D&D 5E Wandering Monsters: You Got Science in My Fantasy!

Dausuul

Legend
I've recently been reading a lot of REH Conan. A settig modelled on Hyboria would also incorporate REH's virulent racism and the biological concepts through which he expresses it. I think a degree of reactionariness is inherent in fantasy - it's an essentially backwards-looking genre - but I think I prefer Tolkien's to REH's when it comes to setting the basic parameters for play.

Well, I would hope that we could excise the objectionable attitudes from the source material regardless. Tolkien's writing does not contain the poisonous racism or sexism of Howard's work, but "The Lord of the Rings" is still a story about a bunch of white men. (Four different species in the Fellowship and they all just happen to look like white Europeans... well, to be fair, the dwarves could have been dark-skinned, I don't think Tolkien ever specifically said. But the dwarves are a whole other stereotype.)

Which means I'd rather the game build in supernatural or ad hoc social and environmental explanations by default, and then allow different groups to particularise these as they wish (including perhaps by their own versio of scientific explanation); than build in some default socilogical and biological explanations that, simply in virtue of that connection to realworld explanations, force me to confront the real-world politics of the designers.

I hope none of the designers has real-world politics like Howard's! But the designers' attitudes seep through anyway. See above regarding Tolkien. Or look at the portrayal of women and people of color in early D&D. Fortunately, there has been a movement toward thinking about and addressing these issues in recent years.

I don't think so. When Sam puts on the Ring, and is able to listen to the orcs complaining about their lives as soldiers and expressing their hope for the future, I think this is meant to evoke a degree of empathy on the part of the reader. And Gandalf praises Bilbo to Frodo for not having killed Gollum when he had the chance.

Orc warriors are legitimate targets of violence, of course - but that is just the traditional morality of warfare.

I disagree. The orcs' expressed hopes for the future are to set up on their own as bandits. Our glimpse into the workings of orc society shows them to be vile through and through. Indeed, "Lord of the Rings" makes it pretty clear that orcs are subhuman and can be killed with no moral qualms whatever. Tolkien goes out of his way to show how Sam is disturbed by the sight of Southron humans dying in war, yet by that point Sam has already seen many orcs die and killed a couple himself, and never seemed bothered by it. Frodo shows mercy when he can to the "ruffians" in the Scouring of the Shire, but at no point does anyone show mercy to an orc.
 
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howandwhy99

Adventurer
I think it is too much, though, to say that D&D is one of those styles rather than the other. 2nd ed AD&D, and a fair bit of 3E/PF played in a similar style, are part of the tradition too. (See the current, very long Fighters vs Casters thread.)
2e is a misinformed presentation (or at least a misrepresentation) of D&D as it was designed. The late 80s came with the desire to trash the game and game play for storytelling and most DMs rebelled calling adventure designers "authors" telling them to go write a novel instead. Claiming long standing failure and confusion is reason enough to continue failing is unfair to everyone. ...But I'll agree we should not attempt to expunge it wholly either. Look at what almost happened to D&D in the last 20 years! And it's still largely unknown to the majority of people playing it today.

4e is not about turn-taking narration. In describing it that way you are, I think, missing the fact that the players in a 4e game are still inhabiting and participating in the game from the point of view of a particular character, and - within the structure of the action resolution rules that define what the player can aim at with that character - are taking part in building up the "campaign" (though as a sequence of dramatic events rather than a geographic setting - temporal sequence is more important than geographic location). The story is emergent, not expressly created. The participants don't inject story, but simply fictional content - it is the job of the mechanics that regulate those injections to make sure that the sequence of fictional content that is injected constitutes, in its totality, a story.

(The contrast with 2nd ed AD&D can be seen failry clearly in this respect if one looks at pacing. 2nd ed AD&D urges the GM to keep a tight grip on pacing. In 4e the GM doesn't need to be so self-conscious about pacing - rather, the GM needs to skillfully deploy the encounter-build and resolution guidelines (including "say yes"), in which case pacing should take care of itself - and if it doesn't, that's a problem with the rules, which are meant to produce dramatic pacing emergently, rather than with the GM's own management of pacing.)
4e game texts are all about conflating game and game play as storytelling. Referencing the game mechanics as "narrative resolution" rules is enough to define the objective of the game as shared storytelling. As is the idea that the players are "injecting fictional content". There is no fiction or story being added to in D&D. You are talking about the fundamentals of a story game. As far as I know that is exclusively the design of every Forge story game. D&D is a game, not a narrative. Fiction and non-fiction are about reference. Referencing the game rules is dealing with reality. D&D is a fantasy game as that reality is in our heads, but treated as the thing in and of itself it is real - just as when you reference any game.

Again, 2e DMG material is completely off base. There wasn't a schism in the early 90s for no reason. OD&D and AD&D have time tracking, just as you would have in any game. Using the game clock wisely is one of the central elements of play in D&D. Pacing, on the other hand, is a narrative conceit. Gamers use time as a game resource as that is what time is for in a game. Storytellers are in total control of it and ignore it altogether if it isn't relevant to the scene. Gamers aren't and can't afford to.

