You are here

Realism and klokkverk

25 posts / 0 new
Last post
Realism and klokkverk

Elsewhere, Dereel wrote:

I want to add a bit about Realism, as it is often lost in english translation and this muddles all discussions about Simulation. Klokwerk for instance, cares about ontological realism : that the fabric is "there", palpable, autonomously existent. Whereas a physics simulator wants to "feel" realistic, and it's totally OK if it's only make believe, if the feeling is right. I suspect that the near hegemony of aesthetic realism in US narrative production (and the near hegemony of US cinema in the world) makes it a "blind spot" to many. And don't start me on "gritty realistic" RPGs..

In philosophy, realism means that something is taken to actually exist. For example, Platon's theory of ideas is a realist theory, since the idea of, for example, a lion, would be taken to really exist. One should take note that a realist theory in this sense does not have to be realistic in any other sense of the word. I am using the word in the philosophical sense, here. It has nothing to do with calculating ballistics or having detailed rules or corresponding to reality or promoting immersion.

Here is my claim: Klokkverk is a realist philosophy of gaming, particularly with respect to the fiction.
On the other hand, no myth is an antirealist philosophy of gaming.

Klokkverk is realist because it takes the fiction as real, in the sense that it is meaningful to claim things about the fiction and they can be right or wrong; much as we can discuss the colour of Donald Duck's car. This does not mean that there has to be a parallel reality with elves and dragons and Donald Ducks (that would be an utter strawman); but still, reality in some sense. It has been a long time since I have read metaphysics or ontology, but at least I can mention that similar different levels of reality are present in Popper's three worlds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popper's_three_worlds
Further than this, the players, and the referee to the extent possible, also treat the fiction as something really existing. It is bad form to do otherwise.

No myth is antirealist in the sense that it explicitly takes the fiction as something that is only there to the extent we see it. The players treat the fiction as something they manipulate and create at their immediate whims.

2
------
exactly this

I can't say otherwise because I agree with that.

Only this :
You can start with "no myth" / unreal and build the myth at the table and then it's really "no info dump" X "élément of mythic play". That's what we do when we have a player chronicling a session : is only real what is said at the table. And what is said is usually true.

Or you keep it no myth / unreal, and only then is the term "whims" really appropriate : events happen, but it's all just water under the bridge, a dream inside a dream. In a way, that's what "pulp" means to me.

I am not making a point of these distinctions. I am using the concept of philosophical realism to demonstrate it's limits and usefulness. I find it clear and easy to use : what do you think ?

0
Please offer a definition of "no-myth"

Hi Thanuir,

If you would be so kind, would you please offer a "working" definition of "no-myth" play. Given my strong entanglement with per-literate oral tradition myth I'm having all sorts of reactions to what you are saying. Rather than thrash at straw men a concise, or as concise as possible, definition of "no-myth" role-play would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Jay

0
definition of No Myth

Not to speak for Thanuir if he has a different formulation in mind, but via Google I turned the following definitions that seemed fairly clear:

From the second link, the "myth" referred to "is the idea that things in the game world that the players don't know about have some kind of 'place' or 'existence' or 'identity.'" Based on the discussions on Story-Games we might also phrase it as "no hidden game state" or (using everyone's favourite technical term) "no blorb".

I don't think it is referring to myth or mythology in the anthropological or literary sense, except perhaps indirectly.

1
Agreement

Or you keep it no myth / unreal, and only then is the term "whims" really appropriate : events happen, but it's all just water under the bridge, a dream inside a dream. In a way, that's what "pulp" means to me.

Certainly, in a longer game, the fictional reality starts accumulating and solidifying. The process is faster if the game takes place in a limited space (with respect to character, physical space, etc.) and slower if there is lots of travelling or a shifting caste of characters.

With respect to "no myth": As Bill wrote. Not really connected to Jay's mythic play or mythology.

1
Setting or world

Can "philosophical realism" apply to game rules, and genre rules, too ? What would it mean to say that game rules exist in the fiction ? Some players like to have "associated rules", rules that "exist" in the fiction as they do at the table. I wonder if that's not philosophically unsound. I mean : a planet exists, but the law of gravity is true. It doesn't "exist". That's for a distinction I need between world (with objects and relations between objects) and setting (the objects only).

There are some other ways of being thought without being, like : the colour blue is seen, but does it exist ? Anyone knows of a clear concept that would cut through these ambiguities ? as a complement to philosophical realism, useful via analogy. That could be used to progress in the "associated rules" fog, for instance.

0
Thank you!

Hello,

I just wanted to say, "Thank you," to both Billy for taking the time to research and Thanuir for confirming his intentions.

Best,

Jay

1
I'm not sure the thesis buys us anything...

Hello Thanuir,

Though it may not appear so, I have been spending the last couple of days reading up on Fang's writings and just a tiny bit on Plato. I sucked at philosophy in college and apparently nothing has improved since then. I apologize in advance if I miss your point about "Realism" and Plato. I'm trying but I suspect I will fail in a truly spectacular fashion (Cue train wreck sounds).

