You are here

Gamism does not require carefully pre-detailed rules; why is it Western engineering?

37 posts / 0 new
Last post
Gamism does not require carefully pre-detailed rules; why is it Western engineering?

Gamism does not require well-defined and agreed-upon rules mechanics. Note that I am not claiming we do not have a pretty well-defined system (in the Forge sense: how we decide what happens next in the fiction). But the mechanics, as in how precisely we figure out what happens next, are loose and partially negotiated on the fly. Rulings, not rules, kind of, but a more extreme take.

Here is the rules framwork (in Finnish, feel free to try your lack with machine translation): https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/vanhan-liiton-henkiset-saannot/

Summarizing: A character has attributes, rolled 3d6 in order, a background which tells what they can do, and then a special ability (player-chosen) or a bunch of spells (random but conform to a player-chosen idiom of magic). They have some grit (hit points) and some equipment.

The basic resolution is rolling d20 plus relevant attribute, either as a versus roll or against a static difficulty level. Characters tend to have d6 grit and a successful attack tends to deal d6 damage, and if hit points are not enough, there are rules for getting wounded and dying.

These are pretty baseline stuff and could trivially be replaced by any other basic mechanical framework without affecting gameplay much (and I have run this kind of play with different mechanical rules). The gameplay is the kind of challenge-oriented sandbox OSR play that Eero and I have sometimes discussed; neutral referee who simulates the fictional world and so on. The referee-facing rules are prepared adventure locations and NPCs, random encounter and other tables, reaction and morale rolls, etc.

My question is: what precisely makes this engineering-thought play? Is it that I often declare difficulty levels for things before rolling, or can in any case explain them afterwards? Note that the consequences are usually not declared, but they are often clear or implicitly communicated. Is it that the referee does not aim for a particular mood and genre and does not steer play (by genre I mean: comedy, tragedy, heist movie, war story; this depends much on how well the players do and what the dice give)? Something else?

I wrote a game report on Adept play: http://adeptplay.com/actual-play/terrible-mushrooms-and-loose-rules

0
I'm not sure I understand the

I'm not sure I understand the question exactly.

To me, that absolutely sounds like gamism if players are gladly engaging with it.

At worst, I guess you could call it a flavor of gamism that isn't to everyone's taste.

It certainly seems in line with Kriegspiel, and it's hard to get gamier than old Prussian military cadets and instructors.

0
I'm guessing this thread is

I'm guessing this thread is directed in response to Jay's thread about mechanics and creative agendas?

But, to follow this tangent slightly...

It certainly seems in line with Kriegspiel, and it's hard to get gamier than old Prussian military cadets and instructors.

Is... Is Prussian military Kriegsspiel gamey? Even though the point is to develop real skills for warfare? Is that gamism? I guess it has that element of playing to win, in the same way that warfare does?

If I were to apply the GNS terms at all, I would have thought of simulationism, because it's so strongly directed at something beyond the game itself (i.e., real warfare). Trying to develop an "elevated appreciation and understanding" of something, in Eero's terms. Especially the Verdy du Vernois style, where the point is to recreate the feeling of command and test decision making under uncertainty, more than to create a totally fair model battle.

0
I want to get a better

I want to get a better understanding of what Jay means by Western engineering thinking and lackthereof.

When reading the other threads, there was discussion about this and deterministic mechanics; I am not sure how this relates to improvised mechanics or mechanics by more-or-less explicit group consensus or rules-versus-rulings, as in OSR use.

1
Engineering vs Bricolage

I suspect to really understand what the dichotomy is supposed to mean, one might need to read Lévi-Strauss.

I am pretty cautious to engage with the topic myself since I'm not really confident in my own interpretation which is based on Jay's interpretation of Chris Lehrich's interpretation of Lévi-Strauss' interpretation of the beliefs and mythologies of different cultures. I have made a few attempts to read The Savage Mind and get closer to the source, but I find it almost impenetrable.

0
Excellent question!

Hello,

Apologies to Thanuir for not responding to his excellent question. Been struggling through a low point in my depression and haven't had much energy to devote to deep thinking. Heck, I've not even had the energy to read the boards. Feeling a bit better and hope to have a cogent response for you soon.

Best,

Jay

0
Short response with a longer to follow...

Hi Thanuir,

The short answer to your OP is that Mechanics != CA. When I posted about Mechanics and CA I included the caveat that Mechanics attempt to influence the CA of the players but are not themselves a CA. CA is what the players do. It was my contention that as mechanics are in an of themselves the product of Western Engineering Thinking and because they function in the same fashion that Mechanics very easily (and strongly) pull the players thinking patterns into Western Engineering Thinking patterns as that is our current thinking paradigm.

You can have a game without any formal Mechanics and have a fully functional CA because CA is that which the players are grooving on. Mechanics can aid or hinder said expression but are not themselves the expression of CA. My final assertion is that because mechanics are Western Engineering constructs that function in the Western Engineering paradigm they strongly reinforce Western Engineering thinking in the players (and play) and as such are anathema to Sim/myth/bricolage thinking.

As to why Gamism is categorized as a Western Engineering thinking process I will address in my next post after a bit more navel gazing.

Best,

Jay

1
Hi Thanuir,

Hi Thanuir,

I want to get a better understanding of what Jay means by Western engineering thinking and lackthereof.

Your question about the differences between Western Engineering Thinking and Myth/Bricolage thinking transcends that of mechanics into cultural approaches to cognition and humanity's place in the world. Western Engineering Thinking is reductionist, abstract, concise and seeks to remove the human condition from the process of explanation as much as possible. Western Engineering Thinking attempts to remove man from nature as much as possible to the explanations of things is as free of subjectivity as possible. For example particle physicists trying to decide if a finding is significant (IOW can be labeled a "fact") use math and statistics to see if they get a 5 sigma result to tell the scientists whether their efforts have yielded "fact" or not. Individual or even group judgement are as minimized as much as possible.

We have discovered this new "thing" apart from out subjective human judgement. We used math and machines to collect data and analyze it. This thing exists whether or not humans notice it or not. Its existence is ontological. This "fact" cares not (cannot care) for the human condition or its relationship to humanity, it just "is." As such we go about labeling this "fact" and treat it like an entity even if it isn't, thus we can talk about it without reference to the human condition. The "fact" may be about the human condition but the "fact", now abstracted and given a "name", can now be considered and talked ideally without human judgement. These "facts" are whittled down to the barest idea that is the central core that is unique to itself and no other thing. If it is closely related and not unique then it isn't a separate thing. These facts have either not been sufficiently resolved or are indeed facets of the same thing.

In the end this "fact" or abstraction is useful as a tool and is typically used in a very limited and exacting manner. If a situation arises where this abstraction is found to be insufficient to the task a whole new system of abstraction is typically created rather than kludged. Yes the Standard Model is an example of an abstraction that has been cobbled together over time but this fact makes a great number of Scientists (Western Engineering Thinkers) very uncomfortable and they are now seeking a new even more reductionist model to explain everything. All without concerning themselves with how this relates to the human condition and without recourse to human judgment (hopefully/ideally). Trust your data, not your judgement!

Much of the process of Western Engineering Thinking employs the logic processes of Abduction, Induction and Deduction in pursuit of a singular abstracted goal. Most of the effort of science operates in the realm of Induction (the determination of the rules of behavior) and Deduction (applying the induced rules to make projections and seeing if the rules hold). Abduction is more of the realm of theoretical thinking of new paradigms and theories - they need to be "proved" through induction and deductive testing. In all this the focus is very tight and typically narrowly applicable. Even the wild success of Quantum Mechanics in application is still a science of subatomic particles. It's not Biology, it's not Psychology, it's not Ecology, it's not Astronomy (not to be confused with Astrophysics), etc.

I'll touch on again the idea that if a tool/abstraction/theory/idea is shown to be inadequate typically a wholly new idea frequently is created to address the new problems. An example of early and incomplete Western Engineering Thinking was the addition of epicycles to the Geocentric model of the Universe to explain the unaccountable behaviors planetary motions. But even this addition could not account for other problems of the model predictions and observation. Through the course of 200 years the model was completely re-engineered with a completely new Heliocentric thesis. Western Engineering Thinking was still in its formative stages and the Scientific Process had only been expressly articulated by Giovanni Compano, (the chaplain for four Popes) at the University of Paris in the early 1200's.

The point of all this is that Western Engineering Thought works in the abstract, is reductionist, willingly throws out models of the outside world to start anew and works to create clean, efficient processes that provided repeatable results that are in themselves abstractions. All this while trying to keep the human condition out of the mix. One observes a phenomena, proposes a theory (abduction) of how said phenomena functions, devices and runs tightly controlled tests eliminating all non-essential influences (induction), and then tests the induced rules by making predictions (deductions) and seeing if they match observed behavior. If all works out this theory is said to apply to all places in the universe and is ideally independent of subjective human considerations. You now have a vastly streamlined representation of a small piece of reality that can be both used to explain that observed phenomena but can be used to make accurate predictions and can be generated by anyone with the skills to use the models. No sticky human context needed.