I think this is too narrow given what RPGing actually involves, and has involved for 30+ years.

The playing of the role isn't confined to the sort of pattern recognition you describe. It can also include adopting, for the purposes of play, the outlook of a particular character whose situation is dramatically charge and then responding, in play, to cues that engage that dramatic orientation. This is not mastering the code, but it's not thespianism or improvisational acting either, in the sense of putting on voices and emoting one's dialogue. It's recognising and giving voice to patterns concerning value (as found in the character, and the world put forward by the GM) and their conflicts (as seen in the collision of characters and world). In this sort of play tropes have a role not because of their contribution to story-telling, but because they are easy-recognised symbolic bearers of value (eg angels; dragons; elves; children etc).
Long before these were fabrications/tropes these (children, elves, angels, demons, dragons) were attempts to understand our world. They hold value due to our actual experiences and commonalities as living creatures in a shared world. It is doubtful they would be tropes for truly alien entities (think Tarkovsky's Solaris). If you want to connect with other people, you need to ditch tropes and start referencing your shared reality. Otherwise you're seeking sustenance from an illusion.

I don't mind mixing my stories and games, but the recent attempts to conflate the two as solely narrative by removing all reference to the modern gaming vocabulary for one exclusively using literary theory terms and concepts is due to a small group of highly agitated postmodern absolutists about a dozen years ago. D&D doesn't require character performance and it is not designed for it. That's on purpose. It is designed for role playing.

If you want to hire someone to design a game, get a mathematician. If you want to present it clearly and accurately, hire a technical writer. (If you want it to be aesthetically pleasing, hire an artist). ~Creative writing has a place too, but it's not the uber-profession some would have it to be. When did the prejudices of 80's English departments become the unimpeachable foundation of our hobby?
 

pemerton

Legend
4e game texts are all about conflating game and game play as storytelling.
I don't agree. That is mostly found in DMG 2, and is highly optional.

There is no fiction or story being added to in D&D.

<snip>

Fiction and non-fiction are about reference. Referencing the game rules is dealing with reality. D&D is a fantasy game as that reality is in our heads, but treated as the thing in and of itself it is real - just as when you reference any game.

<snip>

When did the prejudices of 80's English departments become the unimpeachable foundation of our hobby?
I think you are working here with a notion of "reality" that is not just at odds with 80s postmodernism, but with mainstream analytic metaphysics also.

If you are playing White Plume Mountain, and a player wants to know whether or not his/her PC can surf across the tetanus pits on doors, then we have to evaluate the truth of the following proposition: My PC can surf across the tetanus pits on doors, taking advantage of the frictionless nature of the corridor floor. How is the truth of that proposition to be evaluated? The standard answer is contemporary anlaytic philosophy would be that this is a question of truth relative to a fictional (ie not really existing) domain of objects. Once the domain is established the truth is objective, but the domain has to be established by stipulation.

Talking about the players introducing content into the fiction of a game is simply talking about extend the stipulated domain of objects against which the truth, within that fiction, of propositions such as the above are evaluated. There is no other adequate account of what it means to treat the thing in and of itself as real. (There are important technical variants, but they are all going to need the notion of an interpretation relative to a stipulated fiction.)

The presence in an RPG of this sort of "truth relative to a stipulated fiction" - what the Forgeites call "fictional positioning" - is what distinguishes it from a board game or a Fighting Fantasy Gamebook or anything else which has colour and flavour text, but has no provision for that non-real "reality" to shape the parameters of what is possible, within the game, for a player to try and do.

The difference between "gamism" and "step on up" is not in relation to the theory of fiction. It's in relation to the motivation of the choices made for PCs. That's an important difference, that leads to very different play experiences, but I don't think it changes the fundamental metaphysics of RPGing.

Long before these were fabrications/tropes these (children, elves, angels, demons, dragons) were attempts to understand our world. They hold value due to our actual experiences and commonalities as living creatures in a shared world. It is doubtful they would be tropes for truly alien entities (think Tarkovsky's Solaris). If you want to connect with other people, you need to ditch tropes and start referencing your shared reality. Otherwise you're seeking sustenance from an illusion.
That they're tropes isn't at odds with them connecting to reality; nor does it entail that they were fabricated in any deliberate sense of fabrication. But the connections are symbolic, not causal. A rumbling tummy is a causal sign of hunger; a dragon, to the extent that it is also a sign of hunger, is not a sign for causal reasons. Its relationship to hunger is symbolic.