On the most fundamental level we are engaged in a highly ritualized creative conversation of shared imaginings known as "role-playing" thus the whole hobby, by its very nature, is anti-realism. Whether one is playing Klockwerk or No-Myth or somewhere in between the whole process is fictional. Made up. It only exists as a process while players are engaged in the act. At the end of the ritual of role-play there may be memories but the evanescent action of role-play is no more. That being said I'm not seeing any difference between Klockwerk run games vs No-myth run games as both are members of the general imaginative activity called "role-play" (as described above). Point in fact for enjoyable play all modes of play require to the players to treat the fiction as if it were "real".

Even allowing that there is a difference between the two of many styles of play on a continuum (just for the sake of argument) I'm not sure it buys the hobby, play, theory or game design anything. That doesn't mean I'm closed to the idea, but that as it stands I'm just not seeing the difference as far as role-play and Realism is concerned. (To be sure, you are using the Platonic school, yes?)

Certainly, in a longer game, the fictional reality starts accumulating and solidifying. The process is faster if the game takes place in a limited space (with respect to character, physical space, etc.) and slower if there is lots of travelling or a shifting caste of characters.

The huge problem with this argument is that, at least according the Fang's writings, genre conventions are critical and have powerful implicit rules as to what is and is not physically in the world and what behaviors are allowed or not allowed. So while there are no printed rules there are huge amounts of implicit rules contained within the genre or the fictional universe (Star Wars FREX). In fact Fang drove home the point that the more developed the source "universe" the better. Thus the very title "No-myth" can be misleading as there are plenty of implicit rules and "objects of reality" contained within the world.

Actually given a conversation between Vincent Baker (lumpley) and Fang Langford (Le Joueur) (here is the other) it seems the point of "No-Myth" play was to play on the lumpley principle's primary statement that mechanics primary role is to determine who gets to say what. The consensus issue was a (very) distant second. Vincent explicitly stated that if mechanics absolutely had to be invoked to determine who got to say what then there was something wrong at the table. IOW a solid gaming group would only lightly, or maybe not at all, require recourse to mechanics to determine who got to say what. Vincent and Lang both felt that mechanics were best employed as a means to inspire players to creative actions. Fang's "No-myth" game style was an experiment on the role of mechanics and ultimately the lumpley principle which Vincent thought was pretty cool. Nowhere was the discussion of mechanics tied to "reality".

Best,

Jay

0
That's a good point : using

That's a good point : using metaphysics AND analogies is a very un-pragmatic start. Maybe it doesn't "buy" anything. Thats why I have stated a possible pragmatic purpose for the tool, something we can validate with a test.

(I find Baker's original intent or Le Joueur's other writings interesting but irrelevant.)

I agree that "for enjoyable play all modes of play require to the players to treat the fiction as if it were "real"." I also think there's no scale of realism, and that Klokverk doesn't apply Realism to everything in the fiction. Only the usual : NPC, magic items, landscapes milieu. The question I have is : can we make meaningful differences based on what is the object of Realism : NPCs, geography, events, genre conventions, drowning rules, etc.
Like : " I think PbtA is really Realism applied to genre conventions" for instance. Maybe there is a simpler obvious way to say that.

This is my question but there are others as valid. ..

0
Hi DeReel,

Hi DeReel,

As I have said I'm supremely awful philosopher and have a terrible time navigating ideas in this milieu. Basically I'm apologizing if I'm missing your point entirely at the beginning of my effort. If I understand what I've read about Platonic "Realism" is even somewhat near the mark Plato broke reality into 3 realms. The sensible world, for lack of a better term. The internal world of human consciousness and the Platonic ideals which can include what we now call abstractions such as "properties, types, propositions, meanings, numbers, sets, truth values, and so on". The highest and most perfect realm was that of the Ideals which is where "reality" truly dwelt - objective Truths. From these ideals the instantiations of the sensible are drawn but which are flawed and incomplete. In a way it could be argued that the more rules and mechanics a game has the more it functions in the lowest and most flawed realm. While a game that functions primarily in the mind (the SIS) with decisions based on concepts that are drawn directly from the same realm of the mind (the SIS) is closer to the ideal of Platonic Realism (functioning primarily at the higher level of the conscious mind) than the highly physical Klockwerk with all its physically printed mechanics and bookkeeping.

It would seem to me that an RPG that prioritizes functioning mostly in the mind is closer to the Platonic ideal of "Realism" than one that is runs so deeply in the sensible realm of physical instantiations like Klockwerk. Consider Klockwerk fundamental notion that if something doesn't exist in the physical realm then it cannot exist in the fictional realm which is precisely the opposite of Platonic "Realism". Also note the focus on the physical (pre-written notes on the world no improv creativity, volumes of resolution mechanics) as the true reality is in direct contradiction of Platonic "Realism" which places the realm of the Ideal as the highest level of Reality. Not just the highest form of "Reality" but the very realm from which the sensible world is instantiated from.

No-Myth which functions much more in the realm of concepts that exist at the level of the Ideals is actually closer to Platonic "Realism" than Klockwerk.

As far as using a school of philosophy as a guide to game design...why not?

As far as using a school of philosophy as a tool to approach role-play theory...why not? Again I'm not sure how the hobby benefits but then we won't know until someone makes the effort. There is nothing wrong theorizing for its own sake. Looking into how something works or just musing about it is perfectly valid. However, I am leery of declaring which classes of games as exemplars of school of philosophy (with subtle suggestions that a game style is better for matching said philosophy) in a few sentences ripe for abuse.

Best,

Jay

0
This is one version

In Plato's version, Ideas are things that truly exist. I didn't think of associating SIS and platonic Ideas. What is the use of SIS ?

