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System matters and free kriegsspiel

Aldarc

Legend
Justin H/Aboleth overlords blog
"When playing Pathfinder are you negotiating the fictional world, or are you making decisions out of a priority to game the numbers?"
So is Pathfinder (i.e., the "D&D 3.75e") what FKR has in mind when it comes to the massively over-complicated systems? This would line up with @pemerton's earlier hypothesis.

That said, I suppose a counter question for FKR would be, "When playing FKR are you negotiating the fictional world, or are you making decisions out of a priority to game the GM?"

The more you get to know your GM, the more you get to know what sort of tricks, tactics, and such that they use and how to win their favor. Or what are the usual sort of magic words to get past the NPC. So there comes a point, IME, when some gameplay in D&D can be about playing the GM. It seems as if FKR would be more prone to such tendencies. The invisibility of the rules heightens the visibility of the GM.

(Bracing for impact from fellow posters assault, now) ;)
season 1 rising malevolence GIF by Star Wars
 

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Numidius

Adventurer
So is Pathfinder (i.e., the "D&D 3.75e") what FKR has in mind when it comes to the massively over-complicated systems? This would line up with @pemerton's earlier hypothesis.

That said, I suppose a counter question for FKR would be, "When playing FKR are you negotiating the fictional world, or are you making decisions out of a priority to game the GM?"

The more you get to know your GM, the more you get to know what sort of tricks, tactics, and such that they use and how to win their favor. Or what are the usual sort of magic words to get past the NPC. So there comes a point, IME, when some gameplay in D&D can be about playing the GM. It seems as if FKR would be more prone to such tendencies. The invisibility of the rules heightens the visibility of the GM.


season 1 rising malevolence GIF by Star Wars
Ah ah!

Pathfinder is an easy target for those sorts of arguments, anyway.

Yes in my experience gaming the Gm is an art form at certain tables.

Does that issue take us to the Neutral Referee thesis, then?
 

Aldarc

Legend
Ah ah!

Pathfinder is an easy target for those sorts of arguments, anyway.

Yes in my experience gaming the Gm is an art form at certain tables.

Does that issue take us to the Neutral Referee thesis, then?
Sure. Why not? Referees in sports are ostensibly neutral, but a big part of sports is about drawing calls from the Ref. Are the Refs somehow less neutral in their arbitration of the rules because the players know how to draw calls from the Refs?
 

Numidius

Adventurer
Sure. Why not? Referees in sports are ostensibly neutral, but a big part of sports is about drawing calls from the Ref. Are the Refs somehow less neutral in their arbitration of the rules because the players know how to draw calls from the Refs?
Ok. I see a difference, though, in Rpgs in general and particularly in FKR, since one can't really argue about rules, the discussion with the referee/Gm is central, is part of the game, I dare say The game itself. So, not something to be exploited, but to be engaged with fully.

I would dare propose Discussion is the actual System. Gaming the fiction is the game.
 

pemerton

Legend
Justin H/Aboleth overlords blog
"When playing Pathfinder are you negotiating the fictional world, or are you making decisions out of a priority to game the numbers?"

Highlighted stats in AW come to mind, as an example.
As any player facing reward cycle.
This is why I mentioned RQ and Prince Valiant, which don't have these sorts of features.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Ok. I see a difference, though, in Rpgs in general and particularly in FKR, since one can't really argue about rules, the discussion with the referee/Gm is central, is part of the game, I dare say The game itself. So, not something to be exploited, but to be engaged with fully.

I would dare propose Discussion is the actual System. Gaming the fiction is the game.
Ideally? Sure. In praxis? I'm skeptical. This may end up being a distinction without a difference.
 

