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Re: (TFT) Abstraction in game design - rpg design.

On Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 12:14 AM, Rick Smith  wrote:

>   As a professional designer of computer games, I can say that the art
> is highly limited by design constraints.  I prefer face to face RPG's
> because the players have far, FAR more freedom to do weird ass
> things than in a CPU RPG.

Hi Rick,
So I'm going to put My two cents in as though it matches the two bits
You've got in because the counts the tokens not the value which is a
round about way of saying to serve the conversation not to disagree or
correct You which is just silly stupid and in effect disregarding Your
25 cents in favour of My two so to speak and to no gain for it,
actually a loss. Well I may have been knocked up by the Muse but when
I decided to keep it I certainly don't want to hobble it by insisting
on My way or the highway rejection of what Your saying rooted in the
experience of accomplishment I want for the product of My little tete
a tete turned bitter sweet or at least My impression of what that kind
of accomplishment might bring. In other words totally clueless in
That being said I take the above to point to the fact that a
Player-group is able to exercise a flexibility not possible with
computers as We know such a thing interestingly both home computing
and RPG's are quite similar in the time of origin. This seems to Me to
point to computers being very much a product of their place and time
and the closer We approach the big bang the less a computer is capable
of. 80085 Anyone remember that number? It really needs the Casio
pocket calculator font to be recognized for the ID-10-T error that saw
technology that could display words like boobs as well as do
arithmetic while the Altiar had 8 toggle switches 8 peanut bulb lights
and a couple of buttons to process a command and run a routine of
commands so the lights could be flashed according to the routines
sequence but wouldn't spell boobs.

So I'm cut/pasting here something I pulled because I think it was You
who mentioned Lankhmar and this is pre-RPG Casio by analogy

Taken from The Dragon June, 1980

A Fafhrd-Mouser adventure in puzzle form of the points listed above.
It might go as follows (an example of how the game works):

Q. Would Fafhrd die if the Mouser didn't arrive?
A. Yes.

Q. Could the three thieves release him?
A. Probably not. Anyway they didn't try.

Q. Were they in the water too?
A. No.

Q. Were they in another part of the dungeon?
A. Yes.

Q. Do they have any importance?
A. Yes

Q. Is Fafhrd able to break his bonds?
A. No.

F.C. Macknight

As a postscript to this series I shall append a previously unpublished
Fafhrd & Mouser Adventure of a sort!
Be it known that I was once (and still am, though less active) a
collector and constructor of a sort of puzzle-game, which as far as I
know has no definite designation.
It can be described as follows:
A mystery is stated which is to be solved, not by immediate rational
analysis, but by asking questions which may be answered by yes or no.
The mystery may be simple or complex; it may be stated in a few words,
or even by a short story.
The goal, or questions to be answered, may be single, compound, or several.
Answers may, in addition to positive and negative, also include
intermediate statements such as “Immaterial”,
“Irrelevant”, “Begging the question” (involving an unestablished
assumption), and occasional supplementary explanations to get the
questioning back on the right track.
On one of our rare three-way get-togethers in the '30s after having
inflicted several of my inventions on Harry (Fischer) and Fritz
(Leiber), I challenged them to make me one.
It was a compound type, and follows here.
It never had a title, so I shall give it one:

* * *


Composed by Leiber and Fischer, and dedicated to McKnight for his
delectation (or exasperation) and to exercise his expertise.
Fafhrd has been overpowered and imprisoned by a certain king and
placed in a dungeon with three thieves.
He has been spread-eagled against a wall and fastened thereto by iron
bonds about his neck, chest,
waist, thighs, arms, ankles and wrists.
He is up to his neck in water.
He can hold his breath for five minutes.
At the same time the Mouser is about a thousand miles away in a desert
looking for something.
He finds it, and shortly thereafter is beside Fafhrd in the dungeons,
releasing him.
They contrive to open the dungeon door.
The three thieves immediately escape through the door, but the king,
who has been alerted, has the doorway surrounded by archers.
Says the king to Fafhrd and Mouser, “If you come forth, you shall be slain!”
Nevertheless, Fafhrd and Mouser do leave the dungeon safely.
How do all these things happen?

