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That Thread in Which We Ruminate on the Confluence of Actor Stance, Immersion, and "Playing as if I Was My Character"

S'mon

Legend
Yes, they do, in that they cannot make a ruling unless invoked by the parties to begin with. Parties that have already started a negotiation, failed to reach a conclusion, and turned to arbitration to help settle the negotiation.
Like GMing, the negotiation has ended before the arbitration begins.

Anyway thanks to Pemerton I finaly know the source of the bee in your bonnet!
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If the rules clearly prescribe everything, then there is no need for personal authority.
The rules can prescribe everything as clearly as they want but somebody has to - ideally in a fair and neutral manner - enforce them; because if rules are not enforced somehow then they serve no purpose and might as well not exist. That's where the authority comes in: the authority of the referee.
Authority only serves where the rules themselves do not. Ergo, the exertion of authority is in filling in for the rules.
Authority doesn't exist separate from the rules, it exists as an extension of the existence of the rules. No rules, no authority.
 


pemerton

Legend
Authority doesn't exist separate from the rules, it exists as an extension of the existence of the rules. No rules, no authority.
This isn't true either. There can be authority without rules: the standard example in the literature is the ordinary but charismatic person who, through dint of personality and quick wits, is able to take control of an evacuation or similar emergency/rescue situation - coordinating and directing the collective effort - although there is no rule for the appointment of such a person, nor any rule that tells him/her what to do.

A less-discussed and perhaps less-admirable version is also well known to classroom teachers - the "leader" of the class who determines whether the rest of the class cooperate or not by dint of his/her own decision as to what the class shall do today.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
One more step for the win. The following:

Ovinomancer: Strawman! -> that nonsense above.
pemerton: merely continue to include in next post -> elucidation.

Further discussion of this event can happen outside this thread, but enough here.
Goodness, me, yessir. Now that you've chosen to relitigate a dropped issue, called my posts nonesense, declared yourself winner, and then (with veiled moderation threats) declared the topic closed, how could anyone refute such rhetorical mastery? I am overawed.
 

Campbell

Legend
The rules can prescribe everything as clearly as they want but somebody has to - ideally in a fair and neutral manner - enforce them; because if rules are not enforced somehow then they serve no purpose and might as well not exist. That's where the authority comes in: the authority of the referee.

Authority doesn't exist separate from the rules, it exists as an extension of the existence of the rules. No rules, no authority.

Have you ever played pickup basketball, been part of a poker night, or played board games with friends? The idea that we need an authority figure to enforce the rules is silly. We engage in activities all the time where we all jointly hold each other accountable.

Not saying that having a referee is a bad thing, but the idea that we all descend into chaos without one is silly.
 

pemerton

Legend
A variation on @Campbell's recent post:

Rules can be govern an activity in the absence of a referee. This can be symmetrical, by way of mutual compliance: a friendly game of chess or bridge is like this. Or it can be asymmetrical, where one participant in the activity is also put in charge of rules-enforcement. Playing Monopoly or a similar game with a banker who is also a player is like this.

Although I often refer to myself as a "referee" in the context of GMing - because I learned my nomenclature from late 70s rulebooks, and only came across the term Gamemaster (modelled on Dungeon Master, I guess?) later on - I don't know of any approach to RPGing where the GM actually plays the refereeing role that is part of (eg) organised sports or serious competition in chess and other games.

The GM-player relationship has just as much in common with the asymmetry among participants exemplified by the banker in Monopoly. There can be good reasons to have such a role in the game because there are a number of things in RPGing where asymmetry can help achieve the goals of play. These include, as fairly well-known candidates: scene-framing; revealing hidden background fiction; declaring actions for non-player controlled characters; adjudicating the fiction and keeping action declarations within genre constraints; narrating consequences for failed checks; etc.

But none of these has anything to do with the idea that a referee is necessary to enforce the rules! That's a false claim that is also a content-independent claim (ie it is supposed to be true of all rules regardless of their content). Whereas the reasons why RPGing can benefit from having a GM are all very content-specific, having to do with particular content-dependent reasons that can arise in RPGing for having a particular participant in the game be the one who establishes what happens next in the shared fiction.

Appreciating this is pretty fundamental to understanding what is possible and/or desirable in RPGing, I think.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Nor am I sure how familiar you are with the pretty extensive literature on rules, and on authority, and on the rule of law.

Taking this out of order. As I just told someone else - if a specific literature reading list is required to be part of a conversation, a public messageboard is not the place for that conversation.

Rule of law is what we apply to bad actors. The analogy for games would be dealing with cheaters, which I am pretty sure isn't the realm in question here.

I think this is overly simplistic. I'm not sure what you have in mind in making your claim, nor quite what you mean by "personal authority" (are you including judges in that category, or only tyrants?).

This is a messageboard about games. Discussion of real-world societal governance is not only off topic, but generally frowned upon by the rules - says a person with authority to administer those rules :p

I refer to "personal authority" to distinguish that from the agreed upon authority of the rules themselves. If you are playing chess, reminding the other player that their bishop moves on the diagonal is not exerting personal authority, they are referring to the authority of the agreed rules. I reject Lanefan's assertion that people require authoritative enforcement to play a game. Humans are perfectly capable of staying within rules if they want to.

I would normally use chess or checkers to make this argument, but I foresee a reductive linguistic approach to a counter, so let us consider.... mancala. A game with shared pieces and play space.

Assume players who know the rules and are willing to stay within those rules. The rules denote all legal moves of all participants in the game, and the only authority needed in the game is that of those rules to dictate play.