But see, here's the rub. We can talk about photons and all their qualities forever but we can never use science to describe the experience of "blue" or why this other particular wavelength of light "feels" warm on our skin. Or why it affects our consciousness the way it does. The same for music. There is a huge vocabulary and robust theory about music describing it but until it is actually heard we know nothing of the experience of music. And thus it is many role-playing games with deterministic resolution mechanics. Ideally, but likely not purely in actual practice, there is little else that can happen or is relevant to play that is outside the realm of what the mechanics cover. At least as intended. The primary game focus (the Creative Agenda) is strongly limited (or reduced) by tools to a limited number of high order processes/concerns. To win, or to perhaps to overcome Challenge (whatever its particular incarnation). But whatever it is, such guiding formulations are not originated from the source material or the SIS. The player comes to the game with an approach to thinking that they have grown up with that is strongly supported by system and Creative Agenda. The world is another abstraction where those Agendas are played out. Western Thinking. Very much the antithesis of mythic thinking.

I don't think this is a very coherent description of what I'm trying to say but it is a first attempt. I've read a little and been mentored some but I have no formal training in the history of Western thinking or in comparative thinking modes. Think of this as food for thought and not a definitive answer. There is another half of this post that ought to be included and that is contrasting Western Engineering Thinking directly with Mythic Thinking but I've written on myth many times and Chris Lehrich's writings are much better anyways.

I tried my best.

Best,

Jay

0
defending W. E.

I'll take Western Engineering's defence, as the poor thing is accused in some places for it's supposed intentions (exhibit 1 : "At least as intended") rather than for it's acts (exhibit 2 : "not purely in actual practice").

If W.E. could talk, maybe it would say that well, it knows that all its technology is an appendage to human experience. But it is built around human experience, and constantly caters to it. For that reason you won't find an RPG making little case of the human experience. Human experience is the shape of the hole in the mechanical apparatus of W.E. Mythic Bricolage doesn't have a monopoly on consciousness.

If it weren't for the obvious frame (RPGs) I would add that some designers will work like Engineers and others through Bricolage (which translates into "tinkering"). After all, they are perspectives rather than facts.

It may be too early to critic a fresh formulation of a theory, but when you say "There is a huge vocabulary and robust theory about music describing it but until it is actually heard we know nothing of the experience of music." I want to give the full image : "And our experience of music is vigorously informed by our musical vocabulary". Human language is a technology, too, an extension of our experience, a patch on our chimp chassis. I find there's a very thin layer between W.E. and Mythic-Bricolage.

To conclude : even if you define the two concepts as contrary, all about them also screams complementarity. I'd say they're a Yin / Yang thing. When you play a game, you are micro-designing it on the spot constantly, and that part of the activity is Bricolage, right ? When you design it, you try to empathize with the player subjected to the game experience (Mythic), but when you work on probability distributions, the experience becomes an horizon to reach (Engineering).

I hope I have given a useful contribution with this conclusion. However, it is probable that I missed something of your intent. I suspect I mostly wanted to engage with you on this to celebrate the pleasure of seeing you back @Silmenume.

0
Thank you, DeReel.

Hi DeReel,

Thank you for your well wishing. I really do appreciate it and am deeply affected. Thank you. I'm not feeling much better but I found that I missed talking with you all here and that not interacting was worse than the struggle to try and find the energy to write despite my mood and difficulty thinking.

I'll take Western Engineering's defence, as the poor thing is accused in some places for it's supposed intentions (exhibit 1 : "At least as intended") rather than for it's acts (exhibit 2 : "not purely in actual practice").

If W.E. could talk, maybe it would say that well, it knows that all its technology is an appendage to human experience. But it is built around human experience, and constantly caters to it. For that reason you won't find an RPG making little case of the human experience. Human experience is the shape of the hole in the mechanical apparatus of W.E. Mythic Bricolage doesn't have a monopoly on consciousness.

I agree. This is a depth nuance I didn't want to get into for various reasons but I do agree with this one caveat. W.E. thought, as a process, overtly and actively seeks to exclude the human experience. It may not succeed fully but it is an important pillar of the process for the simple reason that W.E. science (which is the pre-eminent thinking paradigm in the west) overtly states that it can only concern itself with matters that are either material in nature or phenomena that can be reduced to the material. FREX - W.E. thought can only explain the how of nature but can not explain the why of nature. That is left to either philosophy or religion. In fact any statement by W.E. science about metaphysical matters such as religion is a category error. Science definitionally cannot make statements about matters of religion or questions of "why" because such subjects are outside the purview of the "purely" physical constraints that science places upon itself. Much of W.E. thought seeks to pare everything away that is not absolutely essential to explaining the phenomena at hand. However look at how uncomfortable science is with Quantum Mechanics and the problem of observation being necessary to collapse the quantum state into a fixed state. This drives the physicists absolutely batty.

However, as you rightly pointed out, science is still conducted by human beings and is thus influenced by them thereby. All science deals with are facts and not Truths and again by its own nature is necessarily provisional. As I indicated above the scientific method was not first articulated until the very early 1200's. We were still "thinking" before then but such process of cogitation included much thinking that included such things as "motive" in their explanations. So we see that break is a relative new comer. Prior to that you had Greek philosophy which disdained experimentation and early Scholasticism which did push up the importance of observation to a key position yet still relied heavily on philosophy and lacked rigorously controlled and repeatable experimentation.

It is my assertion that much of science today uses instruments that take phenomena that are not even available to the human senses and translate them into a form so that they do become available to our senses - almost exclusively sight. These machines render hitherto insensate phenomena into human experiences. Take, for example, particle accelerators or sussing out aggregate behaviors from a sea of observations and abstracting them into numbers which can then be manipulated and used in testing. These numbers which must be seen or heard to describe a "behavior". For all this science, as a category of process, cannot address why or what we "experience" as the color blue or the vibrations in air as a "tones" or why pain "hurts". I'm not saying that the human experience does not show up in W.E. thinking and science but it does seek to remove it as a priority. Peer reviewing a paper seeks, among other things, to find if human bias had somehow seeped into the process thus "contaminating" the results and rendering them anywhere from suspect to invalid.

It may be too early to critic a fresh formulation of a theory, but when you say "There is a huge vocabulary and robust theory about music describing it but until it is actually heard we know nothing of the experience of music." I want to give the full image : "And our experience of music is vigorously informed by our musical vocabulary". Human language is a technology, too, an extension of our experience, a patch on our chimp chassis. I find there's a very thin layer between W.E. and Mythic-Bricolage.

On the whole I agree. I would go so far to say that we use mythic bricolage for most of daily thinking as it is very easy and convenient (as it is neither rigorous nor formalized) as a quick "gum and twine" hacked solution. It works well enough most of the time to get along in life but it is also messy and creates many further problems (entailments) in the process. You offered that our experience of music is vigorously informed by our musical vocabulary yet a person who has never heard music will still experience it as they will even in total ignorance of music theory/vocabulary. But that is neither here nor there for the sake of this post.

I agree there is a very thin layer between the employment of W.E. thought and Mythic-Bricolage in our W.E. daily lives. However how they each function is very much in opposition to each other in process, goals and effects. The human experience is anything but physical though it is profoundly influenced by our physical makeup. A blind man will never understand the concept of color despite all the science being described to him. It is a phenomena that is beyond comprehension precisely because his physical makeup prevents him from sensing light.

Going back to game design and play I used the phrases "At least as intended" and "not purely in actual practice" to allow for the fact that we do slip back and forth between the forms of thought. Mythic-Bricolage is easy and we do it all the time while W.E. thought is hard, tedious, has to be taught and most importantly we are pressured culturally that this is THE correct way to make sense of the world. So we build games that are either Engineered cleanly or hacked together but we are told that to use these game we must/ought/should use the provided methods to play "correctly". My weasel words and caveats cover the case that in practice people don't strictly adhere to the mechanics for a whole slew of reasons. People forget, don't like a given mechanic or run into a situation that isn't covered by the reductionist nature of W.E. thinking. Mythic-Bricolage is excellent for quickly scabbing together a solution on the fly without having to re-engineer the whole mechanic. It works good enough most of the time and the process happens fairly naturally without calling attention to itself. What I mean is that W.E. thought would mean stopping the game and looking at the mechanic as a thing unto itself separate from the experience of the game play and working out a solution that now functions "correctly" so we can now go back into the game experience. Mythic-Bricolage makes no distinction between the game experience as it never makes a distinction as we don't leave the realm of the "concrete" for that of the "abstract". We scab together a solution while still using the elements of the SIS and the fictional world.