* * *

In this puzzle the questions to be answered are:

Just what is Fafhrd's predicament?

What is the significance of being able to hold his breath for five minutes?

What is the Mouser looking for?

How does he reach Fafhrd?

Why aren't Fafhrd and Mouser killed by the archers?

The recipient of the puzzle is not appraised of these questions.
He should understand what he must learn for a satisfactory solution.
In this case the question could start with either the first or the second Q.

Q. Does the 'five minutes' mentioned mean that Fafhrd would die in
five minutes unless rescued?
A. Yes.

Q. Was there poison gas in the dungeon?
A. No.

Q. But he will die if he takes a breath?
A. You may be making an assumption here that does not apply.

Q. Is Fafhrd positioned vertically?
A. Yes.

Q. Water up to his neck? (Checking.)
A. Yes.

Q. Can he breathe in this position?
A. No, but again there is the possibility of a wrong assumption.

Q. Is the band about the neck too tight?
A. No.

Q. Is he gagged and his nose held shut?
A. No.

Q. Could he breathe if he wished to try?
A. Depends on your definition of breathing.

Q. Could he take air or gas into his lungs if he tried?
A. No.

Q. Would he drown if he tried?
A. Yes.

Q. Is the water rising?
A. No.

(Inspiration!) He is upside down!


The first hurdle is now cleared; and so on to the others.
That's the way the game goes.


As revealed above, Fafhrd is bound upside down in the water.
The water may be stated as anywhere from 1 foot up, if the depth is
questioned in specific amounts.
(If one chooses water in excess of six feet the solution is not hinted
at; if at a lesser distance it pushes the puzzle taker toward the
right solution.)
Mouser is seeking the Seal of Soloman which gives power over the Jinn
(or Jinni, as the plural is often spelled).
A 'magic talisman' will also do as an answer.
(And perhaps 'Soloman' should be spelled 'Suley-man.)
I understand that it is claimed that they are the same, but they may
not be; I have no opinion.)
By compelling the aid of a jinn (djinn, ifrit, genie, whatever) Mouser
arrives at Fafhrd's side instantly, by teleportation, higher
dimensions or whatever means jinni use to get places fast without
going through doors.
Mouser need not know where Fafhrd is; he just commands, “Take me to my
friend Fafhrd” and the deed is done.
Releasing Fafhrd may be done by the jinn or by Mouser's own skills,
though it must be fast!
But the jinn doesn't stick around after his mission is accomplished.
The jinn does not help in the escape, though he might be obliging
enough to open the dungeon door before departing to Jirinestan.
Fafhrd and the Mouser escape by simply walking out the door!
They don't use a cloak of invisibility, cloud the minds of their
adversaries by a
spell, exit through another door (there aren't any) or a secret
passage (likewise) or have the jinn make one for them, or levitate
themselves over the heads of the king's men, or disguise themselves,
or burrow a hole in the floor or under water to await the departure of
all, or any such complex methods.
They just walk out free.
The king's threat was, “If you come forth (fourth) you shall be slain.”
Fafhrd and the Mouser came fifth and sixth!
The king, whatever his faults, was a man of his word, and he believed
that a man should say what he means, and mean what he says!
Who did come fourth? (The three thieves came 1st, 2nd and 3rd)
Another hitherto unmentioned person, either another prisoner or agaoler.
This is a dastardly solution and one which tempts the puzzle-ee to
murder the puzzler, so don't use this on anyone who doesn't appreciate
a pun (and who does?).
And not only that, but there is information hitherto concealed from
the puzzle-ee.
Altogether a foul blow and completely illegitimate: a puzzle that
could only have been formulated
by puzzlers utterly without regard to ethics, morals, or any human decencies.
Such are Leiber and Fischer!

