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D&D 5E Roleplaying in D&D 5E: It’s How You Play the Game

Now this is the pure distilled essence of D&D, right here. Brilliant stuff! :)
Oh, I agree, dungeon crawl play is where D&D entirely clicks. It really lacks of nothing in that milieu and the process of play is quite effective! I think Dave and Gary were quite capable of delivering on that game. It might not be the best foundation for 2e-esque "lets have a story" but heck, they were in pretty much uncharted waters. It was a great game.
 

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pemerton

Legend
one place where I run aground on the story-game concept: it's hard to have a mystery, or secrets in/about the setting, if there's little or no hidden fiction; and a large part of play often revolves around discovering secrets and-or solving mysteries.
Given that nearly every poster that you interact with, who plays "story now" RPGs, is able to talk about the mysteries that have been parts of their RPGing, on what basis do you make this claim? I mean, it's not based on your own play experience, is it?
 

pemerton

Legend
Do you mean that the GM must ensure that no one ever states any fiction that is not meaningful? So eg they must dissuade or forbid players from narrating aspects of their PC's behaviour which does not generate gameplay consequences, like (typically) the colour of their cloaks, the height of their PCs (at least where that is unremarkable) or the calling out of insults to their foes in combat?

Or are you talking only about the GM's narration?

If the latter, are you saying that the GM must never state fiction that is mere colour without rightward arrows (eg perhaps describing constellations in the sky, or the colour of a NPC's eyes)? Or are you talking about the narration of consequences? Or are you saying that each framed scene must include at least one meaningful - as in, gameplay-relevant - element?
@clearstream, I take it from your other thread that the answer to my question in the second paragraph I've quoted is Yes - you are only talking about the GM's narration.

I still don't have a clear sense of your response to my third paragraph. Is the GM allowed to narrate things that are mere colour (eg constellations in the night sky, the colour of a NPC's eyes) even though that is not meaningful?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
@clearstream, I take it from your other thread that the answer to my question in the second paragraph I've quoted is Yes - you are only talking about the GM's narration.

I still don't have a clear sense of your response to my third paragraph. Is the GM allowed to narrate things that are mere colour (eg constellations in the night sky, the colour of a NPC's eyes) even though that is not meaningful?
In your mind, can players respond to colour as if it were meaningful?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
@clearstream, I take it from your other thread that the answer to my question in the second paragraph I've quoted is Yes - you are only talking about the GM's narration.
Yes, especially of results. There are only three instances of narrates in the PHB. All three are in the context of restatements of the basic pattern, albeit the first instance seems broader (what they experience) while the second and third seem narrower (results). There are no cases of narrate or narration.
 

pemerton

Legend
In your mind, can players respond to colour as if it were meaningful?
Well if it's meaningful then probably it's not mere colour.

But while the responses of participants are often mercurial, they're not always unknowable. The number of times I've come across descriptions of a NPC's appearance (clothing, hair colour, etc) - typically in module descriptions intended to be conveyed by the GM to the players - far, far outstrips the number of times that has mattered, in the sense of actually serving as an input into action declaration.

It seems to me that that sort of colour has two main purposes, that I think are related: to reinforce the sense of "reality" or vibrancy of the shared fiction; and to give the players something relatively concrete to support their knowledge of the fiction and to remember who is who (eg "The guy in the cape" or "The tall one").

As well as the appearances of NPCs, I think at least some descriptions of geography and architecture and "scenery" generally serve the same purpose. Not in a relatively classic dungeon crawl, but in at least some contexts of the PCs travelling through the outdoors and/or urban areas. One town might be known as the one with a particularly distinctive tower on its wall; and inn becomes known for its striking name; etc.

To use Baker's terminology, this sort of fiction does not generate rightward arrows and is not the product of leftward arrows. In your framework, if I've understood it right, this sort of stuff is not a F that '>'s to a G. It's just for fun, and to facilitate one another talking about these different fictional elements.
 

pemerton

Legend
Yes, especially of results.
OK, that is one of the things I asked upthread.

There are only three instances of narrates in the PHB. All three are in the context of restatements of the basic pattern, albeit the first instance seems broader (what they experience) while the second and third seem narrower (results). There are no cases of narrate or narration.
Well, if the verb narrates occurs then can't we safely nominalise and refer to the narration being performed by the subject of that verb?

