What makes an TTRPG a "Narrative Game" (Daggerheart Discussion)

pemerton

Legend
Considering these two things... My approach to these sorts of ideas is to deny the entire Meinongian hypothesis at the start, and more relevantly that of @clearstream's proposal here as well. Meinong's Gold Mountain HAS NO HEIGHT, because 'to have a height' means it has a value, X, in meters, and lacking such an X, the property height cannot be said to be possessed by it. Since 'all mountains have a height', the Gold Mountain IS NOT A MOUNTAIN. Thus other attributes and entailments of 'mountainness' DO NOT APPLY TO IT.

The application to CS' argument is then straightforward, no imagined things have all the definite properties of real things, and thus cannot be classified as being members of the sets of those things.
Well, here's a counter-argument - not intended to be knock-down, given this stuff lies outside my main fields of expertise!

It's a gold mountain. That is to say, a mountain constituted of gold. So it has a density of 19.3 times that of water. That's an entailment that does follow from it being gold.

So, similarly, it is a mountain. And all mountains have some height or other, and so the gold mountain has some height or other. But (analogously to the point about Holmes's handedness) there is no particular height that it can be said to have - although, being a mountain, perhaps we can confidently assert that it's more than 1 metre high (that would be a pile of gold or a lump of gold, not a gold mountain).

While that won't particularly serve as a guide to which fiction you 'should' imagine, it does serve one important purpose, it tells us that the possible fictions are only bound by pure aesthetic criteria and nothing else, no logical or other sorts of constraints are binding.

<snip>

I won't say this all really effectively changes much
Actually, I think it does.

First, another philosophical example:

In mid-20th century philosophy of perception, there was discussion of the following issue: if a person is punched and "sees" stars, or if a person is drunk and "sees" pink elephants, is there some determinate number of stars, or of elephants, that that person sees?

The context for the discussion was sense-datum theories of perception, which seem like that might be committed to an affirmative answer, given that they think the sense data really exist, and hence must have the determinate properties of actually existing things. Unlike the Meinongians, they seem even more strongly committed: not just that there is some number or other of stars, or elephants, but that there is some particular number that is the number thereof.

Now, the relevance to RPGing:

Suppose that the GM tells the players "You see a mob/horde/gang of <whatevers>". In AD&D, even if the GM doesn't tell the players how many <whatevers> they see, and even perhaps hasn't worked it out yet, the rules of the game commit everyone at the table to there being some determinate number of them. Because otherwise the action resolution rules - in particular, combat - can't be applied.

Compare, say, 4e D&D. This requires that the mob occupy a certain space in combat, but not that there be some determinate number of mob-members. So my hobgoblin phalanxes and hordes of vrocks must have had some-or-other number of members, but nothing in the rules or the play of the game demands that any particular number be determined.

Generalising: a difference of boxes can demand a difference in the clouds. It might seem like a trivial point, but we've all suffered through years of tallying gold pieces, and tracking arrows and encumbrance, because its implications have not always been properly thought through!

pemerton

Legend
That the concept is being discussed means we can indeed imagine it.
Given we're in the weeds, I'll express a view here: the term can be used - "infinitely high gold mountain" - but I don't think that means we can imagine it in any moderately strict sense of "imagine".

That said, and contra @AbdulAlhazred and @Crimson Longinus, I'm not really persuaded we can imagine casting a spell either. We can imagine a lightning bolt flies from my hands, and that, prior to that, I make funny gestures and speak funny words; and we can use the term "I cast a spell"; but I'm not persuaded we're actually imagining a spell being cast.

pemerton

Legend
@hawkeyefan

Sorry to be so shocking!

I'm also from the school that thinks we can't really imagine David Chalmers's "zombies" (ie entities who are just like people but lack any "inner mental life").

For me, it's connected to how much causal process is actually involved in imagining. Casting a spell refers to a causal process. A fictional one. And it's that fictional process, which has no relationship to any actual causal process we experience, that I doubt we can imagine. (I do accept that we can refer to it.)

EDIT: This is why I think there is a lot of bracketing/backgrounding in fantasy. Eg we don't imagine the economy of The Shire; we just ignore it.

AbdulAlhazred

Legend
Well, one way to think about these things might be more in terms of 'imagination of performance', or in some cases 'imagination of consequence'. So, we may not be able to really imagine casting a fireball at the cockatrice in the sense of imaging the procedure, but we can all probably imagine the smell of roast chicken. (Did I mention I've been watching a lot of Delicious in Dungeon?).

pemerton

Legend
Well, one way to think about these things might be more in terms of 'imagination of performance', or in some cases 'imagination of consequence'. So, we may not be able to really imagine casting a fireball at the cockatrice in the sense of imaging the procedure, but we can all probably imagine the smell of roast chicken.
Right. To quote a poster from not far upthread:
We can imagine a lightning bolt flies from my hands, and that, prior to that, I make funny gestures and speak funny words; and we can use the term "I cast a spell"; but I'm not persuaded we're actually imagining a spell being cast.

hawkeyefan

Legend
@hawkeyefan

Sorry to be so shocking!