As to whether or not it is possible to connect to others via illusion: I think that's pretty ubiquitous. People on these boards connect to one another, for instance, via the notion that they are all playing D&D, even though many of them are not doing anything much like what I'm doing, and probably not much like what you're doing either.
 

pemerton

Legend
Well, I would hope that we could excise the objectionable attitudes from the source material regardless. Tolkien's writing does not contain the poisonous racism or sexism of Howard's work, but "The Lord of the Rings" is still a story about a bunch of white men. (Four different species in the Fellowship and they all just happen to look like white Europeans... well, to be fair, the dwarves could have been dark-skinned, I don't think Tolkien ever specifically said. But the dwarves are a whole other stereotype.)
I agree that Tolkien's fiction evinces very strong (and negative) views about non-Europeans and even non-Christian Europeans; although it's muted enough that you can read the works without noticing it. (I once had a poster tell me that I was wrong in suggesting that Tokien's conception of orcs reflects a certain European conception of the Turkic multitudes, because Tolkien once said of WWI soldiers "That we were all orcs" and the poster thought that substituting "Turks" for "orcs" made a nonsense of that statement - whereas it seems to me that that's Tolkien's whole point, and consistent with a recurrent difficulty among some European intellectuals in understanding how the European civilisation of which they were/are part should have given rise to the World Wars.)

But the designers' attitudes seep through anyway.
It's not so much that I want them to give a particular mythic history - although I happen to like the one they gave us for 4e - but rather that by emphasising supernatural origins in some way they create an approach which makes it less likely that these issues will come through strongly. Whereas I think an approach grounded in real-world biology or anthropology or psychology will make it very hard to avoid this.
 

howandwhy99

Adventurer
I don't agree. That is mostly found in DMG 2, and is highly optional.
Good to know. But 4th is still trying to be a skirmish game used as narrative resolution for a storytelling game, even if it isn't the fashionable mechanics of "Story Now, Story Only" games. The Big Model philosophy from which it was designed doesn't apply to non-narrative games (i.e. the vast majority of them) and was designed specifically to avoid any understanding of actual games, game design, and game play. ...but that doesn't mean 4e isn't a well designed game. It's has a very solid combat system only it's designed like Magic: the Gathering - exception-based design. It's not suitable for a D&D code hidden behind the screen the players attempt to learn through play.

I think you are working here with a notion of "reality" that is not just at odds with 80s postmodernism, but with mainstream analytic metaphysics also.
Both contemporary mainstream U.S. and British schools of Analytic Philosophy largely treat mental ideas as existing within the realm of the physical universe. As am I. Game rules, and by extension their current configuration in the field of play, are existent in and of themselves in our heads.

If you are playing White Plume Mountain, and a player wants to know whether or not his/her PC can surf across the tetanus pits on doors, then we have to evaluate the truth of the following proposition: My PC can surf across the tetanus pits on doors, taking advantage of the frictionless nature of the corridor floor. How is the truth of that proposition to be evaluated? The standard answer is contemporary anlaytic philosophy would be that this is a question of truth relative to a fictional (ie not really existing) domain of objects. Once the domain is established the truth is objective, but the domain has to be established by stipulation.
D&D Players aren't positing propositions. They are attempting actions within an actual construct in my brain by telling me what they are trying to do. According to the code or rules I've prepared, they can, cannot, or have a chance to do so. As with any open code game like Situational Puzzles there is the possibility their action isn't covered and it is then added to the code. The truth of the action isn't relevant. It could be considered "true" if possible within the pre-existing game rules, but then it's only true relative to them. As a reference to anything outside my head like Dragons and such, of course, are a fiction.

Talking about the players introducing content into the fiction of a game is simply talking about extend the stipulated domain of objects against which the truth, within that fiction, of propositions such as the above are evaluated. There is no other adequate account of what it means to treat the thing in and of itself as real. (There are important technical variants, but they are all going to need the notion of an interpretation relative to a stipulated fiction.)
Treating any game play as "introducing content to the fiction" is immediately removing it from common game play objectives and into the Forge realm of narrative creation behavior. You are not doing this in Chess, Poker, or in D&D. You could in a storygame version of D&D, but then you don't need any rules, GM, prepared material, memory, forethought, and basically game play of any kind.

"No other adequate account" sounds like your opinion isn't open to interpretation any longer, especially by yourself. I suggest, if you fall into the realm of narrative with games, you lose the act of gaming to another sphere of human existence. (Like quitting on remembering altogether and instead exclusively trying to invent). Allow yourself an "inadequate accounting" if you must in order to stop perpetuating what I believe is another's malicious understanding of games ultimately promoting their extinction by limiting all of them under a highly prejudiced model.

The presence in an RPG of this sort of "truth relative to a stipulated fiction" - what the Forgeites call "fictional positioning" - is what distinguishes it from a board game or a Fighting Fantasy Gamebook or anything else which has colour and flavour text, but has no provision for that non-real "reality" to shape the parameters of what is possible, within the game, for a player to try and do.
D&D is a boardgame. It is hidden behind the screen and actually discovered by players through play. Storygames refer to"fictional positioning", D&D players refer to actual positioning like Marching Order for one.

I think you are still trapped in Forgie narrative theory if you think games have "color". Games have an "aesthetic response" too, but as that is referring to art and not The Big Model people aren't parroting it around the hobby. We are not talking about art or narrative. We are talking about games. Don't get trapped in another mode just because it attempts universality.