And we can move from "narrates" to "narrate" fairly easily, too, can't we? I mean, if the book, instead of saying the DM narrates said DM, at this phase of play you narrate we might judge it to be written better or worse, but the content of the instructions wouldn't change.

Anyway, on page 2 of the Basic PDF there is this:

The DM creates adventures for the characters, who navigate its hazards and decide which paths to explore. The DM might describe the entrance to Castle Ravenloft, and the players decide what they want their adventurers to do. Will they walk across the dangerously weathered drawbridge? Tie themselves together with rope to minimize the chance that someone will fall if the drawbridge gives way? Or cast a spell to carry them over the chasm?​
Then the DM determines the results of the adventurers’ actions and narrates what they experience.​

Compare that to page 3:

The DM describes the environment. . . . The players describe what they want to do. . . . The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions. Describing the results often leads to another decision point, which brings the flow of the game right back to step 1.​

To me, the most natural reading of those two passages together is that the page 2 the DM determines the results of the adventurers' actions corresponds to the page 3 the DM narrates the results of the adventurer's actions while the page 2 the DM . . . narrates what they experience corresponds to the page 3 bring[ing] the game right back to step 1 (ie a description of the new/changed/subsequent environment in which the PCs find themselves).

In other words, I don't think the rules text is hanging very much weight on the choice of the word narrate - just as on page 2 we are told the players decide what they want their PCs to do while on page 2 they describe that - where describe is basically a synonym for narrate!

I've got no objection to the idea that the GM should narrate meaningful consequences of action declarations much, perhaps most of the time. But I don't think that can be the sole narration the GM engages in, or even the bulk of it given the other demands on the GM to contribute to the shared fiction.

(And that's before we get to cubes-to-cubes stuff: if the GM narrates fiction to accompany the successful hit on the Orc, I don't think that is going to be meaningful to the players if they don't also know that hit point tallies are being properly maintained. You can't use the 5e D&D rules as written and declare combat actions for a PC with nothing but fictional accounts of Orcs reeling, parrying etc. The contrast with non-combat, which often can be engaged with fiction first, seems pretty stark to me.)
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Well if it's meaningful then probably it's not mere colour.

But while the responses of participants are often mercurial, they're not always unknowable. The number of times I've come across descriptions of a NPC's appearance (clothing, hair colour, etc) - typically in module descriptions intended to be conveyed by the GM to the players - far, far outstrips the number of times that has mattered, in the sense of actually serving as an input into action declaration.
I don't know that the module authors were playing 5e*.

It seems to me that that sort of colour has two main purposes, that I think are related: to reinforce the sense of "reality" or vibrancy of the shared fiction; and to give the players something relatively concrete to support their knowledge of the fiction and to remember who is who (eg "The guy in the cape" or "The tall one").

As well as the appearances of NPCs, I think at least some descriptions of geography and architecture and "scenery" generally serve the same purpose. Not in a relatively classic dungeon crawl, but in at least some contexts of the PCs travelling through the outdoors and/or urban areas. One town might be known as the one with a particularly distinctive tower on its wall; and inn becomes known for its striking name; etc.
I like "vibrancy" here. Bringing the world to life. Making here vividly different from there. The people in this forest distinguishable from the people in those mountains. Important work. For the sake of argument, let's suppose meaningful.

[Evoking feelings, too, I should have added!]

To use Baker's terminology, this sort of fiction does not generate rightward arrows and is not the product of leftward arrows. In your framework, if I've understood it right, this sort of stuff is not a F that '>'s to a G. It's just for fun, and to facilitate one another talking about these different fictional elements.
So meaningful can include in ways that form Baker arrows, and in ways that "reinforce the sense of 'reality' or vibrancy of the shared fiction; and to give the players something relatively concrete to support their knowledge of the fiction and to remember who is who."

I see that as being to do with how succesfully, well or powerfully we uphold the rule. When we best enforce the rule, in a strong way, we very often say things that map to Baker arrows. We can still uphold the rule in more modest ways, that bring the world to life etc. There is a rule in Chess (FIDE Laws of Chess) that the objective of each player is to place the opponent’s king ‘under attack’ in such a way that the opponent has no legal move. One doesn't cease to be playing Chess, or fail to be doing ones best to follow that rule, just because one does so less successfully. The rule still has urgency and weight in generating and explaining the actions of Chess players.
 