In Klokverk, magic mirrors are (some of the) things that truly exist. In many games, mechanics and random tables model laws of the world, so it seems that relations between objects also can be treated as Real. That's way ahead of Plato, so I propose we dump the old man.

I agree with you : Plato thinks ideas are better than matter, but that's just him. We don't need to rank games or play styles : I only want to see what they treat as Real, and see if that concept makes communication easier.

Many trad games insisted on having real Physics (among which, Magic), real Geography, real Characters, real Situations. Written material made sure they could not be changed. Klokverk is like making that, lasting in time.

1
Fair enough, but its not Platonic "Realism"

Hi DeReel,

I only want to see what they treat as Real, and see if that concept makes communication easier.

Many trad games insisted on having real Physics (among which, Magic), real Geography, real Characters, real Situations. Written material made sure they could not be changed. Klokverk is like making that, lasting in time.

I think all the above is a fascinating topic but much more suited to psychology than philosophy, especially Platonic "Realism". Again, according to Platonic Realism written things are mere mutable shadows of the unchanging permanence of the "eidos." So if one were looking to apply the process or philosophy of Platonic Realism then we would be looking to move away from instantiations and move strongly to the realm of the ideals. IOW in such a game there would a strong push away from making anything physical precisely because the physical is changeable and incomplete. Lots of Rules, mechanic, maps, miniatures and notes are, according to the philosophy of Platonic "Realism", NOT permanent, NOT reality. The closest we can come would be a game that functions at the level of thought which brings us a level closer to real permanence, the ultimate unchanging reality of eidos.

I understand that in practice these aids are helpful to a certain style of players but matching that style, Klockwerk, to the Philosophy of "Realism" is a category error. Their actions stand in complete and utter contradiction with one another. I'm not banging on Klockwerk in anyway. What I am saying that Platonic "Realism" is the exact wrong model for such play. Where you say there is no role or place for the SIS in Platonic "Realism" role-play doesn't hold any water because it is precisely the realm of human ideas that is closer to the permanence of eidos than the sensible mutable physical world. It might be interesting to see if someone could create an RPG based on Platonic "Realism" ideas but Klockwerk" is just about as antithetical to Platonic "Realism" as one could get. I am certain there is a school of philosophy that more closely matches the ideals of Klockwerk but Platonic "Realism" is not even close.

Best,

Jay

0
I don't see

@Silmemune "What I am saying that Platonic "Realism" is the exact wrong model for such play."
I re-read OP to understand why you're insisting on referring to Plato. As for me, I interpret the mention of his name in OP as just a famous example to help distinguish Real from Concrete (or Physical). The proposed concept in OP is clearly Philosophical Realism, not Ideal vs Physical. OP proposes to confront it with Klokverk. Adding Plato in the discussion makes it 2 concepts to handle and that's a lot of shifting for me.
Of course, I agree with what you say about whether Game State is physical or ideal, and how certain theories of the Game State (by which I mean a couple of posts on a forum) can be inconsistent, but I can't see what it says about what's taken for Real in the Klokverk playstyle. I'll give it a try : Klokverk is supposed to be the most Realist playstyle when it doesn't know what it takes for Real. Some say it's the ideal Game State, some say, it's the material (written) Game State, but it's dubious anyway. If that's what you mean, I agree with you 100%. But you yourself, what would you say is taken for Real in Klokverk ?

0
Hi DeReel,

Hi DeReel,

@Silmemune "What I am saying that Platonic "Realism" is the exact wrong model for such play."
I re-read OP to understand why you're insisting on referring to Plato.

I keep referring to Plato because the OP specifically refers to his philosophy of Platonic "Realism". I could have misread the OP's original intent but I didn't read words in the OP that stated he was using Plato's philosophy as merely an example of a much more general idea.

The proposed concept in OP is clearly Philosophical Realism, not Ideal vs Physical.

The problem is, that according my limited understanding and reading, Philosophical Realism is specifically about the Ideal (perfection and permanence) vs Physical (sensate and mutable). True unchangeable knowledge, whether a person is aware of it or not, exists only in the Ideal (eidos). It seemed to me that the big conflict explicit in Klockwerk was the existenc of knowledge that no player knew including the DM. The problem was that the instantiation of physical things such as tables, notes, maps, etc., are by "Realism" arguments pale, incomplete and mutable shadows of the "pre-existing" knowledge of Ideals/eidos. IOW the argument being proposed that Klockwerk play with writing all its information down to establish an immutable reality is in direct and irreconcilable conflict with the philosophy of "Realism". Physical things cannot be used to create an immutable reality in Philosophical Realism. The arrow of causality is wrong. At best we can instantiate weak representations of Reality but our representations are definitionally changeable and impermanent. Klockwerk (as I understand it) propounds the idea that the written or printed word is not only permanent but carries the qualities of the eidos. IOW even events not known (random tables) or printed information unread by any person at the table is "Real". This stands in direct contraction to the philosophy of "Realism". To be honest philosophies that might be more fruitful for Klockwerk might be Ontology or Epistemology.

Klokverk is supposed to be the most Realist playstyle when it doesn't know what it takes for Real. Some say it's the ideal Game State, some say, it's the material (written) Game State, but it's dubious anyway. If that's what you mean, I agree with you 100%.