The difference between "gamism" and "step on up" is not in relation to the theory of fiction. It's in relation to the motivation of the choices made for PCs. That's an important difference, that leads to very different play experiences, but I don't think it changes the fundamental metaphysics of RPGing.
Yeah, both those terms aren't game terms or game theory terms. So I trust what you say is in tune within Big Model philosophy, but I am talking about D&D as a game, not a fiction.

And yes, D&D gets to the core of our fundamental metaphysics. In RPGs, the metaphysical understanding depends upon whether or nor you are inventing a story or playing a game. Stories and games are actualities, not fictions (i.e. non-existents). I believe the term fiction (often used to be all-encompassing in the Big Model) is confusing you because you are treating the actual thing, the game or story, as a reference to something existent besides itself. Stories and games exist in our heads, using them in communication to refer to something outside our heads which we believe is non-existent is pretending the referenced fiction is real. Loosely calling actual stories "fiction" is to speak of their reference to the world. It is not to say the stories do not actually exist, that you are in no way experiencing them.

D&D requires a code be used by referee in order to retain an actual domain of play for players to engage and experience. Games rules are required too, which need to be held by all participants. Storygames require actual shared rules in order to function as well, only the Big Model refers to all game content, story, and rules, as "The Fiction" which only serves to perpetuate a diminished scope of game design and play. But that is from that community's personal vocabulary. As an opinion, it's fine. As a coherent understanding of our hobby it doesn't cover 99% of RPGs prior to Indie Storygames.

That they're tropes isn't at odds with them connecting to reality; nor does it entail that they were fabricated in any deliberate sense of fabrication. But the connections are symbolic, not causal. A rumbling tummy is a causal sign of hunger; a dragon, to the extent that it is also a sign of hunger, is not a sign for causal reasons. Its relationship to hunger is symbolic.

As to whether or not it is possible to connect to others via illusion: I think that's pretty ubiquitous. People on these boards connect to one another, for instance, via the notion that they are all playing D&D, even though many of them are not doing anything much like what I'm doing, and probably not much like what you're doing either.
I don't have an issue with people thinking of narrative tropes when designing an adventure or campaign setting. I take issue when designers neglect treating those two as material for games. Scenarios require extensive balancing, support within the game system, and in D&D resemble Advanced Squad Leader adventures rather than Act / Scene plot lines. Games are designed as games first, narrative, artistic, political, religious, and any other perspectives are secondary. They do not need those aspects to be games. Lose the understanding that you are playing a game and you've quit playing a game. You are doing something else.

So, tropes are not an absolute, just as narrative is not an absolute and unnecessary for a game (and role playing as a matter of fact). Don't want tropes in your game? Don't include storytelling in your game and there won't be any. And for the record, I connect to what is posted when I share something in common with it. Not because someone attests it is "playing D&D". The "D&D is a meaningless label" ship has sailed.
 

pemerton

Legend
their current configuration in the field of play, are existent in and of themselves in our heads.
In exactly the same way that when you read a novel or have a daydream there is something currently existent in in your head. But when you tell me about what you're reading, you're not reporting to me the state of your head - your thoughts are some higher-order thing that supervenes on the actual state of your head (as per standard functionalist theories of mind), and there are multiple realisations possible (ie there are many different physical ways your head might be which all involve thinking the same thought).

D&D players aren't trying to work out the physical state of the GM's head. (Unlike, say, a boxer trying to work out the physical position of the other fighter's fists.) They trying to work out the content and implications of a serious of propositions (like "The door is made of thick oak, and so is hard to break down"). These propositions are in some sense asserted - ie the GM says "The door is made of thick oak" - but they are not true in the real world. So, then, in what sense are they true? They are true relative to a fiction. The metaphysicla status of "King Snurre is king of the fire giants. He likes to eat adventurers for lunch" is the same as "Sherlock Holmes lives at 222B Baker St. He likes to take cocaine." And the implications are worked out like any other counterfactual reasoning ie via projection according to permissible projection principles.

Treating any game play as "introducing content to the fiction" is immediately removing it from common game play objectives and into the Forge realm of narrative creation behavior. You are not doing this in Chess, Poker, or in D&D.

<snip>

D&D is a boardgame. It is hidden behind the screen and actually discovered by players through play.

<snip>

D&D requires a code be used by referee in order to retain an actual domain of play for players to engage and experience. Games rules are required too, which need to be held by all participants.
There is no code, though, for being able to surf the doors over the tetanus pits in WPM; nor for differentiating between sticking a finger, a forearm of one's head into the devil mouth in ToH; nor for deciding how good a joke has to be to make the Hill Giant Chieftain laugh at it's teller rather than eat him/her.

Evaluating any of these PC actions requires considering how they interact with aready-established elements of backstory.

Likewise when Gygax says in his DMG that the orcs, or the giant ants, will react "appropriately" to PC incursions. That requires projecting an imagined future from an imagined past. There's no code for that.

To relate this to the first half of this reply, what you are calling "the code" includes all the projection principles for deriving consequences of propositions like "This door is made of thick oak." There is no "code" that lets us infer "Therefore, it is hard to break down." In deriving that consequence, all the participants are bringing to bear all their pre-existing knowledge of how oak doors behave when struck.