However, as a process W.E. thinking works overtly and aggressively to remove the human experience. This does not mean it always succeeds but it is always a goal of the process. Mythic-Bricolage works aggressively to include the human experience and thus excels at both engaging the human experience at a subjective level while while seamlessly correcting for problems without drawing attention to the fact that there was a problem in the first place. So what does this mean? Mythic-Bricolage Agenda games excel at creating subjective experience but are necessarily sloppy and in need of constant correction but that's OK because it does so without breaking the experience. Its not a bug but a feature. This messiness allows for games to run on for 20, 30, 40 years because this sloppiness (the entailments) are fodder for future bicoling (further scenarios). Also, since Mythic-Bricolage is expansionist as opposed to reductionist the process itself creates more of itself. W.E. games do not function well this way without drawing attention to this process of addition because these additions are abstracted and separate from the game play process itself.

Just a note - I am not in any way putting down Engineered games. What I am trying to do is contrast how these thinking systems work so each can be understood better and thus applied appropriately for the game we're trying to create. Neither is superior to the other, rather they create very different gaming experiences...and that is good, is it not?

Best,

Jay

0
Discipline vs Harmony

What you are describing is Discipline vs Harmony on TV Tropes. I read you and our agreement is a good starting point. But where do we go from here is what I fail to see. What I lack here, as a pragmatist, is a use for the concept. Is the conclusion that we put D&D in the newtonian basket and Polaris in the sturmunddrang one ? this I could know by just weighing the printed rules.

0
I found an article by Moyra

I found an article by Moyra Turkington interesting, that maybe shows the continuum from director stance to immersion : http://games.spaceanddeath.com/sin_aesthetics/36
Maybe WE is a way of naming "the red dot" and MB is closer to the "purple dot". I don't know.

Anyway, if Gamism is about competition, you can have competition about anything. I have done races to immersion (they look a lot like Playing to lose), and that's a Gamist agenda with a Mythic perspective.

1
Hi DeReel,

Hi DeReel,

What you are describing is Discipline vs Harmony on TV Tropes. I read you and our agreement is a good starting point. But where do we go from here is what I fail to see. What I lack here, as a pragmatist, is a use for the concept. Is the conclusion that we put D&D in the newtonian basket and Polaris in the sturmunddrang one ? this I could know by just weighing the printed rules.

I googled the topic and read the post you described. The similarities you pointed to are superficial at best and miss the meaty fundamental essential differences between W.E. thought and Mythic/Bricolage thinking. Yes, one of the emergent properties of these different thinking processes could be said to be similar on the most superficial of levels to "Discipline vs Harmony" theses (like they both attempt to bring order to the universe but use different methods) but it utterly misses the profound fundamental structural differences between these systems of thought.

The first is that myth is an oral tradition that while produced in the moment and never recorded still takes serious cognitive effort to produce effectively.

Second, since myth is an oral tradition its effect/affect is strongly empowered by that very fact. Just like an improv jazz performance which can be recorded and played back later at will a large part of its power and impact on the listener comes from the listeners knowledge the this music and creativity IS happening right here, right now! This evanescent energy is a big part of the musical art form and is also a big part of the power of myth in mythic thinking cultures - and thus is also a strong component of Mythic thinking based role-play.

Third, myth, while trying to bring order to "our" understanding of the universe/reality/life and our place in it, it does so via creating meaningful relationships between the entirety of the other and the self. This works in that everything that is or happens in the universe happens because of its relationship to the self, not because the processes have been abstracted and later shown to be predictable. While myth combines "why" with "how", W.E. thought is almost entirely interested in just the "how" and has the opposite relationship with "why" trying to remove it altogether. In W.E. thinking the Universe exists at a remove from the individual and will do what it does whether or not the self is present. In myth the Universe is personal and is deeply tied to the self/human condition.

Again and in short W.E. thinking is abstract and devoid of (or shuns) the human condition. It concerns itself solely with the "how". Myth makes no such distinction and embraces both the "how" and "why" as one. The upside is a rich, meaningful life filled with purpose but the downside is that it is neither precise nor clinical. In fact myth, at large, is a hideously tangled mess, but a deeply human and soothing mess. For all this myth is no more "harmonious" than W.E. thinking. Myth can and does lead to practices that we in the West would consider abhorrent or "disharmonious". W.E. thinking while reductionist and abstract is working towards a unified whole of understanding.

The key differences in W.E. abstraction with its foundational lack of concern for the human condition is contrasted with myth's subjectivity and deep fundamental concern with the human condition as it relates to the "order" of the Universe.

Do not confuse my statement that W.E. thinking's removal of concern for the human condition to mean that the human condition is never considered, but that the human condition is considered in an abstracted way that is focused on the "how" and not the "why". W.E. put itself at a remove from the general matters of the human condition while myth is deeply personal and purposely addresses the human condition concretely/directly - not abstractly. A mythic culture individual is deeply enmeshed in reality in an extremely tangible first person sense. A W.E. thinking individual is but a piece in an otherwise vast universe that cares not one way of the other for any of its pieces. We are there but it is a matter of no consequence. And because we are of no consequence we can study the Universe in its abstracted isolation.

In the end this creates a way of thinking (Western Engineering Thought) that is very procedural, very exact and ultimately leads to high expectations of control via accurate predictability. Even games with "randomizers" still give an exact result after the randomization is accounted for. I know that my character might miss his swing if my randomizer does give me a value needed to meet some threshold but if I do, I KNOW that I've succeeded. We approach our games with the embedded idea that with "perfect" knowledge I can "perfectly" predict outcomes. We know this because if our sample size is large enough we can see the pattern mapping to specific known and thus predicted outcomes. Thus we come to believe that player "protagonization" is not only proven but predicated on very idea that the data must be available to show these procedures holding up and thus verified. Any "errors" or blips in the procedures is thus taken to mean either that the GM made an error or the GM purposefully deprotagonized the player. Hence the focus of so many rules systems that seek to deprotagonize the GM during play as much as possible.

Even more importantly, and central to my point, is that all this "thinking" about process and expectations and validation via mechanics about GM error (or malintent) all happens at an abstract layer away and completely separate from the SIS and the fictional world experience. This is completely different from myth/bricolage thinking.

In mythic thinking if an anomaly shows up in generalized expected behavior the myth is not described to have failed. In fact the process in mythic cultures is to show that the anomaly was not an error at all but through the adaptation process show that the myth is indeed whole and always had been without calling attention to the myth itself. This process of dealing with an anomaly requires the player to double down on their understanding of the myth and realize that if something didn't work as expected then the player's expectations are in error and that change or something new is happening. So not having a deterministic mechanics system allows for smooth gaming while also requiring the players to thinking harder within the fictional realm about what is really going on. Does this mean that a GM can "deprotagonize" players easily? Yes. Can the players tell if their input is being ignored? Over time, yes. How? Because myth is still normative, just not to the unforgiving degree that W.E. based games are. The trade off is for mythic play is games is the that the game is much more experiential in nature. It is much easier to feel as if you are in the fictional space as virtually all your "tools" are proximal and in-world-fiction/myth based and not distally abstraction based. IOW if there is something odd the mythic player looks harder at the myth to make sense of it rather that breaking away from the diegesis so as to discuss it as a mechanics or social contract problem.

Is the conclusion that we put D&D in the newtonian basket and Polaris in the sturmunddrang one ?

No. Not at all. The classifications are essentially category errors. Both D&D and Polaris are procedurally run with deterministic abstracted mechanics (i.e. Western Engineered design and play). Much of the play in both games is dependent upon or directed by the mechanics. (FREX - Hit Points in the former or Weariness in the latter.) Both games would be radically different without either of the respective mechanic in how they are played. Despite supporting different CA's they are still both very procedural and constantly operate at the abstract via the self-same mechanics. The analogy of "Discipline vs Harmony" falls apart because it utterly misses the point that W.E. games are procedural and abstract while mythic games are subjective and experiential.

Best,

Jay

0
Hi DeReel,

Hi DeReel,

Anyway, if Gamism is about competition, you can have competition about anything. I have done races to immersion (they look a lot like Playing to lose), and that's a Gamist agenda with a Mythic perspective.

Thank you for the link. I read the post but I found a comment by Jim Henley dated Nov. 20, 2006 at 12:30PM to be especially interesting. In it he talks specifically about "immersion" (a very loaded term with enormous baggage that I personally try to avoid using) and the difficulty in determining when another person is in that mental state or even when oneself is in the mental state. Jim had noted, and I tend to agree, that noting that one is in a state of immersion is only noted in the past tense. To be self aware that oneself is in a state of "immersion" is to break "immersion" to note something about one's physical, real world mental state. How a player can race to mental state of "immersion" and measure the time to the transition, to me, is a contradictory. One cannot be functioning within another frame of reference (immersion) separate from "reality" and be aware of being in the fictional "reality" at the same time. The player has to leave the "immersive" mental framework to notice their own condition. To me its a logical and practical impossibility.

Maybe one can do it as you've described but however it happens it is not a "Mythic Perspective". Mythic cultural thinking does not, cannot not acknowledge anything outside the myth. Anything that is heretofore outside the realm of the knowledge of the culture is absorbed into the myth in such a way as to show that the anomaly was never outside the myth in the first place. There is no Gamism from a Mythic perspective. One can have a Gamist agenda using bricolage as the resolution system but that is not a "mythic perspective."

