thread: 2012-12-28 : Positioning: Disagreements?

On 2012-12-28, Threlicus wrote:

Okay! I’m not really sure whether this is a disagreement or just violent agreement, but I have some more commentary on number 7, retroactivity.

First, I think the degree of ante-move uncertainty is on a spectrum, not a qualitative, binary difference between boardgames and RPGS. To make my point, consider making a move in several different game systems: Chess; a complex, counter-based game like Squad Leader where the ‘rules’ might be unclear or require interpretation or close inspection of a map with a ruler and string; a Gygaxian-era sandtable wargame with an ‘impartial’ referee; D&D 4th Edition; an abstract ‘social conflict’ in Diaspora; Apocalypse or Dungeon World where the fictional triggers are ‘defined’ but in natural language which requires interpretation; Universalis; making a post in a freeform PbP RPG with ‘no god-moding’ as an agreed-on tenet.

I think the level of uncertainty you have in the legitimacy of your move pretty much increases as you go from the more rigidly defined systems at the start of the list to the less rigid ones at the end. Feel free to quibble with the details, but I think the point that there is a spectrum is pretty clear, even if it’s not well-ordered, and may change depending on circumstances—D&D 4e is much less rigidly defined in Skill Challenge mode than in tactical combat, for example. Even in Chess, though, the legitimacy of your attempted move may be challenged—“You can’t capture en passant! Don’t you remember, my last move was only one forward”, or even “Wait, no, your bishop couldn’t have been on that square, remember? Did you bump it?”

So I think when you put ‘(it usually is)’ in parenthesis there at the end of number seven, you collapse a whole range of degree of uncertainty about legitimacy down into a single ‘usually’. Whereas I think it’s really a matter of System (in the comprehensive sense, including the other players’ sensibilities and interpretations of the agreed-upon rules), operating on the fictional positioning—some of which may be specified in mechanical, mathematical terms, I think—that determines the legitimacy of a move. Depending on how well you understand that System, your ante-move confidence in its legitimacy may range from very nearly certain to “I dunno, guys, do you think it’s legit for me to do ‘X’?”


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