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

clearstream

(He, Him)
So: What does "immersion in world" mean? What do you do to have it, which is distinct from articulating a world with such smooth, natural presentation that one cannot help but forget about the material world for a time?
It took a while to really get started untangling the threads, but here is a further step in the direction I am thinking. First some groundwork
  1. As we know, GDS through to GNS identified three purposes of play. Gamist, Dramatist/Narrativist*, and Simulationist. Uniquely, GNS claims these purposes conflict. Intriguingly, GNS has another category of play - Zilchplay, or play without a creative purpose - which potentially applies to the vast majority of actual roleplayers. (*I'm aware that these aren't quite the same thing.)
  2. GEN took a different approach: positing a bottom tier of mechanics and techiques scaffolding a top tier of intent, style of play and limitations, in all combinations.
  3. You identified a fourfold, expressed in pairs. Score|Achievement, Groundedness|Simulation, Conceit|Emulation, and Values|Issues.
  4. A quite influential blogpost categorised play into six cultures. Classic. Trad. Nordic Larp. Story Games. OSR. Neo-trad.
  5. A few elements have been claimed more or less by all sides. Exploration. Immersion. Story (whether in the telling or the creating.) To the extent that TTRPGs are games, one can feasibly add Game.
  6. I've observed other purposes. Such as the Construction|Perfection that I advocated should be added to your fourfold.
Recently, I have been influenced by an essay by Eero Tuovinen about simulationism. He says that
Simulationist play attempts to experience a subject matter in a way that results in elevated appreciation and understanding. The Shared Imagined Space is utilized for intensely detailed perspectives that sometimes surpass the means of traditional, non-interactive mediums.
Tuovinen also writes that
the psychological basis for Narrativism is artistic self-realization, right? I think that the best argument for the CA modes not being distinct modes all around is probably in this territory: the distinction between Narrativist self-realization and Simulationistic elevated understanding is sort of subtle; it’d be credible to argue that they in fact can cohere creatively in the right circumstances. (This would be distinct from technical Hybrid design; this is saying that Nar and Sim overlap as CA categories rather than there being some technical trick to make creative needs align in play.) The modes can be much more distinct if you specifically contrast subject matters, but a Simulationistic game about human psychology and a Narrativist game about human psychology can seem awfully similar. I think that the distinction lies solely in whether you’re pursuing an understanding of the subject or a personal artistic pronouncement; that is, if you’re looking to learn, or to transform yourself.
In a recent exchange, a poster here on Enworld characterised simulationism in the following ways - setting tourism, touring, leisurely, breezy free play.

I think the utility of GNS is that it offers purchase on an otherwise impossibly diverse and nuanced subject. If your fourfold was more widely shared, it would serve equally well. Speaking in terms of norms, I can see at least a fivefold at this point (this is where immersionism comes in.)
  1. Gamism, nearest your S|A and Classic, OSR wants in, too
  2. Dramatism, nearest your V|I and Story Games, and from its own unique angle Nordic Larp.
  3. Simulationism (per Tuovinen) nearest elements of your G|S and C|E.
  4. Immersionism, which I will now label "Tourism", nearest other elements of your G|S and C|E.
  5. Storytelling, nearest Trad and Neo-Trad
Additionally, there's some reason to believe that certain mechanics and techniques best serve some purposes or intents and styles of play, in part through how they limit it. Various positions are taken on agency and authorship, sanctity and interest; sometimes unhelpfully conflated with purposes.

So! To put it provocatively, 1. is where we started, and 4. and 5. are what the vast majority of actual RPG play has been to date. Zilchplay. Exploring worlds and stories. Dramatism has been busily breaking things and making discoveries that benefit everyone. Simulationism has been hiding its light under a bushel. And notice that everyone is still going to want a slice of exploration, immersion, story, and game... they can't easily do without those things.