This "open-endedness" - ie this bringing to bear of all our knowledge of the real world, plus our "imaginary" knowledge that let's us apply projection principles to dragons, unicorns and fireball spells, is part of what distinguishes RPGs from boardgames. None of chess, poker or Monopoly requires this sort of projection based on imaginging something that is not real as if it were real. They only involve performing one of a finite list of potential modificaitons to a physically-existent state of affairs (the board, the cards, the pieces).

You are making an error, in my view, of conflating the notion of "true relative to a fiction" with ideas of literary theory and literary criticism. They have nothing to do with one another. A literary theorist or critic can apply his/her principles of aesthetic evaluation to the Napoleonic wars (see eg Nietzsche) but this has nothing to do with making sense of a fiction. And a physicist who performs a thought experiement is evaluating certain truths relative to a fiction, but this has nothing to do with literary theory or literary criticism.

RPGing has nothing inherently to do with literary theory - bringing literary criticism to bear is a purely optional extra. But it has everything to do with evaluating truths relative to a fiction. Without that, we can't tell whether or not this oaken door is hard to break down, or whether once I've broken it down I can surf it down the frictionless corridor and over the super-tetanus pits.
 

howandwhy99

Adventurer
You're still suffering from the notion that there are a bunch of people sitting around amending and emending a "shared fiction" whose construct is fundamentally separate from the rules. There is no "game" we play in D&D so we can express a fiction. The uniform game design that does do that is exclusive to story games. That the crowd of theorists who follow it treat it as a kind of neo-fundamentalist absolutism about our actual reality only serves to shut out every other possible game play and game design (besides a host of other ways of being). Because, for them, narrative expression is the totality of existing. They are completists who have no reality beyond the narrative reality. If you are going to break free of that absolutism, you need to let it go.

I'll comment on your post soon.
 

howandwhy99

Adventurer
In exactly the same way that when you read a novel or have a daydream there is something currently existent in in your head. But when you tell me about what you're reading, you're not reporting to me the state of your head - your thoughts are some higher-order thing that supervenes on the actual state of your head (as per standard functionalist theories of mind), and there are multiple realisations possible (ie there are many different physical ways your head might be which all involve thinking the same thought).

D&D players aren't trying to work out the physical state of the GM's head. (Unlike, say, a boxer trying to work out the physical position of the other fighter's fists.) They trying to work out the content and implications of a serious of propositions (like "The door is made of thick oak, and so is hard to break down"). These propositions are in some sense asserted - ie the GM says "The door is made of thick oak" - but they are not true in the real world. So, then, in what sense are they true? They are true relative to a fiction. The metaphysicla status of "King Snurre is king of the fire giants. He likes to eat adventurers for lunch" is the same as "Sherlock Holmes lives at 222B Baker St. He likes to take cocaine." And the implications are worked out like any other counterfactual reasoning ie via projection according to permissible projection principles.
Calls to religious "higher order" manifestations doesn't remove "higher orders" from existent reality. The DM is reporting on objects existent in the real world of the imagination just as you can tell me how you feel and think (as you are). Within the code used by the DM there can be doors and oak wood. And a door consisting of oak wood. These are existing game content like any other part of the game board. Telling you this is not improvising when DMing. My repetition of a pattern/code enables you as a player to play a game rather than address a fiction. When you attempt another move, I refer back to the code and relay your results.

This is to say, D&D is not a story game. Story games use a small set of procedures, rules, for all participants to follow in order to create a fiction. Period. They include no other game designs or game play, and frankly, if the rules get in the way of creating a fiction --story telling-- then they are said to be the problem. Many storygames are not designed to be enjoyable as games and gamers seeking game play tend to stay away from them for that reason. D&D is all about relishing the game play (the success of similar designs in computer game form should proof enough of its value).

There is no code, though, for being able to surf the doors over the tetanus pits in WPM; nor for differentiating between sticking a finger, a forearm of one's head into the devil mouth in ToH; nor for deciding how good a joke has to be to make the Hill Giant Chieftain laugh at it's teller rather than eat him/her.

Evaluating any of these PC actions requires considering how they interact with aready-established elements of backstory.
That last happens only in story games where game play is downgraded and improvisation written in as the game's "objective". (I mean, how exactly does one declare their "absolute inevitability" - narrative creation - as an objective to be attained?) (~They don't of course, there are no objectives in storygames beyond "good story" or "have fun". Are we having fun yet?)

I have a game code (a few now) for everything you mentioned. You could probably discern one too if you gave it a chance.

Likewise when Gygax says in his DMG that the orcs, or the giant ants, will react "appropriately" to PC incursions. That requires projecting an imagined future from an imagined past. There's no code for that.
Or.. you could understand that he is stating that he didn't include everything for game play, like behavior by Intelligence as mentioned in the Monster Manual. And that the DM will need to further game material to cover it. I think players coming from a ...Type B?, broken game design of the 90s and 00s might have difficulty understanding why the DM isn't supposed to "make things up" when the rules run out. "We've always done it that way" is not justification for "that is the way it must be done". Gygax had incredible insight and intuition for game design, but he left out all sorts of necessary game material until he finally quit the design of D&D for "make it up" Skill Games (in part I believe from the heated and lengthy D&D / GURPS conflict which went on throughout the 1980s.)