Originally I was responding to the proposition Platonic "Realism" effectively explains why Klockwerk works. However what I quoted of you are some of the issues I have with the claims being put forward about the Klockwerk game style. There are many others but on these two we are in 100% agreement. One addition problem I had with Klockwerk was the "One True Way" near fanaticism that kept floating up in the mix of the debates. Ugh...

Of course, I agree with what you say about whether Game State is physical or ideal, and how certain theories of the Game State (by which I mean a couple of posts on a forum) can be inconsistent, but I can't see what it says about what's taken for Real in the Klokverk playstyle.

I can't either. I don't the theory got fully hashed out to be fair, but there were a number of fundamental problems that looked insurmountable. There were other serious problems and fiat claims that fell squarely in the realm of Epistemology that were violently avoided when brought up at problematic.

I'll give it a try : Klokverk is supposed to be the most Realist playstyle when it doesn't know what it takes for Real. Some say it's the ideal Game State, some say, it's the material (written) Game State, but it's dubious anyway. If that's what you mean, I agree with you 100%. But you yourself, what would you say is taken for Real in Klokverk ?

To be brutally honest, I haven't a clue. There was so much spackling over contradictions and just plain vanilla logic holes going on that I found it impossible to generate a general theory of what was being said. I have no real way of making proposition about what is taken for Real in Klockwerk because of enormous logic problems present that were not being addressed. FREX - Klockwerk as I recall refused any notion of GM agency during play but as long as a human being is involved there will be agency no matter how restricted. There were claims made that information that was known to no one at the table, including the GM, had an effect on the game and was real. Even if this knowledge never made it into anyone's mind. Klockwerk, as I read it, even rejects the idea that Role-playing Games do function in the realm of human minds. Which to me is a doozy. I must apologize in that I have no solid answer to provide. I think I understand Klockwerk is big on lack of GM agency in play and the general idea of if the rule doesn't exist on paper then then mechanic doesn't exist. Yes I remember the three tiers but that was avowedly a stop gap and a real problem for Klockwerk. So you run into a situation where a written mechanic doesn't exist so this is a sign of failure of the entire system. So the GM makes a call which is anathema to the theory of Klockwerk but it stands. Then between games the DM writes down a rule to fit the problematic situation and now the mechanic is right and good even though the GM made the same call on the fly in game. It just doesn't make sense to me...

Best,

Jay

0
Hm. I've found the Klockwerk

Hm. I've found the Klockwerk ideas very useful, but I'm not sure if I can respond very well to the questions in this thread. I suppose I see the "klockwerk" approach more as a body of techniques and rules that are especially effective together, rather than a philosophical position on reality. I don't know if I can say what is "taken for real." Empirically, the method does work to create the subjective impression of verisimilitude (i.e., when I use the techniques, my players say things like, "Your world feels like it's really out there waiting for us to explore"). I don't see it as the "one true way", but in my own experience it has proven more effective than certain other ways.

I can offer my own opinions though my own view may not in all respects be the same as the other people in the previous discussion.

> Klockwerk as I recall refused any notion of GM agency during play

From my perspective, that would be too extreme of a statement. I would say rather that it is about accepting voluntary restrictions on your own agency as the GM. In other words, committing to follow certain rules in all the cases where they do apply, and to follow certain principles in the cases where the rules don't apply.

> There were claims made that information that was known to no one at the table, including the GM, had an effect on the game and was real.

On the surface this doesn't make much sense to me either. It might make more sense to say there could be information that is known to no one at the table, which could in the near future have a pre-defined effect on the game. For example, I might never have read the description of a particular spell, but the effects of the spell are clearly defined in the rulebook. So as soon as the spell is cast, we turn to page 257 and follow whatever it says. I guess one could argue that within the imaginary world (or the game state), the spell had already had that effect before we looked up the rules for it. In practical terms it is more important that we have a clear principle that we will follow what the rulebook says the spell does. That is, we have principles about when to defer to certain sources as authoritative.

> Even if this knowledge never made it into anyone's mind.

Again, that sounds impossible to me. The closest I can think would be if it never entered someone's mind at the table, but was in someone's mind at some point somewhere else, and then entered from there into the game material that we use. For example, if we were playing through a pre-written module, we might never visit the Temple of the Cat described on page 223, yet we find some clues on page 145 that were (unbeknownst to anyone at the table) referring to the Temple of the Cat. Did that Temple of the Cat affect our game? Someone who had read the whole module might say from their outside perspective that we had found the stolen items from the Temple of the Cat. Likewise, that person could make good predictions about our game using information we don't possess - for example, they could predict that if we travel northwest for ten miles, we will find a large cat-shaped temple. This is possible because they know we have a clear principle that when we go to a certain place on the map, we will turn to a certain page on the scenario book and read what is there, and they know what is in the book. Nothing magical is happening, and the Temple of the Cat won't appear in our game until someone at the table actually knows about it. But from a certain point of view (for the outside observer making predictions about the game) it would be effective to reason about the game *as if* the Temple of the Cat were already there.

> Klockwerk, as I read it, even rejects the idea that Role-playing Games do function in the realm of human minds. Which to me is a doozy.