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In your mind, can players respond to colour as if it were meaningful?
I don't think it would be color in that case. However, I think there's such a thing as 'tone'. It has meaning to me. I would like to describe, in a general sense, the environment in a way that provides atmosphere. I mean, I suppose that could come from anyone at the table, in principle. I'd note that RPGs have always paid attention to it, more than probably people realize. Still, it isn't generally reflected in mechanics, because then it obviously becomes something more.

So, overall, I think it is more profitable to describe things in terms of AGENDA and PRINCIPLES than 'meaning'. If the fiction is in accord with the agenda of the participants, then the things in it will be appropriate, right? Who can say if something does or does not have meaning, that's a matter of interpretation.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I don't think it would be color in that case. However, I think there's such a thing as 'tone'. It has meaning to me. I would like to describe, in a general sense, the environment in a way that provides atmosphere. I mean, I suppose that could come from anyone at the table, in principle. I'd note that RPGs have always paid attention to it, more than probably people realize. Still, it isn't generally reflected in mechanics, because then it obviously becomes something more.

So, overall, I think it is more profitable to describe things in terms of AGENDA and PRINCIPLES than 'meaning'. If the fiction is in accord with the agenda of the participants, then the things in it will be appropriate, right? Who can say if something does or does not have meaning, that's a matter of interpretation.
I'm starting to believe that meaning is best defined as something that is agreed to by the group, that is given form to in their conversation. What matters to them. I agree that agenda and principles are profitable (good word) in establishing and sustaining meaning.
 

OK, that is one of the things I asked upthread.


Well, if the verb narrates occurs then can't we safely nominalise and refer to the narration being performed by the subject of that verb?

And we can move from "narrates" to "narrate" fairly easily, too, can't we? I mean, if the book, instead of saying the DM narrates said DM, at this phase of play you narrate we might judge it to be written better or worse, but the content of the instructions wouldn't change.

Anyway, on page 2 of the Basic PDF there is this:

The DM creates adventures for the characters, who navigate its hazards and decide which paths to explore. The DM might describe the entrance to Castle Ravenloft, and the players decide what they want their adventurers to do. Will they walk across the dangerously weathered drawbridge? Tie themselves together with rope to minimize the chance that someone will fall if the drawbridge gives way? Or cast a spell to carry them over the chasm?​
Then the DM determines the results of the adventurers’ actions and narrates what they experience.​

Compare that to page 3:

The DM describes the environment. . . . The players describe what they want to do. . . . The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions. Describing the results often leads to another decision point, which brings the flow of the game right back to step 1.​

To me, the most natural reading of those two passages together is that the page 2 the DM determines the results of the adventurers' actions corresponds to the page 3 the DM narrates the results of the adventurer's actions while the page 2 the DM . . . narrates what they experience corresponds to the page 3 bring[ing] the game right back to step 1 (ie a description of the new/changed/subsequent environment in which the PCs find themselves).

In other words, I don't think the rules text is hanging very much weight on the choice of the word narrate - just as on page 2 we are told the players decide what they want their PCs to do while on page 2 they describe that - where describe is basically a synonym for narrate!

I've got no objection to the idea that the GM should narrate meaningful consequences of action declarations much, perhaps most of the time. But I don't think that can be the sole narration the GM engages in, or even the bulk of it given the other demands on the GM to contribute to the shared fiction.

(And that's before we get to cubes-to-cubes stuff: if the GM narrates fiction to accompany the successful hit on the Orc, I don't think that is going to be meaningful to the players if they don't also know that hit point tallies are being properly maintained. You can't use the 5e D&D rules as written and declare combat actions for a PC with nothing but fictional accounts of Orcs reeling, parrying etc. The contrast with non-combat, which often can be engaged with fiction first, seems pretty stark to me.)
Well... it might be profitable to differentiate 'decide' or 'determine' from 'describe' (narrate). That is the GM or the player may decide or determine something, AND THEN they would presumably narrate or describe that something or its narrative consequences/signs. Not that I am missing the sense of what you are saying, but there COULD be instances where, for example, the GM decides something, but does NOT narrate anything, or only narrates some ambiguous signs of what transpired in the determining/deciding (IE rolling hidden dice). It may be that the choice of words in the rules was, editorially, chosen to reflect that? I'm not sure they really split hairs that much.
 