Using this fivefold for purchase, I've observed satisfying play in all of the following cases
  • Purism - drive one so hard that there isn't space for the others.
  • Diversity over time - move between purposes as fits your exploration.
  • Hybridisation - reconstruct your play around your purposes
  • Casual tolerance - make space for each participant to focus on purposes that satisfy them
  • Differential emphasis - some purposes are muted, such as my C|P, while others are emphasised
So that's immersionism relabelled now as "tourism". I'd like to close on this from Tuovinen
discussion of a game text’s creative agenda is a discussion of the perceived utility of the text; the agenda is not in the text, strictly speaking, so much as it is in how you understand it.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It took a while to really get started untangling the threads, but here is a further step in the direction I am thinking. First some groundwork
  1. As we know, GDS through to GNS identified three purposes of play. Gamist, Dramatist/Narrativist*, and Simulationist. Uniquely, GNS claims these purposes conflict. Intriguingly, GNS has another category of play - Zilchplay, or play without a creative purpose - which potentially applies to the vast majority of actual roleplayers. (*I'm aware that these aren't quite the same thing.)
  2. GEN took a different approach: positing a bottom tier of mechanics and techiques scaffolding a top tier of intent, style of play and limitations, in all combinations.
  3. You identified a fourfold, expressed in pairs. Score|Achievement, Groundedness|Simulation, Conceit|Emulation, and Values|Issues.
  4. A quite influential blogpost categorised play into six cultures. Classic. Trad. Nordic Larp. Story Games. OSR. Neo-trad.
  5. A few elements have been claimed more or less by all sides. Exploration. Immersion. Story (whether in the telling or the creating.) To the extent that TTRPGs are games, one can feasibly add Game.
  6. I've observed other purposes. Such as the Construction|Perfection that I advocated should be added to your fourfold.
Recently, I have been influenced by an essay by Eero Tuovinen about simulationism. He says that

Tuovinen also writes that

In a recent exchange, a poster here on Enworld characterised simulationism in the following ways - setting tourism, touring, leisurely, breezy free play.

I think the utility of GNS is that it offers purchase on an otherwise impossibly diverse and nuanced subject. If your fourfold was more widely shared, it would serve equally well. Speaking in terms of norms, I can see at least a fivefold at this point (this is where immersionism comes in.)
  1. Gamism, nearest your S|A and Classic, OSR wants in, too
  2. Dramatism, nearest your V|I and Story Games, and from its own unique angle Nordic Larp.
  3. Simulationism (per Tuovinen) nearest elements of your G|S and C|E.
  4. Immersionism, which I will now label "Tourism", nearest other elements of your G|S and C|E.
  5. Storytelling, nearest Trad and Neo-Trad
Additionally, there's some reason to believe that certain mechanics and techniques best serve some purposes or intents and styles of play, in part through how they limit it. Various positions are taken on agency and authorship, sanctity and interest; sometimes unhelpfully conflated with purposes.

So! To put it provocatively, 1. is where we started, and 4. and 5. are what the vast majority of actual RPG play has been to date. Zilchplay. Exploring worlds and stories. Dramatism has been busily breaking things and making discoveries that benefit everyone. Simulationism has been hiding its light under a bushel. And notice that everyone is still going to want a slice of exploration, immersion, story, and game... they can't easily do without those things.

Using this fivefold for purchase, I've observed satisfying play in all of the following cases
  • Purism - drive one so hard that there isn't space for the others.
  • Diversity over time - move between purposes as fits your exploration.
  • Hybridisation - reconstruct your play around your purposes
  • Casual tolerance - make space for each participant to focus on purposes that satisfy them
  • Differential emphasis - some purposes are muted, such as my C|P, while others are emphasised
So that's immersionism relabelled now as "tourism". I'd like to close on this from Tuovinen
Okay. I'm still not entirely clear on what makes Tourism different from Simulationism, other than that it is....for lack of a better term, "casual" in a very specific, narrow sense? That is, it sounds like the distinction you're drawing between Simulation and Tourism is that Simulation delights in the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts process, while Tourism delights in a low-resolution, "how does it feel" process--but both ultimately want the same thing.