Certainly they do function in human minds (and with paper and pencils and conversation and all). Still sometimes it is more useful to reason about the game state *as if* it were a real place with a separate existence. I think basically it is like doing math. Probably nobody would deny that when we are thinking about math, it happens in human minds (and on paper and blackboards and in conversation, with calculators, etc). But when doing math, it's usually much more useful to talk about the numbers and sets as if they were real things, than to talk about the shapes of the lines on paper, or about the limits of how many numbers we can remember at once. We define the rules in terms of the relationships between imaginary or abstract things, and then do the best to reason about those rules with our limited human minds.

0
Let me clarify if I can...

Hi Billy!

Don't get the chance to see you much here on the boards. Its good to see you again! As to your post I can't say I've played Klockwerk as a matter of conscious choice but a game I played in about 30 years ago was run as RAW. Whether the two are the same I don't know but I suspect that RAW might be a subset of Klockwerk but I don't truly understand the philosophical precepts of Klockwerk. I think I understand the process of Klockwerk but on the threads on Story-Games there was a great of how play ought to be run beyond just RAW. There was a great deal of effort put into how one should approach situations which were not RAW but more importantly, to me on a theoretical and social level, was the emphasis on the rankings of value or truthfulness of the various methods of resolving non RAW events. Then there was this whole long philosophical argument that basic proposed that a purchased but unread by and player at the table be they the GM or a player DID have a real impact on the Game State (whatever that turned out to be - many unfinished and conflicting arguments were put forth on that particular topic as well), though no one, not one person at the table had any knowledge of said content. That one really left me shaking my head. Finally the constant use of superlatives with regard to this process and the use of pejorative adjectives to refer to non Klockwerk play (Hippy play?) along with the near manic drive to teach everyone that this was THE BEST WAY TO PLAY was a worrying breech of game theory and practice but also, I believe, social etiquette. Does this mean I'm saying that Klockwerk is not a viable way to play? No. But I found the inconsistencies of its theory of play confusing and the subtle but real arrogance surrounding its proposed virtues extremely off putting. In the end there were two separate but profound problems with Klockwerk that I saw. First it could never hold to its theoretical goals of condensing the whole of reality to a mechanical representation. This particluar shortcoming was articulated by the strongest proponent of Klockwerk. Second the sociological air surrounding the movement was deeply troublesome and I believe the greater problem of the two.

> Klockwerk as I recall refused any notion of GM agency during play<

From my perspective, that would be too extreme of a statement. I would say rather that it is about accepting voluntary restrictions on your own agency as the GM. In other words, committing to follow certain rules in all the cases where they do apply, and to follow certain principles in the cases where the rules don't apply.

I proposed my exact take of this to the main proponent of Klockwerk and I was neither rebuffed nor corrected in my assessment. The GM was to exercise agency during prep but to every extent possible not at all during play. When the game got to a point where a GM had to follow the principles where the rules didn't apply was, to quote the same proponent, a failure of the functioning of Klockwerk. Those guiding principles for when the rules didn't apply weren't stated as methods to facilitate smooth play but were means of mitigating failure and brokenness of system. Again, not my words. There was sense of an absoluteness in the diktats of this theory of play that I found unsettling. The principles you spoke of were presented in a wrapping of theory of usage that was far more absolute than just helpful principles. In practice I imagine that the helpful principle were just that, helpful principles. But Klockwerk was being presented and championed as the one way to real role-play enjoyment, but only if they were absolutely followed to the letter. In effect the ideal would have been a computer running the game with the DM inputting data between gaming sessions. The ideal was a Deism type of functioning gaming "reality" which is where I drew the inspiration for the moniker "Klockwerk" from.

> There were claims made that information that was known to no one at the table, including the GM, had an effect on the game and was real.

On the surface this doesn't make much sense to me either. It might make more sense to say there could be information that is known to no one at the table, which could in the near future have a pre-defined effect on the game...

I fully agree with your take on the matter. But there was a huge thread (in Story-Games) on Game State and Klockwerk where it was strongly and vociferously argued that even if the information never was made known to anyone, ever, it still had an effect on the Game State. Yet another term that was never well defined as it relied on a lot of metaphysical premises. Repeatedly it was argued that that which was not known to anyone at the table had a real effect on the Game State, whatever that meant. The proponents did not argue that the information might come to light 6 weeks, months or years down the road and then affected the game but rather that even if it was never known to anyone it still had an effect. Buy the module. Put it on the shelf for 10 years. Throw it away unopened. It altered the Game State, so it was argued, and Game State was a Big Thing in Klockwerk theory as championed. It made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever...

> Even if this knowledge never made it into anyone's mind.

Again, that sounds impossible to me. The closest I can think would be if it never entered someone's mind at the table...

...and that is what I should have typed as I assumed that it was understood (my mistake) that was my meaning. Let me rephrase to clarify, if you will allow : Even if this knowledge never made it into anyone's mind at the table including the DM. It is impossible but this was what was being argued. I'd offer links but I'm not sure if Story-Games was archived in a manner that is easily accessible. The idea became so dogmatic that it became impossible to discuss it.

> Klockwerk, as I read it, even rejects the idea that Role-playing Games do function in the realm of human minds. Which to me is a doozy.

Certainly they do function in human minds (and with paper and pencils and conversation and all). Still sometimes it is more useful to reason about the game state *as if* it were a real place with a separate existence.

Emphasis added.

