Jon Peterson: Does System Matter?

D&D historian Jon Peterson asks the question on his blog as he does a deep dive into how early tabletop RPG enthusiasts wrestled with the same thing.

Based around the concept that 'D&D can do anything, so why learn a new system?', the conversation examines whether the system itself affects the playstyle of those playing it. Some systems are custom-designed to create a certain atmosphere (see Dread's suspenseful Jenga-tower narrative game), and Call of Cthulhu certainly discourages the D&D style of play, despite a d20 version in early 2000s.


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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

innerdude

Legend
I just have difficulty grasping holding D&D out as an exemplar of rules as phsyics, especially with the core of the combat system being a metagame mechanic (hitpoints, talking about hitpoints)!

Not just a metagame mechanic, but a Fortune-in-the-Middle metagame mechanic at that. What does all of that hit point attrition actually mean in the fiction, anyways? No one really knows until the end of the fight, after all healing checks have been made and hit dice expended.

Only then can you reverse-engineer a fight to sort of make sense of "just how wounded, exactly" the PC participants were.
 
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Emerikol

Adventurer
Except... if you accept that what's modeled in the game session is not the general way things are always modeled in the reality, this breaks down quickly. I don't apply the combat rules to everything off camera when I run 5e -- and I have stories of fights, heck I've run fights, that haven't used the combat mechanics (I ran a fight about 2 years ago that was part of a skill challenges, and that fight didn't involve the normal combat rules, but rather skill uses and narrative techniques, and I did this because it was embedded in a larger plot -- it was the diversionary gladiator fight during an attempt to lure and capture a notorious and dangerous criminal)! So, yeah, this requires leaning into the concept and isn't a function of having rules.
Remember we are discussing multiple play styles. The fact you do not does not mean no one does. That is the whole crux of the matter.

Now, also remember that even if a DM would adjudicate an outcome without playing it out as they likely would, they would do so based on the rules and not the real world. In D&D, if a 20th level fighter is surrounded and attacked by 20 1st level fighters he will mop the floor with them. We might agree this is unlikely in the real world. Let's posit it is even if you disagree for purposes of this discussion. The DM is going to know off camera a battle occurred between the 20th level fighter and the 1st level fighters. He won't play it out but he will resolve it based on his knowledge of the rules. At least in my own way of playing.


More to the point, some games, like Blades in the Dark, actively fight against this concept. The rules there do no modeling of reliable physics because they sit at the level of narrative rather than task resolution. You might make a check in one moment to determine who what happens next in a knife fight, and then make that same check to see what happens during a gang war clash!

So, no, I'm not sure I can agree that this is a logical outcome of having rules rather than a choice of approach.

So a game deliberately caters to a particular idea. Does that not mean that other systems might not cater the other way. So system can matter.

Except that... it doesn't have to work this way nor does it mean that such things, which are parsed out for us as players so that they're simplified, are actually observable with any such granularity in the game world. This, however, does move you much more closely to the understood version of rules as physics than what you've argued above. This is saying that the rules are the model of the physics in the world, rather than a game resolution mechanic, and are universal in all cases throughout the world. This, however, is not a system function, but a worldbuilding function.
I was never off of that understanding. You've just realized what I am talking about. If the rules are the physics of the world then it inexorably leads to the idea that characters within that world have some understanding of them. The same way we do with the real world even in the middle ages.


This is really what confuses me about this argument. On the one hand, you clearly suggest that not being thrown by a massive creature swatting you is non-realistic (for a given value of realism), but then say that good modelling of physical processes is important to people that prefer this approach! D&D is a poor physics engine, at the best of times, but it's often held out as an example of where this approach is applied. What it seems like to me is that there's an amalgamation of understandings and preferences that have accreted over time, or perhaps been taught when a player is first introduced to the game, that results in a hodge-podge of when it matters and when it doesn't. Nothing at all wrong with this! If you have fun, it's the right way, I just have difficulty grasping holding D&D out as an exemplar of rules as phsyics, especially with the core of the combat system being a metagame mechanic (hitpoints, talking about hitpoints)!
It has nothing to do with realism. It's a blind spot in your way of thinking for sure. It's never been about realism. 1e is no more realistic than 3e. We are able to imagine a larger than life fantasy world where PC's and some NPCs as well are super heroic. So you really miss the whole point but I think it is the very fact that it is hard for you to grasp our position that makes you who you are in your preferences. People with different sensibilities have a difficulty with empathy for the other side.

