState. There is no "True GameState" outside of what is accepted by the group.

  • Any observation of the GameState, in order to be true, must be accepted by the group, either because they're aware of it and accept it, or have agreed to give credence to the proclamations of the person who is aware of it. If it isn't known by any member of the group, it isn't part of the GameState. There is no "True GameState" outside of what is accepted by the group.
    That is not the definition of game state we are working with.

    We are working with a definition of game state where all kinds of things can be thrown in there & made canon & maaaybe be retrieved later depending on what happens.

    Now, whether or not that's useful? We certainly think it is.

    But if you're gonna talk about it, don't change the definition of it. We already spend three thousand pages of people confusing the SIS with the game state or whatever. Let's just not
  • edited June 13
    This is actually a very clarifying discussion, I think.

    Those last few posts outline the issue at stake nicely. Would it be fair to say that the summarize this whole debate we've been having pretty well?

    I accept something like @Neurotrash's interpretation, above, as being the most accurate description of how roleplaying works.

    I'm happy to work with the idea that "the Gamestate is a thing which exists outside of the acceptance of the group", such that it can "hold" information no one is privy to, have its own sort of legitimacy, almost like a separate entity.

    As long as I don't have to say that I accept that as *true* (because it sounds rather silly to me), I'm happy to talk *about* it. Sometimes entirely incorrect models of things can still lead to great new game design, after all.
  • We already changed away from the word "real" to fit your sensitive baby ears Paul ♥
    nothing is real… nothing to get hung about… strawberry fields forever

  • That is not the definition of game state we are working with.

    We are working with a definition of game state where all kinds of things can be thrown in there & made canon & maaaybe be retrieved later depending on what happens.

    I wasn't trying to so much change the definition (which I'm not sure all the people arguing for the GameState's existence agree on it's exact nature) so much as argue with it's validity.

    The idea that there is an objective GameState outside player knowledge that holds authority outside that which the group has not given it? No. That can't exist.

    That what you're describing is actually a part of the system, a group of prewritten facts about the world that nobody in the group currently knows that has already been agreed upon by the group to hold valid, credible authority to be used as a tool to add facts to the SIS without objection because of the aforementioned agreement by the players (just as they agree to abide by dice rolls and other rules)? That I can accept.

    I'm not confusing the GameState with the SIS. I agree that the second of the above options certainly can exist (but isn't intrinsic to the nature of RPGs the way the SIS is), and what we are debating is which one of those definitions is the accurate definition of the GameState.

    In other words, we are talking about the same thing, but we disagree about its nature.

    If the first definition is the one that has been accepted by all as the true definition of "GameState", then all I can do is say, "I don't currently believe that to be a thing that can exist, and can't meaningfully contribute to the conversation until I'm convinced of it's existence."

    I do think that there's a lot of productive discussion to be mined by talking about and designing for the second definition. But I don't have a word for that definition besides, "GameState" which contains many (but not all) of the attributes of the thing which you and others are arguing for.


  • The idea that there is an objective GameState outside player knowledge that holds authority outside that which the group has not given it? No. That can't exist.
    I do not think anyone is claiming that. All play and games rely on the player(s) accepting them as valid. (This is a common definition in game studies, but others exist.)

    Poker has a game state which includes public information, private information and information not known to any player, much as many roleplaying games. The cards in poker, to be anything more than arbitrary physical artefacts, must draw their meaning from the shared understanding of how the game works. Exactly like a roleplaying games.

    The game state includes those cards nobody has had in their hands. It also includes the cards that have been dealt to me but that I have not yet viewed.

    (By cards I refer to both the physical artefacts and the meanings given to them by the rules. I can be explicit about the difference if necessary.)

    Roleplaying games are more complicated than poker, so most of the content in the game state of a roleplaying games does not have one-to-one correspondence to a physical artefact. But hidden information works in the same way regardless.
  • edited June 13
    Yes, exactly what Thanuir said.
    "First Level Fighter" and "Hitpoints" are rules concepts that we, the players, have agreed to reference when deciding what happens to Alice in her fictional world. Their existence is entirely dependent on the extent to which the group accepts their validity. They are part of the system
    I agree with this completely, actually.

