What is a "Narrative Mechanic"?

clearstream

(He, Him)
But the fiction is full of things that we don't know - the colour of a character's hose, the length of their hair, the smell of their breath, and the contents of their memories.
I have a notion about this that hopefully I can find words to explain. The things we don't know are non-diegetic, although the possibility of knowledge about those things can be. Some supporting thought-experiments are these

It's a murder mystery, and suppose Jo-character has a memory of a knife on the sidetable. Were the knife present, we'd say it was diegetic, but in this case the knife is not present and, as it turns out, the memory is false. Memory-of-knife is diegetic. Knife is non-diegetic.​
Jo-character is exploring and has a theory that there are canary-people. As it turns out, there are no canary-people. Theory-of-canary-people is diegetic. Canary-people are non-diegetic.​

Taking this back to the table

It's a murder mystery. Jo-player has a theory that the butler did it. Subsequently, Jo-player decides the butler didn't do it because the valet better fits the development of their fiction.​
It's a hexploration. Jo-player has a notion there could be canary-people. Subsequently, Jo-player decides there are no canary-people because they don't fit the development of their fiction.​

There is some distinction between potential-facts and actual-facts. The fiction is full of potential-facts, and each potential-fact is itself a fact. (It is a fact that Jo-character has a theory that there are canary-people. It isn't a fact that there are canary-people.) The situation you have described is that players can act as if their characters know potential-facts. That does not itself make the objects of those facts diegetic. I can act as if my character believes there is a pistol in the bottom drawer, but if I subsequently decide that there isn't then said pistol is non-diegetic. It's non-diegetic until I take the extra step of settling the matter.

Leading me to propose that we can act as if there are things-we-act-as-if-characters-could-know (potential-facts) as a class of diegetic object. Without that leading to the objects of those facts being themselve diegetic (without taking an extra step.)

This intuition is driven by experience converting traditional linear fictions into rendered videogame worlds. Doing so makes one acutely aware of the incompleteness of traditional linear fiction. It's easy to write "Addy saw the wee sleekit mouse" but when you have to decide it's fur colour, texture, albedo, coverage and length, kinematic skeleton, behaviours and so on, not to mention the lighting and camera-treatment to produce "saw", and the collision-detection and path-finding to keep the mouse in the room and not dashing through the walls, the incompleteness of that sentence becomes extremely clear. It's not much helped if you add that the mouse is "grey".

Players can act as if there are all sorts of things in the fiction they don't know, but that they expect their characters possess or know about. Memory-of-knife is diegetic whether or not knife is. But nothing is diegetic until players take the extra step of explicitly adding it into their fiction. Only in speaking of such things do they start to realise them into their fiction. You have spoken of "the colour of a character's hose, the length of their hair, the smell of their breath, and the contents of their memories" and other players can now nod and agree - yes, those seem like reasonable potential-facts. A moment ago - before speaking - they were not even that.
 
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aramis erak

Legend
Jonny Archer strictly speaking doesn't know anything. We pretend that he does. Therefore what Jonny knows is down to what we pretend that he knows.


On the basis of my observation above, you could even say that it's the only thing that's relevant. There is no means of ensuring Jonny is reasonably informed, other than via the player. Ergo, anything that player doesn't know, Jonny can't know.

EDIT What I resist is that Jonny necessarily doesn't know about dice. Jonny doesn't know anything. Players know about dice, and therefore it is open to them to act as if their character does. Whether they ought to do so is entirely another matter. One that can be fruitfully discussed with a solid definition of what it is to be diegetic in TTRPG in hand.
Not correct; if there's abstraction, there are lots of things the character knows that the player doesn't, but can still be accounted for in the mechanical state of the game.

Johnny knows how to fly his starship, the player merely knows when to make the rolls.

Many forget that the mechanical state can reflect things the character knows but the player doesn't - either because it's abstracted - or because the player merely needs to ask for the information from the GM, or both.

The two states - that of the story/fiction, and that of the game mechanical definitions. character knowledge can be reflected in either. In the fiction, by character statement or GM statement, or in the mechanics, via abstractions.

Sometimes, the mechanics can be used to ascertain the truth of a player's assertions.