To relate this to the first half of this reply, what you are calling "the code" includes all the projection principles for deriving consequences of propositions like "This door is made of thick oak." There is no "code" that lets us infer "Therefore, it is hard to break down." In deriving that consequence, all the participants are bringing to bear all their pre-existing knowledge of how oak doors behave when struck.
A good RPG like any good game attempts assumes some prior knowledge of the players. "They read English" and so on. But how a a game mechanic works in code breaking game is known by experienced gamers through playing the game, not prior assumptions of what it appears like outside of game. At best, those are clues. But they can be every bit as much illusions too, traps. It is players' comprehension of the game code or rules which that matters when playing a game.

This "open-endedness" - ie this bringing to bear of all our knowledge of the real world, plus our "imaginary" knowledge that let's us apply projection principles to dragons, unicorns and fireball spells, is part of what distinguishes RPGs from boardgames. None of chess, poker or Monopoly requires this sort of projection based on imagining something that is not real as if it were real. They only involve performing one of a finite list of potential modifications to a physically-existent state of affairs (the board, the cards, the pieces).
D&D is a board game, it's simply not a finite one. More game board can be generated from the code. And any as of yet unconfigured area of the game board can be determined by players who submit backgrounds, adventure modules, and plenty of other custom designs (races, spells, classes, items, etc.) that the referee then uses to convert game code into a manifestation of the code similar to the submission. After some back and forth clarification of needs the DM needs and desires of the player the final, hidden piece of the game board is attached to the currently generated one.

Treat D&D like a game, which is in part an existing state of affairs within a limited environment, and it isn't that hard to play it as a game rather than an exclusively improvisational activity.

You are making an error, in my view, of conflating the notion of "true relative to a fiction" with ideas of literary theory and literary criticism. They have nothing to do with one another. A literary theorist or critic can apply his/her principles of aesthetic evaluation to the Napoleonic wars (see eg Nietzsche) but this has nothing to do with making sense of a fiction. And a physicist who performs a thought experiement is evaluating certain truths relative to a fiction, but this has nothing to do with literary theory or literary criticism.

RPGing has nothing inherently to do with literary theory - bringing literary criticism to bear is a purely optional extra. But it has everything to do with evaluating truths relative to a fiction. Without that, we can't tell whether or not this oaken door is hard to break down, or whether once I've broken it down I can surf it down the frictionless corridor and over the super-tetanus pits.
So I use a different word than you do for this very distinctive use of fiction. I use -Fantasy- as relative to reality. I play a fantasy game, meaning it is existent in my head, but not understood as existing anywhere else in the reality outside of me. It is not a genre of narrative tropes, which makes it so.

Truths relative to this fantasy aren't determined, but pragmatically surmised by the players. Pragmatism being a necessary component of all game play. Referees, on the other hand, need to move the pieces of the game upon the board according to the predetermined code the players are seeking to decipher. They move these pieces according to the players' directions, but these are "Directions", not narration. (If the Referee is confused by or hold a multiplicity of definitions for a direction, they need to continue rechecking with the player until the directions are clarified. "This square here?" "Yes, that square there").

Most of the game rules of D&D are about enabling clear communication between players and DM. What passes as D&D rules, and should be, is 99% (100%?) of what designers confusedly call the official rules. This was an error made by Gygax too, especially when he went on to say only the people playing the "official rules" in the AD&D books were actually playing D&D. Dungeons & Dragons isn't any particular DMs code hidden behind the screen. (Nor is it a branding of narrative fictions as popularly held today). It's the rules to be known by all the participants for how to run and play the game. Most of what is taken as rules is code mechanic "suggestions" no DM actually needs to use.

--

If you recall a few years (5?) ago I talked about the 3 phases of understanding and playing Tic-Tac-Toe. (I believe there are more than 3 now)
Tic phase is when you learn the game, usually when a child, and play it to win by seeking to reach the game objective first within the rules and field of play as established by the game.
Tac phase is when you have solved the game. Tic-Tac-Toe is an easily solved game. It has 10,000+ game states, but kids under 10 are able to reach Tac phase. Game Theory is all about Tic and Tac phase and stick to it.
Toe phase is when you declare there are no such things as X's, O's, a grid, squares, and even quantity like "9" existent in-the-world. It is a variety of narrative absolutism. And because it usually comes last it is confused by those who fully haven't grasped it yet as a "final progression". And not yet another alternative. They are still believing in the Tic and Tac phase understandings actual improvement.

The last phase is where a lot of people are in our world, quite self-righteously so in the belief that their current understanding cannot be wrong as it no longer holds to right or wrong, success or failure states. It's a kind of subjectivist extremism which has its own pitfalls like losing grasp of all reality. But it has plenty of positives too.