Numidius

Adventurer
This is what Jonathan Tween in Everway called drama resolution. It contrasts with fortune (dice, card draws) and karma (fixed values get compared).
I' been wondering how the Gumshoe skill points expenditure would fit in there.
Putting aside points spent in order to increase chance on D6 until auto-success.
So, comparing static numbers would be Karma res.
But, actually spending those points? (For various reasons, like finding more clues, content introduction, winning over opposition etc. Like a mix of putting more effort into actions as well as screen time available and also plot armor).
A subset of Karma res, maybe?
 

darkbard

Hero
So to land this airplane...no, I don't use genre logic in real life. My intuitions, inferences, and predictions aren't governed by some kind of "trope coefficient" (lets call it) whereby its significantly more likely that some naturalistic causal logic defying instantiation of an event is apt to happen (because the world is anchored to genre tropes). When I look at a V4 Boulder (the upper boundaries of my capabilities...they go up to V17 by the way...so that should give you an idea of how utterly ordinary I am as a climber), I evaluate prospective routes based on a lot of parameters (many native to me and my abilities but many native to the nature of the nuances of the obstacle). I have intuitions, I draw inferences, and I make predictions. But none of those 3 are anchored to/governed by "I'm the hero of my story so I really should be able to climb this" or "falling would be anticlimactic" or "the rising action should happen right before the crux and the ascent will be the denouement" or "that vent right above the boulder is where I expect a band of ninjas to drop out" or "is that a sniper at the top of that boulder across the way...of course" or "a fall and a broken arm and then cut to my montage of my recovery process where I beat Chad the Douche Climber in the THE BIG CLIMB OFF" or "the douchey corporate lackey comes in to foreclose on the place with a big jerk smirk on his face but we all rally behind the salf-of-the-earth gym owners and raise money through car washes and lemonade stands and punt the corporate jerk to the moon afterward."

My intuitions, inferences, and predictions are all grounded by a world liberated from any "trope coefficient" (sadly I might add). Hence, no genre logic.
I don't have much time myself to contribute to this debate, but I will note that part of what @Manbearcat discusses here as genre logic falls under the umbrella of structuralist critique, a critical methodology applied to literary works and other cultural artifacts since the early 20th century to significant utility in the humanities, spawning offshoots and reactions like post-structuralism, deconstruction, and so on in the humanities. Such a critique has been applied to other realms of analysis in the social sciences (maybe @pemerton had more to say about this?) in analyzing other human endeavors (linguistics, social organization) to varying and controversial degrees of success, but makes no sense in describing human interaction with the nonhuman world, what I take Manbearcat to be referencing in his framing of naturalistic causal logic.

This is to say, of course there are many factors that contribute to human judgments about their surroundings and subsequent actions, but these are not subject to genre logic in the way Manbearcat has elucidated it in his examples above, except perhaps in the clinically delusional (and I don't intend this in any way as a dig at participants in this conversation here but rather to indicate a psychotic break with "reality"). For example, and to extend Manbearcat's example, a climber makes many judgments about how to execute a climb based upon handhold and such and chances of success of various moves (naturalistic causal processes), but only the delusional climber believes they can make a given climb because they are the reincarnated spirit of a doomed climber destined to be reborn again and again until they succeed at the climb (genre trope).
 



A few thoughts on recent posts.

- The GM is, even in D&D, I would say not even remotely allowed to just do anything they want! Sure, I get the rules say this, but I think it’s clear that the idea is about not being beholden to the rules when they don’t seem to make sense for the given situation. It’s not about discarding or changing rules on a whim! That argument’s just not very compelling. Especially given that outside of D&D and some other traditional games, the GM is explicitly not granted such authority.

- DCs and similar are very useful. They’re a perfect example of a mechanic that can clearly translate fiction into game so that the player has a similar understanding as the character. If I have a +8 to climb and the DC is a 15, then I know my chances of success when I roll a d20. Compare this with the GM saying “It looks like a fairly difficult climb, but not too difficult; you can probably do it, but not certainly”.