As to game system, a game like 1e D&D for example is easy to apply the rules as physics. While super heroic, there is nothing that really seems alien. It's very much like watching tv. There is crap on tv that is completely unrealistic but we buy it. It's plausible in a super heroic setting. And that goes for all sorts of shows not just fantasy/sci-fi shows. Every notice that the hero will easy punch a bad guy once and knock him out until at the end he fights the big bad guy and they will literally beat the living daylights out of each other and neither go down for some time?

There are things in a game that just don't sit right despite our ability to include the fantastical. Those things are part of a system typically. When a system has those things, a lot of people decide the system is not for them. Often they don't even know why because not everyone thinks it through like we do.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Not just a metagame mechanic, but a Fortune-in-the-Middle metagame mechanic at that. What does all of that hit point attrition actually mean in the fiction, anyways? No one really knows until the end of the fight, after all healing checks have been made and hit dice expended.

Only then can you reverse-engineer a fight to sort of make sense of "just how wounded, exactly" the PC participants were.
I don't mind a simple hit point system but the mess of it WoTC has made in the last two editions is not my cup of tea.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
These days I tend to like games with a fairly high degree of correspondence between the fiction and the rules. I'm still not comfortable extrapolating rules beyond their intended use though. No model or representation of things is going to do a perfect job of representing what's actually happening. The more specific the model the less well it tends to represent/explain/predict outside of its bounds. A pretty good example is the detailed skirmish combat between relatively small numbers of characters within pretty similar bands of combat capability we see in most action oriented RPGs. Trying to expand the model outside of those fairly narrow constraints tends to lead to issues.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
One fun answer I often give in a certain situation came to mind from this discussion. Yes the rules are the physics of the world in my game but magic items and monsters are not "rules" that are public to the players. I tell them it's fine to read those things (mainly I can't stop them) but that they should be treated as treatise on what an in world person knows and not absolute reality.

So when a magic item behaves differently or a monster lacks a power or has a different one and a player says "Hey that monster can't do that?". I answer "Are you going to believe some old must tome put out by the local sage or are you going to believe your own eyes?"
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Remember we are discussing multiple play styles. The fact you do not does not mean no one does. That is the whole crux of the matter.
I don't believe I made any statement that would suggest that I'm not aware of, or even disapprove of, other methods or approaches to play. I'm absolutely sure I made statements to the contrary.

I'm not arguing against however you choose to play, I'm pointing out that the justification you gave is contradictory with itself. If you care about that or not, I'm not to say, nor to judge, but if you make the argument here, it's open for discussion.
Now, also remember that even if a DM would adjudicate an outcome without playing it out as they likely would, they would do so based on the rules and not the real world. In D&D, if a 20th level fighter is surrounded and attacked by 20 1st level fighters he will mop the floor with them. We might agree this is unlikely in the real world. Let's posit it is even if you disagree for purposes of this discussion. The DM is going to know off camera a battle occurred between the 20th level fighter and the 1st level fighters. He won't play it out but he will resolve it based on his knowledge of the rules. At least in my own way of playing.
I don't, so I'm assuming that the DM in this situation is one that approaches play as you do? With that assumption, sure, you can do this, but it's not mandated or required by the rules. In other words, the system here doesn't mandate this, but rather the player's choice on how to build their world does.

This thread is about how system matters, not about choices we make that aren't related to system. A similar topic that's nearby but not directly related to system matters is the discussion about what roleplaying is or how it's expected to be done at the table -- system rarely impinges on this discussion; it's a discussion largely orthogonal to the issue of the thread. As is the players making the choice to have the game rules be discoverable in the fictional world.
So a game deliberately caters to a particular idea. Does that not mean that other systems might not cater the other way. So system can matter.
I'm a strong, and vocal, proponent that system does matter. However, in this case, a system that fights your choice to make game rules discoverable in the fiction doesn't make the point you think it does. There's a fallacy here that if not b means not a, that b then means a. A game that doesn't work with with your preference doesn't mean that a game that does requires it. It's still not on the system if you choose to make game rules discoverable.
I was never off of that understanding. You've just realized what I am talking about. If the rules are the physics of the world then it inexorably leads to the idea that characters within that world have some understanding of them. The same way we do with the real world even in the middle ages.
Um, what? I'm pretty sure I've followed you pretty well. My point is that the choice to make game rules discoverable in the fiction is not tied to system, but is an orthogonal choice. Yes, some systems make this much harder, or incoherent, but that doesn't mean that a system that does requires it, or even encourages it (I've largely never played this way, throughout any edition of D&D I've read or played).

