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Interview: Fummelpodden at Lincon

This is the very kind interview with Lucas Falk, including Peter Malmberg as fellow guest. Late in the evening during Lincon, Lucas found a corridor which seemed quiet, pulled some interesting high-backed, well-padded chairs into a curiously intimate small circle, and commenced to interview there. We did not expect that most of Linköping would then gather in that exact area and make noise, so the interview is more "naturalistic" than it should be, but that clears soon.

The pictured item is the famous bilar ("cars") candy that we mention at the very end. Yes, I know they look like futuristic mutant rat babies. I am fairly certain that they are cleverly repurposed leftover material from making tires or perhaps insulation for spacegoing vehicles, but also that they are irresistible.

The interview audio alone doesn't quite capture the interaction among us. It sounds as if I'm monologuing a lot, but at the time, we took nonverbal cues from one another about who was speaking next, or to continue, or for reactions which then received verbal responses. So it's not just a speech or riffing. I'm hoping to see some comments from Peter and Lucas that extend some of what was said into more detailed exchanges.

The context also matters, and it doesn't get articulated until partway through: that Lucas and Peter have been conducting a dialogue for a while about "what is role-playing" and "we do need a theory, but what is it, and why." So the stated goal of this interview was to place the Big Model where it "belongs" relative to what they've been discussing.

Here's the Fummelpodden link!

Comments

Lucas Falk's picture

Yeah, that's always the problem with audio only. You can't see me and Peter nodding along enthusiastically, wide eyed and captivated like children. :)

I had a great time talking to you (again) and during our chat, I mostly did my best to wrap my head around everything that was said. Now that I've listened to it again, I think I'm a little bit more up to speed.

I think it's really important to nail down and agree upon the foundation: why system does matter and how much the social aspects of the group affect play. Then you can start moving on to discussing more specific play styles or certain rules and games.

I think this conversation could serve as a nice intro for someone who is curious about roleplaying theory.

Ron Edwards's picture

I hope so! My plan is to re-produce the Phenomenology videos, then create a companion set that's called Play. In that one, people would easily see "themselves" in terms of experiences, but also framed in the less-accessible but necessary concepts in Phenomenology.

However, it's also clear to me that understanding is reached much more thoroughly when the process includes conversation. That's why I'd like to get as many strong responses as possible to any details or points in this conversation. Not hypothetical "how about" "what about" responses, but genuine points of needed clarification, disagreements, or suggested examples.

First of all; Fantastic conversation guys! Really liked it.

It occurred to me when you discussed the sort of, "counter reaction" some people expressed back when and stopped talking about these things in favour of "just playing" runs parallel to a certain movement in Christian Theology that started sometime around late 80's early 90's called "Unapologetic Theology".

Without boring you all to death, I can assure you that the parallel is spot ON.

A large group of people trying to have a discussion about a phenomenon of play/religion or any subject for that matter that is big, ambiguous or definition-defying enough to run the risk of ending up in semantics and relativism, will sooner or later spawn unapologetic movements.

People who say, "less talk, more play/pray". For better or worse. The irony is of course that this in turn spawns it's own discussions and theory and pretty soon can become part of the discourse or library of thought, just like any other theory.

That being said, on a more personal note, I took a long break from discussing play in this way myself, in part because it was ruining my experience of play itself. I found myself being unable to enjoy the playing of these games without constantly filtering it through some sort of analytical filter that criticized every aspect of the thing. I can imagine that film-critics might suffer from something similar. I also found that I spent more time talking about games than playing them, which was not something I really appreciated. Apparently, this was also true amongst some Theologians. wink

So, I can relate to that, but I also think the discussion is an important one to have, and that we can learn much from it. I just need to manage my “critical filter” better and make sure it’s only switched ON when I actually want it to be. Tricky as that sounds.

Final note, I think the musical instrument or playing in a band analogy is a really good one! But I think maybe it can be taken one step further. Let’s see if you agree:

Musicians meeting up to play a jam/jazz session, where no one listens except themselves, where no particular song is decided before hand except the key to play in and what instruments to use, where the creative process is bare naked in front of them all, taking turns to do solos etc. Wouldn’t that be a perfect replica of the “thing” we do?

Ron Edwards's picture

I'm glad you liked it! I want to follow up both of your points, but this weekend has attacked early and appears to be winning. Look for replies in a couple of days.

Ron Edwards's picture

Response #1: Someone was just telling me about this same phenomenon they'd experienced, in that talking and thinking about play was interfering with their engagement. I think I've managed to avoid it mainly by playing intensively and continuously, practicing relatively strict boundaries not to deconstruct or debrief at all until later. (You may recall that I didn't mention a word about "how to play" or "how this game works" during our D&D session; that's pretty typical for me.)

I hit a successful point in doing this by the late 1990s and have somehow continued to do so, saving the experience for reflection or comparison only afterwards. I've noticed that a lot of playtesting sessions suffer from - basically - failing to play because people aren't maintaining that boundary.

