Monday, September 26, 2005

Sweep of History -- thoughtspace

This is exactly what I don't need right now: an idea for another project.

Wouldn't it be neat to make a game in which the 'characters' are countries, social movements, memes, and the people who are loyal to them? You could have generational play, moving the focus from the world-spanning down to the concrete and individual and back again, so at one point the players are different countries vying for dominance, and then they decide to 'zoom in' to a handful of people caught up in that struggle for dominance?

As long as the ruleset was minimal and flexible, you could play anything from cavemen to transhuman space colonists, and in fact you could play the cavemen to the transhuman space colonists. Allow the pace of the game to be scalable per group, so if you wanted to jump a hundred years, you could play out those years in culture-zoom and then zoom back down to people that are the descendants of your original characters.

The game should provide systemic rules for the people influencing the cultures and the cultures influencing the people, changing stats that reflect what's important to the culture and people and what resources are available to them. This would probably be why the focus gets zoomed in and out -- the only way to power up your culture is by playing an individual, and vice-versa.

Ideally there would be more than one 'level' available, instead of just culture/people. Something more like culture/nation/province/city/people (The West / The U.S. / California / Los Angeles / Josh). Best customizable, creating levels as you need them -- and upgrading your culture from city to province is an in-game effort. Perhaps individuals can be apotheosized into social movements (Jesus of Nazareth, anyone?).

Explicit ways in which cultures can merge or sublimate eachother -- so the Thirteen Colonies can federalize into the United States, or one duchy can conquer another one.

Ownership of cultures and the ability to make characters in other people's cultures should have explicit rules, allowing me to subvert your culture (and maybe take control of it) with some well-played people within it. So too would introducing new cultures (and new people) have some procedural rules.

Stats (by which I mean stuff-on-pages-with-game-effect) would be player-created, with an emphasis on the descriptive and evocative. Call them Qualities. Qualities could be inherited (going down from culture to individual, so my Frenchman is lusty) or could be... uh, invested (bad term, but going up from individual to culture, so my Susan B Anthony gives her culture sexual equality).

I'd prefer the 'character sheets' for cultures were somehow a running record, so you could see the imprint of the original culture in the culture that's been developed through play for thousands of in-game years.

Perhaps there could be some sort of record made of the game, so that it could be played indefinately by a continually-changing group of players (see 10,000 Blank Cards) so while there is no end-point, this doesn't assume that your gaming group will play this game and only this game for years on end.

Ideally this would run GMless, which avoids the problem of which players of which cultures play which people. Players jump into individuals to counter the other players, and the like. That would mean that the zoom feature would have to be under player control, as well -- probably as a currency spend sort of thing. There would need to be player currency divorced from the individual characters -- either as an assured "earn 2 points per turn" or you earn them off of the success of your owned cultures and individuals.

Crap, now I'm thinking specific game mechanics. So you start play with a pile of currency and a starter culture. Maybe it's a caveman village, maybe it's a planet in a galactic empire, whatever. It starts off with two or three qualities. You can spend currency to 'spawn' off an individual from your starter culture, and spend more currency so he inherits some of its qualities. As a new spawn, he also gets his own, new, quality of his own. You spend some currency to zoom the camera into individual-scale (or maybe this is covered in the cost of spawning him), and he can do 'stuff' and if he's successful at doing the stuff, he can invest his new quality onto his parent culture, or he can acquire a following, which transforms the individual guy into a social movement, which bumps his parent culture up a level. Other players can spend currency to spawn off some of their own individuals to confront your individual to prevent him from doing either. Something like that, so you're forcing the qualities (and player effectiveness) up and down the tree.

Probably need a mechanic somehow to remove qualities you don't like, or qualities that other players forced into your cultures. Also need a mechanic to downgrade cultures (nation to province, province to city). Hm.

Perhaps every quality that travels is signed by the player who started it, so if their quality becomes dominant in that culture, they gain control of that culture. You might even want to get somebody else's qualities if they're useful -- just not too many of them or else you lose control of your culture. Dunno if that can jive with the thought of other players spawning individuals off of my cultures. Perhaps that rule doesn't apply to individuals -- they're always controlled by their creators, and since they don't last long comparatively, it's not an issue.

I'm not sure I'd want it to be about taking over as much as possible -- I'm encouraing imperialism enough already with FLFS -- so maybe there's a sort of burden or upkeep involved to disencourage that sort of play. On the other hand, I don't know what sort of goal should be attached to the game, either. Of course, it would be difficult to really go imperialistic, since even if you maneuver your culture to subsume other cultures, the other players can infect your imperial culture with their own qualities, and wrest control of it away from you even as you ascend to world-spanning power.