Yes, the player states a desired fact, then rolls to see if it's true in the fiction, or merely the PC's delusion. It's a remarkably fun thing to GM if one isn't a control freak.

It's one of the optional uses for wises in Burning Wheel, one of the standard uses in Mouse Guard 1e, pretty much a default every action in Blood & Honor,. It's a mechanic that directly affects the state of the story, by establishing truth... or determining a believed untruth.

It's also an option in Fate by creating the truth as a character, scene, act, or adventure scoped aspect via a skill roll, tho' it is often overlooked in this role... despite being called out on p. 114 in Fate Core, tho' not worded as creating truth.
Fate Core p.114 said:
Likewise, you can use Lore to create advantages based on any subject matter your character might have studied, which gives you a fun way to add details to the setting.
The unstated implication is that the added details are setting truth.

My longest Mouse Guard 1e campaign ended with the captain of the Guard at Lockhaven was a traitor... one player suggested it, and another, with way more dice, opposed it, but the 3 dice of Rebel-Wise for "he's a traitor" way outrolled the 10 dice of Guard Lore and bonuses. (Yes, the PC's opted to collaborate to establish in fact that he wasn't the leak... 5 against 1... 4 of those 10 were help dice, 3 were from Rewards... and the roll ended up 3 to 1 on 3 vs 10. Worse, the Captain was the romantic interest of one of the PCs. Kind of a blow when the campaign theme ends with finding out your character's lover was trying to get you killed all along. In some ways, it's good that they removed that aspect of Wises in MG.2E... (and yes, that is an intentional bit of wordplay.
Mouse Guard 1E p33 said:
Wises can be used in three ways: You can test to elicit information about a hidden fact from the GM. You can test to bring in a new fact about something in the game that’s relevant to your wise’s area. Or you can use a wise to augment a skill test.
(color added to highlight key element)

These are mechanics that can establish what a character knows... or other story truths.. .
 

aramis erak

Legend
This speaks accurately of the pretence, and inaccurately of the reality.
Or the inability to accept that the mechanical state has objective reality. Sure, it's an intangible object, but it is a noun, and has provable existence. The story also exists as an intangible object.

And it can, by virtue of the social contract of agreed upon rules, force a player to make certain choices that they otherwise wouldn't. Sometimes by prohibition, sometimes by promise of reward.

The game rules are another intangible object with reality, and they create the mechanical state. And thus can be causal to a player or the GM making choices that are non-desired by the players, but applied because of the rules, and taking the control away from the Player of that PC.

The rulebooks themselves are a tangible object, which contains the non-tangible rules within.

Characters, once introduced into play, have an existence outside that of the mind of the player, and in most systems, also are subject to the GM's choices, and for those who actually use the rules, the effects of the rules. That the GM can compel or prevent various actions of a PC disproves the thesis that the Player is the sole causality of the character's action(s). That the rules can compel or prevent action also disproves the single causality of action in the player.

That many groups have the GM or another player take over a PC when the player is absent also disproves lack of existence independent of the player. The character exists so long as they are remembered. They are real, but intangible, and while their action requires a human or AI to implement actions and life to them, that does not make them not exist.

And, in the Platonic Philosophical and Aristotilian Philosophical schools, that something can be conceived of means it's real in some way. The Platonic form of an object is a real thing - whether or not the thing has tangible existence, anything conceived of exists. Even the physically impossible.

A D&D character has 4 levels of reality... it has a sheet - the tangible noun part of it, it has the ratings on that sheet; intangible, but objective and shareable. It has the player's mental state about the character. It has everyone else who's been at the table when the character was played having a mental construct of the character as well - a shared fiction is a real thing - it exists - and it does so outside the head of the player of the character. In Dawkin's scheme (see the later printings of the Selfish Gene, where he added the chapter on evolution of ideas) the meme (unit of information subject to evolution) in crossing from that third - mind of the player - to the fourth - minds of the other participants - is in fact a replication, inaccurate, incomplete and intangible, child of the player's concept... but also is real in that it's a noun that exists, intangible tho' it be.