It’s far more immersive for me to be able to assess the difficulty of the climb (the DC) compare it to my ability (my modifier) and then determine my chances. This maps pretty well to what the character would be doing in the fictional world. What they would not be doing is filtering their understanding of the situation through another person whose verbal description will be open to interpretation, and which won’t be anywhere near as accurate.

For this to work, yes, the DC should always be announced by the GM. I know many folks who play D&D this way, so the assertion that this never happens is purely anecdotal.

- On the neutral ref in FKR. I’m not sure I see it, given the role as it seems to be designed. So much authority is granted to the GM, combined with the generation of the fiction and interpretation of the world…these two things wouldn’t seem to me to lead to a neutral GM. What makes referees neutral is that they are a third party, separate of the two that are competing. Not so in FKR. They are the opposition and the referee.

Now the same could be said of many other games, and that can certainly be true! What tends to either remove or at least mitigate that somewhat are clear rules and processes. Plenty of FKR games seem to have such, but the subset of those that don’t seem a bit problematic in this regard.

- On the accretion of rules as needed; this to me seems very much like the process that was used in the proto-D&D games. That rules were introduced as needed. But how they were designed was perhaps a bit arbitrary. Hence why early D&D has so many different resolution systems. I get the desire to address some of that arbitrariness…to find a simpler way to apply rules and make the game flow easier.

But this seems to specifically be about the rules of D&D as they’ve expanded and morphed in their early form, and then across editions. I think there have been several ways this particular problem has been addressed over the years, to varying degrees of success. What the FKR games seem to be doing, in my opinion (at least the subset that don’t have clearly established rules), is to basically be following the template that led to the problems they want to address. or, more accurately because I doubt that they’re setting out to do so, but they seem to risk it.
 

I am going to post some sincere responses.


To me there seems to be a big difference between playing Earthsea - which has been mentioned upthread, as an example (referring to this blog) - and playing Greyhawk. To the best of my understanding, Greyhawk as GMed by Gygax is not a fully-realised fiction like Le Guin's novels. It's a megadungeon with some associated stuff that includes an Alice in Wonderland pastiche, a King Kong pastiche, etc.

I'm also not sure that "playing Greyhawk with Gary" can be prised off the fact that Gary is an experienced wargame referee and designer who brings a certain set of play sensibilities to his table (as can be seen very clearly in his DMG, among other works).

Tekumel is obviously a bit different in this respect, although personally I think it's striking how close the Empire of the Petal Throne rules adhere to "exploration of the underworld" play. I don't know if this was Barker's concession to wargaming, or reveals something about the parameters of his fictional conception - I guess Jon Peterson or Shannon Appelcline has probably addressed this question.


This paints a particular picture of the way in which your players want to engage with their RPGing.


This reminded me of this and this from Ron Edwards:

Exploration and its child, Premise
The best term for the imagination in action, or perhaps for the attention given the imagined elements, is Exploration. Initially, it is an individual concern, although it will move into the social, communicative realm, and the commitment to imagine the listed elements becomes an issue of its own.​
When a person perceives the listed elements together and considers Exploring them, he or she usually has a basic reaction of interest or disinterest, approval or disapproval, or desire to play or lack of such a desire. Let's assume a positive reaction; when it occurs, whatever prompted it is Premise, in its most basic form. To re-state, Premise is whatever a participant finds among the elements to sustain a continued interest in what might happen in a role-playing session. Premise, once established, instils the desire to keep that imaginative commitment going.​
Person 1: "You play vampires in the modern day, trying to stay secret from the cattle and coping with other vampires." [See atmospheric, grim, punky-goth pictures]​
Person 2: "Ooh! Cool!"​
Person 2 might have liked the grittiness of the art, the romance of the word "vampire," or the idea of being involved in a secret mystical intrigue. Or maybe none of these and an entirely different thing. Or maybe all of them at once. It doesn't matter - whatever it was, that's the initial Premise for this person. . . .​
The key to Gamist Premises is that the conflict of interest among real people is an overt source of fun. It is not a matter of upset or abuse, and it is certainly not a "distraction from" or "failure of" role-playing.​
  • A possible Gamist development of the "vampire" initial Premise might be, Can my character gain more status and influence than the other player-characters in the ongoing intrigue among vampires?
  • Another might be, Can our vampire characters survive the efforts of ruthless and determined human vampire hunters?
. . .​
Narrativist Premises vary regarding their origins: character-driven Premise vs. setting-driven Premise, for instance. They also vary a great deal in terms of unpredictable "shifts" of events during play. The key to Narrativist Premises is that they are moral or ethical questions that engage the players' interest. The "answer" to this Premise (Theme) is produced via play and the decisions of the participants, not by pre-planning.​
  • A possible Narrativist development of the "vampire" initial Premise, with a strong character emphasis, might be, Is it right to sustain one's immortality by killing others? When might the justification break down?
  • Another, with a strong setting emphasis, might be, Vampires are divided between ruthlessly exploiting and lovingly nurturing living people, and which side are you on?
. . .​
Simulationist Premises are generally kept to their minimal role of personal aesthetic interest; the effort during play is spent on the Exploration. Therefore the variety of Simulationist play arises from the variety of what's being Explored.​
  • Character: highly-internalized, character-experiential play, for instance the Turku approach. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of Character Exploration might be, What does it feel like to be a vampire?
  • Situation: well-defined character roles and tasks, up to and including metaplot-driven play. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of Situation Exploration might be, What does the vampire lord require me to do?
  • Setting: a strong focus on the details, depth, and breadth of a given set of source material. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of Setting Exploration might be, How has vampire intrigue shaped human history and today's politics?
  • System: a strong focus on the resolution engine and all of its nuances in strictly within-game-world, internally-causal terms. A possible development of the "vampire" premise in terms of System Exploration might be, How do various weapons harm or fail to harm a vampire, in specific causal detail?
  • Any mutually-reinforcing combination of the above elements is of course well-suited to this form of play.
The key to Simulationist play is that imagining the designated features is prioritized over any other aspect of role-playing, most especially over any metagame concerns. The name Simulationism refers to the priority placed on resolving the Explored feature(s) in in-game, internally causal terms.​

I think this is a good explanation of the pretty wide variety of ways in which a RPGer can want to play this.