The puzzle above is presented here as it was given to me.
An alternate and perhaps better way would be to merely state, “He is
up to his neck in water and will shortly die unless rescued.”
This would eliminate the hint that Fafhrd must hold his breath, and
the puzzle-ee must investigate other methods of being dispatched.
It now occurs to me that there is at least one unanswered question in
the solution as given.
Why didn't the Mouser use the Seal of Soloman again to get out of the dungeon?
I don't remember!
It may have been that the seal was immovably fixed in the desert where
Mouser found it and he couldn't actually carry it away with him.
It may have been that the ifrit stole it as he left for Jinnestan
while Mouser was getting Fafhrd out of the water.
Or perhaps the Seal was still operative and had a magical effect on
the King's judgment!
Anyone who has the audacity to give the puzzle can take his choice!

So it's Me again
The answers about false equivocation and stuff like; "A 'magic
talisman' will also do as an answer." suggests a passing of the Turing
Test might be in order before computers catch up with actual soul
rubbing of face to face gaming... Eliza I'd know though... it's more
and opinion than a statement of fact... par for the course of course.
My kingdom for a horse...

>   Your point about abstraction is dead on.  The war game "War in
> North Africa" had an immense amount of detail.  Rescuing downed
> pilots from aircraft, complex rules on water (Italians needed more
> water because they wouldn't give up their pasta), etc. etc.
>   You could say, "This game details the decisions that the commanding
> Generals (Rommel and various Allied generals) had to make.  But
> the level of detail, actually worked against this fantasy.  Rommel would
> not worry about hunting down individual pilots.  Some levels of detail,
> are not only less playable, but actually break the fantasy that the
> designer is trying to create.

Excellent point.
I note the following;
My approach is to avoid complexity and write as few rules as possible
instead looking to a format and procedural structure to facilitate
Playgroups generating their own rules that treats elements of the
ruleset as mutable while other aspects are immuable meaning harder to
change without changing the game into something other than the game
not as a right wrong thing but as a communicative construct to address
the confusion that's been present from whitebox D&D of so much
customization and home brewed this that and the other it's like
ordering a softdrink back home.
What'll Ya have sweetie?
I'll have a coke.
Sure hun, what flavour coke ya want?
Sure I wanna play D&D... now when You say D&D what does that mean...
"Where in hell are We going? Exactly?" African or European?

>   Abstraction is a key (perhaps the key) element that designers have
> to get right.

Well... I SUPPOSE that... although... could We somehow have two very
different conceptions of how the term abstract is being used and
defined here?

> On 2015-12-07, at 12:02 AM, Joseph Beutel wrote:
>> I don’t know that this is necessarily distinct, though. I’m not sure that RPGs are unique in being story-telling games that use mechanics and various models (maps, miniatures, images, etc) to help resolve a common vision from several separate creative minds. I’m not sure that video games aren’t doing the same thing but using a much more clear visual representation to resolve at least the physical components of imagination— and even then I’d say only certain video games (modern “show everything,” highly graphical video games) even attempt that in a way that is any different from tabletop games.