Additionally, I don't yet have any privileges that are associated with ownership -- perhaps a discount on spawning off individuals, but I'm not even sure I like that. Amusingly, a disincentive to control anything might work even better -- if it costs less to spawn off of a culture controlled by someone else, that means that there's even more mish-mash of inputs. Heh. Players might try to foist control of the globe-spanning empire off on one another.

The mechanism by which players earn currency is what will cinch it. If you, say, earn currency for every culture that you control when your turn begins, then the game is all about gaining control of as many as possible. If you earn a flat rate of currency per turn, I suspect the game goes flat -- it becomes a rattling machine but it doesn't go anywhere. Perhaps currency can be earned via in-game resources (coal, lumber, industry, colleges, etc) expressed in qualities on the culture's "character sheet". So you'll work to found universities and build factories. That could work. It would also encourage the building of infrastructures, if my Interstate Highway quality helps me build Factories.

Need some way to avoid death-spiral resource-hogging, where one player controls as many resources in order to have the most currency in order to have control of the zoom, spawn, and inheritance/investment. Or do I? Is that perhaps what the game is about? Perhaps if there is no distinction between resources and non-resource qualities (so sexual equality gives you currency just like factories do), the game is about creating and moving around those qualities, and that seems a lot closer to target.

Maybe -- you earn currency for each quality you own on cultures you own, but must pay upkeep for each level of culture you have. So your starter village with cavemen and two qualities earns you one currency per turn, but your level-7 empire with only six qualities actually costs you currency every turn. You have to ensure that your empires are strong enough (and 'yours' enough) to be empires before you promote them there. Simultaneously, other players can either destroy your qualities or even force-promote your cultures so they become liabilities.

I need lunch.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Reward System at Last!

Thanks to reading two-year-old Forge posts, I've finally figured out the seed of a reward system that I like. I wrote up a sketch of it and posted it for input at the Forge in the thread Reward System at Last!. This is the last big chunk of ruleset; once this is hammered into place, I'll feel real damn good about the game's chances of seeing completion.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Three Questions for Full Light, Full Steam

I realized that I've never written out responses to the famed three questions often asked at the Forge, so as an exercise I figured I'd give it a whack.

What is the game about?
Full Light, Full Steam is about strong characters in a fantastic setting, and how their strident character elements are challenged by and leave imprints on the setting.

What do the characters do?
Characters are naval officers and sailors in the Royal Astronomical Navy, typically the crew running an ethership or port in Her Majesty's service. They fight pirates, quell native uprisings, investigate mysteries both technical and obscure, practice gunboat diplomacy, and try to earn enough money to marry well.

What do the players do?
First and foremost, the players collaboratively determine the scope and parameters of the game in the First Session. Thereafter, the players narrate the events of the story, interrupting each other with dice checks in attempts to take over direction. Players use the relatively static and predictable Attribute-and-Skill die mechanic to do this, voluntarily hampering their chances to 'charge' their character's thematic batteries, and thereafter claiming advantage by 'discharging' their batteries. NPCs, ships, and ports also have thematic batteries which the players may tap for their advantage.
There is a central GM player to whom direction defaults when the pace idles, and who is responsible for presenting the other players with fodder with which to exercise and express their character. The GM is expressly allowed and encouraged to delegate both narration and game prep to the other players, but she remains the central responsible party for these elements being provided.

...that was way easier than I thought it would be.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Effing Reward System

So, the game mechanics of Full Light, Full Steam are pretty much finalized. I have stats, a die mechanic, thematic batteries, resolution that can handle Task or Conflict granularity, cooperative rolling rules, "health" and "damage", naval warfare (simplified enough so it doesn't drive me crazy), point-based character creation, integrated history/kicker/portrait/bluebooking... and it all works together. I think.

Except I don't have XP. I don't have an overarching reward system. I have an in-the-moment reward system in the form of thematic batteries -- these little guys reward the player for playing character frailties with opportunities for later chances to shine. What I don't have is Character Development.

The first question, of course, is "Do you need XP?" and I think I do. I at least need the option available. Character Development in terms of stats is an important part of the game as designed -- characters are dynamic and proactive and growing. That needs to be reflected on the character sheet.

I am currently enamored with out-of-character reward systems like Story Tokens out of Capes. As much as I want to add some of that in, I have to keep reminding myself that there's already enough player input and player control via thematic batteries and narration rights earned in die checks. I do not need to add a new mechanic on top of that, especially since doing so would require rebuilding the entire game.