*"Playing to lose" is not a Mythic Perspective per say. A person could by playing a conquering general or the leader of the Mongolian Horde and thus be "playing to win" in a myth/bricolage game but competition is not the priority of play for the player. They are playing a person inside the socio/cultural norms as the attempt to achieve their character's goal of world domination.

Interesting notions, though.

Best,

Jay

0
Sorry for the over

Sorry for the over-simplification and thanks for putting my reading head back on track. I'll try another approach : Mythic perspective is about playing, and Engineering is about the game. Given this, I understand Gamism is impossible from a Mythic perspective.
Your assertion about being totally cut off from reality in the context of tabletop gaming is something you will have to give documented evidence for. If you mean as a peak in a process, with sleep deprivation, and for a short period of time (minute) I can agree.
Just to be sure, are we not merely stating our respective golden zones between "Possessing force" and "Mask" (using the words from the article) ? I am asking because I am more and more interested in the Possessing force side of the scale, and would like to approach it, only for design of course.

0
Hi DeReel,

Hi DeReel,

Mythic play is about creating in and through "direct" contact with the fictional realm via bricolage resulting in a direct experience which is, hopefully, satisfying. W.E. is play that is about creating, using abstract tools upon the fictional realm with satisfaction coming either through the process of tool use itself or satisfaction in the abstract product created.

Your assertion about being totally cut off from reality in the context of tabletop gaming is something you will have to give documented evidence for.

My apologies, but I not sure what you're referring to with the "totally cut off from reality". Would you indulge me and be so kind as to point out where in postings that I made or implied such an assertion. I ask because I have never thought of role-play and a complete break from reality together before. I'm in the weeds on this one. Help?

Just to be sure, are we not merely stating our respective golden zones between "Possessing force" and "Mask" (using the words from the article) ?

I don't believe we are. I'm trying to discuss process and effect.

Best,

Jay

0
Again, I misunderstood. I see

Again, I misunderstood. I see you were speaking about "immersion" on one hand ("How a player can race to mental state of "immersion" and measure the time to the transition, to me, is a contradictory.") and Mythic perspective on the other. My mistake is using terms in a very vague way. I am trying to tie "Myth vs Engineering" to something I know, like "actor stance vs director stance" which I understand as "puppet vs possessing force", or maybe it's closer to "cloud vs dice", "immersion vs gaming", or a cousin to "associated vs dissociated".
In a nutshell I want to tie the concept to something from RPG or stage rather than anthropology, because that metaphor is intuitive in parts, counter-intuitive in others, and invalid by nature. For instance :
1° " Mythic cultural thinking does not, cannot not acknowledge anything outside the myth" is true in anthropology but not in RPG.
2° "Anything that is heretofore outside the realm of the knowledge of the culture is absorbed into the myth in such a way as to show that the anomaly was never outside the myth in the first place." is a good descriptor of what can happen during a RPG session when content is introduced that clashes with what was held true before. But I hold it a basic interpretative process for fiction, without relation to a specific playstyle.
3° It's obvious 2 can't follow from 1.

I wish we could agree Mythic playstyle is simply "cloud over dice", that would be easier.

0
Bricolage vs Engineering - RPG examples

I took my own advice and went back to read the Lévi-Strauss again. Here's what I'm getting:

- Bricolage mindset: Focus on finding a solution that will solve a specific problem in a specific context. Use minor local corrections as much as possible.

- Engineering mindset: Focus on finding a global solution that will solve the problem in all contexts. Change entire system if necessary.

I don't see this as exactly parallel to any other RPG theory dichotomy. But I'll try to come up with some examples of my understanding as applied to RPGs and maybe Jay can comment whether it agrees with his understanding.

Bricolage mindset - rules design:
- I'll make rules for long swords and a few other common weapons. If other weapons come up, we can figure it out based on those ones.

Engineering mindset - rules design:
- I'll research many weapons and make a chart covering 35 of them, then only allow those weapons in the game; or
- I wish to support all weapon types, so I'll make a general system for classifying all weapons according to size, weight, and damage type.

Bricolage mindset - adventure prep:
- Hm, the PCs have recently got silver weapons. They should fight some werewolves so they can try out their new toys. I don't have any werewolves on my map, but the PCs have never gone to Bedritch Forest, so I could add some werewolves there. Originally I thought I would have vampires there, but I could move the vampires to the nearby hills and say the werewolves drove them out.

Engineering mindset - adventure prep:
- Silver weapons cost 150 GP. This is about as much treasure as PCs have at 2nd level, so we can add werewolves to the level 2 encounter matrix. This will ensure that werewolves will be encountered at the level when players can afford the tools to fight them.

Bricolage mindset - action adjudication:
- This isn't covered by the rules, but it's sort of similar to swimming, so let's call it a Swim check with a -2 penalty.

Engineering mindset - action adjudication:
- Oh no, this isn't in the rules, what do I do? Let's stop the game until we can find a definitive ruling. Maybe we can develop a new subsystem to handle cases like this.

Bricolage mindset - background music:
- I'll listen to a lot of music I like and remember what emotions and ideas each track brings to mind. As we play the game, I'll queue up whatever track comes to my mind based on the situation.

Engineering mindset - background music:
- I'll classify my music into nine playlists: Light Combat, Heavy Combat, Exploration, Mystery, etc., and then I can just play each playlist when the time is right.

Bricolage mindset - game balance:
- The players have a Staff of Fire that makes them too powerful. I'll make up a new plot about monsters that are immune to fire. There's probably a pyromancer from the Great Swamp involved, since they are known for their skills in fire manipulation. Usually the people of the Great Swamp are peaceful, but maybe this pyromancer is the lover of the sorceress from whom the PCs took the staff...

Engineering mindset - game balance:
- The players have a Staff of Fire that makes them too powerful. Let's adjust the rules for how magic item damage scales by level, so it's more lined up with the progression of monster strength.

1
Hi DeReel,

Hi DeReel,

1° " Mythic cultural thinking does not, cannot not acknowledge anything outside the myth" is true in anthropology but not in RPG

Agreed in the particular but disagree as a goal. I'm trying to argue that mythic play attempts, as an open ended but in the end unachievable goal, to mirror the same process and achieve the same effects as mythic cultures. Myth as applied to role-play prioritizes keeping the aesthetic of the myth sound and as players we treat the novel or unexpected as not an error but an opportunity to build more myth/fictional reality to the best of our abilities. Mythic play attempts to treat the "game" as a whole. In practise this is not fully possible, I agree. However it is the prioritized method by which we attempt to navigate the game play process. The neat thing is that as an approach to life (or role-play in this instance) is that its effects on the players is profoundly different the W.E. based play. Different isn't meant to be taken as "better" but rather something unique that has its own powerful effects.

2° "Anything that is heretofore outside the realm of the knowledge of the culture is absorbed into the myth in such a way as to show that the anomaly was never outside the myth in the first place." is a good descriptor of what can happen during a RPG session when content is introduced that clashes with what was held true before. But I hold it a basic interpretative process for fiction, without relation to a specific playstyle.

I'm not quite sure how to respond to this. There is truth in what you posted but it still misses, by shades, what I'm trying and failing and communicate. I lay the fault of this clearly at my own feet. In myth there is also the aesthetic component which has a powerful normative influence on creative choices beyond just "explaining" or resolving a phenomena away. This "aesthetic" is an important component to myth and thus mythic play as well. Fitting a novel phenomena into the whole myth structure isn't just done expeditiously it is done with flare/style/artistic intent. There is a "beauty", for lack of a better term, that is important in the act of bricoling. It's simply not enough to just create a viable solution, but you want a solution that also appeals to the local "aesthetic" while both adhering to the existing aesthetic and expanding it. If I was playing in a LOTR setting then a solution or an input regarding a novel phenomena I proposed would be weighed not just on its success but just as importantly on how graceful, beautiful and "aesthetically pleasing" that solution was. In fact in mythic play challenges to the mythic meaning corpus are to be expected but challenges to the "aesthetic" can be very dangerous/detrimental. Thus, like you noted, while this basic interpretative process is common for fiction that there is a critically important "aesthetic" aspect to the solution is, I believe, a dimension to play that is not prioritized in W.E. based games. This is where much of the skill of the player lies. Many situations can be worked through, but doing so while being both constrained by and supporting the myth's "aesthetic" is hard.

I wish we could agree Mythic playstyle is simply "cloud over dice", that would be easier.

If you would be so kind to post a link regarding the "cloud" I would appreciate it. I am not as familiar with the concept as I ought to address it effectively. I recall it was something Vincent Baker was big on but I don't remember much more. You might be right, but I want to make sure I know what I'm agreeing with before I sign off.