I'm also from the school that thinks we can't really imagine David Chalmers's "zombies" (ie entities who are just like people but lack any "inner mental life").

For me, it's connected to how much causal process is actually involved in imagining. Casting a spell refers to a causal process. A fictional one. And it's that fictional process, which has no relationship to any actual causal process we experience, that I doubt we can imagine. (I do accept that we can refer to it.)

EDIT: This is why I think there is a lot of bracketing/backgrounding in fantasy. Eg we don't imagine the economy of The Shire; we just ignore it.

It’s more interesting than shocking, I think… but it is both!

Taking your example of casting a spell, I would say that often it’s as you describe… we imagine the appearance (maybe? That may not be the right word.) of the act rather than the actual act. But I don’t think that means we can’t imagine it.

Casting a spell can be described as willing something into being. And I think that’s something we can all imagine… though each of us may imagine very different things. But the idea behind it is consistent to each imagining… and I think that allows us to stretch beyond our personal experience to imagine other similar ideas.

So we often gloss over it, as you suggest, but there may be times where, if we want to and if we put in a little mental effort, we actually can imagine something like casting a spell because it’s so similar to something else we’ve done… whether that be something like earning an education or an accolade or persevering through trauma or difficult circumstances. Or anything similar where we’ve had to take an idea or a goal and make it manifest in the world.

AbdulAlhazred

Legend
It’s more interesting than shocking, I think… but it is both!

Taking your example of casting a spell, I would say that often it’s as you describe… we imagine the appearance (maybe? That may not be the right word.) of the act rather than the actual act. But I don’t think that means we can’t imagine it.

Casting a spell can be described as willing something into being. And I think that’s something we can all imagine… though each of us may imagine very different things. But the idea behind it is consistent to each imagining… and I think that allows us to stretch beyond our personal experience to imagine other similar ideas.

So we often gloss over it, as you suggest, but there may be times where, if we want to and if we put in a little mental effort, we actually can imagine something like casting a spell because it’s so similar to something else we’ve done… whether that be something like earning an education or an accolade or persevering through trauma or difficult circumstances. Or anything similar where we’ve had to take an idea or a goal and make it manifest in the world.
But I could equally say you cannot imagine casting Fireball. What procedure did you use to cast it? What were the verbal and somatic components exactly? You can sort of imagine yourself waving your hands and talking Latin perhaps, but IS THAT ACTUALLY THE RIGHT IMAGINING FOR CASTING A FIREBALL? You cannot answer this 'yes', ipso facto you cannot have actually imagined casting Fireball, you can only have imagined a pantomime.

thefutilist

I don't dispute that people feel more comfortable with a process of play they are more accustomed to. What I dispute is that this is actually the case. How plausible, consistent or credible an established element of the fiction is has far more to do with the thought process around it than who established it or when they established it. Things decided in the moment are no more likely to be decided on a whim. I think describing the thought process behind scene framing decisions I make when running Apocalypse World as random or heedless is incredibly inaccurate.

So, I think there is absolutely a case that the ability to intuit what has been defined by a GM but not yet revealed can make for a compelling sort of gameplay you do not get in something like Apocalypse World, but it is a mistake to confuse that with the level of consistency or credibility of the shared fiction.
I think GM side constraint is one aspect. Fixed fictional positioning is another (which is a form of constraint). In fact constraint as a whole. The more constraint on what you can say, the more it feels like the fiction has it’s own causality.

Anyway I think it works like that because constraint limits agency and so we attribute the agency elsewhere. If you add some variant of what @clearstream said. The same type of phenomena that authors describe when a character has it’s own will and won’t bend to the story. Something like that. Then the basic human (cognitive distortion?) of attributing intent kicks in. Maybe anyway, the specific psychological mechanics don’t really interest me that much.

Can you sell those processes on feels alone though? Probably not because you need wriggle room somewhere to generate more fiction. Which brings us back to the basic roleplay design question of what we leave mutable and what we leave fixed.

Crimson Longinus

Legend
But I could equally say you cannot imagine casting Fireball. What procedure did you use to cast it? What were the verbal and somatic components exactly? You can sort of imagine yourself waving your hands and talking Latin perhaps, but IS THAT ACTUALLY THE RIGHT IMAGINING FOR CASTING A FIREBALL? You cannot answer this 'yes', ipso facto you cannot have actually imagined casting Fireball, you can only have imagined a pantomime.
Certainly, at least in principle, we could have detailed description of the words, gestures, how the components are used, and the mental steps the caster goes though, that would be "canonical" to that fictional setting, and which would help people to imagine it consistently. It just isn't something we generally bother with. I could imagine such appearing in some novel about a wizard learning magic though. I think Le Guin's Earthsea went quite a bit in detail how spellcasting happens and how it feels, though it has been decades since I read those so I could be wrong. In any case, in theory it seems perfectly doable, it just generally isn't worth the effort.

Aldarc

Legend
Those are my initial thoughts, what do you think?
I think that this thread has ventured pretty far from its core premise.

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