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Bleak hope

The stars aligned and I found myself with willing participants to play Ribbon Drive, by Avery Alder. Here’s the publisher’s page about the game, and the embedded video is my musings from a couple of months ago about wanting to play it, and why.

It's a single-session game intended to go three to five hours, although it was designed before multiple-screen play was common, so we had to adapt some things to the screen venue. Each person is supposed to prepare a mix CD and we use a CD player during the session. (For older people, a "mix CD" is an unnecessary non-upgrade of a proper mix tape; for younger people, a "mix CD" is the quaint precursor to a playlist.)

Per the rules, we randomly selected one of the four playlists we’d brought and as its first song, we listened to ..

“Severance,” Dead Can Dance (The Serpent’s Egg, 1988)

Severance, the birds of leaving call to us

Yet here we stand endowed with the fear of flight

Overland, the winds of change consume the land

While we remain in the shadow of summers now past

When all the leaves have fallen and turned to dust

Will we remain entrenched within our ways.

Indifference, the plague that moves throughout this land

Omen signs in the shapes of things to come

Tomorrow's child is the only child.

The vision was instant, immediate, and consistent among us: a road trip through a bleak late autumn and winter landscape, ruined by misuse and neglect; practically in black-and-white but if not, then certainly stylized; this trip should have been made long, long ago, but we did not do it then. Whether doing it now means anything any more, no one knows, but we’ll try. The vision of a tough slightly older Range Rover style vehicle settled in hard as well.

We talked about a couple of different locations, including the Finnish-Russian border, but settled upon Highway 81 running north along the Appalachians. Then we started the second song to find ...

“Deeper Down,” My Dying Bride (A Line of Deathless Kings, 2006)

An unfortunate journey Through a bleak sea of loneliness I carved through the waves of grief In a black vastness of self doubt

I have never felt so alone So pitiful and wretched and low I'm tried by a terrible wind

The misery and the pains blow Fill my vast sails of ruin Steer me towards the bleak end A horizon of purples and reds The still waters of my welcome end

The clouds of grey come overhead A storm will hunt me down And rip the guts out of my body Then I would surely drown

The unforgiving wind searches And lashes me like a whip The self-pity overwhelms me My heart sinks like a ship Thrashing out at torment and pain

The maddened sea engulfs me I let myself be swallowed up The magnificent weight upon me Deeper I go, deeper down

Didn't think it could get any blacker The cold bites, the pressure builds I think I no longer matter Can't tell if my eyes are open or closed

The grieving waters swallow The pain I'm in through my life of sin The Devil will doubtless follow When lovers die, friendships fade

When kin all lie forgotten The gates of agony spew forth Your memories, stinking and rotten

So deep now, I feel so numb I'm ravaged by utter loss The guilt, the grief, the astounding pain

My body, they all will wash I hope I ne'er return to life

Oh, Christ, just let me go Let death devour my simple soul Let my misery grow

This cheerful little number led us to talk about characters in their 50s and 60s who regretted not taking this trip when they should have, as they’d been associated with a nascent social movement and it was supposed to have begun with planned events at a remote location. We placed the supposed destination at or near the Canadian-U.S. border, and riffed a little on how it had vanished without a trace, not even with internet records of any substance.

This led us to the creation of ...

  • Cyrus, 55. Futures: I’m going to leave my mark on the manifesto, I’m going to see the Pacific Ocean before I die. Traits: I’m ravaged by utter loss, Sharp as a tack, Get off my lawn. (Ivan)
  • Casey, just turned 16, genderfluid. Futures: I'll see an authentic place for once, I'll find out how I was conceived. Traits: My kin lie all forgotten, Why can't we have both?, Bite me, boomer (me)
  • Aaron, 60. Futures: I will get Meaning back into my life, I will find out what happened to the Movement. Traits: In constant physical pain, I think I no longer matter, I'm hopeful I'm wrong (Pedro)
  • Tree (Terri), 50. Futures: Bury the Ghost of a friend, Never going to love again. Traits: Ex-Navy, 9mm, Not a racist (Sean)

As you can see, I threw in a reversal by including a very young character, who wasn't an intended curve ball but rather arrived in my head quite involuntarily when the song’s line about “my kin lie all forgotten” really jumped out. I went with the idea that Casey knew their biological parents were part of this movement but didn’t know exactly which ones, including the potential for someone or someones on this road trip. We decided they’d mainly been raised by Tree and close friends.