Best,

Jay

0
Hi Billy,

Hi Billy,

You're constructions are close enough that I'm experiencing cognitive Moiré pattern effects! The one critical piece that is missing from every example is the lack of the social/cultural aspect that must always be present even if distally. Rather than use theory I'll rework your concrete examples and hopefully the missing important ingredient will become apparent.

- Bricolage mindset: Focus on finding a solution that will solve a specific problem in a specific context. Context must include personal, socio-cultural elements as well as physical items. Use any of the items in the briocleur's closet of concrete items including previous solutions. Keep the system functioning during the correction even if subsequent problems crop up. This is a feature not a bug.

- Engineering mindset: Focus on finding a global solution that will solve the problem in all contexts. If an error is found then there is a systematic problem. Halt system function, diagnose problem, redesign and if necessary change entire system. Return to system operation.

Bricolage mindset - rules design:
- I'll make rules for long swords and a few other common weapons. If other weapons come up, we can figure it out based on those ones. In many cases I'll tie certain weapons to specific cultures or people and said weapon will have on the culture/group and vise-versa. FREX - this group of Barbarians will be "Conanesque" so big steel is a sign of prowess. To die in battle without a weapon is to suffer "hell" and to be avoided at all costs. Battle is engaged for word fame. This group of Barbarians are similar to the Mongolian Huns so will be strongly tied to their composite recurve short bows. They live their lives on horses so the bow will reflect this by being a short bow. For added power they have engineered compound bow so they pack a huge punch for their size. All in all their preferred method of battle is Bow from horseback. Culturally even the young must fight their way to fire to eat thus in battle they are ferocious and remorseless. Etc... Dunedain - Bastard Swords. Rangers of Ithilien - Great Bows and so on. This does not all have to be worked out ahead of time but this is an example of tying the culture to the weapon. Now if you see an anomaly like a Ranger of Ithilien without a Great Bow an astute player will note the discrepancy and start to work out why.

Engineering mindset - rules design:
- I'll research many weapons and make a chart covering 35 of them, then only allow those weapons in the game; or
- I wish to support all weapon types, so I'll make a general system for classifying all weapons according to size, weight, and damage type.

Bricolage mindset - adventure prep:
- Hm, the PCs have recently got silver weapons. They should fight some werewolves so they can try out their new toys. I don't have any werewolves on my map, but the PCs have never gone to Bedritch Forest, so I could add some werewolves there. Originally I thought I would have vampires there, but I could move the vampires to the nearby hills and say the werewolves drove them out. I'll start laying in clues about the possible presence of werewolves. Maybe the locals are twitchy about silver but refuse to talk about it. Perhaps they have a haunted look in their eyes and seem to broken like people who have lost loved ones. No dogs present in the neighboring towns. Trees with a bole of up to approx. 4" broken by main strength can be occasionally be seen about. Lay in a backstory with one of the PC's having a loved one or who lives near the forest that will turn up missing, front door blown in, interior destroyed but some object of value is left untouched. Is it because it was silver or the perps didn't break in for the purpose of theft? Of course the moon has to be waxing to full if someone bothers to ask! Maybe do some quick research on werewolf lore or watch a movie or two about werewolves (if time permits). Consider the nature of werewolves - are they humans who were turned into werewolves via "infection" or are they a type of spirit of rage that inhabits a wolf?

Engineering mindset - adventure prep:
- Silver weapons cost 150 GP. This is about as much treasure as PCs have at 2nd level, so we can add werewolves to the level 2 encounter matrix. This will ensure that werewolves will be encountered at the level when players can afford the tools to fight them.

Bricolage mindset - action adjudication:
- This isn't covered by the rules, but it's sort of similar to swimming, so let's call it a Swim check with a -2 penalty. Look into the culture of the PC. Do they come from a river or ocean people? Are they pearl divers or do they fear and respect the water and will only enter if they make the proper propriations? Do I want to make this test of the mettle of the character? Is the big fearless barbarian afraid of swimming? How will the PC or the group deal with problem? Someone come up with a clever idea - give 'em roll to see if the idea works. Mythic Bricolage is not just a method of gliding through mechanical difficulties but a way of thinking of situations that call in all parts of the PC to see what sticks in this situation. How do I as the GM make this interesting? While the party is sorting out how to get the Barbarian across the river lay in the sound of orc horns blowing in the distance. Oops! Now we've got a ticking clock! Oh man, another character just got a magical chest plate and can't swim it across as it too heavy! Are they going to leave it behind? Find a way to port it across? Stand and fight the Orcs because fighting Orcs gives him a cultural out from the shame of being afraid of swimming? Better to die in battle than to flee like a coward? He's going to try and swim but another PC offers to take the armor piece across. Now the Barbarian has to decide if the offer is really an insult to his honor or not...more complication built on a workable solution. It's not just about numbers or mechanics...

Engineering mindset - action adjudication:
- Oh no, this isn't in the rules, what do I do? Let's stop the game until we can find a definitive ruling. Maybe we can develop a new subsystem to handle cases like this.

Bricolage mindset - game balance:
- The players have a Staff of Fire that makes them too powerful. Power draws the attention of the powerful and now the players have the attention of some Power seriously out of their league. Perhaps the weapon is so powerful it is uncontrollable and frequently results in innocents or allies being killed when used? Perhaps the Staff of Fire was made by imprisoning a Fire Elemental so is in constant struggle with the possessor to be unleashed? Make the mere possession of the Staff a story point of constant struggle and destruction. Maybe it starts to tempt the wielder because "Power corrupts"? Maybe the use of the Staff employs so much magic that sensitives for leagues around sense its use and are constantly drawn to it? Maybe natural fires bend towards the staff as if drawn by a vacuum so that anywhere it goes the PCs are constantly shunned by the locals who are terrified by the unnatural actions of the flames? Perhaps I can make this Staff of Fire a recurring test for the character and it becomes a continuing story element filled with impossible victories and terrible costs?

Engineering mindset - game balance:
- The players have a Staff of Fire that makes them too powerful. Let's adjust the rules for how magic item damage scales by level, so it's more lined up with the progression of monster strength.

I'm not too sure how to respond to the music example because it is non diegetic tool of the GM. It's a useful tool to amplify the emotions, manipulate or cue the players to in game events thus enlarging the emotional experience of play which is the natural strength of mythic-bricolage play. The question would become how does the Engineering mindset deal with something that is not intrinsically a part of the specific Creative Agenda itself? Like I said, music is experiential and experience is mythic-bricolage's stock in trade. An Engineer mindset would treat music as Color, to use the term GNS meaning, but it doesn't have any direct role in the play process. The bricoleur would grab any tool they could to make the game experience for their players as vivid, rich and as moving as possible. I'm all over the place on this one so I'll just leave it be for now.

Best,

Jay

0
Bricolage in an unlimited context

Thanks Jay, that's really helpful! I think I finally understand this concept for the first time.

Context must include personal, socio-cultural elements as well as physical items.

Right! This makes sense! This was absolutely missing from my examples.

In fact, I'd venture that the difference between my examples and yours is the difference between (mere) bricolage and mythic bricolage. Our literal bricoleur (a do-it-yourself repairman guy) is using the same thought process - find the minimal local fix that doesn't harm the rest of the system, then patch up anything else that's affected. But he's applying it within a constrained context. Whereas the mythic bricoleur is applying that mindset in an unlimited context.

I get into the "mere bricoleur" mindset (or "hacker mindset") at work when I'd doing computer programming. How can I fix this specific problem without messing up other systems that otherwise work and that other people are using? And it's a recognizably different mindset than the "engineer" mindset I would have if I'm programming a new general system to solve many problems. But when programming, I never then think, "And how can I make sure this code is aesthetically appropriate and symbolically meaningful and reflects everything else I believe in?"

0
Music example

Let me revisit the music example for a moment. I think it absolutely does apply.

The "problem" I'm approaching is "What's the best music I should play now given the context?"

Using a constrained context, I will choose the track based only on its emotional mood.

Using an unlimited context, I will choose the track based on:
- Does it fit the emotional mood?
- Does it carry other associations to the topic of the game? (e.g., for a scene with vampires, using a song from Bram Stoker's Dracula fits better than a song from some other horror movie)
- Does it match the context of previous times that I've used the same track?
- Does the instruments used in the song reflect the situation or character in some way? (e.g., Celtic instruments for a character with a Celtic-sounding name)
- Any other possible connection that may be apparent. The track has predominantly woodwind instruments, and the scene takes place in a wooded area on a windy day!

0
Here is the link

Here is the link to the "clouds and dice" article : http://www.lumpley.com/archive/156.html

What happens "in practice" is vital to theory. I would find it helpful to have all the "ideal" bits modulated with a "as if it were" or "with the idea in mind that". Stating that you don't consider mechanics in play doesn't help me understand your practice. To me it's a belief, and I have all the reasons in the world to be cautious of such statements. In practice, you use dice. In practice, the table follows rules and guidelines, however unspoken. In practice, humans start seeing things they are used to as "organic". In practice, your perspective as a player, with the DM experience a black box to me, is very partial : for all I know, the DM can be living the game as if standing in front of a nuclear station console, with so many flashing lights they describe the experience in terms of aesthetic.