Response #2: Music has been a major role-playing topic for me for a long time, so my first reponse is "yes!" You can see it in a couple of my texts, especially Sorcerer & Sword and Spione, and this site has at least one discussion dedicated to it, and several which develop those points. As someone who enjoys your guitar playing, I think we'd really be able to investigate the topic in a Seminar conversation some time!

 

arakn_e's picture

Hi!

Ron and me had a discussion about the analogy you mention between Jazz session jams after I read a sociological essay on jazz, who builds a theoretical framework that works for every social interaction in my opinion.

The discussion : http://adeptplay.com/comment/980

The essay : https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo6823453.html

arakn_e's picture

I realize listening this, and using the big model concepts, that all the times I've heard that the "System does not matter", what was really meant was that "the text rules doesn't matter, only the system matters". Or maybe, sometimes, "the text rules doesn't matter, only the intuitive continuity matter, and the system that support intuitive continuity". In my own practice, trying The Pool, Apocalypse World and Sorcerer with friends, it was this last affirmation that blewed off in people's mind.

Ron Edwards's picture

I’m not sure if I agree or disagree. I may need to pursue this in a conversation with you in order to understand your meaning. At present, I fear that you are getting distracted by the distinction between system and textual rules. My point is that using intuitive continuity is destructive to system, and whether the system matches the textual rules is a completely different and not very important topic.

I’ll offer my best explanation of the terms, which may confirm your position or challenge it (I can’t tell which).

The phrase “System doesn’t matter” was frequently stated in role-playing culture, practically as a badge of identity for those who considered themselves real or experienced or authoritative role-players and game publishers. It referred to all the procedures which occupied the players’ time in terms of resolution and, generally, even their act of speaking. It includes the claim that any and all such procedures are the same regardless of their operational differences.

Intuitive Continuity is tied to this concept very strongly, because its essential feature is that the operations carried out by the players are irrelevant to the meaningful outcomes of play, and even the setting or preparation itself is irrelevant. Therefore, although the players may concern themselves with character options, bonuses and penalties, how many points you spend to have a high Strength, or whether they roll 3d6 or 1d100, none of that matters because the GM will make “what needs to happen” happen through intuitive continuity anyway.

Together, these concepts are summarized by the phrase that typically accompanied the claim that “system doesn’t matter,” which is, “all you need is a good GM.”

I don’t want to get too far into assuming your meaning, but it’s very easy to infer at first glance that “intuitive continuity” must be good, because we are trained to think that intuition is good and that continuity is good, so, one may think, whatever the phrase means, it must be good. The term was proposed by a person who advocated its use. Therefore my challenge to the technique – or frankly, the rude statement that it is bad, or at the very least, deceptive – is easy to miss.

My phrase “System does matter” was presented to challenge this view at its very heart, specifically to expose intuitive continuity as a fraud. It is synonymous with honoring the system being used by the players (and thus the GM is a player, participating in or with the system), rather than erasing or obscuring it as we play in favor of desired or planned results. It includes the idea that systems with operational differences may facilitate different aesthetic, social, and creative experiences. It includes rejecting intuitive continuity, which is to say, external aesthetic and creative control, specifically, veto power over system.

arakn_e's picture

Let me clarifiy. I have not much to respond on this point, because you totally clarified what I tried to express. What you called "Intuitive continuity" was seen, as you said, as the only and best way to GM. When I've heard "System doesn't matter", it was about "intuitive continuity matters" (i did not mean to say that it was a good thing).

In a hobby where you generally learn to GM by talking or practising with more "experienced" GM (meaning, people who GM for longer than yourself"), I remember a lot of examples of techniques explained to do this, such as : fake rolles behind the screens, cheating with the numbers "to save the PC", or "to manage the story", rolling a few times if the result does not support the continuity. 

Also when I meant that it "blewed off", what I wanted to say is that: most of my friends who supported the intuitive continuity got a blast in realising that it was not the only or best thing to do, but systems that supports emergen plot.

Maybe my use of the terme "system" was not accurate. When I've written in addition, "and the system that supports intuitive continuity", I wanted to say that all that matters for people who said "system doesn't matter", were the techniques used to .. well manipulate the text rules and the players. I understand that "system" is used to describe everything used in practice at the table to interact with the fiction. I wanted to say that generally, everybody was ok with these manipulations. In retrospect, I even remember somebody saying that "XXX is really a good player, he really does things that support the story" (story being used is to define the preplanned plot realized by intuitive continuity).

Sorry all of this does not really advance the conversation, it only occured to me what thise quote meant in my own experience, and how this conceptualization of intuitive continuity is helpful. I used it the last time when mastering a Don't rest your head game, followed the concepts presented in Sorcerer and Sword (Weaving, Crossing, author stance, ...), and it totally helped to following game... where the players were the old GM that was saying, "System doesn't matter". An interesting thing is that explaining it, then playing it also made some of these GM, who was not gming anymore because of the "time to prep a campaign", left the table by saying they were totally on to try games that support emergent story, and even ask me books to borrow.

Ron Edwards's picture

That’s awesome!

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