The theory being offered was that if it didn't or couldn't happen via the mechanical system then whatever was happening in the SIS didn't or couldn't happen. The arrow of action was from paper to SIS which was this atrophied after thought because nothing could happen if it didn't happen via a mechanic. IOW the SIS was the equivalent of a computer screen which reported the results of the program but was not itself a relevant or significant input to the program. However we run into the problem once again that Game State was never nailed down as SG shut down in the middle of that discussion. I don't know what you mean by the phrase "the game state *as if* it were a real place with a separate existence." What is the Game State? The mechanical part of the game separate from the shared imaginings of the SIS? Any meaning derived from play can only existing in the living experience of a person's mind. Is the Game State the name applied to the effort to put quantized values to abstractions? I have no clue. I'm fully willing to accept that I may be too dumb to understand the sublime meanings of Game State so if you do have a good definition of it I would be very grateful to read it. For me it became another one of those meta-physical arguments that kept shifting around so much that it never came to mean anything useful. I'd deeply appreciate any enlightenment on this topic you might have to share. Please.

Best,

Jay

0
Towards definition of Game State

I'll refrain from digging too deeply into the old discussions on Story-Games, since I don't want to speak for or criticize people who aren't here to explain themselves. (I also don't have time to read through the extremely long and theoretical conversations again right now...) I will stick to laying out my own ideas; I can't promise it will help unravel what other people have said in the past.

Precisely defining the game state is tricky. It is relatively easy to define for non-role-playing games. E.g., if we were playing Clue, the game state includes what cards everyone has, where the pieces are, and which three cards are the secret solution. Nobody currently knows what the solution is, but it's defined by which cards were randomly placed in the envelope. The game state doesn't include where the dice are lying on the board, or which order I am holding my cards in, or what the art for Professor Plum looks like, because these details have no impact on the outcome of the game. Hopefully in this case the meaning of the game state is very clear. It is all the information that interacts with the rules. It is the parts of the game we would include if writing a computerized version of the game.

For a role-playing game, the meaning is the same by analogy. Clearly the analogy is not perfect, since there are a lot of differences between (say) Clue and D&D. Still, I would try to define the game state the same way: it's all the information that will interact with the rules, all the "facts" about the fictional world that will have an impact on the outcome of the game. All the input that goes into the "simulation" to produce the next piece of output.

To try to be more practical, if I were to enumerate the game state for my current D&D game I was just running, it would include all this information:
- Shared imaginary space (~ all our memories about the previously defined fiction of the game, including stuff we remember but didn't write down)
- Everyone's character sheets
- Various drawings and diagrams I have made to explain things about the game world
- Worksheets I use during play to track the date, time, monster hit points, number of gnolls still living in the area, etc.
- My own secret notes on the setting, NPC backstories, maps and keys, monster stats, weather tables, random encounter tables, etc
- The spreadsheet that tracks everyone's XP totals

It seems like we should also include the rules and procedures of the game in the game state, which would include:
- The rules text on the game website that I and the players all refer to
- Answers I have given in the past to questions about the rules
- Precedents defined by how we interpreted the rules in previous play
- A number of secret rules that I follow as the DM, but the players don't have access to
- Various rules and procedures I have never gotten around to writing down, but that I nonetheless follow consistently when running the game

Theoretically, I think it is better to say that the game state is made up of the information in all the above, rather than the various documents themselves (i.e., the fact that ghouls have 2 hit dice, rather than paper that says "Ghouls, 2 HD each"). But I don't think it makes much difference either way. And, reiterating the statement from my previous post, usually it's more convenient to talk about the game state *as if* it were an imaginary world rather than a big database of information and rules for accessing it ("In the game state, there is a dragon in the cave" vs "In the DM's notes, it says there is a dragon in the cave, and we have a rule that the DM always follows what it says in his notes, so if we say to go into the cave, he will say there is a dragon").

I feel pretty comfortable saying all of the above is in the game state because all of these things are drawn on when we are playing the game. They all feed into "what happens next." I actively use all those things above (some more than others) when I am determining how to adjudicate actions or more broadly "what to say next" as the GM.

It's worth noting there are also various game actions that the players can take without consulting me--for example, if they have 1,000 XP on the spreadsheet, they can advance their character to level 2. This will then directly affect the game the next time we play with that character, so I am happy to say that is part of the game state.

That said, there are also some things that are NOT part of the game state. For example, often the players draw their own maps when we are playing. But their maps are usually wrong in smaller or larger ways. As the GM, I ignore the player maps and use only the true (secret) map to describe what they see. If the players start pointing at their map and asking me things about it, I ignore what they are saying and reiterate the true facts according to the authoritative map I have in front of me. So the definition of the game state needs to include some notion of authority - if there is a conflict between two sources, we need to know what to believe.

Implicitly this whole example I'm describing is predicated on a game with very traditional GM/player roles.
- Players say actions (agency not very constrained - only by SIS - but can only control only character's attempted actions)
- GM determines what happens next (agency highly constrained - must decide result based on Game State, which includes rules and principles about which parts of the Game State to use in which ways to determine the result)

But there are probably interesting things that could be done by varying those concepts.

I am still very unhappy with this definition I have just given. The big problem for me is that psychological factors of play (e.g., what the players are planning to do tonight) absolutely do factor into the outcome of what happens, yet I don't want to say those are part of the game state. Possibly I should say that the game state should only encompasses what will feed into the mechanical resolution process. But I don't want to give the impression that it is purely about printed black-and-white rules. In my own game, the rules are deliberately written to allow the fictional situation (including parts not covered by specific rules) to feed back into the mechanical resolution.

