Design Curriculum 4: I’ll get you a Satanic Mechanic

I’m not making any claims about the logic or organization by this point in our talks, rather, I’m hoping Justin isn’t thinking that I’m totally making it up as I go. It’s certainly been helpful to me to recognize what pieces I need to pull into their own how we play discussion so they can be treated as understood for a how we design presentation.

At least, however, we have ventured into such things as how initiative works and whether damage effects are encapsulated in resolution or kept separate.

To summarize a bit, consider these:

  • The inspiration cycle diagram, particularly the role of system (procedures, outcomes, changes)
  • The game structure chart
  • The system diagrams
  • The distribution of authorities, especially in light of actionable knowledge
  • IIEE, with or without ordering

If I had to pinpoint the single feature of game play/experience links each one, it’d be the role of procedural outcomes on irrevocable change. That’s a lot of fancy syllables to say, merely, “what happens.”

This talk addresses the system diagrams and IIEE, and I think it’s pretty good in terms of precisely what they are. The question is whether and how it makes sense in terms of design specifically, because, during consulting, I let the client’s own senses of purpose and perplexity raise the right questions at the right time, or expose them to me as specially necessary at the right time. So there’s no designated moment of the design process for any of these things; it’s a function of that person with that game.

So, the video presented below is part 1, and then we’ve also got:

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3 responses to “Design Curriculum 4: I’ll get you a Satanic Mechanic”

    • I was looking forward to you

      I was looking forward to you getting to this conversation.

      That phrasing is so full of "let's turn it around" possibilities. Once you figure that no textual rule can literally make anyone do it at the table, then the only meaning "rule" can have is whatever we really do, i.e., consistently, what we rely upon knowing that we do. And if it's what we really do, then "what happens," the fiction, the outcomes, plot as played, whatever you want to call that, results from those rules.

      The more interesting discussion comes from asking, all right, what valuable point is (badly) being referenced by that glib phrase? At the Patreon, and as I mention in one of later discussions with Justin, one possible virtue to emphasize in RPG design is "wiggle" for individual pieces. A good example is one of the best features of the early White Wolf games, that you chose any two of the character's attributes to use for resolution. If you can imagine ongoing play as a thinking being, it "knows" that a player may say "I do X" at any time, and the rule, each time, is that you adapt the array of attributes into a focused subset of two to use for resolving X in a mechanically understandable way, ad libitum, or even better, carpe diem.

      In that construction, i.e., if you want to call that a ruling and not a rule, one is restricting the term "rule" to mean … well, a whole lot of really tightly one-for-one prescripted directions for precisely what to use per imagined unit of action, even automated in the sense that you never wiggle anything, just follow the instruction.

      Putting aside the sector of game play/design which idealizes doing just that, and acknowledging that a lot of role-playing doesn't do it, the desire to say "we don't do that" makes sense. But the beloved phrase doesn't make sense in describing what you do. Is a "ruling" the ability to discard a textual rule as we go along? Permanently or on-and-off? Or is it the wiggle I was talking about, in the rule itself? I could keep going with these kinds of questions, especially to ask, who says, and more.

    • As always, well said.

      As always, well said.

      I liked, in the video, your noting that the problem occurs when the interference with the "effect" results is a meta-mechanic rather than a mechanic.  I found that statment clarifying.

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