And, again, my point is that this preference is largely done ad hoc and piecemeal, making it somewhat incoherent. Some rules are reified in the game world, and other are not, and some are outright ignored. This makes the concept even harder to conceive of as an approach, because it's basis is so ad hoc.
It has nothing to do with realism. It's a blind spot in your way of thinking for sure. It's never been about realism. 1e is no more realistic than 3e. We are able to imagine a larger than life fantasy world where PC's and some NPCs as well are super heroic. So you really miss the whole point but I think it is the very fact that it is hard for you to grasp our position that makes you who you are in your preferences. People with different sensibilities have a difficulty with empathy for the other side.
Right, I understood your comment about the lizard to be pointing out where the rules don't establish a good foundation as physics, but instead you were saying that being slapped by a massive tail not moving you at all is just the physics of this world. Ones that lead to oddities, like when a large slap does move you (as with some giant abilities) that are largely, in the fiction, not very different in scale or scope. Giants can toss you with a club swipe, but dragons cannot with a similarly sized and swung tail, because... reasons.

This was my point, that you've buried under dismissing "realism" -- that the approach you suggest contains incoherencies because the rules of D&D do a very poor job of defining a coherent physical system. And that's not another realism argument, it's pointing out that the rules are rarely even consistent. A person living in this world wouldn't discover these physics, and understand them in any real way, but would instead just deal with the chaos of the system as it comes, on an exception based concept.

To me, this is the real crux of this approach -- that the view taken is from the point of the players, where the world operates according to game rules and what Bob the GM says, but is then extrapolated, usually by Bob, into some kind of understanding in the game world of the game rules by the fictional inhabitants. The point that gets missed, here, is exactly how much of these rules are really just what Bob the GM says -- heck, 5e embraces this approach as foundational! So, in reality, the "physics" in the world are what Bob says they are, and aren't the game rules when Bob says they aren't. In this regard, it's not really the rules, but Bob that does the deciding as to what physics are represented in the game world, and Bob could decided, were he inclined to do so, with a different general understanding that what the rules might or might not say.

To sum this up, this approach isn't really any different from not treating the rules as repeatable, discoverable processes in the fiction -- it's still just about what the GM says, but tries to borrow the cloak of orthodoxy by referencing the rules. I find it doesn't. Which isn't to say that it can't be a perfectly fine approach, and that it can't generate tremendous fun, or that it's bad to do this. It's just not privileged in any way by claiming an association with the rules (which is arbitrary).
As to game system, a game like 1e D&D for example is easy to apply the rules as physics. While super heroic, there is nothing that really seems alien. It's very much like watching tv. There is crap on tv that is completely unrealistic but we buy it. It's plausible in a super heroic setting. And that goes for all sorts of shows not just fantasy/sci-fi shows. Every notice that the hero will easy punch a bad guy once and knock him out until at the end he fights the big bad guy and they will literally beat the living daylights out of each other and neither go down for some time?

There are things in a game that just don't sit right despite our ability to include the fantastical. Those things are part of a system typically. When a system has those things, a lot of people decide the system is not for them. Often they don't even know why because not everyone thinks it through like we do.
I'm not convinced your method of "thinking it through" is really anything different from being arbitrary, though. I play 5e by the book, with small house rules for each campaign to enhance themes but that rarely alter the actual rules (more add ons for additional focuses, and then even slight). I don't have any problems with how 5e works, and I absolutely don't get close to treating the game rules as discoverable physical systems in the game world. The opposite, if anything. So, your approach doesn't seem to be privileged in being able to make sense of the rules any more than a different approach, especially since I avoid anything like your preference.