I'm totally fine with this because I want to play a game of infinite possibility, not a board game with closed finite rules. But these subjective cases mean that there is a ragged edge of the game state where the GM's psychology / agency / subjective judgment is feeding into the resolution. Does that mean everything I have ever read or thought is part of the game state? Sometimes we look things up on Wikipedia during play ("How much does a horse weigh?"). Does this mean Wikipedia is part of the game state? I can't really answer these questions.

The interesting area to explore in game design here is defining more clearly the rules and procedures for when certain sources are treated as authoritative, and when they take precedence over others, or when they don't. When does the SIS take precedence over the DM's notes? (Certainly it does if we all know the dragon is dead, but the notes still say he is alive... but not if we all thought the room was 50 feet long but the notes say it was actually 100.) The "no myth" philosophy takes the answer that nothing has any precedence or authority except the SIS and whatever the GM decides in the moment. That's one way to run a game, but not the only way.

There is also the whole issue that the game state may decay over time, losing information that theoretically (according to the rules) should have continued to feed into the outcome. Most obviously this happens because we forget things from last week and didn't write them down, but could also happen because I lost my notes, or whatever. This leads off into endless possible discussion about the perfect ideal game state vs the actual observed game state. I don't care much about the theoretical questions here because the practical answer is obvious -- write down important information and keep a backup copy.

Didn't mean to stay up this late typing this... was just planning to write three or four lines, but it's tricky stuff . . .

1
Computer programmer hat

Oh, here's maybe a slightly clearer answer... (Putting my computer programmer hat on)

We can define the game state is in terms of the interface, the implementation, and the data structure.

Interface: You ask, "Is there a dragon in the cave?"

Implementation: Say yes if there is a dragon on the map key or a dragon on the random encounter table. Otherwise, say no.

Data structure: The implementation requires us to keep a map key and a random encounter table for each cave.

-----------------------------
Edit to add (A LOT):

I went to bed thinking about this computer science metaphor, and woke up this morning more convinced it is a good one. I think this model will give us a better way to think about the game state than my somewhat confused and uncertain definition in the previous post. Let me elaborate on the model further, to make it more understandable.

In computer science, we have the concept of an abstract data type. This means an object that has a certain behaviour from an outside user's perspective, regardless of how it works on the inside. For example, consider a video player. A video player is a thing that renders frames at a certain rate to a certain area of the screen. From the point of view of the end user, it doesn't matter if it is caching the video in memory, or reading it from a disk, or streaming it from a server in Brazil. What's important is that the video displays on the screen. We don't care what type of compression is being used, as long as the video plays correctly.

I would propose we should probably think about the game state in a similar way. Rather than thinking of the game state as a collection of information, we should think of it as the structured model we use to answer questions about the fictional world.

Hopefully the "fictional world" is clear. If we're playing a game set in Middle-earth, then the fictional world is "our table's version of Middle-earth, where our player characters live and the action takes place." During play, we pose dozens or hundreds of questions about this fictional world. What do I see when I look to the west? How high is the hill? How many orcs are there? How long can my horse keep going before it dies of exhaustion? We turn to the game state to answer these questions.

Hypothetically, the perfect game state model would be a total simulation of the fantasy world. But this is completely impractical [citation needed]. Instead, what we want is some other model that shares the same abstract data type as the total simulation. In other words, the game state should be a thing such that we can pose questions and receive answers *as if* it were a world simulation.

Back to computer science for a moment. In a computer program, there is some data that is computed in advance and stored. Other data is computed "just in time" when it is needed. For example, a video is normally stored in advance, whereas the graphics for a video game are rendered on the fly as the game is running. From the point of view of the user, it doesn't make much difference, and (in a well designed program) it is often impossible to tell the difference. What's important is that the data you need is there when you need it.

On the other hand, if I'm the programmer writing a (part of a) program, it matters a lot where the data comes from. The abstract data type (the description of what the object is supposed to do from the outside) is like a contract I need to fulfil. I need to come up with some method to provide everything that the outside user expects to see, at the time when they expect to see it. This data needs to be correct and it needs to be readily available when required.

Commonly we refer to the part of the program that the user interacts with as the interface, and the behind-the-scenes method that the user doesn't care about as the implementation. We want to expose the interface to the user, while hiding the implementation details. (The terms properly apply to the subcomponents of a program and the way they interact with one another, but we don't need to get into those details.)

So, back to the RPG game state. What's important isn't that we have a total simulation of the fictional world, or a database of all the pertinent facts. What's important is that we have a good method to obtain answers as soon as we need them. We want to be able to pose a question about the fictional world ("Can Sir Boris lift the box?"), and quickly obtain an answer. We need a good implementation to back up our interface.

In a computer program, the method would run automatically, but obviously for a tabletop RPG, it must be carried out by the people at the table. So in practical terms, what happens is this. The player of Sir Boris asks, "Can I lift the box?" Then the GM says, "What's your Strength score?" The player looks back at his character sheet and says "17". Then the GM checks his notes and finds out how many coins are in the box, and flips through the Player's Handbook to find the chart for carrying capacity, and then compares the values, and says, "Yes, but just barely. You'll be encumbered."