To use a video game comparison, I'm seeing a similarity to the spectrum that computer real-time strategy games lie on. At one end, you have incredibly deep and complex "grand strategy" games with a zillion moving parts meant to really catch all the nitty-gritty about something, like the recent Victoria 3. At the other far end, you have relatively "basic" strategy games that gloss most details and focus almost totally on the simple build base, exploit resources, get units, defeat enemies process, e.g. Command & Conquer or StarCraft. In the middle, you get things like Age of Empires on the moderately "low detail" end since you still have eras and techs and such but it's much closer to C&C, Stellaris on the moderately high-detail end, etc. But, ultimately, they're all in there for the same core value, engaging strategic thinking in the careful use of resources, infrastructure, units, and territory.

I, personally, think that treating "grand strategy" as a totally separate thing from, for lack of a better term, "operation strategy" (your strategy is focused on winning each conflict), is putting too fine a point on things. The two mix and blend because there's not really a distinction here, just a question of intricacy and focus within the same fundamental core value. Not to overextend a metaphor, but I think this is useful for looking at your quotes from Mr. Tuovinen too. There, I think he may be risking a conflation between "these are actually just the same" and "these things have shown convergent evolution."

Back to the video-game analogy, it would be like saying that because tactics games (like modern X-COM, Fire Emblem, and many many others) that do any kind of resource management e.g. money/home base structures can start to resemble the "operational strategy" end of the strategy-game spectrum, then REALLY tactics and strategy are just slightly different lenses for doing precisely the same things. I consider that almost completely incorrect when it comes to tactical games vs strategy games, other than to note that in specific contexts meeting the needs of one end can resemble meeting needs of the other and thus possibly satisfy fans of either thing. Likewise, I consider his argument that because Narrative and Simulation may end up at the same place, they must be the same thing, to be almost wholly incorrect--not useless, since it's good to remember that the same game might thus satisfy distinct user interests, but very wrongheaded if it's meant to be a reason to ignore or downplay a distinction. To use a crude cuisine metaphor, a really good charcuterie board is going to welcome something palate-cleansing like fruit (sweet, acidic, moist) to cut through the fat and richness of meat and cheese, and a fruit platter welcomes something solid and grounded to contrast the fruit (such as meat and cheese!), but that doesn't mean that "fruit platter" and "charcuterie board" are really exactly the same thing. The two can complement one another, and advanced, nuanced applications of either can show similarities, but they aren't the same.

So, because that got a bit long: (1) I still don't see how Tourism actually differs from Simulation, other than being more relaxed about how nitty-gritty specific you get, and (2) I don't consider "how nitty-gritty specific you get" as a meaningful differentiator of game-design-purposes. Conversely, (3) Narrative and Simulation can certainly have some convergent evolution going on--note how Tuovinen makes specific mention that this really only holds when you have the same topic or theme--but (4) their fundamental core values remain different, they just (semi-)coincidentally happen to lead to similar ends some of the time.

I'm also really not clear on Zilchplay, neither what it means, nor (especially) how it relates to what you've said here. Finally, because it's been a hot minute, could you explain your Construction and Perfection again? Purely from the words themselves, that sounds like a (for lack of a better term) meta-category. It's not a goal in itself, but a goal about how you achieve the goals. Maybe?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Okay. I'm still not entirely clear on what makes Tourism different from Simulationism, other than that it is....for lack of a better term, "casual" in a very specific, narrow sense? That is, it sounds like the distinction you're drawing between Simulation and Tourism is that Simulation delights in the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts process, while Tourism delights in a low-resolution, "how does it feel" process--but both ultimately want the same thing.
So this is how I see it. Sim is essentially playful investigation. The end result is elevated appreciation. A group could decide to use a detailed model, or they could achieve it in markedly different ways. This is a shaking-off of traditional fetters on sim (has to be low-energy, has to be into nitty-gritty, and so forth. Sim is directed, interested.