I don't know that the module authors were playing 5e*.


I like "vibrancy" here. Bringing the world to life. Making here vividly different from there. The people in this forest distinguishable from the people in those mountains. Important work. For the sake of argument, let's suppose meaningful.

[Evoking feelings, too, I should have added!]


So meaningful can include in ways that form Baker arrows, and in ways that "reinforce the sense of 'reality' or vibrancy of the shared fiction; and to give the players something relatively concrete to support their knowledge of the fiction and to remember who is who."

I see that as being to do with how succesfully, well or powerfully we uphold the rule. When we best enforce the rule, in a strong way, we very often say things that map to Baker arrows. We can still uphold the rule in more modest ways, that bring the world to life etc. There is a rule in Chess (FIDE Laws of Chess) that the objective of each player is to place the opponent’s king ‘under attack’ in such a way that the opponent has no legal move. One doesn't cease to be playing Chess, or fail to be doing ones best to follow that rule, just because one does so less successfully. The rule still has urgency and weight in generating and explaining the actions of Chess players.
Again, it seems to me that all of this is mostly revelatory of the weakness of the technique of analysis. 'meaning' is highly subjective and is unlikely to even be consistent as a situation evolves. I don't think it has NO value, conceptually, but stating a set of goals of play, and then a set of procedures and principles which are proposed to enable achieving of those goals seems like a much more concrete and reliable way of getting there. That is, IMHO, the rules for a game like DW are vastly more likely to provide the structure which leads to play of the sort advertised by the game, vs nebulous ideas of 'narrate what has meaning'. It is just too abstract. I am at the table GMing, I want a WORKING PROCESS. Now, that isn't to say 5e lacks one, but I don't think it will work well to try to literally ask GMs to think in terms of 'meaning'. Much better that they think in terms of "make these kinds of moves" and "be a fan of the characters" and such.
 

I'm starting to believe that meaning is best defined as something that is agreed to by the group, that is given form to in their conversation. What matters to them. I agree that agenda and principles are profitable (good word) in establishing and sustaining meaning.
And now you maybe are working towards where Vince Baker and Ron Edwards were 20 years ago when they started articulating their ideas. Now, build PROCESS into a game that works.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
And now you maybe are working towards where Vince Baker and Ron Edwards were 20 years ago when they started articulating their ideas. Now, build PROCESS into a game that works.
My interests are more legal and ontological. What game is played, not what game can I design. Something I have on my mind is the differences between

RNG + P-inclination + world
RNG + P-inclination

To sort between subsequent worlds. And (mix and match with)

-> explicit direction for narration
-> expertly judged narration

I often read player statements expressing concern with not including the world part. As stochastic systems, it's not a huge deal. Explicit direction for narration helps guarantee that the best version of the game will be played.
 
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My interests are more legal and ontological. What game is played, not what game can I design. Something I have on my mind is the differences between

RNG + P-inclination + world
RNG + P-inclination

To sort between subsequent worlds. And (mix and match with)

-> explicit direction for narration
-> expertly judged narration

I often read player statements expressing concern with not including the world part. As stochastic systems, it's not a huge deal. Explicit direction for narration helps guarantee that the best version of the game will be played.
I think what I'm trying to say is that 'narrative meaningful stuff' is not very explicit or clear, whereas something like DW's "portray a fantastic world" or "be a fan of the characters", or "make a move which follows from the fiction" seems rather more concrete to me.

In any case, you can see how much more deeply embedded in the 'guts' of the game these ideas are in PbtA than in D&D, right? I mean, we can argue endlessly about what the designers of 5e were really after, if they even thought about it at all, but it is hard to have much doubt about what DW's authors intend. We can still debate the finer points of whether or not an instance of play matched the intent well or not, etc. but 5e is a LOT murkier, IMHO. 5e* doesn't help much.