Dungeons & Dragons, as a reality puzzle game, a game that seeks game play first and foremost, places players upon an imaginary fantasy board to enable them to engage wholly within the state of Tic Phase. That's the purpose of it's design. It has some great positives, but drawbacks too. Like engaging with an imagined reality that only exists in other people's heads too much that we might ignore our real one.

Even though both ...scopes of action? are incredibly different, they both suffer from losing touch with reality. One treats it like a genre label, the other by growing roots too deeply into the realm of imagination.
 

pemerton

Legend
[MENTION=3192]howandwhy99[/MENTION], you are imputing to me a a range of views I don't hold. I also think you do not have a full grasp of mainstream contemporary philosophy of mind and language.

D&D is not a story game. Story games use a small set of procedures, rules, for all participants to follow in order to create a fiction. Period.
Given that you are the only person on this thread talking about story games, I guess you're entitled to put forward a stipulative definition. I don't know what games you think are instances of "story game" as you've defined it, but 4e is not, Burning Wheel is not, HeroWars/Quest is not, Marvel Heroic RP is not. In fact as far as I can see any game that relies upon the adjudication of fictional positioning for the resolution of action declaration is not a story game in your sense. (This is assuming that by "create a fiction" you mean "author a narrative", which seems to be the way in which you use that phrase.)

You're still suffering from the notion that there are a bunch of people sitting around amending and emending a "shared fiction" whose construct is fundamentally separate from the rules.
I am not suffering from any such notion. The construction of the shared fiction is not fundamentally separate from the rules. It is fundamentally conditioned by the rules (this is Vincent Baker's well known "clouds, boxes and arrows"). For instance, in 4e, why does a fireball spell set things on fire? Because it has the rules property of doing [fire] damage. Or why can Icy Terrain be used to freeze a puddle or part of a stream? Because it has the rules property of doing [cold] damage.

My claim is simply that there is no code that tells you whether or not a fireball spell is hot enough to melt the glacial ice that is Thrym's throne. That has to be extrapolated like any other novel question about a hypothetical or stipulated state of affairs is: by projecting from what is already known about the state of affairs via permissible projection principles. Which are not, in themselves, amenable to codification.

Calls to religious "higher order" manifestations doesn't remove "higher orders" from existent reality. The DM is reporting on objects existent in the real world of the imagination just as you can tell me how you feel and think (as you are).
I don't know where religion comes into it. The idea that thoughts are higher order properties that supervene on their realising brain states; and that multiple realising physical states are possible; is pretty standard in modern functionalist philosophy of mind (most of whose proponents are atheists, I would imagine).

Me telling you how I feel is reporting some higher-order state realised in my nervous system. Me telling you that I'm perceiving at a door is reporting some higher-order state in my cognitive system. Me telling you that I'm imagining a door is reporting some higher-order state in my "hypothesising" system. But when, in D&D, people reason about bashing down doors, they are not reasoning about those mental states. This can be easily seen by considering the following examples: someone in the real world encounters a door and wonders how they might break it down. The things they have to think about are properties of doors like their construction, their density, their hardness etc. None of that requires reflecting on mental states. Now, in a game of D&D the adventurers come acorrs a door and wonder how they might break it down. The things that the participants in the game have to thik about are exactly the same properties of doors: their construction, their density, their hardness etc. They are not thinking about, and do not have to think about, mental states.

The point can also be put in terms of propositional content. If I tell you "I am knocking down the door", the content of that assertion is settled by the meaning of the word "door" and the phrase "knocking down", as well as the reference rule for the subject pronoun "I". If a player, playing a game of D&D, tells me as GM "My character is knocking down the door", the content of that proposition is settled by the meaning of the word "door" and the phrase "knocking down", as well as the reference rule for the phrase "my character". The word "door", when used by a D&D player to talk about an imaginary door, does not change it's meaning and suddenly start talking about mental states. It has the same meaning as when used to talk about a real door.

The point can also be put in terms of expertise. A D&D player who knows a lot about doors in the real world can be an excellent D&D player even if s/he knows nothing about the subtleties of mental states. Whereas a D&D player who knows a lot about the subtleties of mental states but nothing about doors is likely to be disadvantaged in classic dungeon play. And the reason for this is obvious: the subject matter of D&D is principally dungeons, doors, walls, stone, wood, orcs, dragons,etc. It is not first and foremost mental states, and certainly not the mental states of the participants.

Within the code used by the DM there can be doors and oak wood. And a door consisting of oak wood. These are existing game content like any other part of the game board.
The gameboard is a piece of cardboard or timber that is a really existing physical object, tyically located between the participants.

The GM's thoughts and imaginations are non-physcial objects that supervene on the physical state of his/her brain, and are located in his head. If you are a strict physicalist and regard them not as supervening on but as literally identical with certain physical states of the brain, then you will take the view that those thoughts and imaginations are located in the GM's head.