But in abstract terms (ignorning the method used to find the answer) what happened was this: The player queried the game state with the question, "Can I lift the box?" And the game state provided the answer, "Yes, but just barely. You'll be encumbered."

This is pretty interesting! On the abstract level, we can interact with the game state *as if* it were an interface to a fictional world. That's really the whole effect we want to create here. Of course, if the method is slow and cumbersome, or if it produces inconsistent or ridiculous results, it tends to spoil the illusion, so having a good method is very important.

I think that if we are clear on the distinction between the abstract level (the interface) and the concrete level (the implementation), then some of the paradoxes and questions about the game state can be dissolved. Does the game state contain information nobody at the table knows (e.g., "How many walruses can an adult red dragon carry")? On the abstract interface level, yes: we can query the game state and get an answer to the question. On the implementation level, no: all we really have is a method to answer the question as soon as it becomes important (and that method probably involves the GM googling "average walrus weight wikipedia").

It's like asking if your calculator "knows" that 124 * 353 = 43772. It doesn't actually have the answer stored, but it can compute the answer as soon as you need it, so for practical purposes it seems to know the answer.

To me, the point of thinking about game state in RPG design is to come up with methods (techniques, rules, principles, procedures) that help provide good (consistent, believable, interesting) answers to game state queries quickly. The game state interface is quite similar between many games, but the implementation varies a lot.

The "No Myth" game state implementation is a very minimalist one. If the answer isn't in the SIS (or perhaps on character sheets or in the rulebook), the method is always "The GM makes up whatever feels dramatically appropriate." Of course there is some hidden depth and complexity behind this method, because the GM needs strong storytelling skills to know what is dramatically appropriate.

A "Klockwerk" game state implementation is one that is far more complex and rigorous. It involves a lot more rules and principles for obtaining answers. Generally it involves a large "data structure" of notes, maps, etc., hopefully organized so they can be accessed quickly during play. The GM again needs strong skills to pull this off, in this case more like level design skills rather than storytelling skills. The goal of all this extra work is to make the world seem (and be) more consistant and detailed than it would be if I were making stuff up on the fly. When it is all working correctly, then it produces the effect where the methods seems to disappear and the world feels like it is "really there". It isn't metaphysically real, but feels "as if" it is real because of how convincingly it responds to interaction.

Does that make any sense?

2
Brilliant. This means that

Brilliant. This means that Klokverk is no different philosophically from No myth. Only procedurally.
GMs in both styles can take their material "as if" it were real. No myth GMs need to poker-face much more. Klokverk clearly goes with a different ethic.

1
You're a genius, DeReel!

Hi DeReel,

I've been reading and rereading Billy's posts in preparation of encompassing an in depth response...and your boiled all down to a few sentences! LOL!

Role-play is role-play no matter how you dress that sow up, it's still a pig.

I will allow that how a specific game is instantiated is what gives it its individual flavor but like you said we're still all, by necessity, treating the material (the fiction) "as if" it were real. We have to if we're going to engage in role-play...we're human beings. It is how we work.

Best,

Jay

1
I am not

But thank you for the kind words.
There is at least one discussion in the StoryGames archives that is close to this one :
Fiction of objectivity

0
A lively discussion

Maybe I should come here more often. I will not get into the game of clarifying what I mean or did not mean when I wrote this or that. I would also suggest that fighting the ghosts of conversations past might not be productive.

  • Klokkverk is not related to Platon's theories, as far as I can see.
  • Idealism about A means that we take A, or some aspect thereof, to be real in some sense. Mathematical realism means taking for example numbers, sets etc. as real. Platon's idealism indeed takes ideas as real. In roleplaying, Klokkverktreats the fictional word as real as it can, to as large an extent as it can. This is not a deep observation, I think, and I doubt it has much in the way of useful insight to offer. It just draws a parallel between two known concepts.
  • For how Sandra runs her game, see this quite recent blog post of hers: https://idiomdrottning.org/blorb-principles/. Quite a decent summary for someone with my background, at least.
  • For game state, see my blog post https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2020/05/17/pelitila-ja-matemaattinen-ludologia/ (in Finnish, but maybe machine translation works). It includes some of the painful points that appear when applying the (very standard) concept to roleplaying games. The concept can be specified in multiple ways, depending on what one wants to think about. The article linked at the very beginning gives a quite formal description of game state in a more restricted and simpler setting of some particular typical games. The links in the comments are to Eero's blog and there are relevant discussions in the comments (in English, I think).
  • I think Billy has a good grasp of the relevant concepts here and interesting ideas about them, even if our takes on the game state differ.
2
Maybe I should come here more

Maybe I should come here more often.

Or maybe you shouldn't... I'm glad you do anyway. For instance, your pointer to @2097 was like a treasure map to me.

It's like "realness" in Klokverk lies in the neutrality of the referee. Prep sets the clock pieces (player desire rewinds it) and then the GM personality fades in the background. That whatever the party found in a chest and made their day, "was written there all along" ("realness" = persistance) is like a cherry on top of the cake, a beneficial side-effect. Anyway,this notion of realness is so different from one instance to the other that I'll stick to Gamefeel now, as something that I understand more clearly.

0
Sandra's rpg writing

https://idiomdrottning.org/rpg/

If you remove the "/rpg", you get art.

1
That is

not exact for those who see RPG as art ;P
But Oh did explore of Sandra's work with that treasure map in hand.

0