I'm not sure the GNS taxonomy practically gets me closer to understanding what this theoretical player means by "I want to play this," compared to just asking them. That is, I think I would prefer to proceed organically, from the ground up, rather than programmatically, from the top down. In practice, this is again not talking about fkr in any specific way; one can start with a ruleset and then add and subtract as needed, along the way forgetting about certain parts of the game or playing it "wrong." Incomplete games are appealing to me because, potentially, they allow for some of this organic, figuring-it-out and thus will vary from table to table.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
- The GM is, even in D&D, I would say not even remotely allowed to just do anything they want! Sure, I get the rules say this, but I think it’s clear that the idea is about not being beholden to the rules when they don’t seem to make sense for the given situation. It’s not about discarding or changing rules on a whim! That argument’s just not very compelling. Especially given that outside of D&D and some other traditional games, the GM is explicitly not granted such authority.
Well, the game books disagree with you. They quite explicitly give the D&D DM exactly that power.
- DCs and similar are very useful. They’re a perfect example of a mechanic that can clearly translate fiction into game so that the player has a similar understanding as the character. If I have a +8 to climb and the DC is a 15, then I know my chances of success when I roll a d20. Compare this with the GM saying “It looks like a fairly difficult climb, but not too difficult; you can probably do it, but not certainly”.
I disagree. The skill bonus and DC don't really model reality or the fiction very well at all. The character wouldn't know "+8 vs DC15" they'd know "that looks like a fairly difficult climb, but not too difficult." And I see no functional difference between "+8 vs DC15" and "roll the dice, higher is better" except that it telegraphs the number needed first...which is explicitly a level of precision a person in the real world or a character in the fiction would not have.
It’s far more immersive for me to be able to assess the difficulty of the climb (the DC) compare it to my ability (my modifier) and then determine my chances. This maps pretty well to what the character would be doing in the fictional world.
Except that's not how it works in the real world. We almost never have precise understanding of our chances of any given task succeeding. There are generally too many variables for even the human brain to account for. "It looks like a fairly difficult task, but not too difficult; I can probably do it, but not certainly" is the closest we ever really get. You think you have a 100% chance to remember what you went into the other room to get...only to completely forget what it was you were after. You think you have a 100% chance to walk across the room without issue...only to trip over something you couldn't even see...or your own feet. You think the clever thing you thought of will 100% make a particular person laugh...only for them to be put off by what you said. The world is filled with variables we simply don't know. It's an affect of gaming -- not reality -- that we expect to fully comprehend those variables.
What they would not be doing is filtering their understanding of the situation through another person whose verbal description will be open to interpretation, and which won’t be anywhere near as accurate.
What they would not be doing is having precise measures of skill and comparative difficulty through which to filter their decision making. Accuracy is the crux. As gamers we're used to that kind of accuracy, but it's an affect of gaming, not something that's a model of the real world. At best we have comparative reference points...but never absolutes. So "that wall looks easy to me" not "I have a 75% chance to climb it."
For this to work, yes, the DC should always be announced by the GM. I know many folks who play D&D this way, so the assertion that this never happens is purely anecdotal.
I didn't assert that it "never" happens. It generally doesn't. All the games I've played since DC was a thing, haven't ever seen it happen. None of the streams I watch announce the DCs up front. The plural of anecdotal evidence is not data. So sure, it's possible it does. But I've never seen it.
- On the neutral ref in FKR. I’m not sure I see it, given the role as it seems to be designed. So much authority is granted to the GM, combined with the generation of the fiction and interpretation of the world…these two things wouldn’t seem to me to lead to a neutral GM.
So exactly like most other RPGs. Would you say the DM in D&D is neutral? They have the exact same level of control over the game as the FKR Ref.
What makes referees neutral is that they are a third party, separate of the two that are competing. Not so in FKR. They are the opposition and the referee.
Exactly like most other RPGs.
Now the same could be said of many other games, and that can certainly be true! What tends to either remove or at least mitigate that somewhat are clear rules and processes.
That...in D&D...the DM is free to ignore. Less so in other games, granted.
Plenty of FKR games seem to have such, but the subset of those that don’t seem a bit problematic in this regard.
It's not problematic. It's counter to your preference. That's all.
- On the accretion of rules as needed; this to me seems very much like the process that was used in the proto-D&D games. That rules were introduced as needed. But how they were designed was perhaps a bit arbitrary. Hence why early D&D has so many different resolution systems. I get the desire to address some of that arbitrariness…to find a simpler way to apply rules and make the game flow easier.

But this seems to specifically be about the rules of D&D as they’ve expanded and morphed in their early form, and then across editions.
This conversation is mostly about comparing FKR to D&D as it's the most easily assumed shared reference point, but the FKR isn't necessarily a reaction to just D&D. I actually like the "weird" non-standard way earlier D&D editions handled various things. If I have the option, I'd rather use the various polyhedrons I've collected over the years instead of just the d20 the vast majority of the time. If I have to use one die for everything, I'd rather use at least two that are added together so there's a bell curve to work with.
I think there have been several ways this particular problem has been addressed over the years, to varying degrees of success. What the FKR games seem to be doing, in my opinion (at least the subset that don’t have clearly established rules), is to basically be following the template that led to the problems they want to address. or, more accurately because I doubt that they’re setting out to do so, but they seem to risk it.
Maybe. But the FKR designers and Referees have the benefit of hindsight and the 50 odd years of game design to draw from to hopefully avoid making the same mistakes. They can see what stacking rule upon rule upon rule leads to.
 