There’s a lot to talk about concerning the game as such as well as our specific experience, so I’ll list some topics we can do in separate comment streams. I’ll ask that we pass over anything to do with “so, how did you manage it by screen, why didn’t you [fill in unwanted suggestions] instead,” et cetera. We figured out a way to do it, that’s all. The topics I’d rather dig into are ...

  • Playing and playing alongside a genderfluid teen by a bunch of straight men well beyond the top of the hill (OK, Pedro’s not so old, but still ancient by Casey’s standards).
  • How the music worked for us as atmosphere and prompting, especially after its very strong start for the pre-play steps.
  • The rules for Obstacles, activation of Traits, and Detours.
  • Extensive details about the interactions among “turn to frame a scene,” Backstory Authority, Situational Authority, the start of a new song (not a new mix, that’s easy), and shifts in location and time.
  • Rules for Futures and the possibly positive act of explicitly manifesting those rules in a pushy way for others people’s characters, or whether that’s more storyboarding than play

And of course, what happened to our characters, what happened in the past, who became the protagonist if anyone (I give it away in the lead image), and what it all may mean.

The first playlist was Ivan’s, titled Null. Play also featured Pedro’s, untitled, and mine, titled In the Box. We didn’t get to hear Sean’s, called Nothing is Easy. [Correction: we began with Pedro's, continued with mine, and ended with Ivan's.]

Although we recorded the play session, IP law would frown upon us posting it here (Adept Play is an income-generating business), so I will make select portions privately available in an unpaid capacity, as patrons will discover soon. My plan is to reconvene the group as soon as we can in order to recap and discuss, and to include it here.

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
Ribbon Drive

Comments

PedroPereira's picture

Uuuu, there's a lot to say about this one. Maybe I should save some of the detail for the "reconvening", but I'd like to comment on some of your questions here, as well as some other points, to get the discussion going:

- How the music worked for us as atmosphere and prompting, especially after its very strong start for the pre-play steps.

As you say, the act of using/listening to two songs in the beginning in deriving situation, characters etc from them is very strong in terms of premise, atmosphere, etc. Works really well. I did have some problems during play, because it's difficult to concentrate on the game and the music at the same time. I think part of that is the medium itself (it probably would work better with everyone physically present around a table), but I suspect that, unless you KNOW a song already, you will have some difficulty getting much out of it during play. I suspect that the use of (unknown) music during the play of this game, may be more wishful thinking than something actually helpful. I wonder if there should be rules directed at moments for purely listening to songs during gameplay.

- The rules for Obstacles, activation of Traits, and Detours.

I think these were OK, both how they are used and how they are triggered. We didn't experience any Detours, but I don't think we somehow "missed something". I feel the game is more about pure atmosphere than any kind of detailed conflict resolution. They're there to add variety to the narrative more than anything else, and provide some creative sparks to propel things in play. I didn't feel any need for more on any level.

- Extensive details about the interactions among “turn to frame a scene,” Backstory Authority, Situational Authority, the start of a new song (not a new mix, that’s easy), and shifts in location and time.

I did have a few issues here, on different levels. One was what's the difference between changing GM and changing a scene; these things do not overlap and reading the rules you "get it" but in ACTUAL play it got a bit confusing and messy. I think we basically at some point started changing GM and scene at the same time instinctively (and not as the result of a consensus arrived at from discussion during the game) simply because it felt easier/more natural/less confusing. I think this is something that we'd get better at with more experience playing the game, but I wonder how much of the rules as they are are actually making the game better.

The other point is that it got tricky in play, at least for me, to have a clear idea regarding Narrative Rights. Players have fictional authority that is traditionally within the GM's role even if they are not *the* designated GM during the scene. i.e. the GM sets the scene, but after that players can narrate with "full authorial rights". This is also reasonably clear in the rules...but (again) in ACTUAL play I remember a couple of moments in which I got a bit confused about who could say what and too what extent. None of this affected the game in general, but it was enough for me to comment on it during play.

There will be more comments from me later, but there is one thing that I felt acutely during this game: it was difficult for me to set scenes that I felt personally satisfied with. It was difficult to think of something to do with a scene. I think the reason was not the game itself, but the fact that the game does not have any real kind of background information on situation and characters, like in games that have some element of prep. I ended up setting my scenes essentially by having my character Aaron e.g. asking questions from Casey (the teenager) about what she remembered from her past or telling the other characters that NPC X doesn't remember anything about a "convention 16 years ago around these parts". This did get more background established and character development going, but I didn't feel happy with my GMing.

