Abstraction vs. Detail, plus a rant (was Re: Tracking)

From: Michael Schwartz <mschwartz_at_...>
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000 06:07:00 -0500

Wulf Corbett wrote:

>I prefer my own characters to have control over and
>knowledge of their own skills and abilities, but for
>the world around them to be no better known to them
>than the real world is to me.

>I know how fast I can run, how much I can carry, how
>good a swordsman I am. I'm far less sure how slippery
>the mud is, how foggy it is, etc.

>So long as the parameters are within reasonable ranges,
>I can fill in as player or narrator the likely missing
>links needed to get whatever result appears.

This perfectly sums up the mindset from which players and narrators should interpret results using HERO WARS. Focus on the outcome achieved and use common sense combined with the degree of success or failure to fill in the details of how that outcome came about. The abstraction of the outcome in no way means the details determined afterward need be less complete than a similar outcome using RUNEQUEST. As only combat in RUNEQUEST is modeled in detail, all other processes are equally abstracted regardless of which rules are being used. The innovation in HERO WARS is that dramatic tension, as supplied by the dice mechanic, is not limited to mere hand-to-hand combat. No other game manages this, which is why it is such a significant break-through in design.

I do not believe HERO WARS unflawed, but those flaws are due to expedience. I am certain that Issaries felt pressured to deliver sooner, rather than later, and doubtedless are learning as much about how the mechanics model reality as we. Familiarity with other game designs by both Greg and Robin can be helpful, although one still must make the cognitive leap. Ranged Combat in HERO WARS, for example, compares to Hunting in PENDRAGON: the archer seeks to incapacitate the target while the target seeks to avoid incapacitation and either flee or engage. Simple, really, which is probably why this did not occur to *anyone* during the eighteen-plus months during which HERO WARS underwent playtest. I came to the realization just last weekend, when a conversation I had with Andy Dawson several months ago finally gelled.

The HERO WARS mechanics certainly needs a more solid underpinning if the game is to flourish to the degree both Issaries and the Glorantha community desire. What *we* need to do, rather than badger Issaries with endless criticism, is assist in the development of solutions. They want our input, but it needs be *constructive* input. Were posts more solution-oriented and committed to the rules-lite approach favored by Issaries, I think they would extend the list and its membership a great deal more credence. Until then, Issaries can, will, and more than likely *should* ignore it and us.

Or, at the very least, those of our membership who give Uz a bad name. ;) </RANT>

Michael Schwartz mschwartz_at_... Ann Arbor, MI USA

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