This, as contrasted with D&D, in which the book of rules is very clear that the rules are not complete, and should not be considered prescriptive of all moves that should be considered "legal" in the game. D&D, and RPGs in general, required players to be given various forms of authority to decide on the legality and sometimes resolution of declarations not in the prescription.
 

pemerton

Legend
@Umbran, I've seen you post to correct errors other posters have made about mathematics or physics.

You are making basic errors in your account of rules, authority, and the rule of law. For instance, I don't know of any thinker about the rule of law who thinks it is "what we apply to bad actors". To give one counterexample: I am not a bad actor; nevertheless I am bound by the principles of natural justice when I make decisions as an administrator of educational programs. This is a manifestation of the rule of law.

But as I already said, I don't see any real profit in pursuing this discussion.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The GM-player relationship has just as much in common with the asymmetry among participants exemplified by the banker in Monopoly. There can be good reasons to have such a role in the game because there are a number of things in RPGing where asymmetry can help achieve the goals of play. These include, as fairly well-known candidates: scene-framing; revealing hidden background fiction; declaring actions for non-player controlled characters; adjudicating the fiction and keeping action declarations within genre constraints; narrating consequences for failed checks; etc.

But none of these has anything to do with the idea that a referee is necessary to enforce the rules! That's a false claim that is also a content-independent claim (ie it is supposed to be true of all rules regardless of their content). Whereas the reasons why RPGing can benefit from having a GM are all very content-specific, having to do with particular content-dependent reasons that can arise in RPGing for having a particular participant in the game be the one who establishes what happens next in the shared fiction.
I don't disagree with your post, but was leaving out the idea of GM as in charge of the rules an intentional omission? It's not part of every TRPG, but it's pretty explicit at least in the versions of D&D that I'm most familiar with that the GM is the last word on the rules--while still in principle being subject to them, which seems at least a little conflicty (but that's probably best left as a different discussion). That at least seems to be a difference in authority that's greater than the difference in (to use your example) Monopoly between the Banker and the other players.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't disagree with your post, but was leaving out the idea of GM as in charge of the rules an intentional omission? It's not part of every TRPG, but it's pretty explicit at least in the versions of D&D that I'm most familiar with that the GM is the last word on the rules--while still in principle being subject to them, which seems at least a little conflicty (but that's probably best left as a different discussion). That at least seems to be a difference in authority that's greater than the difference in (to use your example) Monopoly between the Banker and the other players.
I didn't leave it out on purpose (as in I didn't (i) bring it to mind, then (ii) choose to omit it).

But I don't think it's a coincidence that I left it out. Because even for very traditional D&D I think the idea of the GM being in charge of the rules tends to be overstated. When you look at actual empirical cases you see players make rules calls quite a bit.
 

S'mon

Legend
I didn't leave it out on purpose (as in I didn't (i) bring it to mind, then (ii) choose to omit it).

But I don't think it's a coincidence that I left it out. Because even for very traditional D&D I think the idea of the GM being in charge of the rules tends to be overstated. When you look at actual empirical cases you see players make rules calls quite a bit.
The GM is the only one at the table with the authority to make house rules, though.
 

Campbell

Legend
The GM role extends out of the wargame referee. Referees in war games are not valuable because they know the rules better than the people playing the game. They are valued because they have expert level knowledge of historical battles. The referee in OSR is similar in my mind. Their value is that they are supposed to have expert level knowledge of the fiction/setting/world and apply that fairly (staying within the written rules whenever possible).

Warhammer 40K and Magic - The Gathering have complex rules, but would not much benefit from an OSR style referee.
 



Emerikol

Adventurer
I didn't leave it out on purpose (as in I didn't (i) bring it to mind, then (ii) choose to omit it).

But I don't think it's a coincidence that I left it out. Because even for very traditional D&D I think the idea of the GM being in charge of the rules tends to be overstated. When you look at actual empirical cases you see players make rules calls quite a bit.
I think power doesn't have to be exercised to exist. Of course we all want some form of consistency in our games and GMs that changed rules willy nilly would be seen as abusers of their power. In the case of classic D&D at least, the power is not questioned though. This is why rules lawyers are held in such low esteem by most groups.

So again, the old maxime, "What the DM says goes but if he says enough crazy crap, then the players go as well". In a game setting, the DM is supposed to be using this power to make the game more fun. How we do that may vary by opinion but I hope that is everyone's goal.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
In a traditional way of approaching D&D (and similar games) I agree. We could call that (very roughly) a legislative function.

But I thought @prabe was referring also to moments of interpretation and adjudication.
Yes. I was thinking more of the GM as the final word on/interpreter of the rules, not so much the GM as customizer of the rules. That doesn't make @S'mon wrong--it just means we were talking about different things.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The GM is the only one at the table with the authority to make house rules, though.
This isn't strictly true, though. House rules can be overridden by the table, assuming non-dysfunctional social contracts. At functional tables, players can have input and suggest house rules as well, and the table agrees to them or not. In cases where the GM is exerting unilateral authority, I'd say that this is still either by implied consent of the table, or dysfunction exists.
 


Emerikol

Adventurer
Yes. I was thinking more of the GM as the final word on/interpreter of the rules, not so much the GM as customizer of the rules. That doesn't make @S'mon wrong--it just means we were talking about different things.

Imagine in the early days of D&D when most of the rules even in 1e AD&D did not exist but were brought into the game by the DM. For example, immunity to non-magical weapons. The DM might introduce that without notifying the players up front. The players might be surprised when they roll a 20 and the DM says your sword hits the target but there is no apparent damage. The rules as they know them make no mention of immunity to non-magical weapons.

So players in this situation, who want my style of gaming, have to trust the DM. The DM might introduce a new spell or a new ability at any time. A new monster might look a little like an old one but have one key difference. The wonder of encountering new things is what made D&D exciting for me.
 

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