D&D General FKR: How Fewer Rules Can Make D&D Better

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I consider them exclusive because, more or less, you wouldn't bother with some of them if others are present, and if you do need to bother, then...I don't really think the previous was present, it just seemed to be because you had never actually run into an issue before. Which is the fundamental instability of #1 (and, to a much lesser extent, #2): "we simply have lucked into never having a conflict" is indistinguishable from "we don't have conflicts, period" up until the moment your luck runs out.

As soon as a problem has arisen, you don't have #1 anymore. As soon as "talk it out" fails to produce a resolution, your group has proven it cannot resolve problems at least some of the time purely through discussion, and needs some other backstop. It's a question of where the buck stops, not what can potentially be used at some point ever.

I would simply say that "mutually exclusive" has a meaning, and that is not the same meaning as this. Again, I think you have presented a good typology, but real life is messy, and all of these are likely to be occurring.

Moreover, depending on the authority structure of the FKR game, more than one of these might be necessarily required at different points.

Sure. This is why I take such issue with things like Finch's god-awful Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. Because if you cast the alternative in the worst light possible, and your proposal in the best light possible, you can always get a situation where something sounds absolutely amazing and enchanting. Separately, it also gets at my personal concerns with FKR--that I, personally, think rather a majority of GMs are not actually possessed of the mindset, skills, and knowledge required for effective FKR play...and that, very unfortunately, GMs that really shouldn't do FKR are going to be immensely tempted to do so.

Perhaps? That's a weird worry to have! FKR isn't a revolver being handed to children.... I don't cast this in the best light possible- instead, I recommend tables try it. Most of the games work great as one-shots. If it works, then that's something fun for people to keep doing. If not, what's one day in a life?

I mean, I would personally say that the actual issue is that there is little to discuss. You are speaking of intuition. Something that cannot, even in principle, be put into words, because it isn't a procedure or a process or a principle. It's a feeling, a reflex, a value (in the ethics sense, not the numbers sense.) How do you explain the difference between "cool" and "warm" colors to the blind? Or the legal definition of obscenity, which has actual Supreme Court opinion using the completely undefinable phrase "I know it when I see it"?

You can nibble around the edges by discussing specific case-by-case things, but the whole point of (as you phrase it) "second-order design" is that it isn't designed. By definition, it can't be; it is intentionally not a plan or structure prepared in advance, and instead entirely made of improvisation and ad hoc response. All you can really do is discuss the skills required, maybe some stuff about mindset and framing. Then go over example situations to hope that they will provide useful guidance (or practice, if you ask for responses rather than identifying potential good responses first.)

"First-order design" is simply much, much more discussable, because it is, in fact, design. Part of the point of doing first-order design is that it can be communicated, that two totally disconnected groups can achieve comparable, connected experiences because of that ability to communicate it.

I disagree with this. I've posted several examples of different FKR games. I think that the problem that I keep highlighting is that there is little to discuss for people that are focused on the design of the system. Heck, there's probably little to discuss for those who love getting caught up in debates about authority as well- as I've noted, there is no requirement for central authority. If those are things you love to argue about, there is probably little to discuss in FKR.

That said, there are intentional design decisions that are made- when I make a one-shot for FKR (like Disco Party Athletes) I do think about the design, and what I want in the minimal design to be reflected in the second-order design. :)
 

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Voadam

Legend
Separately, it also gets at my personal concerns with FKR--that I, personally, think rather a majority of GMs are not actually possessed of the mindset, skills, and knowledge required for effective FKR play...and that, very unfortunately, GMs that really shouldn't do FKR are going to be immensely tempted to do so. It's not that they are bad GMs, in some sort of moral failing or the like; it's just that the requirements for effective GMing in an FKR environment are stringent, and in a world where GMs are always in short supply, a lot of them simply aren't up to the task.
While I think making DMing calls based on your own judgment instead of written guidelines or die rolls is a skill, I generally think it is a skill that is easy to use effectively for many aspects of a game.

Talking in the role of an NPC and reacting based on how you think seems to flow in the scene from the perspective of the NPC instead of based on a die roll is fairly natural.

For many PC declarations a GM normally just goes with it or makes their own adjudication. While older D&D required a mechanical check anytime a PC wanted to open an unlocked door in a dungeon, most DMs are fine going with it if a PC says they open the door to the tavern and go in.