Tourism is about what happens in the moment. Letting it all wash over you. Delight in being and experiencing. I think it has to be separated out to make room for a kind of play folk sometimes prefer. This has yet to be worked through, but I believe the distinction is going to be directly analogous to the story-telling / story-creating dichotomy. If those aren't the same thing, then neither is tourism / sim.

Likewise, I consider his argument that because Narrative and Simulation may end up at the same place, they must be the same thing, to be almost wholly incorrect--not useless, since it's good to remember that the same game might thus satisfy distinct user interests, but very wrongheaded if it's meant to be a reason to ignore or downplay a distinction. To use a crude cuisine metaphor, a really good charcuterie board is going to welcome something palate-cleansing like fruit (sweet, acidic, moist) to cut through the fat and richness of meat and cheese, and a fruit platter welcomes something solid and grounded to contrast the fruit (such as meat and cheese!), but that doesn't mean that "fruit platter" and "charcuterie board" are really exactly the same thing. The two can complement one another, and advanced, nuanced applications of either can show similarities, but they aren't the same.
Agreed, the goal isn't to ignore distinctions, but to free oneself from any assumptions of inevitable conflict. (I'm not saying you have any!) For one thing, such assumptions lack robust empirical evidence. I like the charcuterie analogy: not least because it helps us see that differing tastes, too, will play a part.

because it's been a hot minute, could you explain your Construction and Perfection again? Purely from the words themselves, that sounds like a (for lack of a better term) meta-category. It's not a goal in itself, but a goal about how you achieve the goals. Maybe?
Construction-and-Perfection
Perfection is the neurotic satisfaction in a tidy or controlled game state. Construction includes constructing a collection, and is found in all the places that players can make a choice to achieve a satisfying neatness and completeness. In RPG, it's noticeable in choices on offer in a system that "click" together. It can be mistaken for a concern for balance, where it is in fact concern for preservation and fulfillment of pattern. This is a powerful purpose that almost every game is designed to satisfy to some extent. Class-based designs, magic items, features that "click" together... and so on.
 
Last edited:

Oligopsony

Explorer
Isn't that how to write fanfiction?
Well, yes and no.

No, technically, because fanfiction is defined by its relationship to another canonical fiction and your play might or might have that - Star Wars vs. your own setting.

No more generally because writing prose fiction has a number of goals that solo play doesn't traditionally have, and the stance you're taking is different. For instance, when writing prose fiction you care about the craft of the prose and are trying to turn it into a complete work, even when "pantsing" you may jump around quite a bit editing what has happened, and certainly editing after the fact, because you're trying to produce something for a third party audience.

In solo play you're attempting to inhabit the stance of a particular person, and you're not producing for an external audience. So the procedures you're following may be quite different, as are the goals. Rolling on a random table would be something that a traditional author might only due if she needed inspiration, but a solo player might have it as a methodological point that they're going to consult with the table and run with it.

Yes, sorta kinda, in that obviously this is a mode of playing RPGs that is much closer to writing prose fiction than others. If you were writing everything out in an AP for an external party to enjoy, and you were editing it to be more compelling and satisfactory as a work of external prose, I'd say the boundary is almost completely effaced.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
You've said more than once that authority concerns are irrelevant, and yet that has...manifestly not been my experience in how others discuss it.

So...what is this multitude of ways to deal with it that you speak of? Because I'm genuinely not seeing it.

Well, since some cleric wandered by and cast resurrection on this thread, I guess I'll re-address this.

While the original 1800s Prussian wargame did move to a centralized and experienced neutral adjudicator (as opposed to using a complex ruleset), that's not what modern FKR is about.

To reiterate three examples from the OP-

1. Perfected.
We both roll dice.
If you roll high, your view of reality prevails.
-Player authors the fiction.
If I roll high, my view of reality prevails. -DM authors the fiction.
If we're close, we negotiate. -Shared authority over the fiction.