 

In conclusion, I enjoyed the game greatly, and the people in this group were a pleasure to play with. Thanks for the experience!

Ron Edwards's picture

I agree very much with your points about the music. I think all of us stayed mostly with it during the first playlist, and then the opening song of the second (mine) provided the violent edge that informed the scene at the franchise Walgreen's or 7-11 or whatever it was. But after that, our relatively contemplative and more and more interpersonal role-playing effectively canceled the music.

From that point on, although here and there we nodded toward one another regarding individual songs, they definitely did not inform play the way the first playlist did. I was a little sad about this from a selfish point of view, as I liked my very nihilistic compilation and kind of wistfully watched as songs like "Nailed" and "Black Angel's Death-Song" were lost from play.

Whether this would be different if we played in person, I'm not sure. I tend to tune out background music during role-playing, but I know other people who swear by it and much prefer to play with music going, often carefully chosen. I was hoping that this game would help me get more into that zone when it's not really my habit. The first part of play seemed like it worked well toward that end, so maybe if we were together in a room (the game text is quite nice in briefly evoking the friendly and comfortable space of play), it might apply for the whole game.

PedroPereira's picture

From that point on, although here and there we nodded toward one another regarding individual songs, they definitely did not inform play the way the first playlist did. I was a little sad about this from a selfish point of view, as I liked my very nihilistic compilation and kind of wistfully watched as songs like "Nailed" and "Black Angel's Death-Song" were lost from play.

Being the one who got his "tape mix" chosen at the begining for getting the general idea for the game as well as character building, it feels great to have people/friends doing so from a personal music list. We all like to share thougths with each other and talk about our favourite books, films, music etc with other people, and that definetely happened here, specially because people have to pay attention, no mater what. That leads me to think that there should be some way to ensure that all playlists get similar levels of attention for the first (and maybe second) songs.

Whether this would be different if we played in person, I'm not sure. I tend to tune out background music during role-playing, but I know other people who swear by it and much prefer to play with music going, often carefully chosen. I was hoping that this game would help me get more into that zone when it's not really my habit. The first part of play seemed like it worked well toward that end, so maybe if we were together in a room (the game text is quite nice in briefly evoking the friendly and comfortable space of play), it might apply for the whole game.

I think that music works well during roleplaying if we are talking about background music just for mood setting. And even then it will get tuned out eventually, it will probably do so by the time its main purpose has been achieved already. But in Ribbon Drive it's supposed to work differently, and I'm not sure it actually works all that well as intended (at least for me personaly).

 

 

Sean_RDP's picture

My experience appears to have been different. I think having the music "with" me, I could put it at the volume I wanted. So I was peripherally aware of the music as we went on. 

I think somewhere around the middle of Pedro's list and again with Ron and Ivan's lists, I was listening on an unconscious level, occasionally checking in with the music, but mostly just aware that it was part of whatever scene we were in. Did it affect my use of framing? Almost certainly it did. Did it affect my reactions to the framing of others? That is harder to say, but I think so, yes. In particular the scene where Tree and Aaron are in the back seat. I cannot even remember what the song was, but it backlit the conversation for me.

Ron Edwards's picture

My take is different from Pedro's: that I was really disappointed that the game didn't hit harder with these mechanics. We ran into one or two Obstacles throughout play, and given that we had each activated at least a couple of Traits (which is, after all, nothing more than playing your character), it's impossible to imagine playing in such a way that we would have been Detoured, in the sense of it happening to us, unavoidably. Yes, we might have chosen to do so by not using activated Traits, and I suppose that might have been equivalent if the prevailing fiction had simply not jibed with using the Traits, but we had so many of them up and running that it's hard to imagine.

Did we misplay so that the mechanic was obviated? Maybe. I know that I screwed up our understanding of when Obstacles could be introduced, thinking that it was eligible only after the fourth (last) player's "turn" had begun, whereas the rule is that Obstacles may be added by that player upon their character's entry into the fiction. If we'd done it right, then maybe an Obstacle would have entered play before we'd had the chance to switch on so many Traits just through ordinary play of the characters.

