Friday, April 14, 2006

Lesson: Resolution - Basics

One way of looking at RPGs focuses on how players work together to produce play. In particular they focus on the way that uncertainties, disagreements, and discontinuities are all resolved into apparently accepted results. Nearly every RPG theory has their own way of classifying or describing this resolution, but ultimately it is a vital part of play.

For example, the much vaulted Lumpley Principle simply defines system as anything used to resolve the imagined parts of the game. This is often contrasted with the mechanical focus, which only considers the more quantized forms of resolution, such as dice rolling and numerical comparison. But in practice resolution of different types and scales occur beyond mechanics or system.

At its base, resolution is the communication and agreement of a specific outcome, imagined or not, among the group of players. This may be done very quickly using mechanics, or may be focused on the imagined parts of play, as with system. Or, for example, how two players work out which of their dice they will share and which they will not. Such a resolution is neither system or mechanic, but affects playing the RPG just as much.

How else can resolution be divided or categorized? What during play would not be part of some resolution or other? Is there any form of resolution which cannot be mechanical? When should resolution be mechanical? How much does system resolution rely on non-system resolution?

1 comment:

Fang Langford said...


I hope I'm not overstepping my boundaries, but I would like to point out that by and large role-playing games and their cousins (like civil war reenactments and rendezvous) take place without any form of resolution.

I hesitate to point out the enormous number of 'free form' games and play-by-mail / play-by-forum games that use no form of resolution, mechanical, in-practice, or social. If something is said or posted, it just happens, without question.

Of course there are contentious situations, but the important thing to note is that these are rare as is any form or resolution in these games. These are not the defining points of free-forming, but artifacts of earlier gaming.

I hope you don't think I'm saying resolution is bad or useless, far from it. I just think it's past time to call it 'basic.'

Sorry if this is out of order.

Fang Langford