2. Cthulhu Dark (lite rules).
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.
Translated- who has authority? It's up to the group. Maybe the Keeper (DM) will decide everything. Maybe it's shared authority. Figure it out.

3. Disco Party Athletes (that's the game I made for Iron DM)
The mechanics are in the (spoiler), but roughly translate to the player choosing the ability to apply, and rolling dice. If the player succeeds on the roll, the players describes what happens (authors the fiction). Otherwise, the DM describes what happens (authors the fiction). There's some collateral mechanics as well. You're welcome to look at it.


Again, there's a lot of FKR games that are DM-centric in terms of authority, and I provided an example of that as well (Dark Empires, or some default "Playing the World" examples). But I devoted an entire section of the OP to this issue-

D. Some of the links you have below talk about "high trust." Is this just the "big con" for DMs to do whatever they want?
Nope. "High trust" means that everyone at the table trusts each other- the players trust the referee to make fair rulings, the referee and players trust each other to engage in the fiction in good faith, and so on. If you looked at the various games I've linked to (or even looked at Perfected ....) you will notice that FKR games don't have a unified view of authority.
...
The one theme going through is that there is trust at the table; this is what I often refer to as the assumption that everyone is playing in good faith, but has also been stated, more colorfully by Mike Mornard, as The Rules can't fix stupid, and they can't fix a*h**.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So this is how I see it. Sim is essentially playful investigation. The end result is elevated appreciation. A group could decide to use a detailed model, or they could achieve it in markedly different ways. This is a shaking-off of traditional fetters on sim (has to be low-energy, has to be into nitty-gritty, and so forth. Sim is directed, interested.

Tourism is about what happens in the moment. Letting it all wash over you. Delight in being and experiencing. I think it has to be separated out to make room for a kind of play folk sometimes prefer. This has yet to be worked through, but I believe the distinction is going to be directly analogous to the story-telling / story-creating dichotomy. If those aren't the same thing, then neither is tourism / sim.
This sounds outside my (intended) purview. (Trying for brevity for once!)

"Elevated appreciation" sounds like Conceit & Emulation. "Tourism" itself as Conceit: visiting another world. Narnia, Barsoom, a zillion isekai anime. It's widespread, popular, and separate. C|E covers a lot of ground, 'cause "Conceit" is diverse, just as "Genre Fiction" is.

You can have high-energy "process" sim, it just isn't common (without computer help). Further, "process" sim focuses on accuracy, specificity, science-like predictability. It's about having a process that preserves...I guess "authenticity." Hence my comparison to "grand stategy" games, but also flight sims (ideal: authentic, cockpit-like controls/setup.)

Tourism, as Conceit, seems less about this authenticity, more about tactile, sensory stuff. You imagine really smelling the spices and camels, really hearing the music, really feeling hot desert winds. Etc. For this sensory feel to linger long, things must stay light, quick. G|S is highly compatible if, as you say, it doesn't bog down. S|A mixes poorly with the Tourism Conceit; V|I it depends.

Don't see the "story-telling"/"story-creating" distinction. They sound synonymous.

Agreed, the goal isn't to ignore distinctions, but to free oneself from any assumptions of inevitable conflict. (I'm not saying you have any!) For one thing, such assumptions lack robust empirical evidence. I like the charcuterie analogy: not least because it helps us see that differing tastes, too, will play a part.
Classification's prime utility is focus and direction. I have always said my "purposes" are miscible (albeit variably.) I'd rather avoid over-emphasis on mixing, if only because it's new. Bright colors for now; blends for later. Nuance is like salt. Adding? Easy. Removing excess? Hard.

Glad you like the food analogy (perhaps a first? Hah.) As said, mixing is great--but serving multiple masters has costs.