Again, who in the hobby would defend the idea that addition of content at the table is done without aesthetic considerations in mind ? What I understand is that you prioritize aesthetics. And it's true that, when competition enters the game, it will degrade the priority of both aesthetic and, to some extent, ethics. In fact, any priority is priority over something, so there we are... So, maybe you didn't fail to communicate what you wanted, and maybe it's simpler than that : your approach of play is to prioritize dramaturgy over wargame, fiction coherence and aesthetics over symbolic rules like dice rolling or book keeping. I think this is, maybe not the majority, but quite common in the hobby. But you have a very different relation to rules : I'd say you describe an infinite game, where rules evolve with time, through various processes accretion, corrosion, etc. Did I go too far ? Or not enough ? If it's about it, then I think I have defined Playing pretend. If this were the case, the authority of the DM would be balanced by that of the in-game past, players authoring content under its aegis.

As for the weapons Bricolage examples, once again, the analogy to anthropology may yield good ideas, but you seem to imply a logical link (Myth is part of culture => Mythic play focuses on in-game cultures) that is not there until you demonstrate it.
My view on this is that Mythic play focusing on in-game content past and present, it helps that in-game world be structured as a system Besides, factions are a convenient way to create a structured system at a high level of abstraction from which characters can be insta-grown. Therefore factions come in handy in Mythic play. And that's about all the link I can find : by opportunity rather than by nature.

0
Hi Billy,

Hi Billy,

I am delighted that you have had an epiphany moment wrt (mere) bricolage and "mythic bricolage"!

I'd like to address something that has been cropping up in these threads which has lead to some confusion. I take responsibility for the issue but I'd also like to try and clear it up.

While the word "bricolage" has been thrown around allot it has been misused as a stand in for the "myth" thinking process. Bricolage was an analogy used by Levi-Strauss to aid in the description of how myths are put together. However to substitute bricolage for mythic thinking is to leave out all the very essential human elements and robs myth of its power and identity. Yes, mythic thinking is akin to the art form of bricolage by analogy but bricolage does not take into account for all that mythic thinking entails. Actually the very fact that we people are so steeped in W.E. thinking makes bricolage much more accessible and comfortable to talk about than myth thinking.

We've come to label myth in these threads as "mythic bricolage" when myth is so very much more as if bricolage is the foundation and myth is a bolt on. This is why it is difficult for people to understand that myth is about creating meaning structures via a process that is akin to bricolage but done so for the purpose of addressing the human experience within the wider universe/reality. Myth is subjective. It is a way of thinking. It helps people set a way of life that has purpose and meaning...and it is hideously messy. Myths, because of the way they are created, are opaque to outside observers.

The good news is that you, Billy, have had your epiphany moment. This is what I'm try to explain about Sim. It is not mere bricolage, it is a game agenda that prioritizes the mythic experience through mythic thinking. Bricolage is a handy analogy to start to understand how myth's grow and thus have the peculiar structures they have but it is only an analogy and thus neither the same as myth nor the experience of functioning in a mythic "culture".

I post this because I'm running into head winds about Sim/mythic play (full of meaning) being treated as Sim/bricolage (a type of resolution system) play. Bricolage is an analogy only. It is not in itself sufficient to explain myth and its experience. But people are getting hung up on the analogy as an end and not a means to the greater end of understanding myth.

FREX - Posters are getting hung up on the "opaqueness" of the "resolution system" of the mythic play system I've been discussing. But to do so indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of myth. We are all creating together but from a subjective POV rather than an objective POV. This can limit much of player input to that of their character but Archipelago has shown otherwise. Yet even there you can see normative power of myth being employed in the game design. People are getting so hung up on owning the success or failure of an action that they are not allowing themselves to experience that it is this improvisational dance between player and DM (or other player) that is the most important facet of the game process.

Myth is normative and in time you can tell if the GM is not adhering to the "aesthetic" of the myth by manipulating events to tell a programmed story. I don't know how to describe it but it is similar to a trained ear discerning when music is being improvised or when it is being played from sheet music.

The hang up on GM involvement in play is another prejudice/stumbling block that people are not acknowledging. I fully understand that this CA is not for everyone but on the other hand the understanding of it is heavily tainted by W.E. thought as can be seen in the type of objections being raised.

Best,

Jay

2
This thread shows the challenge..

I think this thread shows the challenge inherent in equating the particular aesthetic interests present in Jay's gaming, the idea of Creative Agenda, and the particular mechanical tools a game posits.

I've always really enjoyed hearing about this style of gaming, and done some study of recordings of Jay's group. I think there's a lot to learn there, and it's been both inspiring and fruitful.

However, I have also felt, all along, that drawing lines between these elements and trying to make them correspond to each other is a fool's errand. If Mythic Bricolage means engaging in finding meaning in aesthetic and cultural priorities, and treating the imaginary as though it had real power and weight, can you really say that ANY roleplaying/story game doesn't do that? There may be a handful, perhaps (I can just kind of conceive of the possibility!), but I would hate to play in them.

Jay, you might really enjoy the concept of the Fruitful Void. Are you familiar with that, by any chance? There isn't a single, good summary of the idea, unfortunately (the Big Model wiki isn't terribly helpful here!), but I can try:

The mechanics of a game system create certain processes at the table, and offer themselves as tools to the participants. In some games, they attempt to directly address the concerns of the game. (The concept of the Fruitful Void implies that this is a bad thing, but it isn't clear whether that's actually the case or not.) However, in many of our favourite games, the thing that makes the play "magical" or emotionally impactful is that the things we contribute creatively and emotionally to the game *aren't* circumscribed by the strict mechanics. In this kind of design, the mechanics simply act as a set of constraints which add direction and pressure to the activity. Those constraints and pressures, in a well-functioning game, help the participants get to the real interest of play, which is "filling" the Fruitful Void.

I think this is, for whatever reason, clearly visible to you (Jay) when you look at Archipelago, but, for whatever reason, not in other games. Archipelago has a very strict and clear ruleset, but relies in many places on human interpretation. This is true of many/most RPGs, in practice.

I think that, in many ways, the concepts being discussed here are far more blurry than it is being made out to be. Jay, have you ever considered the possibility that trying to conflate 1) the game you've been playing, and its particular priorities (informed by the aesthetics of Tolkien), 2) the concept of Mythic Bricolage, and 3) the concept of Creative Agenda is a form or reductive thinking in itself? I suppose you would call that Western Engineering thinking: the assumption that these three aspects need to have a 1-to-1 correspondence, rather than some far less clear an obvious, murky alchemical mixture.

I'd posit that this is why it's very hard to answer a question like this thread posts: "If Gamism IS Western Engineering, why does it work with similar mechanical tools to Mythic Bricolage?" (In fact, the game Thanuir might be referring to here - Eero's lapinfantasy wargame - is quite explicitly Gamist but has all the features of the Middle Earth game Jay is talking about: case-by-case mechanical use based on subjective interpretation of dice rolls, no or few established mechanical procedures, and a heavy, heavy lean on the aesthetic and mythical/subjective "meaning" behind the historical mythology of both historical/mythical Scandinavia and the various mythology around the Christmas/Yule tradition. For instance, a player suggesting a "move" based on an understanding of the way Jotun mythology intersects with our understanding of gift-giving will have a higher chance of success, based on how that idea might "resonate" with the themes involved. In other words, the application of the mechanics is entirely subjective and non-deterministic, while also based on consideration of the mythical material and implications it might have.)

I don't know if this is helpful or contrarian! But I will leave it here; perhaps it will inspire someone with some ideas. Nice to see these discussions still ongoing!

EDIT: Having looked at Thanuir's links, I can see we're not talking about the same game at all! Apologies if that's confusing to anyone; nevertheless, it doesn't negate my point. I am talking about a different, somewhat Braunstein-like game that Eero is running online at the moment.

0
Focus on fictional cultures

(EDIT: Cross-posted with Paul, not replying to him - of course, after no replies in many hours, we both post within a couple minutes of each other. : )

As for the weapons Bricolage examples, once again, the analogy to anthropology may yield good ideas, but you seem to imply a logical link (Myth is part of culture => Mythic play focuses on in-game cultures) that is not there until you demonstrate it.

This seems like an important question. Is it true that using a mythic thought process implies we should focus on in-game cultures?

Here's what I'm thinking (although it may be a little half-baked). I think that if we do accept the analogy to anthropology, then no, it does not imply that.

Let's accept for the moment that when playing an RPG in a mythic playstyle, you are indeed entering into the same thought process or mindset as described by Lévi-Strauss (the myth-creation mindset). Does this mindset imply a focus on fictional cultures?

No, of course not. What they have in common is that they are meaningful within the real culture of the people creating the myths. So (for example) when Lévi-Strauss describes a system of totemic animals, the point is not really about animals, but about different functional social roles in the society that uses the totemic system.