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A few thoughts on recent posts.

- The GM is, even in D&D, I would say not even remotely allowed to just do anything they want! Sure, I get the rules say this, but I think it’s clear that the idea is about not being beholden to the rules when they don’t seem to make sense for the given situation. It’s not about discarding or changing rules on a whim! That argument’s just not very compelling. Especially given that outside of D&D and some other traditional games, the GM is explicitly not granted such authority.
Except that there is advice from Gygax to keep players from learning the rules and a prohibition in the AD&D 1E DMG on players knowing the DMG content... it's gygaxian hyperbole, for certain, but it is advice many GMs took to heart.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well, the game books disagree with you. They quite explicitly give the D&D DM exactly that power.

I disagree. The skill bonus and DC don't really model reality or the fiction very well at all. The character wouldn't know "+8 vs DC15" they'd know "that looks like a fairly difficult climb, but not too difficult." And I see no functional difference between "+8 vs DC15" and "roll the dice, higher is better" except that it telegraphs the number needed first...which is explicitly a level of precision the character in the fiction would not have.

Except that's not how it works in the real world. We almost never have precise understanding of our chances of any given task succeeding. There are generally too many variables for even the human brain to account for. "It looks like a fairly difficult task, but not too difficult; I can probably do it, but not certainly" is the closest we ever really get. You think you have a 100% chance to remember what you went into the other room to get...only to completely forget what it was you were after. You think you have a 100% chance to walk across the room without issue...only to trip over something you couldn't even see...or your own feet. You think the clever thing you thought of will 100% make a particular person laugh...only for them to be put off by what you said. The world is filled with variables we simply don't know. It's an affect of gaming -- not reality -- that we expect to fully comprehend those variables.

What they would not be doing is having precise measures of skill and comparative difficulty through which to filter their decision making. Accuracy is the crux. As gamers we're used to that kind of accuracy, but it's an affect of gaming, not something that's a model of the real world. At best we have comparative reference points...but never absolutes. So "that wall looks easy to me" not "I have a 75% chance to climb it."

I didn't assert that it "never" happens. It generally doesn't. All the games I've played since DC was a thing, haven't ever seen it happen. None of the streams I watch announce the DCs up front. The plural of anecdotal evidence is not data. So sure, it's possible it does. But I've never seen it.

So exactly like most other RPGs. Would you say the DM in D&D is neutral? They have the exact same level of control over the game as the FKR Ref.

Exactly like most other RPGs.

That...in D&D...the DM is free to ignore. Less so in other games, granted.

It's not problematic. It's counter to your preference. That's all.

This conversation is mostly about comparing FKR to D&D as it's the most easily assumed shared reference point, but the FKR isn't necessarily a reaction to just D&D. I actually like the "weird" non-standard way earlier D&D editions handled various things. If I have the option, I'd rather use the various polyhedrons I've collected over the years instead of just the d20 the vast majority of the time. If I have to use one die for everything, I'd rather use at least two that are added together so there's a bell curve to work with.

Maybe. But the FKR designers and Referees have the benefit of hindsight and the 50 odd years of game design to draw from to hopefully avoid making the same mistakes. They can see what stacking rule upon rule upon rule leads to.
You have a badly flawed view of how people do things, especially physical thing. People who have experience with a thing can very quickly sum up how likely they are to succeed at that thing. Do they put it in percentages or skill bonus numbers? No, but a pro-athlete can nearly instantaneously gauge the likelihood of success of a given option -- this is the large part of what makes them pro-athletes! Heck, an amateur climber has told you explicitly how they gauge their ability to climb something, in detail, and why they think those things (based on experience and study) and you dismiss it by saying people don't do these things, we only ever have a vague idea of what might happen. It's pretty rough, and seems entirely set not on understanding how people actually do things so that you can model it in a game, but rather how you want to play a game so you imagine that people must do it this way in real life.
 