Construction-and-Perfection
Perfection is the neurotic satisfaction in a tidy or controlled game state. Construction includes constructing a collection, and is found in all the places that players can make a choice to achieve a satisfying neatness and completeness. In RPG, it's noticeable in choices on offer in a system that "click" together. It can be mistaken for a concern for balance, where it is in fact concern for preservation and fulfillment of pattern. This is a powerful purpose that almost every game is designed to satisfy to some extent. Class-based designs, magic items, features that "click" together... and so on.
Definitely outside my (intended) purview. Too meta, too universal. As you say, almost every game. That's a problem: not a target to shoot at, but better archery.

Can an overall bad design still have this? Can a truly excellent design lack it? I argue no on both.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
"Elevated appreciation" sounds like Conceit & Emulation. "Tourism" itself as Conceit: visiting another world. Narnia, Barsoom, a zillion isekai anime. It's widespread, popular, and separate. C|E covers a lot of ground, 'cause "Conceit" is diverse, just as "Genre Fiction" is.

You can have high-energy "process" sim, it just isn't common (without computer help). Further, "process" sim focuses on accuracy, specificity, science-like predictability. It's about having a process that preserves...I guess "authenticity." Hence my comparison to "grand stategy" games, but also flight sims (ideal: authentic, cockpit-like controls/setup.)

Tourism, as Conceit, seems less about this authenticity, more about tactile, sensory stuff. You imagine really smelling the spices and camels, really hearing the music, really feeling hot desert winds. Etc. For this sensory feel to linger long, things must stay light, quick. G|S is highly compatible if, as you say, it doesn't bog down. S|A mixes poorly with the Tourism Conceit; V|I it depends.

Don't see the "story-telling"/"story-creating" distinction. They sound synonymous.
So the key insight of Edwards was to grasp the ludic-duality that had been noted by some writers on computer and game studies. Which is that player is at once audience and author. He basically said that ludic-protagonism - for which there would be a distinct point in playing a game rather than say reading a good book or taking in a great film - required players to be the ones to resolve dramatic premises. This established a difference between players being told a story (the traditional railroad with all its many forms and benefits) and creating one. That led to story now (creating the story now: in the act of play.)

I am drawing the same distinction between sim investigation and setting tourism. If the words were not already so burdened, I would instead label that something like "ludic-exploration" and "immersionism". Anyway, in order for there to be a played investigation - again, for which there would be a distinct point in playing a game - it ought to leverage the ludic-duality. Just as narrativism did not dispel receiving story in the form of game, which remains an effective and widely played mode, sim will not dispel receptive exploration/immersion.

What it does however, is put sim on an equal footing with nar and gam. As Tuovinen puts it "The theoretical implications are, of course, vast: a Simulationistic game necessarily has substance, which implies heft and effort."
 

G

Guest 7042500

Guest
My, my, my.

As the person who invented the "Free Kriegsspiel Renaissance," and the acronym "FKR", I find this.... fascinating.

More after I've read and digested all this.

The first point of the FKR is that text has no authority. All authority rests in the hands of the referee.
 

G

Guest 7042500

Guest
I'm also fascinated at people claiming "FKR is this" or "FKR is that" when it's a half baked idea I yanked out of my tush one day.

Also... says who? Who stole my idea without credit? And has anybody heard of Verdy du Vernois?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

overgeeked

B/X Known World
My, my, my.

As the person who invented the "Free Kriegsspiel Renaissance," and the acronym "FKR", I find this.... fascinating.

More after I've read and digested all this.

The first point of the FKR is that text has no authority. All authority rests in the hands of the referee.

I'm also fascinated at people claiming "FKR is this" or "FKR is that" when it's a half baked idea I yanked out of my tush one day.

Also... says who? Who stole my idea without credit? And has anybody heard of Verdy du Vernois?
Hello, Mike. How's it going? What do you think of all this talk of FKR going on now?

Yeah, a few people are familiar with Wesley, Totten, Verdy, Meckel, and Reisswitz.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top