From another thread: http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/21838/wherein-i-debrief-5e/
For context (and only context), a clarification of the original blog post at the Alexandrian blog: https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/17231/roleplaying-games/dissociated-mechanics-a-brief-primer
. Note the date of publication.
It may be useful to keep in mind that the disassociation theory may be viewed as a made-to-order justification that explains why trad rpgs, including D&D, are the bestest roleplaying games. With this origin in mind it may not come as a surprise if mechanics present in D&D are considered very naturally fiction-associative, while mechanics foreign to that tradition are considered disassociative. I am uncertain whether it's possible to say anything more about the disassociativeness of game mechanics except that people like what they are used to, and there's a difference between gamers in whether they react positively or negatively to new things. Take a bunch of people with a similar gaming background and a conservative mindset, and you could even get the impression that there really is some sort of disassociation phenomenon behind their consistent dislike of certain types of games, when the cause might instead be simply that they all like the same old games.
I'll try to mount a defense for the concept of "disassociated mechanic" as a useful one. Let us see how this goes.
1. Some rules are clearly and obviously tied to fiction; strength score and creature size being extreme examples.
2. Some rules, like 13th age style resting (rest once every 4 encounters; the number might be wrong), are quite disassociated from the fiction.
3. An associated (non-disassociated, whatever) mechanic allows the participants to guess the game mechanical interpretations of various things in the fiction, or at least not be surprised by them.
Given a description of a monster, different people can give it strength scores and they will probably be in the same ballpark, and they can have a discussion about how strong a monster should be (by comparing it to other monsters and considering that it can lift a carriage and so on).
In a similar way, in a noisy clockwork dungeon, if a game master says that it is not possible to get a long rest because the clanking makes sleep impossible, this is more likely to be accepted by the players than an arbitrary explanation (the dungeon has blue walls so no sleep), and, in fact, clever players might have considered the possibility as soon as they got to know that the dungeon is noisy.
On the other hand, monster hit dice (or level) is fairly disassociated - for big monsters one can use their body mass as some kind of indicator. But what about new and unique undead and demons and such?
Likewise, Adam's mechanic seems fairly disassociated. Is it about fatigue? If so, getting tired, in general, should help one learn, and that should allow getting similar bonuses. Pressure? Does having my boss yell at me give similar bonuses? If magic changes my emotional state, then does it also change the relevant bonuses?
4. Disassociation is partially a matter of not having a good explanation that the participants accept. There is a reason why D&D people have figured out explanations for alignment, hit points (that work as long as poisonous bites are not considered), and so on.
5. Some disassociated mechanics are fairly harmless (EDIT: for the purpose of not rewarding disruptive in-game behaviour, as per the next sentence; this is obviously not relevant for games where one is not playing the fiction and the rules for their advantage). These are the ones that do not suggest disruptive behaviour of the characters. Adam's rule is, I guess, fairly harmless in this sense. Giving experience for finishing goals or finding treasure and so on is harmless in this sense, and beneficial for giving structure to the game. Giving experience for killing things (and not overcoming them otherwise) is harmful if one does not want to play a game of monster hunters, because it suggests what is presumably undesired behaviour (seeking and fighting monsters for the sake of doing so).
6. Generally speaking, for traditional games, less disassociated mechanics is better (EDIT: consider two rules that are otherwise equivalent, except one is associated and the other dissociated). a. It allows aligning player and character goals. and b. It allows fiction-based problem solving. Many traditional games have elements of both a. and b., in varying degrees.
Well said. I wonder if you would consider in-character perspective important for the associativeness of a given game mechanic, in addition to it corresponding to the fiction. I don't remember ever seeing the term used without also claiming that associative rules are important because they allow a player to rely solely on an in-character perspective while playing the game. (A rule can easily, after all, be both out of character and have a clear correspondence to fiction.)
I'll respond to that later. Feel free to have a discussion about the subject; no need to wait.