... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jargon for Dissociated Mechanics

A new person every day discovers my posts about the Big Dissociated Mechanics Debate and adds a comment. The latest comment from X the Owl suggested that a particular Forge Theory-based discussion helps explain the debate; I don't really think the discussion was related to dissociated mechanics, but hey, I was on The Forge years ago, so I can do a pretty good impression of Forge-speak for any of the Forgeoisie who wander by and want to know what the discussion is about. This jargon-heavy post is for them; people who don't care for Forge Theory can skip it, since I'm not going to be posing any big questions here.

Dissociated mechanics, as I see it, are Pervy systems, primarily Gamist and Narrativist, but really Pervy Simulationist systems can get dissociated, too. I believe the more modern Forge jargon for "Pervy" is "high points of contact", but I've been out of that community for a while, so I can't say for sure there's a different term. Here's a really old discussion about Pervy vs. Vanilla  systems. The Pervy/Vanilla axis is basically about Exploration of System and how much emphasis/engagement with System is involved.

One complication is that some people are OK with Vanilla Gamist/Narrativist systems and don't consider them "dissociated", while others are strict Simulationist and won't accept mechanics that enable Gamist or Narrativist agendas. Another complication is that some people specifically dislike Author Stance (players retconning character actions or motivations to fit what the dice say) or Director Stance (players altering stuff in the game world that is not attached to their characters;) these people will see any stance other than Actor Stance and (maybe) Pawn Stance as dissociated.

In jargon terms: my post was objecting to Pervy Exploration of System, especially Pervy Gamist/Narrativist systems (I object to Pervy Simulationist, too, but I actually don't think all of these are dissociated.) Brendan focused more on whether an explanation for a mechanic happens before or after, which is essentially an argument based on Stance. Roger seems to rephrase "dissociated mechanics" as a strict Gamist/Narrativist vs. Simulationist dichotomy; the more artificial (less Simulationist) the time period attached to a mechanic, the more dissociated the mechanic.

I asked about comparing Intermittent Luck to Universal Competence or abilities like Burning Wheel's Instincts specifically to see if people who don't like "One-Hand Catch" object to it because it isn't Simulationist, or because it is more meta-game-y.

OK, done. We will resume our regular programming, already in progress.


  1. "The gyration of the Blood Moon means your panther leap only recharges nightly between 11 and 4" - a fig leaf, a blatant one, but a necessary one nonetheless.

  2. I missed this with when I made my comment on the old post. I think what I said applies, though I think I can explicitly confirm that the current jargon term is "points of contact," and my favorite definition of that is "any moment in play where the negotiation of credibility becomes overt." Which still doesn't map well to associated/disassociated as I understand it-we can be wholly committed to fictional causes/effects and still need quite a lot of explicit negotiations (which d/n have to be confrontational) to do it.

    That's a side issue. I still think the "Lazy Play" thing from my link maps well onto the associated/disassociated thing. Not fighting, here, but where do you see that as not working?

    1. What Vincent is talking about in the Lazy Play post is whether the rules enforce adding fictional detail during an action or merely allow it, with the latter being "lazy". We know this isn't the same thing as the associated vs. dissociated split, because his simple resolution example is lazy, but not dissociated. In addition, he cites Dogs in the Vineyard as "not lazy", but many people would probably call some of the DitV mechanics "dissociated".

      Hero points are frequently cited as dissociated, but they *require* players to say what happens in the fiction. Under Vincent's terminology, they aren't lazy.

      The Amazing One-Hand Catch feat described in the post on the Alexandrian blog requires describing what you are catching, but it's being advanced as a dissociated mechanic.

      There are arguments whether D&D's hit points and spells are dissociated or not... but D&D is a pretty lazy game, under Vincent's criteria. You don't have to say anything more than "I attack" to get an attack roll and potential damage roll, and though describing the effects of damage is probably a good idea, some people have played D&D without getting into much detail about wound effects.

      So, summary: interesting post by Vincent, but he's not talking about the same thing, and never claimed to be.