Campbell

Legend
Speaking from the perspective of a GM here, first and foremost.

From my perspective one of the most important features of transparent mechanics is that they provide a precise language that helps us establish, communicate, reason about, and understand complex fiction.

In my experience with minimal mechanical systems like World of Dungeons, Lady Blackbird, Apocalypse World, Cthulhu Dark, et. al. they work well when the fiction is relatable, constrained, and scenario design is simple enough to keep inside my head. As a GM once I start running a game where I'm dealing with a host of NPCs with layered emotional lives, complex relationships and alliances, different arrays of resources and other abilities that can be hard to manage without tools. This is particularly true when we start entering scopes where we start leave our human experiences behind. Reasoning out the athletic prowess of a high level D&D character who faces down demon lords in a consistent manner for insistence. Masks is much harder for me to run from a fictional positioning standpoint then Apocalypse World for insistence.

Especially when we are dealing with things that are essentially made up, it can be useful to have tools that allow us to reason about things that are difficult for our brains to comprehend. Abstraction is an immensely useful tool, in real life and in gaming. It can help us focus on salient details and communicate complex things in simple ways.

Aside

When it comes down to our ability to assess difficulty that's somewhat variable. I have a very precise orientation towards difficulty in the gym. I measure and track everything. I know what my trail off towards the end of a training cycle is likely to look like. My intuition about how many reps of a given weight I can perform on a given exercise is incredibly precise. Down to the wire. When I do power lifting programming it's even more precise. Software development tasks are harder to measure because I am almost always performing novel tasks rather than doing something I have done before.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Except that there is advice from Gygax to keep players from learning the rules and a prohibition in the AD&D 1E DMG on players knowing the DMG content... it's gygaxian hyperbole, for certain, but it is advice many GMs took to heart.
Yeah, that's kinda terrible advice. I appreciate and respect Gary and crew for what they did. Great stuff! But, like many visionaries that invent a new thing, the ideas they have when it happened are very rarely going to be the best approaches for all time. Just saying "that's what Gary did," is not going to be a good answer. If it's a good approach, you shouldn't ever have to mention Gary to show this.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Speaking from the perspective of a GM here, first and foremost.

From my perspective one of the most important features of transparent mechanics is that they provide a precise language that helps us establish, communicate, reason about, and understand complex fiction.

In my experience with minimal mechanical systems like World of Dungeons, Lady Blackbird, Apocalypse World, Cthulhu Dark, et. al. they work well when the fiction is relatable, constrained, and scenario design is simple enough to keep inside my head. As a GM once I start running a game where I'm dealing with a host of NPCs with layered emotional lives, complex relationships and alliances, different arrays of resources and other abilities that can be hard to manage without tools. This is particularly true when we start entering scopes where we start leave our human experiences behind. Reasoning out the athletic prowess of a high level D&D character who faces down demon lords in a consistent manner for insistence. Masks is much harder for me to run from a fictional positioning standpoint then Apocalypse World for insistence.

Especially when we are dealing with things that are essentially made up, it can be useful to have tools that allow us to reason about things that are difficult for our brains to comprehend. Abstraction is an immensely useful tool, in real life and in gaming. It can help us focus on salient details and communicate complex things in simple ways.

Aside

When it comes down to our ability to assess difficulty that's somewhat variable. I have a very precise orientation towards difficulty in the gym. I measure and track everything. I know what my trail off towards the end of a training cycle is likely to look like. My intuition about how many reps of a given weight I can perform on a given exercise is incredibly precise. Down to the wire. When I do power lifting programming it's even more precise. Software development tasks are harder to measure because I am almost always performing novel tasks rather than doing something I have done before.
This.