And, suspension of disbelief doesn't require assuming game rules are discoverable physical processes in the fiction. Not at all.
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
physics.jpg


RPG's are indeed physics engines, they are both about modelling a world, otherwise there would nothing there. Nevertheless this is beyond the OP thesis, as it is only about not wasting time trying to "fix" a system. It can circle back on a more jargonistic approach, however.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
View attachment 133637

RPG's are indeed physics engines, they are both about modelling a world, otherwise there would nothing there. Nevertheless this is beyond the OP thesis, as it is only about not wasting time trying to "fix" a system. It can circle back on a more jargonistic approach, however.
Are you at all familiar with PbtA games, or Forged in the Dark games, which are inarguably RPGs and also inarguably not physics engines?
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
Are you at all familiar with PbtA games, or Forged in the Dark games, which are inarguably RPGs and also inarguably not physics engines?
So? Yes, I have played Apocalypse World, and "inarguably" sets off my spell check. Simple belief in something does not make it so, which is a sword that cuts both ways. However, in Apocalypse World, there was a "world" and there was the weird sex thing which was awkward with women players at my table, plus I am married and my wife is not a player in our games, not usually. Still there was a world there; also I have Forged in the Dark, and know of it, haven't read it yet. The alternate GM is more about those kind of games, like Fiasco, and Shab Al-Hiri Roach.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
So? Yes, I have played Apocalypse World, and "inarguably" sets off my spell check. Simple belief in something does not make it so, which is a sword that cuts both ways. However, in Apocalypse World, there was a "world" and there was the weird sex thing which was awkward with women players at my table, plus I am married and my wife is not a player in our games, not usually. Still there was a world there; also I have Forged in the Dark, and know of it, haven't read it yet. The alternate GM is more about those kind of games, like Fiasco, and Shab Al-Hiri Roach.
Get a better spell checker?

Not liking the games is perfectly fine, but they don't emulate physics as you've suggested. Fiasco doesn't either. So the main point here is that "RPGs are physics engines" is false, even if some may be (more properly, try to be).

Also, you perhaps meant Blades in the Dark rather than Forged? FitD is a blanket term for many similar games that have grown out of Blades in the Dark, much like how Powered by the Apocalypse games grew out of Apocalypse World.
 
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dragoner

solisrpg.com
Get a better spell checker?

Not liking the games is perfectly fine, but they don't emulate physics as you've suggested. Fiasco doesn't either. So the main point here is that "RPGs are physics engines" is false, even if some may be (more properly, try to be).

Also, you perhaps meant Blades in the Dark rather than Forged? FitD is a blanket term for many similar games that have grown out of Blades in the Dark, much like how Powered by the Apocalypse games grew out of Apocalypse World.
I am always going to argue for inclusion vs elitism, that is the way it will be. Mostly GURPS gets tagged as being a physics engine for simulation, however, all rpg's are in their own way, as worlds are simulated for the characters are to interact with. Can you have a rpg without a setting or characters?

It is BitD, I mostly keep track of ones I am going to run, I mean we even have one GM that runs almost solely 5e, and I only recently bought the DMG and MM. I also bought the Starfinder core as I might become a player in a game of that, probably never run it though. Last game I ran was Classic Traveller, before that Mythras, M-Space, and Mongoose Traveller (lot of m's there). Don't really know what I am going to run next. Reading Mindjammer FATE right now also.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I am always going to argue for inclusion vs elitism, that is the way it will be. Mostly GURPS gets tagged as being a physics engine for simulation, however, all rpg's are in their own way, as worlds are simulated for the characters are to interact with. Can you have a rpg without a setting or characters?
I... what? I don't even follow this argument. There's no exclusion or elitism in anything I've said, I'm merely pointing out that not all RPGs aspire to be physics engines. That you've moved now to arguing about setting and characters is very, very strange to me, and suggests that we're not at all using the same definition of "physics engine".
It is BitD, I mostly keep track of ones I am going to run, I mean we even have one GM that runs almost solely 5e, and I only recently bought the DMG and MM. I also bought the Starfinder core as I might become a player in a game of that, probably never run it though. Last game I ran was Classic Traveller, before that Mythras, M-Space, and Mongoose Traveller (lot of m's there). Don't really know what I am going to run next. Reading Mindjammer FATE right now also.
Okay. Glad to hear you're having fun.
 


pemerton

Legend
@pemerton Sorry, but I'm not following this part. Can you expand on the differences you see for clerics & paladins between 4th ed. on the one hand and the older editions on the other? And the role of (in game) providence in the differences?
My reasoning doesn't contradict @Ovinomancer's but is a bit different, or takes a slightly different perspective.

It begins with this question: what is the meaning of the d20 roll? And the follow-up question that arises once the dice have been rolled and the consequence narrated: what [in the fiction] caused the consequence to occur?

