davidberg (davidberg) wrote,

abstract theory musing: role of assumption in imaginative exploration

Some guys on the Forge were making a case for a particular source of fun in RPGs, basically called "adbuctive failure".  It's where players make assumptions about the gameworld that are appropriate and logical but also boringly predicatable, and then the GM will occasionally say, "Aha!  In this case, your expectations are incorrect!  There's Something Different over here!"  And this is fun and the Something Different makes the world richer and the players pay attention to it.  Anyway, this got me musing:

In terms of SIS-enriching, there's this need to navigate the spectrum between the following:
A) GM describes every detail of what characters perceive
B) players assume what their characters perceive

Were it not for the inefficiency of speech, my preference would be for all the way at the (A) end of the spectrum.  Alas, doing straight (A), it would take a whole play session to enter a new room.  Obviously, some assumption needs to be used.  Past play has shown that "describe a thing once in painful detail, then use that as a template for assumptions in future" works well, but I certainly haven't made any sort of a science out of it.

Re: resolution mechanics being play priority emphases, y'all seem to be pointing out the same spectrum for processes:
A) in-SIS physics and probabilities determine what happens
B) players assume what happens

Same issue applies.  If gathering up all the variables and applying all the laws and rolling all the probabilities didn't take so long, I'd do it!  But it does take too long, so sometimes we just assume, and often we strike a balance of common sense + brief look-up + roll a d6, or some such.

So, when do we just assume, when do we go halfway, and when do we do as much modeling as possible?  Chris L.'s answer seems to be, "We do less of the 'as it is assumed, so it is' technique when the process matters."  And so each game's resolution rules imply what's important in that game, by what they choose to model.

Going back to the issue of simple "what's in my character's environment?", I don't believe rules usually imply such an emphasis (here it matters, here it doesn't), I think degree of player interaction does -- how many questions the GM gets asked, for example.  In my experience, "here it matters" is usually "when I fear for my character's survival" (maybe also "when I expect to find clues"?).

Note: it just occurred to me that in order to talk about this, I also need to be able to talk about whether the process of assuming / abducing is actually happening at all at any given moment. A game that facilitates assumptions about the SIS is still probably better than a game that doesn't facilitate thinking baout the SIS at all...

Note 2: if players are making wrong assumptions, better to have those communicated so they can be corrected?
Tags: abstract theory musing

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