@overgeeked -- if humans are incapable of accurately gauging ability, why isn't the mountain-climbing hobby/sport plagued by high death/traumatic injury tolls from people who couldn't gauge their ability against a climb? Why aren't pro-football matches mostly failures all over the place as players fail to understand how likely actions are to result in progress? How do software companies manage to stay afloat if they cannot estimate how likely they are to be successfully at completing a contract for a customer?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Speaking from the perspective of a GM here, first and foremost.

From my perspective one of the most important features of transparent mechanics is that they provide a precise language that helps us establish, communicate, reason about, and understand complex fiction.

In my experience with minimal mechanical systems like World of Dungeons, Lady Blackbird, Apocalypse World, Cthulhu Dark, et. al. they work well when the fiction is relatable, constrained, and scenario design is simple enough to keep inside my head. As a GM once I start running a game where I'm dealing with a host of NPCs with layered emotional lives, complex relationships and alliances, different arrays of resources and other abilities that can be hard to manage without tools. This is particularly true when we start entering scopes where we start leave our human experiences behind. Reasoning out the athletic prowess of a high level D&D character who faces down demon lords in a consistent manner for insistence. Masks is much harder for me to run from a fictional positioning standpoint then Apocalypse World for insistence.
Of course. But those tools don't have to be rules. They can be notes. Random tables. Reaction tables. Etc.
Especially when we are dealing with things that are essentially made up, it can be useful to have tools that allow us to reason about things that are difficult for our brains to comprehend.
One of my favorite superhero games is Marvel Heroic. In reading interviews with Cam Banks, the designer, he mentioned that in talking with Marvel writers and editors about the characters and how they gauge things, the folks at Marvel used a simple five step metric for the characters' abilities. Cam mapped this to the d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 used to measure things in the game. So the scale of Aunt May to the Hulk is right there. That's all you need. Plus fictional positioning, things like automatic success, automatic failure, etc. If Aunt May punches the Hulk...you don't need to bother with dice. Likewise, if the Hulk punches Aunt May...you don't need to bother with dice. You don't need to roll to see if Spider-Man can climb a wall, he has an ability that explicitly lets him just walk on walls. And that ability doesn't need specific game rules to cover it. Fictional positioning already does. Spider-Man can climb walls. But whether Aunt May can climb a wall is another story. But do you need specific rules for climbing just because someone might try to climb a wall? I don't think so. You can use the rules or not. Maybe dice, maybe automatic failure. My point is that we don't need complex systems to help our brains comprehend. Simple, abstract systems work just as well, if not better, and they have the benefit of fitting in our heads.
Abstraction is an immensely useful tool, in real life and in gaming. It can help us focus on salient details and communicate complex things in simple ways.
Exactly. Which is why FKR games push for fewer, more abstract rules that cover everything instead of many precise rules that work on specific things in specific circumstances. Less cognitive load and more utility.
Aside

When it comes down to our ability to assess difficulty that's somewhat variable. I have a very precise orientation towards difficulty in the gym. I measure and track everything. I know what my trail off towards the end of a training cycle is likely to look like. My intuition about how many reps of a given weight I can perform on a given exercise is incredibly precise. Down to the wire. When I do power lifting programming it's even more precise. Software development tasks are harder to measure because I am almost always performing novel tasks rather than doing something I have done before.
Yes, but would you consider your work out something that, in game terms, you had to roll for? Is it something you think you have a reasonable chance of failure doing? Or would that be in the realm of an auto success? If there is a roll at all, it would likely be a d100 and on a 1 you hurt yourself or drop something heavy. You wouldn't have to roll for workout, as it were. It's the things that aren't in our control that roughly match up with things we'd roll for in a game. Outside variables, like how someone else reacts to what we do. As you get to know someone you learn their habits and sense of humor and likes and dislikes...but even someone you're intimately familiar with over the span of a lifetime can surprise you. You drive the same route to work every day, but don't need to make a drive roll until that one day when it's raining and the car in the next lane swerves.
 
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