The reward system needs to reinforce the design goals of the game. It's testimony to how frustrating this aspect has been to me that I'm now questioning whether I have design goals to reinforce. Thinking clearly, the design goals are to encourge collaborative creativity among the players, to facilitate characterization, and to be as mechanically simple as possible. I also want the thing to be scalable -- supporting both a five-session game as well as a months-long game.

At some point, I wanted all players to award XP instead of just the GM; I haven't figured out how to make this not a traumatic popularity contest.

One other possibility is to hitch character development to the thematic batteries. These things are the core of the character (gentleman, rake, loyal, competitive, cockney) and are player-designed. I can just have 'every time you discharge a thematic battery, add a tick in your XP box'. This would very much encourage characterization, but would utterly miss the collaborative and scalable goals -- it doesn't involve other players and it's totally static. To make it scalable, I could have the playgroup decide on an exchange rate for XP translating to character points -- so slow development has a high exchange rate (5xp for one CP) and quick development a low rate (1xp is worth 3CP). I try, however, to avoid multiplication and especially division in game design -- adding and subtracting in the 1-10 range is safe; anything else gets problematic. All that said, though, I don't know if doing this would overburden the thematic batteries and degenerate the game to charging and discharging these at the expense of collaborative creation.

I like in-game XP rewards, rather than end-of-game rewards -- in-game rewards celebrate player contributions while end-of-game rewards tend to judge player contributions, and that ain't happy. I'd be inclined towards a "you did something cool, here's an XP" thing awarded by fellow players, but that seems to add more variables (how many times can you award eachother, how much XP is it worth?) and props (how do you keep track of how many awards you've given and received?). The game is already shading into more complex than I want, in terms of moving parts and fiddly-bits. But this option does hit the collaborative creativity goal, it can hit the characterization goal... it's just not very simple. It's one more thing to keep track of, and in my experience, these systems always fall on their faces in implementation because players "unfortunately" get so wrapped up in playing that they forget to reward eachother with game effects (praise and smiles are a little more automatic).

Which of course begs the question, "Can I do both?" Can I tap thematic battery use and player commendations, giving players two streams of xp? At that point, I'm hitting collaborative creativity and I'm hitting characterization -- I'm just sacrificing mechanical simplicity as a burnt offering to the gods of game design. That's also a ton of details to keep track of at the most engaging parts of play -- potentially even distracting from those moments. That's "I discharge my Fever Genius battery for a 4-rank promotion; that's four ticks on my sheet. Rolling dice, I get a 12! In a shower of sparks, Merriweather engages the etherdrive and the asteroid streaks out of orbit into the Russian dreadnought!" Other players cheer and throw commendations at the player. Is that too much?

It's times like these when I see why GM Fiat gets used so often -- from a design perspective, it's easy to shove these very complex decisions onto the GM and hope she gets it right. I mean, while I'd certainly like whatever feedback I can get from you guys reading this, I feel like I've only scratched the surface, and I really need to explain the entire game, top to bottom, in order to give anybody enough context to respond. All this for one relatively minor aspect of the game. Fooey.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Emotive Content under the Interaction Model

Brand asked how emotional content gets integrated in the Interaction Model. I'm going to address that in a separate essay right now, and perhaps take the results of that and thread it into the longer piece later.

First off, we have to understand what we're talking about and the context in which we're talking about it. Roleplaying can, but doesn't always, engage the players on an emotional level; we care about our characters, we want to see them acheive their goals, we feel their pain, we hate the badguys, we hope for the glorious fall of the Evil Empire. Sometimes we cry; sometimes we get really angry; sometimes we need to cool down. Thing is, that emotion that springs from us players and attaches to 'the game' does so in (at least) three different ways.

As Product, the game creates a story or experience that engages us emotionally. This is nearly identical to the kind of emotional attachment and identification that we experience when reading good books or watching good film. The game here is treated as an artifact (insubstantial, but nonetheless 'real') to which we connect.

As Performance, the game allows the other players to perform for us and dazzle our sensibilities. This is nearly identical to watching ballet, a play, or sports. The game here is a stage on which we appreciate others' skills.

As Process, the game is an activity which the players do together, collaboratively creating the story, world, characters, or what-have-you. This engages us as authoring a book, building a sculpture, or choreographing a dance routine. I'll also reference the "jazz band" metaphor which I think is appropriate here, although my nonexistent musical understanding makes it hard for me to judge. Here the game is a creative social milleu in which we participate.