I mean, sure, its useless to discuss other games if your only focus is on playing 5e, basically as-is, in a better way. But I would think that the most successful approach, the one I would pick at least, would be to identify practices and principles that are most amenable to instantiation in the game and have the most impact. Then I'd be faced with where that conflicts with the game's actual structure, but at least now I know where I will run into trouble. Some things I can change, others we might be stuck with, although there seem to finally be a wide range of 'flavors' of 5e products out there that might be chosen from.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I think what I'm trying to say is that 'narrative meaningful stuff' is not very explicit or clear, whereas something like DW's "portray a fantastic world" or "be a fan of the characters", or "make a move which follows from the fiction" seems rather more concrete to me.
5e already has text to that effect. I think of - say something meaningful - as the least-extensive interpretation (one word) that can still evoke the wider principles. Leaving it up to each group is a feature, not a bug.

In any case, you can see how much more deeply embedded in the 'guts' of the game these ideas are in PbtA than in D&D, right? I mean, we can argue endlessly about what the designers of 5e were really after, if they even thought about it at all, but it is hard to have much doubt about what DW's authors intend. We can still debate the finer points of whether or not an instance of play matched the intent well or not, etc. but 5e is a LOT murkier, IMHO. 5e* doesn't help much.
Fundamentally, the PbtA design is more concerned to guarantee play of its best version. I believe the designers of 5e didn't want to commit to a best version. For good reasons.

I mean, sure, its useless to discuss other games if your only focus is on playing 5e, basically as-is, in a better way. But I would think that the most successful approach, the one I would pick at least, would be to identify practices and principles that are most amenable to instantiation in the game and have the most impact. Then I'd be faced with where that conflicts with the game's actual structure, but at least now I know where I will run into trouble. Some things I can change, others we might be stuck with, although there seem to finally be a wide range of 'flavors' of 5e products out there that might be chosen from.
Breaking it down, I can see the following elements:
  • Timing of world establishing fiction (e.g. prepared, or in the moment)
  • Ownership of world establishing fiction (e.g. DM, or shared)
  • [Ownership of what characters say, feel and do (are there RPGs where players don't own their characters?)]
  • Method for sorting between subsequent worlds (e.g. RNG, and/or player inclination, and/or game world parameters, etc.)
  • Ownership of results (e.g. DM, or shared)
  • Direction for results (e.g. expert judgement, or explicative rules)
With those elements, one might assemble a diversity of games. For example, can you see a reason why one cannot (as opposed to, does not wish to) site ownership and direction of consequences with DM, while using a method of sorting between subsequent worlds that excludes game world parameters?
 
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pemerton

Legend
Well... it might be profitable to differentiate 'decide' or 'determine' from 'describe' (narrate). That is the GM or the player may decide or determine something, AND THEN they would presumably narrate or describe that something or its narrative consequences/signs. Not that I am missing the sense of what you are saying, but there COULD be instances where, for example, the GM decides something, but does NOT narrate anything, or only narrates some ambiguous signs of what transpired in the determining/deciding (IE rolling hidden dice). It may be that the choice of words in the rules was, editorially, chosen to reflect that? I'm not sure they really split hairs that much.
I don't think they split hairs at all! I don't think they chose "describe", "decide", "determine", "narrate" at those different parts of their text on any more principled basis than the basic one of not wanting to repeat the same word too much.

I think these are very informally written and presented rules - the stuff on page 2 is pretty close to page 3, but someone who wanted to quibble could no doubt find differences, even though I think they're both meant to describe the same process of play. This stuff isn't drafted with the same sort of technical precision found in a statute, or the M:tG official rules. Obviously a significant part of its purpose is to describe something that many long-time D&D players will find familiar, but that doesn't turn on the precise choice of verb as opposed to conveying the sense of who has what authority, who is expected to be saying what sort of thing when, etc.

I recently got my Torchbearer 2nd ed books. The Scholar's Guide says this (p 213), under the heading 'The Game Master's Role':

The game master is the arbiter of when the rules are invoked in Torchbearer. Play proceeds as the game master describes the scene and the action occurring in it, to which the players respond by describing their characters’ actions as they interact with the scene. The game master then replies with how the environment and the supporting cast react to the characters’ actions. Play goes back and forth like this until the game master decides a player’s description requires a test of a skill or ability.

When a player asks you, “Can I test this?” as the game master, your response should be, “What is your character doing? Tell me where you put your feet or how far you go or where you look.”​

If all I knew about Torchbearer was that passage, and all I knew about 5e D&D was the stuff I've quoted from pp 2 and 3 of the Basic PDF, they would look like pretty much the same game, except that one calls its GMs DMs and the other calls checks tests.