    Where I'm pretty sure we disagree:

    You think that the group accepting the validity of a contribution is dependent upon multiple people's consensus and common ground. Actually sharing and communicating with one another.

    I think the validity of a contribution can be pre-established by the group's social contract. A contribution, and all of its consequences, are valid even before it has been observed or shared or communicated, before we've built conscious consensus and established a common ground—AS LONG AS our social contract clearly gives me the unabridged authority to make that contribution.
    TRUE FACT ABOUT THE WORLD: The number we call "Alice's Hitpoints" is whatever the group believes they currently are, based on agreed upon procedures. Before looking at the die, Alice's HP is still 13.
    I clearly don't agree. I would say:

    TRUE FACT ABOUT THE WORLD: The number we call "Alice's Hitpoints" is whatever the procedures our group has agreed to use mandate them to be, regardless of who is yet aware of it.
  • edited June 13
    "Sometimes entirely incorrect models of things can still lead to great new game design, after all. " is my perspective, too.

    @Neurotrash "I believe Alice isn't a 1st level fighter. Alice is a fictional character in an imagined world" Well, sure, Alice doesn't exist. And yet, she's a 1st level fighter. Like Santa Claus, he's an old man in red with a white beard. And yet, he doesn't exist.
    Using the concept of GameState doesn't imply anything fantastic or extraordinary. Nobody holds that "it's the case that the Gamestate has substance in the real world". It's not even a question of "Do you accept to believe in the Gamestate, the whole Gamestate, only the Gamestate". The question is : do you picture what "Gamestate" is when people talk about it ? (When that be done, what games or techniques would such a concept light on a new angle ?)
  • @Thanuir I totally agree with everything you just said, concerning poker. It doesn't sit completely right as a description of what's going on in an RPG though.

    Is this the problem, perhaps?

    (Maybe this should be its own thread, but I'm responding to the ideas above. We can always break it off into another discussion, though I think it is certainly relevant to the subject of this thread...and a bunch of others).

    I'm going put forth a thesis (humor me):

    Playing a Roleplaying Game isn't playing a game at all. It is a type of art form, like dancing or painting or theatre.

    (remember that bolded term for later)

    Like any other art form it has media/tools that are used to produce a finished product - A WORK OF ART. The final product is analogous to the SIS.

    But if we've learned anything over the last few days, SIS is a terrible label. "Shared", "Imaginary", and "Space" all have connotations and denotations that don't accurately describe what we're actually talking about.

    So from here on out, I'm calling this thing, this work--of-art, the...Work of Art (WOA).

    This will, I'm sure, in the future prove to be just as problematic as SIS. But for now...

    The System is the name we give to all the tools we use to produce the final product (the WOA) in this particular art form, which unlike most others, is one in which the final product is produced and consumed simultaneously.

    The bolded part of that sentence is the Baker-Care-Boss Principle restated.

    One of the tools in that System is participation in a game.

    Participation in the game is vital/fundamental to this art form. Without participating in the game and using the outcomes of that game in creation of the WOA, we aren't "Playing a RPG", in the same way that creating a work of art without using paint isn't "painting". It can be some other kind of art (probably "improvisational theater" in the case of RPGs, or a drawing or sketching in regards to paintings.)

    Mind you, there are all different kinds of paint, just are there are all different kinds of games. There might even be arguments about what counts as paint or what counts as a game. Eventually though, you'll get to the point where there is mostly consensus that you are no longer creating that type of art - a sketch with pencils isn't a painting; improvisational theater isn't an RPG. Arguing about what constitutes a game is for somewhere else.

    Here is where language fails, or at least muddies the waters (as if it hasn't already).

    "Paint" is a medium. A tool used to create art. A Noun.
    "Painting" is the action of using "Paint" to create art. A Verb.
    "A Painting" is a Work of Art produced by "Painting". Also a Noun.