That there are three ways to engage the emotions of the players makes it difficult to get a good handle on how that happens. One player's spectator appreciation may easily be conflated with another player's enjoyment of the creative process. Because the Interaction Model is primarily procedural, it best addresses the game's emotive content as a Process, but it gives at least a rough sketch of the other two as well.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe Circle of Doom is back again, just for reference.

As far as Product goes, the Interaction Model shows how the roleplaying experience creates a shared understanding of System, Imagined, and Goal. That 'end product' can be appreciated artistically, and I suspect this is the most common emotional attachment we remember in retrospect. We say "that was a good story" or "remember when you got that critical success at just the right moment?" The ways in which we appreciate and care about external things is very complex and very outside the scope of my article here. Whatever our aesthetics are, the shared imaginings of roleplaying may fulfill them, and if they do, we grow emotionally attached to them.

There is also an element of our emotional attachment that arises from the aspects' shared nature. Truth be told, most stories told by roleplaying games would not make good books or films, but we treasure them nonetheless. Part of this is, I feel, because they are shared with friends. The elements of the Imagined that were provided to me by my friend Brand based on elements that were given to him by my wife Laura forever after have their fingerprints all over them. That makes them a little more precious, just as an otherwise unremarkable item can be cherished because it was a gift from a loved one.

As a Performance, the game is composed of players doing things; these things are represented by the Model's interactions. When one player does a masterful job of describing a scene (articulation) and we just sit back and revel in the juicy details, we appreciate it as audience. Similarily, we might appreciate the masterful combination of tactics and advantages to win a critical die roll (fuel). Of course, this can also go the other direction and we get incredibly frustrated when, say, another player invalidates our Goal. This in-the-moment emotional attachment is rarely lasting, but may become embedded in the memory of the whole experience, transforming into that reaction-to-product above. That said, this is where the adrenaline rush and edge-of-your-seat anticipation of gaming reside, when everything hinges on a die roll or the GM describes the unnamable horror gibbering in the closet. I may go so far as to say that this is the emotional 'bang' that most people game for, both in terms of enjoying your friend's skill and in receiving accolades for displaying your own.

I saved the most complicated for last. As a Process, we form emotional connections to roleplaying as something that we do, that we are hip-deep involved in, as an activity where were are needed and need others; where we create stories and characters that we care about and ask questions and forge answers regarding those same things. In lots of ways, this sort of emotional connection is not a part of the Interaction Model simply because a great deal of this has to do with being a human being interacting with other human beings around the table. Roleplaying can, however, heighten that interplay in a variety of ways.

First off, characters may be, either to large or small extent, avatars of the player, able to do or say things which the player is not. Far more than simple wish-fulfillment, roleplaying gives us the opportunity to experience situations -- especially difficult and dangerous situations -- that we would not otherwise be able to experience. The avatar-character may be able to display competence, which may or may not translate to the player's competence at playing the game, but this is, on the whole, tangential to the real meat, which is being in the situation and addressing it as the player likes. Not only does roleplaying allow us to be strong where we are not in real life, roleplaying allows us to be vulnerable in ways which we don't allow ourselves to be away from the table. Roleplaying is a mental space that allows you to find the love of your life many times over; it allows a boy from the suburbs to stand up for duty and honor even if it means self-sacrifice; it lets adolescents explore lots of "grown up" content, like politics, economics, religion, and sexuality.

In addition to the ability to experience things beyond our real-world abilities, roleplaying also affords us a measure of anonymity, even when facing our fellow players across the table. It's not me who is a fanatical follower of Kali, it's just my Euthanatos character. It's not me exploring feminity, it's just my female character. The veneer of disassociation gives us cover for going into territory that we might not be willing to stand up and say we want to experience in detail.

Despite the advantages of anonymity, roleplaying is still a collaborative endeavor, and one in which the players (ideally) feel needed. The furor that arises over niche protection underscores how strongly players want to protect that sense of being valued by others, but it is also expressed in other ways, as well. The vibe that takes over a table when everyone is on the same page and riffing off of eachother, for instance, is when the players' aspects are harmonized close enough that all interactions are consistently on target. Having your contributions to the game turned around and fed back to you does many things at once: you feel like your input is valued, you feel like you are contributing to something greater than just you, and you feel like your fellow players are providing for you by feeding you good material.