But in fact Torchbearer and 5e D&D are pretty different RPGs, in far more than their favoured terminology. But you can't get those differences from these relatively abstract, high-level descriptions of participants' roles in the basic dynamics of play.
 

pemerton

Legend
the rules for a game like DW are vastly more likely to provide the structure which leads to play of the sort advertised by the game, vs nebulous ideas of 'narrate what has meaning'. It is just too abstract. I am at the table GMing, I want a WORKING PROCESS. Now, that isn't to say 5e lacks one, but I don't think it will work well to try to literally ask GMs to think in terms of 'meaning'. Much better that they think in terms of "make these kinds of moves" and "be a fan of the characters" and such.
I agree with this. Including, perhaps especially, with the remark about abstract descriptions of play dynamics.

Where the difference between 5e D&D and Torchbearer, for instance, or between either of those RPGs and Dungeon World, becomes evident is in their concrete processes for resolving declared actions and for feeding those outcomes back into the context for provoking further action declarations. For instance, does the declaring of actions automatically consume player-side resources[/i]?

In TB, as in Moldvay Basic or dungeon-crawling AD&D, the answer to that question is yes (in AD&D the system is baroque - turns spent on movement and searching running down torches and lanterns, spell durations etc and triggering wandering monster checks; in TB the game cuts to the chase and makes each check take a turn - a purely abstract unit of measurement of the progress of the game - and imposes an adverse condition on the PCs every four turns).

In a 4e skill challenge, the answer is "kinda", in that you either succeed and get closer to winning or fail and get closer to losing. You don't have unlimited checks to make.

In 5e D&D and DW and (most of the time) in Burning Wheel, the answer is no.

I'm not saying that the distinction I've just drawn is the only, or even the most important, across these various games. But it's an important one, that has a big impact on how they play and how they are experienced by the participants. The rubric of GM describes situation, Players declare actions, GM narrates results including any change to the situation is simply not fine-grained enough to capture the differences. Perhaps most fundamentally - on what basis, or using what methods, does the GM decide on the content of their 3rd-step narration?
 

pemerton

Legend
Breaking it down, I can see the following elements:
  • Timing of world establishing fiction (e.g. prepared, or in the moment)
  • Ownership of world establishing fiction (e.g. DM, or shared)
  • [Ownership of what characters say, feel and do (are there RPGs where players don't own their characters?)]
  • Method for sorting between subsequent worlds (e.g. RNG, and/or player inclination, and/or game world parameters, etc.)
  • Ownership of results (e.g. DM, or shared)
  • Direction for results (e.g. expert judgement, or explicative rules)
With those elements, one might assemble a diversity of games. For example, can you see a reason why one cannot (as opposed to, does not wish to) site ownership and direction of consequences with DM, while using a method of sorting between subsequent worlds that excludes game world parameters?
Is the timing of world-establishing fiction any more salient than whether we use d20, d%, 2d6 or dice pools?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I think some explanation needs to be given of why. In my Prince Valiant and Burning Wheel play (both coin-toss style dice pool systems), and even in Classic Traveller (2d6, often with only modest modifiers) I notice that ties come up a lot more often than in D&D or Rolemaster. And in BW the system is specifically designed to make ties matter, whereas in 4e D&D the approach is to treat ties as an impediment, with standard tie-breaker rules.

What about deciding what the stakes of a unit of play will be? (where what counts as a unit of play - an "exchange" (like, say, a D&D combat round) or a session or a campaign or the life-in-play of a particular PC might all be candidates - is of course itself something that can vary, in ways that affect the play experience). Different answers to that question have driven swathes of RPG design - to pick two contrasting RPGs, 5e D&D and Burning Wheel answer that question pretty differently, I think.

The point of this post isn't to dispute your list's contents, but rather its completeness. And I didn't come up with my possibilities of lengthening it from nowhere. They come from games I've read and played, and from having read Edwards, Baker, Czege, Laws, et al.