Here the different animals are just symbols. So people may have many beliefs about eagles. For example, an eagle is a heavenly animal, it is associated with the sun, it is a powerful hunter, etc. So an eagle might be involved in a myth or ritual where these qualities are important. Conversely, you wouldn't use an eagle in a story or a ritual where those symbolic meanings would be inappropriate.

But none of this means you are literally taking on the subjective viewpoint of an eagle. Obviously, this is impossible -- nobody has ever been an eagle. Whatever we know about eagles is from an outside view, even if it feels very true to us. There are lots of myths about animals because animals provide a rich collection of symbols.

So it seems to me -- again, assuming this mythic mindset really is the same mindset involved in mythic RPG play -- that the cultures in Jay's game take on the same role as the animals in some of the myths Lévi-Strauss describes.

When we say, "This group of Barbarians are similar to the Mongolian Huns so will be strongly tied to their composite recurve short bows" ... we aren't really taking on the point of view of the Mongols or Huns. We are using them as a symbol. In fact the Mongols and Huns were two different groups of people; but it is easy to make the mistake of conflating them because from the historical European point of view they both fill a similar symbolic role: powerful invaders from Asia with horses and composite recurve short bows.

Huns and shortbows, quite aside from being real historical entities, are symbols that exists in the culture of the people playing the game. These symbols may have been defined by Hollywood movies, by history books, by video games like Age of Empires, or some other source. But one way or another, we feel that Hun + shortbow = good symbolic match, whereas Hun + longbow = bad symbolic match. This is a statement about the culture of the people playing the game. We feel certain symbols go together, whereas other symbols do not. Can't use a brown bear in a myth where a black bear is required.

So, if you are playing a game with a mythic mindset, I don't think that necessarily implies that it has to be a game about fictional cultures. It could be about animals, or some other set of meaningful symbols.

What it does imply is that the subject matter of the game must be something that is of significance to the real people playing the game. That is the level on which things have to have meaning about the place of human beings in the world.

If you played a game that spoke to the Gondorian conception of man's place in the universe, but it had no meaning to the people at the table, it wouldn't be a very interesting or enjoyable game! At most, it would feel like a dry exercise in fantasy anthropology.

But the meanings you choose to put in the game are things that both have some real meaning to you, and also fit within the symbolic system of the game.

When I listen to the recordings of Cary's game, I don't get the sense that there is a strict boundary drawn between the real world and the game world in terms of which symbolic concepts can be used. Here's a few examples (quoting from memory, not exact):

"He topples like a redwood tree"
"We charge, like in Glory" (alluding to a film the group had watched together)
"These guys, they're like Israeli soldiers"
"The country is in a position like Poland"

These are symbols from movies or 20th century history or the ecology of California, not from within the Tolkien canon. They are used because they are meaningful within the culture of the players. The same is true of the music.

And I suspect this kind of leakage is inevitable since the mythic mindset is about finding things that fit in an unlimited (culturally subjective) context.

2
That makes sense to me!

(Despite the cross-posting :) )

0
Hello,

Hello,

I want to thank Billy for writing so elegantly about what I've been working at for so long. Below is a very long quote that covers a couple of ideas that I've been referencing in my postings, however poorly. The key takeaways are those items I've bolded.

The following is from an old post on The Forge written by Chris Lehrich entitled Bricolage APPLIED (finally!). While the word bricolage does show up in here just after my rant about its misapplication it doesn't interfere with my complaints; plus I didn't want to alter the quote.

[...]So now we have to take into consideration what bricolage is for, theoretically and practically. Theoretically, we've seen that bricolage is an analogy intended to explain the nature of a special kind of abstract thought in the concrete; so what does that entail for RPGs? Practically, we've seen that bricolage produces myths and rituals, but what if anything does that say about practical RPG play?

Remember how I set CA and Social Contract outside the realm of things? That's because they're best understood as structures. (If you've read Levi-Strauss, you know there's something wrong here, but I'll get back to that. This is heuristic, for simplicity's sake.)

Essentially a structure is two things. First of all, it is a pre-made machine, already pretty well tuned and running just fine. We can slap it into any machine we want to build and know it will run in particular ways. Second, it is the abstract formulation entailed by the machine. This is the hard part.

Suppose we step back from the actual machine for a minute and look at it like the engineer. Yes, that thing there is an iron, but from the perspective of the machine in which it is placed it is really a meaning: it means "local heat, heavy, etc." We may only be using "local heat," but it's still heavy. But from this perspective it isn't "iron." So the structure of "iron" put this way is (Local Heat)&(Heavy). If we look at a whole big elaborate machine, we'll see a long column of such meanings intersecting. We'll also see some apparently contradictory meanings: because we wanted the heating thing to be light, we have both Iron (Local Heat)&(Heavy) and Helium Balloon (Really Big)&(Delicate)&(negative-Heavy). In this machine, Heavy and negative-Heavy cancel out, so we get a light total. You see?

The thing is, any structure like this is a horrible mess if it takes into account every single potential meaning, because every thing we use has a huge raft of potential meanings, i.e. is structured densely. This isn't true with engineering, because you design things to have one meaning and little else, but in bricolage you're stuck with the vast entailments of actual things as they really are.

So in addition to structure being a quality of the machine, it's also an aesthetic constraint on what the machine ought to look like. This has many, many layers - which we can roughly break down into those functions (practical, psychological, social) and some intellectual and aesthetic ideals of how we like things to be.[...]

Bolding added

The point of all the above is to demonstrate, far better than I have ever been able, that the "myth" is both meaning driven and functions as its own aesthetic constraint. But notice the critical observation where it works "from the perspective of the machine." In this case "machine" was being used as an analogy for myth as myth is a living process and not just a thing. This shift in perspective from the outside objective to meaning from within (the myth) is one of the most profound differences between W.E. thought and Myth. This is where I draw the notion that Sim is both subjective and thus profoundly different from G/N. In RPG terms I'm saying that the source material and the game created materials (plus our own cultural references) are both meaningful (to the players) and the aesthetic constraint. In Sim play this "aesthetic" as used in reference to myth is a major factor constraining and motivating play. Yes other CA's have their aesthetic values but they are not the priority of play.

Let me include another quote WRT the role of the "aesthetic" in myth and what I'm proposing for Sim. The following is part of an exchange from two posters. The quote within the quote is for context while the main quote is again from Chris Lehrich - The post can be found here.

Quote from: contracycle
Hmm, I'm not so sure I see the distinction as that large. That is, a theory is good to the extent it explains not just this issue here, but also has implications that explain other isssues. At the very least, it must not be contradicted by any existing known thing. Surely the ideal scientific process would also "draw on absolutely everything in the entire known universe and set it all to work achieving one end."

We're right on the cusp of this subtle but I think very important distinction. Let me put it this way. Scientific work starts with rules, theory, and whatnot, moves down to things in the actual world, and then comes back up to more theory. Thus the underlined part of your remark: what makes scientific explanation really valuable, its ultimate criterion of interest, is the implications for a larger range of questions. This isn't about an explanation's validity, which just has to do with the explanation of the thing itself, but of its value, which is the implications for more theory.

As Levi-Strauss describes it, mythic thought works exactly the opposite way. It starts with things, moves up to theory and rules, and then moves back to things in the end. So the validity of the myth, we might say, is again the adequation of theory to object. But the larger value, which is mostly aesthetic rather than practical, is the other things manipulated in the process. The goal isn't, you might say, to explain anything (since the whole process presumes that explanation is possible without significant change to the system) but to connect things satisfyingly.

In role-play terms we come again to the ideas of "aesthetics" and entailments as the central elements of play in Sim. These "aesthetics" include such things as why we love playing in the world we play in. How "aesthetically" pleasing a player's solution or input to the game is. Did he weave in the meaningful things we care about the fictional world into their action that was especially awesome? How well did they deal with the "entailments" - all the other connected issues, bits and pieces that are also involved in the situation?

Finally, as Billy noted, the usage of modern real world references to ascribe a quality to some event or object I include the following - again from Bricolage APPLIED (finally!) post. The quote is long but it bridges from theory to rpg and ultimately why the "real world references" can work just fine under the correct conditions.

Over in Social Contract, we have the real crux of the matter. Unlike CA, we really cannot fully understand social structure, because it entails too many things. Thought of as a machine, it has just far too many bits and pieces that extend way out into stuff we don't want to deal with, like culture and history and sociology sorts of things that we don't want to make a point of debate or contestation within play. So Social Contract constrains how we think about what is and isn't in the shed of things to play with, but it does so without calling attention to itself as much as possible. As soon as you go and make explicit the fact that you're not going to draw in national politics during the game, you make that a point of debate, which the whole point of such constraint was to avoid.

In the Big Model, this works largely top-down. Social Contract lays down big constraints, then CA narrower ones, and so on. One implication of bricolage is that this is not actually the case. In fact, bricolage as an analogy entails that this all works cyclically and dynamically, so as to construct the notion that this is top-down.

