ewilen (ewilen) wrote,

Excellent post on dissociated mechanics

A recent thread on rpg.net has some excellent posts by 105349 and StrollofTurtle, but cmdicely offers a profound insight in post #615
Most of what is complained about as "dissociated mechanics" -- including the primary example, the "One Handed Catch" ability, given in the Alexandrian article -- are not examples of dissociated mechanics, they are examples of either failed abstractions, which is a subjective category. The effect of dissociated mechanics and failed abstractions for in-character immersion are largely similar, but the source of the problem is subtly different. For dissociated mechanics it is because the mechanics are simply disconnected-by-nature from in-character concerns, for failed abstractions it is that the mechanic abstracts an in-character concern, but does so in a way that doesn't click with the individual player.

There's another similar-but-subtly-different potential problem area, with equivocal abstractions, which are basically abstractions which fail on the group level rather than the individual level, because they aren't necessarily failed abstractions for any individual player, but the understanding of what they are modelling differs between different people at the table, interfering with the ability to have a shared story of what is going on in fictional terms based on the mechanics.

I think by these criteria, D&D hitpoints are often failed abstractions (for people who don't care for them, especially) and equivocal abstractions across the hobby at large, if not within particular gaming groups.

It might be worth examining how groups resolve the ambiguity of equivocal abstractions, in the course of play.
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