I guess I just don't see what is being gained from trying to rebuild RPG analysis from scratch. For what it's worth, I also don't see what is at issue in the ontological and legal questions - what counts as a rule of system X is often an important question in a legal context, because both ordinary people and officials have special obligations, given their particular circumstances, to defer to and/or apply rules of some systems but not others, but I don't see why this matters in the case of RPGing. But taking it as given that one wants to undertake this task, why discard all the work that has been done on classifying the elements, and interactions, and processes, that make up RPGs and RPGing?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Is the timing of world-establishing fiction any more salient than whether we use d20, d%, 2d6 or dice pools?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I think some explanation needs to be given of why. In my Prince Valiant and Burning Wheel play (both coin-toss style dice pool systems), and even in Classic Traveller (2d6, often with only modest modifiers) I notice that ties come up a lot more often than in D&D or Rolemaster. And in BW the system is specifically designed to make ties matter, whereas in 4e D&D the approach is to treat ties as an impediment, with standard tie-breaker rules.

What about deciding what the stakes of a unit of play will be? (where what counts as a unit of play - an "exchange" (like, say, a D&D combat round) or a session or a campaign or the life-in-play of a particular PC might all be candidates - is of course itself something that can vary, in ways that affect the play experience). Different answers to that question have driven swathes of RPG design - to pick two contrasting RPGs, 5e D&D and Burning Wheel answer that question pretty differently, I think.

The point of this post isn't to dispute your list's contents, but rather its completeness. And I didn't come up with my possibilities of lengthening it from nowhere. They come from games I've read and played, and from having read Edwards, Baker, Czege, Laws, et al.
I'm not aiming for completeness, although that might turn out to matter. The granularity of deconstruction I'm thinking of is at the level of process. Good call about stakes: at the process level what are some of the main alternatives that you discern? (Side note: I'd be happy to receive any links you have to good abstract deconstructions of TTRPGs.) There are many takes. It seems almost a given that one comes to regret any taxonomy.

A question that motivated this is - in what ways are the wholes greater than the parts? I think there is a common intuition that they are, and I can also see some unexplored combinations (or at least not in games I can readily bring to mind.) That in turn was prompted by a poster attempting to draw a distinction between 5e and DW on the grounds of character ability modifiers.

The first process I looked at was the stochastic method. My framing is that the function of the stochastic method is to choose between possible subsequent worlds. When we're about to roll, multiple worlds are possible. Once the dice have fallen, we'll agree on one world. RNG is the die. P captures the modifiers player has assembled. World captures the game world parameters (AC, DC etc.)

RNG + P + W
RNG + P

I wondered if there needed to be a C for circumstantial or cumulative modifiers? Or a D for modifiers a DM feels should apply, but that aren't mandated by anything else? I question whether D is ever indicated in either system (my imagined very informed and judicious Jo DM would never call D because any D must be a C or W.) What are some features that the stochastic method contributes toward the whole?
  • Including P in both cases encourages players to seek to draw the fiction toward their chosen play style. It lets them say something about the fiction they'd like to be involved in.
  • There are feeling aspects to the choice of RNG, and there are differences in distribution that are felt for instance in limiting modifiers, but overall I find the RNG itself rather moot. Both assign each possible world to a range of numbers. The norm in 5e is to have about a 60% chance of inhabiting a kinder world. In DW that's nearly the same. (I am not forgetting that there are more or fewer possible worlds depending on the number of ways results are interpreted. If DMG options are used, they're similar.)
  • Adding W in my view has significant impacts on the whole
    • considering the Czege Principle, it won't be as desirable for players to contribute to establishing the fictional situation
    • it leans into pre-established fiction, encouraging puzzle-solving and exploring the game-world to find tractable points (find the point in the "maze" that W is least considering your P)
    • it adds work, drawing attention to the game-world (and away from other things)
    • it reifies a separateness between characters and world
I'm sure one could and probably should say much more! A more complete list might be needed, but perhaps not. What I find most fascinating is the ideation potential in encapsulating the processes and recombining them. But - and I feel this is something you could have sympathy with based on what you have said - some wholes might well be greater than others. Either way, one can see ways the games are differentiated, and ask if the differences are necessitated (by preferring greater wholes, or noticing antipatterns) or flexible (we might have different criteria for "greater" and profitably try other combinations.)

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[POSTSCRIPT One value I found in this process-level breakdown, is reassessing the 5e RAW asking - what is necessitated in RAW if we are concerned for a consistent whole, and what are perhaps traditional assumptions on matters that 5e RAW leaves open to interpretation? One, maybe, is any immutability of pre-established fiction, and even of DM as necessarily sole owner. The latter, though, is less well indicated - in part due to that W.]
 
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