Perhaps most powerful is when it becomes clear that another player or players 'get' what you've been going after with your participation in the game. This can be seen when somebody recognizes and incorporates part of your Goal into theirs, and begins Steering in ways complementary to your desires. This is similar to the shared aspect of the Product brand of appreciation, but a little deeper; the sense that you and the other player are thinking the same thing, and that you are thinking the same thing because you performed those interactions just right, gives you a sense of community and commonality, of being unified with someone else if only for one brief moment. Compare it with the simple joy of communicating with someone else in a foreign language for the first time, or successfully transmitting a message through secret code.

All the above is certainly incomplete, and I've overlook vast swaths of the gaming experience. This is what I've got so far, and I'd love to hear any feedback I can get. This is an important part of roleplaying, certainly; this is why we play in the first place.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Brain Hurty.

God. Heavy edit to FLFS's Gameplay chapter. Added Stakes, Risk. Allowed players to demand Checks for NPCs. Things are clearer... I think. Or maybe worse. Head is not clearer, though. Guh. So much like Dynasty, this really -- I swear -- started as a simple idea. Part Three: Playing the Game is now 27,000 words long, and it's still missing segments. If only the people at the Forge would shut up and stop giving me ideas on what needs to be added to the system!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Function in the Interaction Model

The following section goes after 'Complements' and before 'Dysfunction' in the Interaction Model. If you haven't read the longer essay yet, go read it here. I'll add this to the longer article once it's been hashed out.


Now that we've got all the pieces on the table and what each piece 'does', we can talk about how the whole thing works together. As stated before, the function of roleplaying is to reconcile and develop the three aspects in the players' heads. The model represents a self-reinforcing gestalt which self-corrects, manipulates, and adds to the aspects through interactions performed by the players.

First off, I should point out the limitations of my glorious illustration. While the illustration does make it look like there is one Imagined, one System, and one Goal, in reality there is one of these for each player. If there are five players at the table, there are five private Imagined, five private Systems, and five private Goals at work. They are not identical, and never will be, but the process of reconcile-and-develop works to make them more similar. The interactions are the only elements in the model which can be public. Articulation leads the pack -- usually spoken aloud, this interaction is very common to all the players' experience, and can easily be misidentified as 'being' roleplaying all by itself. On the other end, Imbuing is relatively private, and only rarely and barely made public -- and usually by the other players's deduction rather than being explicitly declared.

Now, the public interactions are what align the private aspects. Not only does the GM's Articulation manipulate his own conception of elements in the Imagined, but it also manipulates the other players' Imagined. When the GM describes the smoky bar, the other players add a smoky bar to their private Imagined. I tried to illustrate this; I failed. It would involve the Articulation arrow leaving the GM's System, splitting up into five arrows, and pointing at the GM's Imagined as well as the other four players' Imagined. Multiply this by six interactions, and then by five players. That's a whole lot of arrows, and the illustration quickly turned into spaghetti. With just two players, there are twenty-four arrows; with five players, there are one hundred and fifty. Guess what? Roleplaying is really complex!

When a player performs an interaction, it may be (mostly) public (such as declaring your action in combat -- steering) or (mostly) private (estimating your character's chances at making a good impression with the local potentate -- contextualization). If it's private, it will only update the player's own aspects; if it's public, it will provide some input for the other players' aspects as well. Of course it's not a one-or-the-other public/private distinction, but a spectrum between 'mostly public' through 'a little public, a little private' and down to 'mostly private.'

Interactions may or may not affect the aspects they connect to due to gatekeeper processes. This is especially the case in Steering and Fuel (into System), less a case in Validation and Contextualization (into Goal), and almost never the case in Articulation and Imbuing (into Imagined). System has the strongest gatekeepers because it is the most regimented in terms of access and input; in many games, for instance, only the GM has access to the steering interaction of changing the scene. Other players may want to change the scene to something else, but they are not allowed to and must wait until the GM decides to. Contrariwise, the game may dictate that only the non-GM players are able to stipulate when their character's merits and flaws manifest (Fuel). A player's Goal may have some weaker gatekeepers in terms of disregarding Validation and Contextualization interactions; the player may decide that "that failure didn't mean anything" or "that imagined detail has no relevance to my story." As far as I can tell, the Imagined has no gatekeeper processes -- what is Articulated is true (at least for the moment) and what is Imbued is significant.