So for the topic of this thread, I think most DMs in D&D can use a FKR approach to a lot of stuff in D&D without a problem.

Leaving mechanics for combat but FKRing adjudications most elsewhere can work well for a D&D game.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I would simply say that "mutually exclusive" has a meaning, and that is not the same meaning as this. Again, I think you have presented a good typology, but real life is messy, and all of these are likely to be occurring.

Moreover, depending on the authority structure of the FKR game, more than one of these might be necessarily required at different points.
How can you "necessarily require" a lack of conflict because everyone thinks the same?

Perhaps? That's a weird worry to have! FKR isn't a revolver being handed to children.... I don't cast this in the best light possible- instead, I recommend tables try it. Most of the games work great as one-shots. If it works, then that's something fun for people to keep doing. If not, what's one day in a life?
It isn't a revolver, but it isn't without its concerns, either. There are comparisons I could make, but which I will not, as they might be interpreted as giving offense, which is not my intent. Suffice it to say, there are certain similar patterns of behavior, "high-trust" things, that are immensely tempting to exactly a group of people that really shouldn't do them.

I disagree with this. I've posted several examples of different FKR games. I think that the problem that I keep highlighting is that there is little to discuss for people that are focused on the design of the system. Heck, there's probably little to discuss for those who love getting caught up in debates about authority as well- as I've noted, there is no requirement for central authority. If those are things you love to argue about, there is probably little to discuss in FKR.

That said, there are intentional design decisions that are made- when I make a one-shot for FKR (like Disco Party Athletes) I do think about the design, and what I want in the minimal design to be reflected in the second-order design. :)
Okay. What can be discussed, then? Give me examples.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
How can you "necessarily require" a lack of conflict because everyone thinks the same?

To go back to something I referenced earlier, there is often a desire to make typologies "mutually exclusive" so that being in multiple categories is (saints preserve us .....) ...... incoherent. When life usually isn't like that. Most of the time, things aren't delineated into neat categories, and things aren't, in fact, mutually exclusive. Hence the omnipresent meme, "Why not both?"

You presented a typology. I said it was pretty good. But it's not mutually exclusive. It just isn't. Having the participants agree on the shared space does not EXCLUDE having people be tactful and cooperative which does EXCLUDE having a central authority which does not EXCLUDE to group acquiescence to new rulings. In fact, all four are usually present.

Here, let's take Disco Party Athletes as an example. When I ran it after writing if for Iron DM, everyone had the same access to the shared space, and there was general agreement. The group was tactful and cooperative. There was a central authority, but such authority was tempered by the mechanics that favored shared collaborative control over the fiction. Finally, new rulings (such as when I described a setback or something bad) were taken in good faith, or when there was discussion about the parameters of the "boot and rally."

The factors are not exclusive- they're all in there. Again, you have an interesting (and arguably accurate) typology. But the factors aren't mutually exclusive.

It isn't a revolver, but it isn't without its concerns, either. There are comparisons I could make, but which I will not, as they might be interpreted as giving offense, which is not my intent. Suffice it to say, there are certain similar patterns of behavior, "high-trust" things, that are immensely tempting to exactly a group of people that really shouldn't do them.

You're hung up on high trust, because you're conflating it with arguments about authority. This isn't an argument about authority. I will refer you to Perfected, or Cthulhu Dark which states-
Who decides when to roll Insanity? Who decides when it’s interesting to know how well you do something? Who decides when something disturbs your PC? Who decides whether you might fail? Decide the answers with your group. Make reasonable assumptions. For example, some groups will let the Keeper decide everything. Others will share the decisions. These rules are designed to play prewritten scenarios, run by a Keeper. If you try improvising scenarios or playing without a Keeper, let me know.

Is the trust from the players to the GM? The GM to the players? The players to each other?

YES!


Okay. What can be discussed, then? Give me examples.

....I think we've been doing it. I've been doing it for a while. In a LOT of posts. Heck, remember the post I made about context-switching paralysis in D&D as people move from those areas that are heavily codified to those that are lightly codified?

Discuss what you'd like!
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I apologize for not getting back to you - I've been very occupied recently. That said, I wanted to address this issue in a general way before addressing the issues more specifically.