    Agreed? I hope so.

    Here's the problem. The word, "game".

    Baseball is a game. But the event where a group of people are playing the game of baseball is also a game of baseball.

    "The Game of Baseball" is not "A Game of Baseball".

    "The Game of Dungeons & Dragons" is not "A Game of Dungeons & Dragons".

    But here's the problem. One's first inclination is to think this:

    "The Game of D&D" is a medium. A tool used to create art. A Noun.
    "Playing A Game of D&D" is the action of using "THE Game of D&D" to create art. A Verb.
    "The WOA" is the Work of Art produced by "Playing A Game of D&D". Also a noun.

    THIS IS INACCURATE.

    The fact of the matter is that:

    "The Playing of A (particular) Game of D&D" is a tool used to create art. A Noun.
    "Zonking" is the action of using "The Playing of a Game of D&D" to create art. A Verb.
    "The WOA" is the Work of Art produced by "Zonking".

    There is no word for "Zonking". The word I used for it earlier was "Playing a Role-Playing Game". (REMEMBER WHEN I BOLDED IT!?!?)

    This is why we are arguing about the GameState.

    The GameState is "Everything that can be said about The Playing of A (particular) Game of D&D"

    (I think that satisfies all the definition put forth)

    The reason that I think I, and many others, are arguing with you, is because we are taking your definition to mean "Everything that can be said about Zonking."

    in other words:

    The "PaintState" is everything that can be said about a (particular) paint. It says nothing about the act of painting, outside of things that can be said about the paint being used.

    So, where we stand now, when we say we're "Playing A Roleplaying Game" we are either talking about

    "The Playing of a Particular Game of [game name]" = which I shall call "Vanking"

    or

    "Zonking".

    And thus...confusion.

    It now makes perfect sense when 2097 proclaims the the BCBP is wrong, because the BCBP doesn't describe anything about Vanking. It's about Zonking.

    When 2097 says that the GameState holds things we don't agree to and that nobody knows about, that is perfectly true for Vanking. (Like it's true for poker)

    It's patently absurd and sounds like magical thinking when you think she's talking about Zonking.

    I think there's more, but I want to stop here.

    Discuss.
  • edited June 13
    @Neurotrash

    To be sure I'm following you properly:

    You see a particular... I guess social contract? As a tool or medium. "The game of D&D Jeff plays with his friends, with all the social structures that enable it to happen" is a medium, like oil on canvas, or stucco and wood.

    When I and my friends play this game together, we produce a Work Of Art via Zonking.

    (There actually is an accepted and established word for what you call Zonking: Performing. And for what you call the W.O.A, Performance. My friends and I perform my group's particular game of D&D, just like my local theater company performed their production of The Rhinocerous last week, just like I individually perform my own idiom of male-ness to express my gender in my everyday life.)

    This Work Of Art consists of all the information that we have shared with each other, all the common ground we have established, all the consensus we have built: pretty much what Forge-speak calls the Shared Imagined Space.

    Zonking = Performing a PARTICULAR game (of whatever category) specifically in order to create a Work Of Art, aka a performance.

    Vanking = All the actions related to the activity of a PARTICULAR game (of whatever category), specifically including those things not related to performance.

    Have I understood correctly?

    If so, I think I mostly agree.

    In my head right now, I'm thinking "Zonking = Performing; Vanking = Playing". If that makes sense?
  • edited June 13
    Zonking doesn't exist. It is an abstracted description of a potential set of events and actions which may become manifest only through vanking. Its purpose is to permit general conversation about the things many instances of vanking have in common, but (like all categories) should never be confused with The Real Individual Things, which are all vanks.
  • edited June 13

    So, which of these is true, @yukamichi ?