But there is no door in the GM's head. (Apart from anything else it would have to be a very small door.) The door does not exist. It is like the objects in a physicist's thought experiment - a posit or stipulation. Assertions about it can be true or false relative to that stipulation (which is what anlaytic philosophers mean when they talk about "truth relative to a fiction"). The assertion "The dungeon and the doors within it exist" is true relative to that stipulation. But they are not real. They are imaginary.

I think players coming from a ...Type B?, broken game design of the 90s and 00s might have difficulty understanding why the DM isn't supposed to "make things up" when the rules run out.
I woudln't know because I'm not a player of that sort. I learned to play RPGs in the early 1980s from Moldvay, Roger Musson, Marc Miller, Don Turnbull, Lewis Pulsipher and Gygax. (In roughly that order.)

As for "making things" up, a physicist doing a thought experiment isn't "making things up". S/he is extrapolating from a posit via projection rules - in this case, codified ones. (That's part of the point of physics.) A player wondering whether or not a hand axe can break down a door isn't "making things up". S/he is extrapolating from a posit via projection rules - in this case, ones that aren't and can't be codified. In both cases, though, the posit is not true - it is a fiction - and in both cases the person doing the thinking is going to end up asserting things which are true relative to the fiction, but not true of any reality. (Eg "The light beams bouncing of the mirrors at the ends of the moving train will meet at this point;" or, "The door is too hard to be broken down by a hand axe.")

Telling you this is not improvising when DMing.
I don't understand what you mean by "improvising" here. But if you are telling me that there is a codified decision procedure for every permissible player "move" in a game of D&D then I flat out disagree. Given that the possibilities of fictional positioning are limitless, so are the possibilities of reasoning required.

Or.. you could understand that he is stating that he didn't include everything for game play, like behavior by Intelligence as mentioned in the Monster Manual. And that the DM will need to further game material to cover it.

<snip>

Gygax had incredible insight and intuition for game design, but he left out all sorts of necessary game material until he finally quit the design of D&D for "make it up" Skill Games (in part I believe from the heated and lengthy D&D / GURPS conflict which went on throughout the 1980s.)
The additional game material will still not supply anything in the neighbourhood of a code. There is no code, for instance, that tell's you how INT 0 creatures behave - because ants behave very differently from wasps which behave very differently from spiders. And even if you just confine yourself to spiders, there is no code that tells you how they will behave in all situations.

A good RPG like any good game attempts assumes some prior knowledge of the players. "They read English" and so on. But how a a game mechanic works in code breaking game is known by experienced gamers through playing the game, not prior assumptions of what it appears like outside of game.
My point is that any knowledge at all about how the world works can be brought to bear by a player of D&D. For instance, in the well-known ziggurat room in White Plume Mountain, a player can bring to bear such knowledge as that projectiles can shatter glass, and that water can drown air-breathing creatures, though the time is highly variable both across species and across individuals. And a player can also be stumped by such questions as "How do I extrapolate from real life to giant scorpions, when in real life the circulatory and "pulmonary" systems of scorpions only work because they are so small?" There is no code for this.

Whether or not you want to call it improvising, if the players shatter the walls and try and drown all the creatures in the resulting flood, the GM is going to have to make a decision about how long it takes a giant scorpion to drown. There is no code for the game that I have ever seen that answers that question. The GM will have to project from what is known, and may - in this case - even have to make it up, given that we are talking about a biologically impossible entity.

Treat D&D like a game, which is in part an existing state of affairs within a limited environment, and it isn't that hard to play it as a game rather than an exclusively improvisational activity.
It's obvious to me that Lawrence Schick didn't play D&D this way - because the most famous environment he wrote for the game, White Plume Mountain, is not limited in this way. I don't think Gygax played this way either, whether as GM or player - because as GM the most famous environemtns he wrote are Tomb of Horrors, Keep on the Borderlands and The Village of Hommlet, and none of them is a limited envrionment. Each permits "moves" to be made by the players which cannot be resolved via any code, and require projection by reference to non-code-like principles.

A Fighting Fantasy Gamebook is like what you describe - a game with an imagined state of affairs within a limited environment and with limited moves that are capable of codification - but precisely for this reason it would generally be regarded as a form of boardgame or wargame rather than an RPG.

Referees, on the other hand, need to move the pieces of the game upon the board according to the predetermined code the players are seeking to decipher.
This does not cover the bulk of a referees job even in an austere game of D&D. The referee has to decide which PC a monster attacks. There are no rules for that. Even if the GM has written down that "Lareth the Beautiful hates good clerics, and will always attack them first", it is open to the GM to have Lareth change targets if, after attacking the cleric, he finds himself in danger of dying from the assault by the fighter.

And if a player decides to drown the giant scorpions in the White Plume Mountain ziggurat room, there is no predetermined code for that.

D&D is a board game, it's simply not a finite one.

<snip>

Dungeons & Dragons, as a reality puzzle game, a game that seeks game play first and foremost, places players upon an imaginary fantasy board
I think these sentences are pretty consistent with what I'm saying. The board is "imaginary" ie a fiction, a posit, a stipulation. And the board is not finite, and hence not limited.
 

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