Simulation with a plot... Hummmm.
It's not really a koan is it?
It's not breaking through into a higher understanding...
Oxymoron? Mehhh seemes a bit harsh...
I wish, I wouldn't be messing with the ruleset had anticipation been a
design principal much less present at any point of the process which,
and I'm speaking whitebox here, it done not evidence to My hindsight
and experience armchair quarterbacking backseat driving sounding self.
How'd anyone be expected to with what whitebox represents?
A STRONG reason why I'm still here with TFT when D&D lost appeal to Me
with AD&D is that TFT does exhibit evidence of prolyptic application
as opposed to abstraction which I totally get as a artistic choice in
the manner of a minimalistic exploration of a mediums limits or a
simple revelling if not wallowing in a genera for the sake of the
genera itself like space opera. Just don't start spewing Star Trek =
science blah blah cell phones blah blah space travel, blah blah
transporters. It's Wagon Train to the stars and I can say Star Trek
stuck us with a period of those bloody flip phones that pretty much
demonstrated what a bad idea a flip phone is for durable
functionality. The influenced space travel and exploration talk talk
fares FAR worse. NASA needs good PR was a position aped form Heinlein
much like Bacon or the ilk wrote Shakespeare and time proved Me wrong
on both I'd guess at this point. It is what it is, I went through a
Paul stage before switching to John and I'm do George now it's almost
traitorous (and Ringo's stuff had lot's of George to it as credited by
Starr Himself to wax a bit proleptsical because You know... reasons
and stuff.
Shakespeare falls solidly in the realm of language and Me and formal
language systems don't cotton to one another in case no ones has
noticed that yet.
(I think it's an implied authority thing i.e. same stuff different
angle. The rain in Spain Henry claims pissing on My head... in London.
We are enemies You and I...)
Hell, if nation states can fight concepts I cat fight My mother
tongue. I'm illiterate I know but I'm fluently illiterate in every
language and that's saying something. Or is it? Something about
monkeying around on typewriters with too much time on ones hands and a
rose by any other name is someone else's fart. Pull My finger. Why ask
Me I just wrote it, that doesn't mean I know what it means. I'm an
amanuensis for My mental process. It's emetic. I'm sick. Sue Me. When
sanity is defined as "safe" then the new becomes the .... half the day
spent on other matters after derailing the process. So let's see la la
la, yada yad... oy The Howard Stern of writing. Bababooie and oh yeah,
what's My fault for not knowing and what's deserving of a bit of slack
owing to, you know, illiterate, unedjmacated, disinformation... oh and
not falling into traps posing as truth... ahhh I'm not gonna try
forcing the rest the outline runs NASA ain't so nice. WAY more hype
flirtin with lies at times and flat out censorship with less achieved
than the packaging would have a casual unquestioning layman believe
and shining on the whole affair like police forces that even in most
"gritty police dramas" fail to note long standing ties with large
corporate interests and rarely portray anything close to realistic
pictures of actual justice achieved or even just data on arrests
made... The Moon shot was a race between two teams of Germans the
Russian A team and Us stuck with the wack job but able to massively
out fund the Russians... it was a very close finish then the shuttle
which compared to project claims before construction was meh to poor
in delivering. The rocket record the last few years has been so bad I
quit it. Depressing. Now I'm not trying to totally poo poo the space
program but give it a good look and it's not all sunshine and lolly
pops. Mars and robotic arms and what I recalled from the subscript
copy in My hot lil hands and what was on the net when I pulled it
up... the tempria-paint colour was gone again and again. Abstraction
that basically protects fudging is okay to a point but when plainly
flat out cheating is masked behind terms like AI I start getting
(sorry yet another break in to note a long passage of time... yada
yada hdd recovery on a wonky system owing at least in some part to
win10 sepiku and Me with data I didn't wanna let go. Just can't keep
the hits from coming today... sure isn't helping the bit this was
supposed to be though)
Ah! Bingo... maybe. YouTube is FUNNNNNNNNY and I'm not sure what's
what yet but I don't accept blocks "because we said so" and so this
may or may not show for each and every one but it's a classic from the
early days that does a particularly good Kafka
To sum up, abstraction of ping pong because pong is making full use of
the hardware?
Abstraction in Destiny because the industry has a strategy at least
among the big three of milking the creative team of surprise hit title
of all they feel they can in early stage development of title 2 then
fires them and brings in cheaper more pliable help to work on content
not their creative baby so easier to do whatever the money says like
bust up sections for dlc and nerf planed development with abstraction?
Flash Gordon space opera not explaining tech working?
Star Trek trying to throw tec issues into space opera when replacator
ridiculousness is present?
Fly by the seat of Your pants GMing?
As long as I'm informed and not tricked into a session... I guess check
Flying by but not dying by that Bablefish qed?
How old are We again?
I note that many of the authors and designers I most admire in fact
pay/paid very close attention to detail that was then abstracted down
in presentation The Dean would work out the space travel on butcher
paper in at least one case where hours of tough work became a sentence
in the book.
The dimensions I give have always been a part of TFT... unless the hex
has been "home-brewed" and I tell You three times estimating size and
distance is NOT a racial talent of humans, I repeat not, aaaaand NOT.
Abstracting 1.3m into some claimed figure with no clear conception
just 1m cause decimals are demons that anger sky daddy and peace I'm
Abstract defence of abstraction is prolepsis that makes Jay suspicious...