    1. You believe that Alice isn't really a 1st level fighter until I write it down.
    2. You believe that Alice isn't really a 1st level fighter until I share it with someone else.
    3. You believe that Alice's hit point total is undefined until I calculate it.
    4. You believe that Alice's hit point total is undefined until I write it down.
    5. You believe there is, in fact, an ideal game state that exists separately from the thing we reference and use while playing.
    6. I believe that Alice's hit point total can't be directly inferred by querying the fiction about "how much fight she has left in her" and so has to exist outside of it. It's part of the "real world" because it's not fictional, even though there is a fictional fact that correlates to it.

    Maybe using Vincent's model was a bad idea; I imagine an actual "grammar" of game elements would be more complex with elements defined by the different complex relationships of arrows he uses, not just the static natural categories he started from, but for what I cared about (two almost-closed loops operating largely independently of each other, and in particular the player <-> real-world cue loop that defines "non-RPG" games) it was a good enough illustration.

    Now though I'm sort of more interested in the question of how we create fiction out of things from the non-fictional space. You say that we aren't shining a light on them to cast their shadow on the wall, but then how do those non-fictional values and qualities get converted into fiction? Rules and mechanics and procedures possess powers like "emergence" or "representativeness," that allow/enforce/encourage fiction to flow from them, rather than the other way around.

    Wandering monsters are probably the most protypical example of this type of rule. We don't track their location, they don't exist until we roll on the table and their result comes up, and we're forced to amend an ad hoc justification for their existence in the fiction. Or at least, I believe that that is a valid way of playing and to conceive of the wandering monsters' existence. The entries on the table, and the existence of the procedure for using it, do not in and of themselves equate to the prior existence of the monsters. So we come up with ad hoc fictional justifications for why the monsters showed up: you wasted too much time exploring the room, you made too much noise, or maybe it was just random chance...

    The thing is, the gloracle is willing these things into existence with her predictions, and we're altering the fiction on the fly in order to make them plausible. Or at least, that's how I would describe what happens when we create fiction out of purely mechanical triggers. What if I actually decide that I dropped the flashlight in response to things going bad? Now we can drop the flashlight without the other players getting mad at us for doing it, because it was the gloracle who made the bad thing happen, not the flashlight dropper. This is the sort of space I'm trying to open up and explore by de-centering fictional triggers.
  • @Jeph

    I don't think "performing" is the term I want. It's performance, but's also the act of translating the actions of the game into fiction, so it's writing and editing. And it's consumption of the thing performed. So it's being an audience.

    Maybe the art of cooking is a better analogy than painting, or performing, or anything else.

    We are working together to produce a meal that we will eat...I don't know what the Vanking is in this situation. Chopping up incredients...producing mise en place?

    I'll have to think about that.

    And I don't think I see the social contract as a tool or medium. I see the action of rolling dice, proclaiming actions, tracking HP, consulting rulebooks and modules...all of that is a medium - Vanking. "The Act of Playing".

    In the same way "The act of moving" is a medium in dance.

    There are other tools used in Zonking that aren't Vanking, the same as brushes and canvas aren't paint. Communication might be one of those.

    None of these analogies is ever going to be perfect, because Zonking is unique. (As are all art forms).

    If anything

    Vanking = Playing
    Zonking = Creating

    @AsIf

    I'm gonna need to be convinced of that before I stop traveling down this road. I see a lot of things here that I can explore.
  • edited June 13
    @Neurotrash - Convinced of what? I never said zonking was a useless term. I simply said it was an abstraction. I think you just agreed with me above when you said "creating," but perhaps I was unclear. Let me try to clarify, since this is my understanding of (some corollaries of) your terms...

    While writing the game rules, Zonking is what happens in the designer's imagination of people using them. The entirety of this imaginary may be called The Zonk. It's a conceptual super-assemblage described in part by examples given in the text, which are simulations of Vanking. It includes an effectively infinite set of situations and dynamics, all of which are Deleuze-virtual (ie, potential though not manifest). And even though you imagine different things than the designer did, Zonking is also what you're doing in your own imagination while you're reading those rules, or while you listen to a discussion about a game you haven't played. Of course, all of that happens before the rubber hits the road in an actual Vank.
  • @AsIf

    I don't think we're talking about the same thing when we're talking about Zonking. Or we are, and I'm not far enough down the road to make the connections you're making about my own concept :wink:

    I don't equate Zonking with the act of imagination. It requires imagination, but it is not all RPG-related imagining, any more than all moving is dancing.