First, I think I need to explain why I don't participate in many of these conversations any more (and this is not directed at you, by the way!). One of the recurring issues I see is what I call the "Texas Two Step," when it comes to jargon, and despite devoting several posts to the issues with it, it just keeps happening. Let's use "simulation" as an example.

"Simulation" was first widely used in the threefold model (GDS). While it has various definitions, I'll just crib the one from wikipedia which is close enough for our purposes-
Simulation is concerned with the internal consistency of events that unfold in the game world, and ensuring that they are only caused by in-game factors - that is, eliminating metagame concerns (such as drama and game). Simulation is not necessarily concerned with simulating reality; it could be a simulation of any fictional world, cosmology or scenario, according to its own rules.

Notice that this is jargon. It has a specified technical meaning that arose in the context of RPGs, and it was about goals. It was trying to set it off against the "G" and "D" components.

The trouble is that while this is jargon, it also has specific connotations that people are familiar with in the real world. For example, when someone says that a pilot has 1,000 hours in a Boeing 737 simulator, a person who hears that assumes that the machine is designed to simulate the reality of flying a Boeing 737- not just some fictional world. In common parlance, simulations usually reflect our reality.

So this is where the Texas Two Step comes in, over and over and over again.

Zeno: I like playing that RPG because I like Lord of the Rings.

Achilles: Well, we all know that is a simulationist RPG. You like simulations! (Using the JARGON)

Zeno: Um, sure. I like the way the game immerses me in the feeling of Middle Earth, and the fiction of Tolkien.

Achilles: HA! How dare you say that? Don't you know that game doesn't accurately simulate the economics of Middle Earth? For that matter, how can a world exist on the same technology for thousands of years? It's not a simulation! (Using the COMMON VERNACULAR)


Unfortunately, this happens repeatedly- people that deliberately conflate jargon with more widely-understood meaning in order to berate people for differing preferences. It's the Texas Two Step- first, get people to use jargon, then use the non-jargon meaning to criticize them, and then go back to defending the jargon. Rinse, repeat.

So when I say that FKR is "simulation," I only mean that by default, it doesn't really do a great job of advancing G goals (because it relies on minimal game mechanics) or D goals (because D goals are usually created through emergent play), and instead is concerned with in-game consistency with a fictional world. And I don't say that to exclude other goals, or to say that others don't have success with it- just to relay my own experiences running it.


Okay .... now, addressing the following specifically-



I think that this is an interesting way of summarizing the push-pull that FKR illustrates. There are those that have spoken eloquently in this thread about why they prefer and enjoy rules for purposes of simulation. There is nothing wrong with that- to use an obvious example, having a common set of written and known rules is great when you have groups that are not familiar with each other and with the shared fiction. Because these models aren't internalized, or because these models are internalized differently, then FKR will probably be harder to run.

On the other hand, when internal models are close in alignment, and/or there is trust that differences in alignment can be resolved equitably by the participants, the advantages of running with a lite rulebook can shine- from speed to engagement.


I hope this answers the questions you were asking, albeit in a roundabout manner.
The issues you outline remind me of why I continue to prefer "immersionism" over "simulationism". To the extent that immersionism is concerned with models, I believe those will be analogic and symbolic rather than identical. Playful representations.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The issues you outline remind me of why I continue to prefer "immersionism" over "simulationism". To the extent that immersionism is concerned with models, I believe those will be analogic and symbolic rather than identical. Playful representations.

I love it!

That said, I've seen a lot of people that have trouble with the term immersion as well, and I can't even imagine trying to get even more phrases in. You've got my support, though, fwiw.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I love it!

That said, I've seen a lot of people that have trouble with the term immersion as well, and I can't even imagine trying to get even more phrases in. You've got my support, though, fwiw.
Speculatively...

Suppose I embrace Edwards' doctrine of incoherence? If I were to see immersion as vital to TTRPG - and according to narratologists immersion is vital to games let alone TTRPG - then I would hardly be able to concede to GIN in place of GSN. For consistency with my doctrine I can only make immersion accessible to all agendas by refusing it recognition as an agenda.

Alternatively, I might accept that all modes are hybrids - albeit with priorities in one place or another - in which case I should find it quite easy to accept that someone might prioritise immersion.