The rules-understanding and (mild) analysis here is also compromised by another one of the topics I listed, which is the concept for speaking turn vs. situational authority vs. current playlist. I guess we can talk about that here in this reply stream because it's so strongly related. The first observation is easy: that although we tried to establish and understand those things at the outset, it fell apart during play for all of us. Occasionally, not much fortunately, we were playing almost entirely by "throw it in" talking, with no reference to turns or authorities, and I don't think that helped us focus, listen, or really play, as opposed to spitballing dialogue and gee-what-next.

Here's a more specific example, and again, this may be fogged by my poor understanding of how we were supposed to do it. I'll tell you what I thought at the time, with the full proviso that I might have my "foundation" wrong.

So, at that point, the CD had flipped and we were blazing along with "Don't Take Me Alive" by Steely Dan, and I could even see Sean's eyes narrowing and feel him thinking about Tree's pistol. He'd taken us to a parking lot outside some damn franchise stop and Casey had gone in there to get some drinks, leaving the older people in or standing by the car. Sean, with that gleam in his eye, told us about the motorcycles, the Confederate and U.S. flags, and other highly recognizable evidence that persons of no great tolerant character were here too.

At that point (and we were hazy on when this was upposed to happen), the "in charge" role for setting what was up and what was happening moved to me. I was psychologically-musically loaded for bear and the other characters saw Casey get thrown bodily out of the store, try to keep their feet on the steps, and fail, to fall hard on the asphalt. Locals come out right away, belligerent, "Keep your faggot ass out of here!", et cetera. I was all ready to call this as our first Obstacle.

Now, Ivan was clearly also completely in the moment and stated that the sherriff-looking guy comes out too, backing up "the boys" with the imprimature of the local law, and turning the situation into a new level of nasty. My call that this was an Obstacle found voice at this point.

Fictionally, excellent - no question. But ... whose turn is it? Did I give it over to Ivan after having held it for about forty seconds? Was his contribution to "what's happening" in the vein of a suggestion to me as turn-holder, which I simply validated by adopting it, or was his statement/description embedded as fiction by him saying it at all? For purposes of embracing all of our commitment to what was happening, which at that moment I can tell you was very strong, I went with "well whatever" and didn't quibble over who was supposed to say what. But the Murk washed over all of us right at that point - we didn't know who was in charge of saying what, and when.

Lest you say, "duh, Ron, this is a Story Game, go with it," I suggest to you that the next time we play B/X, and you are DM and I am not DM, I will say in the middle of an encounter with six rabid goblins that one of them is in fact a tall, gorgeous female goblin wearing boobcups. Furthermore, that I am not suggesting this or joking about it, but saying it as straight-up "this happens" exactly as you had said a minute ago that the goblins were here and we must roll for surprise. Objection? Really? Where in the book does it say that I can't do that? Well, we know I can't, book or no book, and Ribbon Drive is clearer than your B/X book that I can't.

So you know, Sean activated Tree's "Navy veteran" Trait and not her ".38" Trait, fortunately, and we did not Detour. This was an important turning point for Casey who got to see their fuddy-duddy hippie blowhard pseudo-family stand up for them against younger potential assailants. I don't know how obvious it was to the other players, but that's why Casey went back into that store and got those sodas no matter who was going to say what about it, instead of calling survival enough and getting out of there.

Anyway, given that fictionally this was a powerful passage for all of us, I'd like to know how any of the other players felt in terms of using this game at that point.

Sean_RDP's picture

I really need to finish up my video response this weekend... but...

One of my biggest thoughts pre-game was the tactical use of traits during the game. You could, if you really wanted to, set up traits and then set up obstacles to solved by those traits. Why would someone want to do that? That's not important, except that they could interpret the rules as suggesting you should do that. I do not subscribe to that idea; the game wants play to emerge from the influence of the music, if not the music itself. But I also do not think there is anything wrong with that kind o ftactical thinking. 

The gun was activated in the first scene of the game as we were loading the Xterra. And it came up again and again during play almost as if there would be a moment to use it. It did not get resolved until the very end of the game, which worked out just as well. And several traits were like that, hovering in the air as potential points of interest. And that seems to me to be either an intentional or unintentional use of traits; not just to get around Obstacles but to add some tension to the whole damn thing. 

"When will Tree use that fucking gun?" 