The way this works is by further analogy, but this time analogy within the bricolage process. That is, it's a kind of analogy we actually draw in play, usually without really knowing we're doing it.

When we look in our range of mechanics and so on, seeking something to accomplish a given purpose without violating CA, we're apparently thinking theoretically. But this is not the experience of actual play. We don't, that is, reach in there and say, "Hmm, how about this?" "Nah, that's going to violate that aesthetic principle." "Oh, right, how about this other thing?" "Hmm, maybe, but we'd have to twist it." We just do it, in the main, and we do it oddly well. Now partly this is because we're very clever, really, and we have a lot of practice at doing this stuff. But we know of all kinds of examples where this process doesn't work, where in fact we do get an aesthetic violation. Can it really be that there are only perfectly successful and thus invisible manipulations, and total failures that show? The bricolage analogy proposes otherwise.

In order to ask the question, "Will this work without violating CA?" we must apply the structure of the thing to the structure of CA, in a hypothetical sense. But if we're doing that, then we're already putting it into practice, and if there's a failure, it will arise as a failure, cocking up the play moment by drawing attention to exactly what we don't want.

So instead, what we do is ask a different question. We ask, "Is the structure of this thing analogous to the structure of (part of) my CA?" And "Is the structure of this thing analogous to the structure of (part of) my Social Contract?" We can answer this question immediately, because the way we got that thing into the game in the first place was by understanding it as a structure, as range of possibilities rather than an iron, so we've already done the structural work. We just say, "structure A, structure B: are they close?" Sort of like saying, "this is blue, that's blue, they're both blue." For the same reason as we can see that both are blue, or both are trees, or both are mechanics, we can also see that this mechanic will not violate CA without ever posing the question directly.

So the point is we can bring in references from other sources but note in all the examples given they were used as metaphors. We treated the objects as structures and found they were analogous enough to the structures of the thing being described to serve. However such usages do need to be used carefully or they will begin to alter the aesthetic of the game because they have their own entailments that will begin to alter the game if used frequently.

Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to try and bridge from the raw theory I've been using and the wonderful post by Billy. There's more I wanted to cover about the "subjective POV" I've been describing so much meaning it to be from the players' perspective only and not every object in the world. I didn't get to touch upon DeReel's concerns on "Myth is part of culture => Mythic play focuses on in-game cultures". That does not represent the idea I've been trying to communicate. Rather the formulation would be "Myth is part of culture => Mythic play must include the effects of in-game cultures" - not "focus on".

Best,

Jay

1
Let us avoid the argument via sim

Hi Jay,

Thanks for the response to my question. I'll try to summarize.

I asked why certain kinds of gamism amount to Western engineering thinking, given that they do not include some superficial elements. Your answer, with some steps in reasoning made explicit, was: gamism and simulationism are mutually exclusive, and mythical thinking is the same as sim, whence gamism can not have mythical thnking, so it has to be all about engineering thinking.
(as always, please let me know if I misunderstand you)

This means that gamism being engineering thinking relies on two other claims (and is thereby weaker than them): that the classes of creative agendae are distinct, and that sim can be identified with mythical thinking (actually, it is sufficient if sim is a subset of mythical thinking, but whatever). Also, that mythical and engineering thinking are distinct.

Since I see the strong coupling between mythical thinking and sim as part of what is under investigation here, and since the clear separation of families of creative agendae is the weakest part of GNS theory, this is not a very strong argument. If indeed gamism is inherently Western engineering thinking, it should be possible to argue for it directly.

...

The example I used originally was from my experiences. Frie kriegsspiels, Eero's or something related to what Billy linked in some other thread, might be even better examples. But all of these explicitly gamist games I have seen put a strong focus on cultures and figuring out what a given character is capable of through their culture, so they, again, respect the surface features of mythical bricolage.

0
A different angle...

Thanuir, you are taking a different tack than I, but, as I wrote in my last post above, I agree with this. Your logical construction makes a great deal of sense, as well.

0
Haven't started to answer your OP

Hi Thanuir,

I must apologize. I read your latest post and your logic is truly sound...but I have yet to directly address you OP. I've only just established how Sim functions. I've made progress on that front with the help of posters and that has been helpful. Now that I've established what Sim is and how it works I am now in position to argue directly for why Gamism is grounded in W.E. thought.

I will do so soon. So please don't consider this topic closed, yet. I may yet fail but as I said earlier, I haven't started to direct my efforts to your insightful and subtle question. I've only laid the foundations for understanding mythic thought. Now I have to demonstrate that W.E. thought is driving the CA. Do recall that mechanics are not equivalent to CA. As we all recall that is only deducible from the behavior of the players at the game. I may have to ask questions about your play to help clarify my thinking. I hope that is not asking too much. You've been very patient with me so far for which I'm very grateful.

At any rate I will start to directly address your OP

Best,

Jay

0
Free Kriegspiel

Just in case anyone isn't familiar with the concept (it's new to me!), there's a brief description here:

It's definitely Gamism, while having the same technical chassis as the Middle Earth game - technically, they seem pretty much indistinguishable to me.

Here's a very quick overview:

https://undergroundadv.blogspot.com/2020/09/explaining-free-kriegsspiel-...

I wonder if that helps spark any thoughts!

1
Aside on Free Kriegspiel

(By the way, Paul, on that topic, you should check out this thread we had a couple months ago:
https://fictioneers.net/forums/theorize/how-build-better-rulings-not-rul...
Some really interesting discussion!)

1
Thank you!

Looks like I've missed some great discussion. I'll do my best to catch up! :)

1
Not enough info to Pin a CA

Hi Paul,

First of all, welcome back! It seemed you were gone for a fair while.

I followed the link you posted and textually there really isn't anything that strongly suggests a Gamist Agenda. All we know is that there are few if any player facing mechanics and the GM is to use good judgment as much as possible before falling back to use a resolution mechanic. This is the problem that was discussed so many times at The Forge. CA is what the players are doing, not the game design. I agree that game design has a strong influence on the players' choice of CA but the rules cannot enforce themselves. As we have no actual play, definitionally, we cannot say what CA the players expressed. Its a category error.

All caveats aside this piece of text could easily support Sim play for the following reasons.

  1. Feedback is diegetic - "Play world, not rules"
  2. What is prioritized is the world and the experiences therein however you choose them to be. "[...] you almost only engage with the setting as we forego notions of game balance [...]"
  3. The bounds of character action are informed by the setting and not specifically driven/influenced by mechanics "[...] unlimited potential and possibilities within the confines of the setting [...]"
  4. This is very Sim supporting - "[...] you get to try whatever you want and deal with the consequences [...]" In combination with the limits set by setting and dealing with consequences you have the very description of bricolage [get to try whatever you want with the closet of pre-made items being both the entirety of Setting while being constrained by Setting] and having to deal with the entailments [consequences] of items used.

Does this mean that the writer of the post at the link you provided is trying to support a Sim game? Hard to tell, but It wasn't directly noted labeled as such yet much of what the author describes as the "how to play" suggests an abashed/unacknowledged Sim Agenda. I also see that it could very easily be employed for Gamist or possibly Narrativist agendas. What is interesting is that the usual impediments to Sim play are missing. So the question comes down to are the players and the GM going to fill in the "Empty Spaces" using mythic bricolage or hold onto W.E. thought. I'd be very interested in reading any actual play accounts.

Best,

Jay

P.S. - another thing that is very interesting is that the poster directly addressed players of G/N games. This could be interpreted as saying this is a third way. It could also be read as that he is only familiar with G/N game supporting designs/players which is the reality of the published game world.

0
Thanks, Jay!

I appreciate the warm welcome back, and sorry for being MIA for so long! I'm just busy with other things; I'll try to stop by more often. :)

I can see how that link, alone, doesn't tell you much about CA - more than fair! I suppose the missing piece of information is that when I've seen people play in this style, the games are often/almost always Gamist in nature. You can see a big clue here:

You've played mostly OSR D&D, Classic Traveller and other Old Games from like, before the 80s:
It's the same as usual but there's almost no player-facing rules whatsoever.

(emphasis mine)

The basic dynamics of play in old-school D&D and this kind of "free kriegspiel" are almost indistinguishable, aside from a few minor details. In my experience, there is absolutely no doubt that the CA is the same. (It's a somewhat rare instance of incredible clarity and focus in CA - something that is rare to see outside Gamist play, although not unheard of.)

0
Thanks for the clarification!

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the clarification. I don't know how I missed such an obvious tell....sigh.

What is interesting is that the description of the game, textually (excepting my mistake), pushes the burden (and freedom) to decide on the CA the wish to play. IOW there is no guidance per the "rules" and thus we see very clearly that it is the players' free choice to determine what CA they wish to express. This means we can see CA being expressed without contamination of game design. This could be very illuminating if we could get some actual play postings.

Best,

Jay

0