System Does Matter + Lumpley Principle = ?

September 26, 2008

In talking with Brand, it’s abundantly clear that the majority of the post-Forge indie roleplaying scene is still wrestling with how to answer this question, myself included. “System does matter” still seems to mean “mechanics matter” in most cases, where the ‘Loopily Poopily’ (as Vincent likes to call it) defines system as “everything that happens at the table,” including all inter-player interactions that have nothing to do with written game mechanics. We still have a hard time making those matter, taking them seriously as something we should pay attention to. This problem is probably the most central one facing our design and play community in the past 5 years, and will continue to be for probably the next 5 years.

6 Responses to “System Does Matter + Lumpley Principle = ?”

  1. DevP Says:

    Everything that happens at the table does matter.

    …It’s a broad thing.

  2. misuba Says:

    Yes! And those ten years are a pretty reasonable timeframe – an ambitious one, really – for a whole community to really take responsibility for all it does in the real world at the real table.


  3. So we need to develop a set of tools for regularly inspiring internally consistent social dynamics in semi-arbitrary groups (I suppose starting with inspiring useful self-selection in potential players, so the groups will be less arbitrarily composed of people who are more likely to enjoy the given game) ?

    Cool. We really are a talking about a new art form.

  4. Meserach Says:

    “…including all inter-player interactions that have nothing to do with written game mechanics…”

    Well, therin lies the rub, doesn’t it? Could a game specify all the social mechanics, or at least all the salient ones? Or is it inevitable that some social mechanics either can’t or won’t be changed in service to a game text?

    I mean, what if a game really did specify who should order the pizza, and what to do in event of a personal argument at the table, or if one guy phones and can’t make it? Or at least the general principles by which these social interactions should be managed?

    The package of nebulous stuff, what Ron calls the “murk”, sometimes turned “how to roleplay”, definitely needs a good bit more specificating.

    But at some point one does have to make a philosophical decision: can you expect your game players to conform their socialisation to the text as much as is required to make the game work, however much effort and change that involves? Or instead, should you expect your game only to work for people with the right pre-existing social dynamics?


  5. […] this post, Jonathan Walton asks “System Matters + Lumpley Principle = ?’.  At ‘Story by the Throat’, a […]

  6. Jonathan Walton Says:

    Can you expect your game players to conform their socialisation to the text as much as is required to make the game work, however much effort and change that involves? Or instead, should you expect your game only to work for people with the right pre-existing social dynamics?

    Yeah, that’s it right there. That’s what I think a lot of people haven’t quite figured out yet, either where they stand on either of those questions or, once they know where they stand, how to deal with the ramifications of that.


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