The GMing had passed to me and I felt like we needed some outside pressure. So I framed a scene with some political fringe elements that could create sparks. And it did! I thought what Ron and Ivan did was fantastic and the tension of "Will she grab that gun or not?" is exactly what I think Ribbon Drive is about. 

But I never questioned the situational authority in the moment. Ron/Casey had framed the scene, brought in some conflict, Then we reacted and Ivan bringing in the Obstacle felt like a reaction to the scene, not a question of authority, if that makes sense. I laid a foundation of conflict and Ron served it up and Ivan swung hard at it. Like real hard in my mind. So hard that I did not think Tree would want to shoot it out with the sherriff/deputy, but instead rely on her 'America!' power. (the Navy Cross)

Part of the problem is that when a trait is used to solve an Obstacle, that's it. There is no negotiation. The issue is resolved and you carry on. But creating an obstacle is just as abrupt. I mean, you know it when you see it and that changes play to see who will react and how they will do so. So Ivan bringing in the sherriff felt right and it becoming an Obstacle felt right. More so, it felt logical. 

I do not remember the next scene shift, but I do remember thinking that we were still in Ron's framing until Casey got back in the Xterra after getting their cherry-soda. 

It is murky, I give you that. I think over all we could have been a bit more strict in passing the conch shell around, without sacrificing the spontaniety.

Ron Edwards's picture

I've been trying to understand your comment without much success. I don't see how tactical thinking enters into the picture at all. My concern isn't about how to overcome Obstacles; it's how they come into play and how Detours may or may not be unavoidable.

OK, so maybe it's best if I isolate our points of agreement. I definitely see what you're saying about activating Traits as a form of tension. If a Trait is scary, then activating it means it can be used, which is plain and well-tested story logic. The gun's activation but ultimately not being used, or rather, not fired, is a big deal in how our events turned out. I absolutely agree with you that activating them as such is a good thing, and it isn't there merely to establish an array of Detour-busting capabilities.

My personal letdown with play is that Detours look like fun and I wanted to play some of them. In light of your point about the Traits being good things, and Obstacles being there as ways to find out which Traits get used, which is totally convincing to me, maybe Detours are not quite designed into the rest of play, or at least, not as I'd hoped to experience.

I also agree with you that we kept the play in "Ron's turn" until the final acquisition of the Cherry Coke, so hang onto that thought through the cranky part which is up next.

Then I get frustrated with your reply when you are talking about logic and authority. It brings in that constant static about "authority" as "boss," and "making sense" as an object in a who's-boss tug-of-war, which isn't what I'm talking about at all. The question is very clear: who gets to pose Obstacles - is it the person who has the general situtational authority at that time, or anyone? And if it's anyone, does tossing in an Obstacle during someone else's 'go' shift the general situational authority to the Obstacle person? And if it does, although this didn't apply in our case, can that shift 'jump the line' in the clockwise transfer of that authority?

These are important procedural questions which maintain the medium of play. They aren't going to be solved by saying "oh well, it made sense, so good" - that's not the issue. Ordinary play of all kinds permits person X to say something inspired and for person Y (who has formal situational authority) to rubber-stamp it and to continue in the situational role. I'm saying that even though the situational role moves around the table in this game (not a hard concept for most people here, I think), this same question still applies and needs the same solidity in its answer.

(cranky off) If we go with what you and I both perceived about how we played, then the answers to my triple question are (1) yes, anyone can blast in with an Obstacle, (2) it doesn't transfer situational authority, and (3) is obviated by the answer to 2. I'll even spot you an "obviously" if you feel like it.

Unfortunately I think the jury is still out on whether the "yes" for 1 is a suggestion or a statement. Is it a momentary flash of optional but absolutely empowered situational authority, or could I, for instance, hold the position of being able to say either "yeah!" or "good idea, but no," and continue. Knowing which is what I'm talking about. My reading of the text led me to think the answer, and to the three questions overall, would be more solid for this game than they turned out to be, at least for us, during play.

What I'm looking for is an acknowledgment that the answer(s) cannot be "um, well, whatever works, I guess, because we're storygamers and Not Dicks."

Sean_RDP's picture

These answers are a bit out of order.