    For your examples, I see Zonking as completely dependent on The act of play happening simultaneously.

    When you're writing rules or prep and imagining how players will use them, you aren't Zonking. You're imagining future occurrences of Zonking that haven't happened yet. If you write those imagining down, you're "Writing Fiction", which is an art form. But it's not Zonking.

    I'm still struggling with analogies, but let's try this:

    You and I are playing Mortal Combat. Except in this version, besides just pushing buttons on the controller, we can also yell things at the gaming console like, "Subzero pulls his cellphone out and calls his friends to come help beat up Scorpion!" and the console has some super AI that makes that happen on screen. When I yell Subzero's dialogue, the console recognizes it as such and has the figure on the screen say those things in a cool voice. We are Vanking Mortal Combat.

    Our intent doesn't matter. Maybe we're vanking to win. Maybe I'm making choices while vanking in order to lose because I know you've had a bad day. Maybe I'm just mashing buttons down because I'm crap at playing Mortal Combat. Or maybe I'm making choices during the Vank in order to produce a more entertaining Zonk.

    Regardless of intent, this process - including all the things the console is doing (processing input, tracking health meters, pixel placement, etc.) is Vanking.

    Now imagine there's a two people in another room. They're watching a screen in which the game that is being played (including the dialogue we shout translated into the cool voice , but not the instructions) is shown, along with zooms into the action bits, slo-mo close-ups of blood, musical cues, etc. It's very entertaining. It's art. Art that couldn't exist without the two people Vanking in the other room.

    This is Zonking - producing the art that those two people are enjoying. Except the screen the people in the other room are watching is their imagination. And they are actually the two original people who are Vanking, thus being both the producer and consumer simultaneously.

    Analogies are never gonna be perfect. But yeah...that's how I'm envisioning it.
  • edited June 14
    Ok, I misunderstood you. The way I read your initial post re Zonking and Vanking, I thought you were saying the former meant "playing the game of dungeons & dragons" (which, being an abstraction, never actually happens materially, because...) the latter meant "playing this particular game of dungeons & dragons" (which is what actually happens materially).

    I'll go back and read you again.
  • edited June 14
    It now makes perfect sense when 2097 proclaims the the BCBP is wrong, because the BCBP doesn't describe anything about Vanking. It's about Zonking.

    When 2097 says that the GameState holds things we don't agree to and that nobody knows about, that is perfectly true for Vanking. (Like it's true for poker)

    It's patently absurd and sounds like magical thinking when you think she's talking about Zonking.
    Yes, this is good.

    In this analogy, Vanking a game of chess is considering it as a series of FEN positions and Zonking a game of chess is considering it as the algebraic protocol.

    Since chess doesn't have hidden information, that's a minor difference. And some Forge-inspired roleplaying designs, Microscope comes to mind, operate directly on the transcript, making Vanking and Zonking veeeery close to each other for those games; Vanking only being "fuel" for Zonking.

    But games like bridge, poker, and 2097e does have hidden information, which makes Zonking a very pale shadow of Vanking.
  • edited June 14
    In order to continue "resolving" painting, we need to know the current state of the painting (the material being painted on, temperature, wind, moisture, how much and what kind of paint there is and where), which paints we have available, and what are the properties of the instruments we have for taking the paint and adding it to the painting. These are the game state for painting. They are necessary to determine what happens to the painting when the painter moves their brush in a particular way.

    (Painting, being a physical activity rather than a mental activity or a formal game, is harder to discuss, and plenty of the details above could be challenged.)
  • edited June 14


    In this analogy, Vanking a game of chess is considering it as a series of FEN positions and Zonking a game of chess is considering it as the algebraic protocol.
    As is often the case, I'm not sure what you mean by this. But I don't think it's what I'm trying to say...I think.