The characters are real, in their states as game stats, mental constructs, and the tangible sheets when used...
what they lack is tangibility, sentience, sapience, and autonomy.

Philosophically, real is the worst word choice I can think of for your concept about the inability to act without human intervention - autonomy.
Note that NPCs in CRPGs do have autonomy in many cases, but lack senience, sapience, and tangibility, but can be impressed into a tangible storage medium, and only work in a tangible system upon which they turn their potential autonomy (their code) into actual autonomy (that code running).
 

aramis erak

Legend
No, you don't. In Blades in the Dark, you have to select your Load prior to the Score. So you have to determine if you have a Light, Normal, or Heavy Load. This choice determines how encumbered you are, and it affects how your character appears, and potentially any moves that may be affected by the amount of items you're carrying... speed, maneuverability, and stealth.

There's really no need to reimagine anything.
Not having read Blades, I was speaking more generally on why I dislike (but still use) such mechanics in general. Very specifically, my examples were FFG Star Wars. Blades may be the exception in load, but 2 of my players have explicitly used the destiny spend to avoid taking encumbrance penalties in FFG Star Wars... the other players were NOT happy about it, either. But it is a valid use.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Not correct; if there's abstraction, there are lots of things the character knows that the player doesn't, but can still be accounted for in the mechanical state of the game.

Johnny knows how to fly his starship, the player merely knows when to make the rolls.
Here I would say that players act as if Jonny knew and were flying his starship. What they picture will omit or be plainly erroneous on all sorts of details (as to any actual flying of actual starships), but that they picture Jonny flyng a starship is sufficient for their pretence. They're able to say those words and have something in mind for them.

Many forget that the mechanical state can reflect things the character knows but the player doesn't - either because it's abstracted - or because the player merely needs to ask for the information from the GM, or both.
Taking that into account, in later restatements of my proposed definition I used "participants" rather than players - to deal with the case that some participant is in possession of facts that they can act as if characters can know.

The two states - that of the story/fiction, and that of the game mechanical definitions. character knowledge can be reflected in either. In the fiction, by character statement or GM statement, or in the mechanics, via abstractions.
I think as to game text, it only becomes diegetic at the point some participant can act as if character(s) can know it.

Sometimes, the mechanics can be used to ascertain the truth of a player's assertions.
They set the truth value, rather than ascertain it, where the assertion had none before. (I'm not disagreeing with you on this, just clarifying what you have said.)
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
Or the inability to accept that the mechanical state has objective reality. Sure, it's an intangible object, but it is a noun, and has provable existence. The story also exists as an intangible object.

And it can, by virtue of the social contract of agreed upon rules, force a player to make certain choices that they otherwise wouldn't. Sometimes by prohibition, sometimes by promise of reward.

The game rules are another intangible object with reality, and they create the mechanical state. And thus can be causal to a player or the GM making choices that are non-desired by the players, but applied because of the rules, and taking the control away from the Player of that PC.

The rulebooks themselves are a tangible object, which contains the non-tangible rules within.

Characters, once introduced into play, have an existence outside that of the mind of the player, and in most systems, also are subject to the GM's choices, and for those who actually use the rules, the effects of the rules. That the GM can compel or prevent various actions of a PC disproves the thesis that the Player is the sole causality of the character's action(s). That the rules can compel or prevent action also disproves the single causality of action in the player.
Okay, and note that I'm not addressing causality of action in the player. Others might be.

That many groups have the GM or another player take over a PC when the player is absent also disproves lack of existence independent of the player. The character exists so long as they are remembered. They are real, but intangible, and while their action requires a human or AI to implement actions and life to them, that does not make them not exist.
So long as participants in the play can act as if they exist! One could write "There is a pistol in the bureau drawer" on a piece of paper and keep it absolutely and permanently secret from participants. That pistol isn't diegetic because participants can never act as if it exists. This also applies to similarly secret character sheets. Both the note and the character sheet do exist (in our real world) of course: they're just not diegetic.

Philosophically, real is the worst word choice I can think of for your concept about the inability to act without human intervention - autonomy.
Are you addressing someone else here? I've said nothing about inability or otherwise to act without human intervention.
 

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