The more that the game adopts a "rules as physics" orientation; the more that the d20 is taken to reflect or "model" the vagaries of luck and fortune; the more the GM establishes the fiction that surrounds all this based on his/her priorities and sense of the fiction rather than in a player/character-centred way; then the less the game will have a sense of providence at work, and the more it will seem like a world of cold, soul-less causation. (In literary terms this is the world of REH's Conan, with perhaps Hour of the Dragon as an exception.)

4e is the version of D&D that departs the most from the approach of the previous paragraph: the rules are for establishing outcomes and consequences, but they aren't treated as a model or "physics"; and the game places more emphasis on player/character-centred narration, whether coming from the GM or directly from the player. Which creates much more scope for the outcomes to be framed by the player (with the cooperation/support of the GM) as the workings of providence.

Here's a practical example (though the mechanic at issue in this particular example is not a d20 roll but an effect duration):

What had happened was that a cultists had hit the paladin of the Raven Queen with a Baleful Polymorph, turning the paladin into a frog until the end of the cultist's next turn. The players at the table didn't know how long this would last, although one (not the player of the paladin) was pretty confident that it wouldn't be that long, because the game doesn't have save-or-die.

Anyway, the end of the cultist's next turn duly came around, and I told the player of the paladin that he turned back to his normal form. He then took his turn, and made some threat or admonition against the cultist. The cultist responded with something to the effect of "You can't beat me - I turned you into a frog, after all!" The paladin's player had his PC retort "Ah, but the Raven Queen turned me back."

There we have an example of a player taking narrative control on the back of an NPC's mechanic that the player knew nothing of until encountering it in the course of actual play. And at least for me, as a GM, that is the player of the paladin playing his role. And driving the story forward. On the back of a so-called "dissociated" mechanic.

In a rules-as-physics-type game this wouldn't make sense, because it is part of the causal logic of the effect itself that means the polymorphed paladin turns back into a human.

Whereas the approach of 4e permits the player to establish the narration that he did around those events: turning back into a human is a manifestation of divinity at work.
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
I... what? I don't even follow this argument. There's no exclusion or elitism in anything I've said, I'm merely pointing out that not all RPGs aspire to be physics engines. That you've moved now to arguing about setting and characters is very, very strange to me, and suggests that we're not at all using the same definition of "physics engine".

Okay. Glad to hear you're having fun.
Indeed, it is the name of the game. ;)

Not to slight Ron Edwards either, as I follow him on fb, think we are friends; but he has talked of things he has said being used in an elitist manner. Physics engine does sound somewhat jargonistic, I mean physics to me is just the study of the natural world, something rpg's emulate as well. Then again I learned math much easier than english, and yet here we are.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Indeed, it is the name of the game. ;)

Not to slight Ron Edwards either, as I follow him on fb, think we are friends; but he has talked of things he has said being used in an elitist manner.
Um, okay. I didn't quote Ron Edwards.
Physics engine does sound somewhat jargonistic, I mean physics to me is just the study of the natural world, something rpg's emulate as well. Then again I learned math much easier than english, and yet here we are.
I dunno about how you play, but study of the natural world isn't something I've done in an RPG. I'm not following whatever it is you're laying down, I guess. When people use "physical engine," the thing to comes to mind is a process to create physical results in the game world. This is notably used in the video game industry to talk about the physics simulation engine in a game. Upthread, @Emirikol was referring to being able to suss out game rules in the game world because they were discoverable and repeatable (my phrasing). I'm still not at all sure what it is you're referring to, though.
 

innerdude

Legend
First off, it would seem that the division between those claiming "RPG mechanics act as physics engines" and those claiming "RPG mechanics do not always act as physics engines" should prove beyond reasonable doubt that system matters.

(Truthfully, I would have significant doubts about an individual who claimed the contrary. Despite any sincerity and good intentions he or she exhibited, I'd probably find their playstyle to be problematic at best for what I'm looking for in RPG play.)

But thinking through the "rules as physics" thought process a bit more --- Is there value in trying to create "associative" rules that could be perceived as a form of "knowledge" within the shared fiction? Generally speaking, I'd say yes. RPG play relies on having some level of agreement about the constraints that operate as boundaries on the limits of the fiction.

But this is only one part of generating fictional positioning.

Consider the classic RPG declaration, "Rocks fall, you die." And let's say this declaration is pointed at a particular fictional character, Bob the Fighter.

At this point, what is to be considered about this declaration? What factors determine its "truthiness" or "falsiness"?