    This, however from your thread on GameState, says something really helpful:

    This means that any game, in the game studies sense, relies on players accepting the game state, rules, and objectives of play. Playing the game, as an activity, requires this. This is also true of playing in the sense of leikki/lek, unstructured play typical of children, for which English does not really have a distinct word, as well as peli/spel, the structured play which typically has rules and objectives. Roleplaying lives somewhere on that continuum.
    As I said earlier, a lot of this is a problem with language. Especially centered around the word, "play". The terms you employee are exactly what I was trying to discern the difference between.

    Where we disagree is where you put "Roleplaying". From here on out, I will use "Engaging in an RPG", because "playing a role" is only a small part (perhaps not even a vital part) of the phenomenon we're discussing.

    You stated that ENGAGING IN AN RPG falls on a spectrum between PELI - Structured play with rules and objectives, and LEIKKI - The unstructured play of children.

    If you can help me on this front, is there a separate word for "play" that corresponds to "playing a piano?" Because that's the play I'm discussing when I'm using the word ZONKING.

    VANKING = PELI (The playing of a structured, goal-oriented game)
    ZONKING = The simultaneous composition, performance, and consumption of a work of art.

    So ZONKING isn't even "playing piano". It's specifically playing improvisational jazz piano with a group, both working with and being inspired by the creative choices of the other members of the group, with yourself and the other members of the group being the primary (if only) audience for that performance.

    Just to be clear, ZONKING does not equal LEIKKI. It's different.

    So here's where we disagree:

    YOUR STATEMENT: "ENGAGING IN AN RPG falls somewhere on the spectrum between LIEKKI and PELI.

    MY PROPOSITION: ENGAGING IN AN RPG is the practice of engaging in two separate activities - VANKING (PELI) and ZONKING (Waiting for the word for that). These activities are engaged in simultaneously (like walking and chewing gum) and are interconnected, the ZONKING requiring VANKING in the same way that playing music requires an instrument ("voice" counting as an instrument).

    So your above definitions, I'm pretty sure, are incorrect, as I don't there's any ZONKING at all in chess. Chess is only VANKING.

    @Thanuir

    Once again...English. It sucks.

    So my framework (I guess I'm calling it that) has three tiers.

    TIER 1: Ingredient*
    TIER 2: The Act of Creation
    TIER 3: The Product**

    *I've changed "medium" to "ingredient", because it's more accurate. A medium is generally a substance. Ingredients can be substances, actions, techniques, communication, and other stuff.

    **I'm not calling it the "final" or "finished" product, because that implies that the process can't be ongoing or that it has a definite end. These conditions need not be true. The Simpsons is a product, but at this point there's no reason to see it ever being finalized.

    Here's where English suck. What you're describing the resolution of is

    PAINTING(1): The application of paint to a surface.
    This is a TIER 1 entity. It is an ingredient used to:

    PAINTING(2): The creation of a work of art via the application of paint to a surface (AND OTHER THINGS) in order create a product of aesthetic quality (something that inspires emotion, thought, or entertainment. The actual quality of the aesthetics doesn't matter - Citizen Kane and Troll 2 are both products of aesthetic quality. The quality differs greatly.)

    This is a TIER 2 entity. It is a process using TIER 1 entities (the totality of which is the LBCBP-defined "SYSTEM") to create a TIER 3 entity - The WOA (SIS).

    When you're "resolving" painting, you're discussing PAINTING(1).

    You're talking about the rules and procedures of VANKING. (resolution mechanics, tracking HP, available actions to a character, etc.) you're discussing TIER 1.

    You can't "resolve" PAINTING(2) because it's not a game. It's like someone asking how to best write a novel and someone answering by bringing up the type of word processing program to use. We're not discussing the same TIER of the process.

    There might be RULES for a TIER 2 process, but they aren't restrictions and constraints which one must abide by in order to be "playing the game correctly/not cheating". Those would be RULES(1).