In facile terms, once an interaction passes gatekeeper processes, its content is added to the understanding of the aspect -- someone narrates "Ed falls into the water" and everyone's Imagined adds a wet Ed. However, this is only the case when the interaction's content is new information instead of old data. When a player announces that his dagger does +9 damage to ogres, this is not new information added to the others' System; everybody knows that he's got a dagger and everybody knows it's good for attacking ogres with. No one's understanding of the System is changed. However, if the player announces that he will use an Imagined element in a clever way, such as using his dagger to cut a rope that drops a load of lumber on the ogre, this may be something that the other players had not considered before, and that information (daggers can do more than poke ogres) will be added to the other players' Systems. Over time, the addition of new information common to multiple players brings those players' conceptions of the aspects into closer alignment, since they comprise similar data.

I should make pains at this juncture, however, to underscore that interactions which contain old data instead of new information are not without use. These interactions confirm details in the players' aspects. The more times that a player character's kung-fu overcomes incredible odds (validation), the more the other players believe that said player character is capable in combat. They already knew that the charater had impressive combat stats; in fact, they probably already knew that he would win the fight. Nothing new is added, but existing content is strengthened and underscored. Similarily, if multiple scenes take place in the characters' secret hideout and the hideout is described in any detail each time, that hideout will become more and more real and tangible in the players' minds -- their Imagined aspect is heavily reinforced.

Remember the "Bang Bang! You're Dead!" kids way up top? That example only has the Imagined and the System, no Goal. Lots of roleplaying tries to work this way, heavily emphasizing the Fuel and Articulation interactions and giving short shrift to the rest. Player initiative arises from the Goal, however, and so while this aspect cannot be totally removed, its de-emphasis can result in a pretty lifeless game. Recognizing the importance of player Goals and making the interactions that connect to them more prominent and explicit invigorates the whole game, as has been patently demonstrated by the good work at the Forge. The inclusion and 'equal' standing of the Goal ensures that not only are the aspects convergent, but that said aspects and their development are inextricably bound up in what the players care about. In simple terms, not only is everybody thinking similar things, but they are having fun doing it.

Incomplete and Self-Contradictory Aspects

It is (relatively) easy to see the model working between players who have a solid understanding of the game's rules and clear goals for their roleplaying. Especially at the start of a new game, however, players are often shaky on the procedures of the System, have incomplete conceptions of the Imagined setting, and have fuzzy or very skeletal Goals. Roleplaying's reconcile-and-develop function will eventually amend this, allowing the players to synthesize their understandings, enriching everyone's aspects. The players will learn the rules and rituals of the game until they are second nature; they will learn and develop the world in which they roleplay; they will even, over time, come to recognize their own goals and their fellow players' goals, working them together into a conception of 'why we play this game' (as opposed to 'why I play this game').

However (and this is a big 'however'), this will only happen if the gestalt gels together and works. Players working under very sketchy aspects, or even with self-contradictory aspects (often the case in Goals), may perform interactions based on those aspects in erratic ways. It's important to note that there are no 'wrong' ways to perform interactions, but some methods will be more effective in some situations than others. Long-winded narration making frequent allusions to snippets of poetry to set the scene is great when playing by candlelight after dinner with friends; it will be completely lost when playing with thirteen year old new gamers. It's not that the teens are bored, it's that they do not understand the information being presented to them. This articulation 'misses the target' and adds nothing, underscores nothing, in their Imagined aspects.

Alternately, if a player believes that she should get a big effectiveness boost (Fuel) against General Nogoodnik if she uses the Sword of Damocles, she may go to great lengths to ensure that her character has the Sword, that it's sharpened, that the General is out in the middle of the battle, and so on. The player will be very disappointed if it turns out that the others' conceptions of the System affords no special bonuses for special weapons. While all the prior narration may have certainly been interesting, to some extent the player is going to feel as if her efforts were wasted and ineffectual. While the player's conception of System will be closer aligned with the others' after the exchange, this is a disappointing and rather brutal way to go about it.

Roleplaying is a self-correcting process, and players can utilize that function to avoid such problems. It is a simple matter to send out 'test' interactions and watch how they are received and used by the other players. After the first blank-eyed stare from the thirteen-year-olds, the belabored poetic narration can be toned down. The Sword of Damocles can be 'tested out' on the General's lieutenants, displaying how everyone around the table believes it should function in terms of Fuel. Simply watching what characters a certain player gets attached to (imbuing) or how a player responds to system failures (validation) can reveal a great deal. Openly and honestly communicating around the table also circumvents issues. Simply sharing enthusiasm by saying, "I need that Sword! That'll give me a big boost against General Nogoodnik!" can open a conversation about what kind of a boost that sword will give.

Next up -- Emotive Content in the Interaction Model