Then I get frustrated with your reply when you are talking about logic and authority. It brings in that constant static about "authority" as "boss," and "making sense" as an object in a who's-boss tug-of-war, which isn't what I'm talking about at all. The question is very clear: who gets to pose Obstacles - is it the person who has the general situtational authority at that time, or anyone? And if it's anyone, does tossing in an Obstacle during someone else's 'go' shift the general situational authority to the Obstacle person? And if it does, although this didn't apply in our case, can that shift 'jump the line' in the clockwise transfer of that authority?

My reading of the rules is that anyone can do so as long as they are the last person to speak in a scene. For us, I think this was a point we fumbled and tumbled with. That Obstacle authority rests with the person who speaks last. And that was harder to discern online than it maight have been in person. It also does not say whether if everyone has spoken, then anyone can introduce an obstacle or just the last person to speak. But it does say you can just let anyone bring in an Obstacle or no one. This felt like a later addition to the rules to me, something added after feedback.

They way I read it, the situational authority person steps forward, explains what is happening, explains who is doing what, and then steps back away from that situational authority. The way it worked in my head is a bit like this. 

It is night. There is a full moon. In the courtyard Romeo is standing by a tree with his tights around his knees. On the balcony, Juliet watches.

At that point anyone can step in and keep it rolling in any direction they want, introducing missing characters, maybe even exiting someone else's character from the scene.  So the next player could say:

Bob the Monk arrives and Juliet steps away from the balcony. Now Bob is alone watching Romeo take a piss. 

Situational authority rests with whoever is speaking. The last person of the group to speak in the scene then has the option to lay down an Obstacle.  Whether, if they pass on that option, the other players then also have the option to lay down an obstacle, I do not think the rules are clear. Or maybe they are clear and that Obstacle authority rests solely with the last player to speak in that scene. Referring to the scene in our game, I think Ivan was the last person to speak in the scene and so yes, he had the authority to bring it up.

Also, what authority does the music have? If the song playing is happy and about togetherness, does that negate going to a dark place with a scene or obstacle? I would say no, but it is clear the music needs to inform play. 

Detours

I agree that detours do look like fun. My issue with Detours is that a player can turn the trip any time they want, just by either framing a scene or narrating an ongoing scene that derails the current trip. What is the difference between:

Frame Scene: We are driving down the highway, there is an accident and we take a wrong turn to get around it.

and

Frame Scene: We are driving down the highway. 

Players speak, do things.

Last Player: Obstacle: there is an accident and we take a wrong turn to get around it

One is perceived as a detour and one is not in terms of the rules. The biggest difference would be one ends the scene for sure (the Obstacle/Detour) and one does not. Also, for a detour, it changes the mix. And that is what I think detours are ultimately for: to change up the mix/ play list. Because changing the mix seems like an important part of play, to get a new mood into play via new music.

I'll address the point about "tactical" thinking after a bit of thought... 

Sean_RDP's picture

Making Sense. Authority. Storygame.

I want to address this a little, because I do think that a situation and actions have to make fictional sense, regardless of what the rules say, it play becomes bullshit. Even in a game like B/X there is a certain degree of consensus that has to happen for the game to continue. A DM has authority from the rules to put a beholder (eight-eyed death machine for those who do not know) in a room waiting for 1st level characters, but that is not only a dick move in the real world, but it subverts the unwritten consensus that should surround any game. It is not merely unfair, not merely no-win, but clearly designed to say fuck you to the players. Social contract stuff. 

But in Ribbon Drive, that authority is even more explicit. Once the scene is framed, do what you want, just keep in mind who is in the scene and act accordingly oh and the music. So a beholder could have showed up in our game at any time. As an obstacle or not, depending on who introduced it and when. Would that have made any sense? No. Would I have said "What?" With a withering and sardonic expression. You bet I would. Whoever introduced that bs to the game would have needed to make a hard case for me to not immediately have that balloon burst when it was my turn to talk. 

So maybe I am a bad storygamer but RAW or no, there needs to be some sense of the moment and of the story so far or aberrant details can derail play. 

Which is why when Ivan introduced that obstacle, it never occurred to me to question whether he had the authority to do so. We are right to question procedure, but occasionally subverting system or ignoring it does not undercut the need for system or the fact that system matters. In my head it reinforces it. Maybe because making a judgemnt call on a situation is part of system too. Maybe part of every system?

I dunno. For me playing an rpg is an intuitive experience as much as it is a procedural one. So if we ask "How should it have happened?" that might give us two different answers. 

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