>> That said I think the overall point is accurate— even if it is just accurate to a wider range of genres than you have suggested. But where does abstraction come in?

a cut/paste from a recent post Jay made pissing and moaning about this

"not only are cut scenes not gameplay but the button mashing between
scenes is invalidated when one Player proceeds nearly flawlessly in
efficiently proceeding from a to b while the other takes many times
over the ammo, respawns, and time period to do the same yet the scene
remains unchanged. If You wanna tell Me a story say so. Don't make Me
throw dice that can not affect the sacred plot that renders such
participation moot if not manipulation"

>> I think the key is that abstraction must serve the purpose of the story-telling. While any abstraction inherently hurts ‘common resolution’ of the story, the concession can be made when it allows the story to be told more effectively overall. The most common example I see cited in game-design discussions would be designing a higher level skirmish game— say World War 2, battalion level— where players are meant to be the officers leading a battalion. While one could use a highly detailed set of rules to accurately resolve all of the combat that takes place at a 1:1 level, it would actually hurt the story-telling. It does this mostly through perspective; our officers don’t know what the 2nd squad of the 3rd platoon of Bravo company is doing at a man-to-man level at all times, and so abstraction is actually necessary here (and not just desirable from a ‘playability’ standpoint) to make the story work properly.

Simulation and story telling do NOT compliment they do antimatter's 200% blow up
Story is a telling of the record of events that happened previously.
Play is a working through of events that didn't happen yet and Players
have control of major protag's in Play so please do tell how a
plotline can exist without invalidating freewill?
I know some tricks that'll serve but they're really devices and one
doesn't go to the exhibit of nothing but readymaids any more that one
buys an lp of John Cage's silence track three best or the bonus track?
If I set up the play environment (sandbox) with some thought I can
create situations quite likely to occur but open play is not My baby
it's a group thing and objective fairness to the point of nobody not
even the GM can add or remove components from, the environment
"abstractly" ie no reason not covered by a game rule or mechanic that
was available for and functions in the way that allows the effects in
A judge should serve a mechanic that is unavailable otherwise.
In a wargame the traditional god view is impossible until fairly
recently and still it's hard to know for sure but lets assume they can
eye in the sky real time with no issues
That would make the proper form for "War in North Africa" as
experienced by the commanders of the forces a mock up of imperfect
data ranged over a relative time span of hours or more and a judge can
serve in the meta capacity to work up reports then assign the intended
orders with the boots on ground situation and I get it.
In a RPG setting I'm not invalidating the GM dungeon crawls as a form
that can produce entertaining play I'm just saying it's not necessary
and that idea of the GM is scripting a story for Players to
"experience" springs from the "rules lawyer" term coined I believe in
the labling of the why a metaPlayer over all others was needed in
tabletop games that generally treat all Players as equals. Now I ask
You, read whitebox rules and tell Me who had the stronger
justification in said situation the guys asking too many questions or
the guy whos hodgepodge of notes and unorganized... I doubt I could
match it and I'm GOOD at that @#$@ so right now I'm thinking the GM
role was an over reaction to the clarification that ended in the
temper tantrum of GM because I said so... weak sauce for nerfing the
cooperative creative advantage of tabletop play...
I advocate objective fairness and strive for "solo" play anyway so the
person/s setting up the sandbox can play just like any other Player
with most issues requiring judgement able to revert to an agreed upon
format for reaching a decision. Because I said so isn't very
entertaining for Me as a way of by passing a undesired outcome because
story. Fodder from nothing wearing red shirt doom just so many exp and
some random gp that politely poof back to the lal la they came from
not even a corpse to clean up... "monster" (zombie whatever) is the
fire away word even if the monster like Orc is actually present as
half-Orc PC option... THOSE Orcs are human beings I don't care what
nasty You name them...
Not too mention destructive play with constructive play additions
standing with it has so much more to do and a point to much of it as
It's not taking anything away it's offering more than just
hack-n-slash or the highway.
And if departing from the given rules so much that the main core is
more home brewed than not then... like I tell Peter Jackson... call it
something other with a based off of or inspired by cred hung on it...
Feats... fffftblpht

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