    TIER 2 rules are RULES(2). Best practices for achieving a specific artistic effect. The "rules" of music theory tell you what effect you can achieve through chord structure, employment of cadences, and the like. They are DESCRIPTIVE. Not PRESCRIPTIVE. No one can say, "That's not music! You didn't resolve that progression with a perfect cadence!"

    Well, they can, but they're accusing your PRODUCT of not conforming to what they find aesthetically pleasing, or they're accusing you of using the wrong techniques to achieve your intended effect (your horror movie isn't scary, it's funny!)

    They're not accusing you of cheating. (If they are, they don't understand how art works.)

    As a final statement - not all TIER 2 processes are ZONKING.

    ZONKING is a particular TIER 2 process (others would be painting, drawing, writing, music composition, music performance, stand-up comedy, etc.)

    ZONKING, I currently theorize, is a TIER 2 process only found in ENGAGING IN AN RPG.

    This last statement might not be true. We will need to study video games and the consumption of professional sports as entertainment arguments in order to test this proposition.

    I will do this soon.

  • edited June 14
    Chess is only peli but D&D has element of leikki & peli. We leikimme that there's a cake in the fridge.

    Example leikki: "my doll is named susan", "the floor is lava", "this crew of lego space men needs to make it through space".
    Example peli: chess, zendo, that game where you have to name a movie title that ends with the letter the previous title started with.

    The latter is an example of an LBCBP compliant peli.
  • edited June 14
    @Neurotrash I'll have to reread to see if I get what you are saying, but some notes:

    In skandinavisk, one spiller or spelar instruments, just like games (spel/peli).
    In Finnish, the relevant verb is "soittaa" (and instrument is "soitin", naturally), which is also used for ringing a doorbell and calling someone with a telephone, as well as some other purposes.

    Some roleplaying games are clearly games/pelit/spel; Rune by Robin Laws is an extreme example, I believe. Clear rules, points one earns, victory and loss conditions, explicitly competitive.

    On the other hand, freeform forum roleplaying is very far from game/peli/spel. I would say it is quite close to unstructured play/leikki/lek.

    But I'll go back and reread to try to find what you are trying to say, rather than only grasping at side issues.
  • @Neurotrash

    Part 1, on zonking

    I am not convinced that zonking is terribly far from play. Here are some classical definitions of play, for reference: http://scholarpedia.org/article/Definitions_of_Play

    Certainly children playing satisfy the following: "It's specifically playing improvisational jazz piano with a group, both working with and being inspired by the creative choices of the other members of the group, with yourself and the other members of the group being the primary (if only) audience for that performance."

    Maybe you want a component of skill or demonstrating skill, which is debatable when children play. Or some other distinguishing factor.

    Part 2, state of play

    Yes, state of play (of piano or chess or roleplaying game) is on level 1. It exists with all of those activities. In a group performance, maybe it would be the current soundscape and the present position of (say) their fingers on the piano keyboard. (My English vocabulary is not sufficient here; try to understand.)
    But yes, the playstate is a low level concern. It also exists in imaginative play of children.

    By resolution, I simply meant the outcome of any given action. Still a low level concern: Given the way the pianist moves their fingers and their feet, what kind of music is created? This depends on the current soundscape and the precise details of the pianist's physiology and actions, which are also affected by their emotional state and possibly conscious choices.

    Part 3, motivation and art

    If you are saying that all roleplaying (by which I mean: engaging in the act of playing roleplaying games; or perhaps joint creation of shared fiction) produces a fictional transcript that can be considered as art, I agree.

    If you are claiming that the purpose of all roleplaying is to create that art, I probably disagree.

    Maybe you claiming something related to these?

    Part 4, context

    I am not entirely sure if this thread of conversation is related to the other conversation going on at the moment. Completely fine if it is not, of course, but if it is, making the connections explicit would be helpful.
  • You're right.

    My first post was an attempt to engage with the OP, but I've definitely veered into Threadjacking territory.

    I'll start a new thread shortly where we can discuss this and I'll address the above points.

    (sorry!)
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