That said, you're probably right. The basic threefolds offer a useful terminology that almost always commits us to error. It might be quite hard to update that... much as it desperately needs updating!
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Speculatively...

Suppose I embrace Edwards' doctrine of incoherence? If I were to see immersion as vital to TTRPG - and according to narratologists immersion is vital to games let alone TTRPG - then I would hardly be able to concede to GIN in place of GSN. For consistency with my doctrine I can only make immersion accessible to all agendas by refusing it recognition as an agenda.

Alternatively, I might accept that all modes are hybrids - albeit with priorities in one place or another - in which case I should find it quite easy to accept that someone might prioritise immersion.

That said, you're probably right. The basic threefolds offer a useful terminology that almost always commits us to error. It might be quite hard to update that... much as it desperately needs updating!
I think the problem is, "immersion" is just porous as a term.

For players seeking Score and Achievement design, "immersion" generally isn't that important, but would be something like "making effective choices comes naturally." To those seeking Groundedness and Simulation design, "immersion" means something like "the model is sufficiently smooth and seamless that you stop noticing that it is a model." For Conceit and Emulation design fans, "immersion" means something like "the core concept feels naturally integrated into the whole experience." And for fans of Values and Issues, "immersion" means something like "you're always so steeped in either the action or the investigation, you have no need to think about anything else."

In other words, "immersionism" just...doesn't seem like a particularly useful term to me. Everyone wants "immersion," but it basically just means smoothness-of-experience for whatever thing (or things) you're seeking. Much like how wisdom is not one of the virtues, but the crown thereof, because there is no such thing as an excess of wisdom, "immersion" is less a design goal in itself, and more a way to say that the design goal was well-executed. There is no such thing as executing something "too well."
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
For players seeking Score and Achievement design, "immersion" generally isn't that important, but would be something like "making effective choices comes naturally." To those seeking Groundedness and Simulation design, "immersion" means something like "the model is sufficiently smooth and seamless that you stop noticing that it is a model." For Conceit and Emulation design fans, "immersion" means something like "the core concept feels naturally integrated into the whole experience." And for fans of Values and Issues, "immersion" means something like "you're always so steeped in either the action or the investigation, you have no need to think about anything else."
I had in mind your earlier fourfold! I can write

For players seeking Score and Achievement design, "narrative" generally isn't that important, but would be something like "I have symbols I can latch onto and my choices chain together my manipulation of those progressively" To those seeking Groundedness and Simulation design, "narrative" means something like "you can narrate events consistently and meaningfully" For Conceit and Emulation design fans, "narrative" means something like "faithful depiction of the scenes will narrate our overarching conceit" And for fans of Values and Issues, "narrative" means something like "the stories told are human stories... the story of our inner lives."

Okay, slightly facetious, and not at all thought through... but perhaps it communicates my point. Which is that all of the folds are found in every game. So to single out immersion as present in every fold, but not itself able to be prioritised for play, seems arbitrary.

In other words, "immersionism" just...doesn't seem like a particularly useful term to me. Everyone wants "immersion," but it basically just means smoothness-of-experience for whatever thing (or things) you're seeking. Much like how wisdom is not one of the virtues, but the crown thereof, because there is no such thing as an excess of wisdom, "immersion" is less a design goal in itself, and more a way to say that the design goal was well-executed. There is no such thing as executing something "too well."
I think everyone wants narration. They want to be able to narrate their play. Self-narration of wargames, as hard-out examples of gamism, is something I've been able to discuss fruitfully with fellow gamers, who attest to also performing it. Everyone wants gamism... few to no games avoid it completely. Watching a story-game session the other day, for just one example, the gamist implications of weapon tags were given voice to. It was all pretty relaxed, but there were gamist factors contributing to the scene.

So on the one hand, I really do wonder if immersion is just not so basic to what a game is, that as you say it can't really be separated out. And on the other hand, isn't gamism basic to what a game is? Isn't narrative basic to what a TTRPG is? That said, if I accept the premise that immersion is inevitable and the others are evitable, I'd conclude as you do. So let's also consider "immersionism" as a label...

"Simulationism" doesn't quite fit because in the end it is the immersion in world, not the simulation of world, that is prioritised. Which hearks back to @Snarf Zagyg's comment: I guess one can go where one's heart takes one, but when it's niche good luck seeing one's preferred self-identification prevail.
 
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