If you want to break down the "physics" of that declaration further---how heavy the rock is (as represented/abstracted in the number of d6 of damage it deals when it falls), how far it fell, whether the situation warrants such a declaration as being possible at all without supernatural interposition ("Gee, how'd those rocks get there in the first place?")---are ultimately only possible considerations around determining whether Bob is now dead or still alive. The real question is, where does the final authority lie in determining the "truthiness" of the declaration?

Obviously, Bob's player is fully capable of proposing an alternative declaration---"No, Bob isn't dead."

Once again, any "physics" applied to the evaluating this counter-declaration are only points of reference. Do the "rules as physics" say that situationally, Bob the Fighter can dodge said rock? How effectively is this dodge opportunity measured? How much harm does he avoid if he does dodge it? Is it possible that Bob's opposing strength (represented as the "physics" of oppositional force) means he can simply catch the rock and hurl it away? Can Bob's player declare an equal enforcement of supernatural interposition ("At the last second, the rock inexplicably moves 25 feet to the side and tumbles away harmlessly")?

Physics as rules are only one frame of reference for fiction state negotiation. They do not possess an inherent, naturally derived, superior position to other considerations of what should be true in the fiction.

They are merely markers, or anchors, or suggestions on who has the authority, and when to suggest what is or is not true.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
First off, it would seem that the division between those claiming "RPG mechanics act as physics engines" and those claiming "RPG mechanics do not always act as physics engines" should prove beyond reasonable doubt that system matters.

(Truthfully, I would have significant doubts about an individual who claimed the contrary. Despite any sincerity and good intentions he or she exhibited, I'd probably find their playstyle to be problematic at best for what I'm looking for in RPG play.)

But thinking through the "rules as physics" thought process a bit more --- Is there value in trying to create "associative" rules that could be perceived as a form of "knowledge" within the shared fiction? Generally speaking, I'd say yes. RPG play relies on having some level of agreement about the constraints that operate as boundaries on the limits of the fiction.

But this is only one part of generating fictional positioning.

Consider the classic RPG declaration, "Rocks fall, you die." And let's say this declaration is pointed at a particular fictional character, Bob the Fighter.

At this point, what is to be considered about this declaration? What factors determine its "truthiness" or "falsiness"?

If you want to break down the "physics" of that declaration further---how heavy the rock is (as represented/abstracted in the number of d6 of damage it deals when it falls), how far it fell, whether the situation warrants such a declaration as being possible at all without supernatural interposition ("Gee, how'd those rocks get there in the first place?")---are ultimately only possible considerations around determining whether Bob is now dead or still alive. The real question is, where does the final authority lie in determining the "truthiness" of the declaration?

Obviously, Bob's player is fully capable of proposing an alternative declaration---"No, Bob isn't dead."

Once again, any "physics" applied to the evaluating this counter-declaration are only points of reference. Do the "rules as physics" say that situationally, Bob the Fighter can dodge said rock? How effectively is this dodge opportunity measured? How much harm does he avoid if he does dodge it? Is it possible that Bob's opposing strength (represented as the "physics" of oppositional force) means he can simply catch the rock and hurl it away? Can Bob's player declare an equal enforcement of supernatural interposition ("At the last second, the rock inexplicably moves 25 feet to the side and tumbles away harmlessly")?

Physics as rules are only one frame of reference for fiction state negotiation. They do not possess an inherent, naturally derived, superior position to other considerations of what should be true in the fiction.

They are merely markers, or anchors, or suggestions on who has the authority, and when to suggest what is or is not true.
Yup. A more erudite version of the points I was trying to make.
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
Um, okay. I didn't quote Ron Edwards.

I dunno about how you play, but study of the natural world isn't something I've done in an RPG. I'm not following whatever it is you're laying down, I guess. When people use "physical engine," the thing to comes to mind is a process to create physical results in the game world. This is notably used in the video game industry to talk about the physics simulation engine in a game. Upthread, @Emirikol was referring to being able to suss out game rules in the game world because they were discoverable and repeatable (my phrasing). I'm still not at all sure what it is you're referring to, though.
The op links to Edwards' blog, he is system matters.

So you play with not having an idea of the rules and even "to suss out" the rules is bad? Hmm, that's cool, you do you. We do indeed play differently, as I like to have some sort of working knowledge of them; usually for me it is wander around and interact with the environment in game, while having a beer, and a laugh with friends.
 

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