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Author Topic: What are Dissociated Mechanics?  (Read 2130 times)
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SneeR
Bi-Curious George
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Posts: 432


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« on: October 13, 2011, 06:10:49 PM »

I want to discuss the merits and downfalls of dissociated mechanics.
For those not initiated enough to follow the link, I have spoilered the relevant text below.

Dissociated mechanics are those that have no in-game explanation.

***
Relevant portions:
At first glance, this [ability] looks pretty innocuous: The rogue, through martial prowess, can force others to move where he wants them to move. Imagine Robin Hood shooting an arrow and causing someone to jump backwards; or a furious swashbuckling duel with a clever swordsman shifting the ground on which they fight. It's right there in the fluff text description: Through a series of feints and lures, you maneuver your foe right where you want him.

The problem  is that this is a Daily power -- which means it can only be used once per day by the rogue.

Huh? Why is Robin Hood losing his skill with the bow after using his skill with the bow? Since when did a swashbuckler have a limited number of feints that they can perform in a day?

There's a fundamental disconnect between what the mechanics are supposed to be modeling (the rogue's skill with a blade or a bow) and what the mechanics are actually doing.

Of course the argument can be made that such explanations can be trivially made up [for the war devil's besiege foe ability]: A ruby beam of light shoots out of the war devil's head and strikes their target, afflicting them with a black blight. The war devil shouts horrific commands in demonic tongues to his allies, unnaturally spurring them into a frenzied bloodlust. The war devil utters a primeval curse.

These all sound pretty awesome, so what's the problem? The problem is that every single one of these is a house rule. If it's a ruby beam of light, can it be blocked by a pane of glass or a transparent wall of force? If it's a shouted command, shouldn't it be prevented by a silence spell? If it's a curse, can it be affected by a remove curse spell?

And even if you manage to craft an explanation which doesn't run afoul of mechanical questions like these, there are still logical questions to be answered in the game world. For example, is it an ability that the war devil can use without the target becoming aware of them? If the target does become aware of them, can they pinpoint the war devil's location based on its use of the ability? Do the war devil's allies need to be aware of the war devil in order to gain the bonus?

If the mechanic wasn't fundamentally dissociated -- if there was an explanation of what the mechanic was actually modeling in the game world -- the answers to these questions would be immediately apparent. And if you're slapping on fluff text in order to answer these questions, the answers will be different depending on the fluff text you apply -- and that makes the fluff text a house rule.

Of course, you can sidestep all these issues with house rules if you just embrace the design ethos of 4th Edition: There is no explanation for the besieged foe ability. It is a mechanical manipulation with no corresponding reality in the game world whatsoever.

At that point, however, you're no longer playing a roleplaying game. When the characters' relationship to the game world is stripped away, they are no longer roles to be played. They have become nothing more than mechanical artifacts that are manipulated with other mechanical artifacts.

You might have a very good improv session that is vaguely based on the dissociated mechanics that you're using, but there has been a fundamental disconnect between the game and the world -- and when that happens, it stop being a roleplaying game. You could just as easily be playing a game of Chess while improvising a vaguely related story about a royal coup starring your character named Rook.
***
I personally strive for as few dissociated mechanics as possible. I see dissociated mechanics a lot in fighter fixes, the most recent being "You can't approach the fighter at full speed." There is no possible circumvention for this ability except being 3 CR higher than the fighter, no matter how stoic your character is designed to be.

I like it when I can roleplay every precious second of combat if I want. I think even abilities like plan-jumping for fighters can be explained with slicing a hole in the fabric of reality.  just need it to be explained!

What are your opinions of dissociated mechanics?
What sort of dissociated mechanics have you seen in any game?

I definitely don't want this discussion to turn into a flame war about 4E. Using examples from 4E is acceptable, as long as it is to prove a point.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 02:31:06 AM by SneeR » Logged

The answer to everything:
SneeR
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
Endarire
Man in Gorilla Suit
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Posts: 2171



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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2011, 07:04:08 AM »

Let's assume that fluff is mutable.

Why then do certain base classes have requirements, like the Paladin (oh, the Paladin!), the Druid, the Bard, the Barbarian, the Monk, and the Cleric?

The requirements don't make mechanical sense.  Classes with these prereqs aren't all better than those without.  The Wizard is debatably the most powerful class in core and he doesn't need to do anything but read and properly redecorate the universe!
Logged

Hood - My first answer to all your build questions; past, present, and future.

Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"
Unbeliever
King Kong
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Posts: 766



« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2011, 06:28:33 PM »

I found this thread very thought provoking. Thus has been coming up a little bit in a Star Wars game I am involved in.

I have a lot of faith and trust in my players and my GMs. So I might experiment with the following idea. One fluff is mutable - and can even change a bit from use to use - but I'd be willing to try out "associating" the mechanics. So if the player or GM describes something a certain way - such as the war devil makes a rousing shout - then I expect that I should be able to hear it and be able to discern the intent. I'd probably even let a player try to shut it down with a silence type of effect: the player is being creative and engaging in the world and such things are to be encouraged. It wouldn't necessarily shit down every war devil's buff effect - some of them might use a banner or something to rally their troops - but that one with that description have at it.

Daily powers are sort of wonky for any class or any ability. I prefer recharges and exhaustion type of effects though D&D's spell casting gets grandfathered in. It's just been around so long.
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SneeR
Bi-Curious George
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Posts: 432


Sneering


« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2011, 12:29:15 AM »

I HATE daily powers. Unless it's something amazing like magic, draining your concentration and energy, why can't you do it again? I personally think that abilities like smite evil should be at-will, or always able to be performed on an enemy after detecting their evil.
Logged

The answer to everything:
SneeR
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
Empirate
Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
***
Posts: 200


« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2011, 06:13:13 AM »

I've found that simply accepting the rules' limitations, trying to fit some fluff to them where possible, and largely ignoring the crunch-fluff disconnect works for me. Granted, sometimes it feels like there's a white elephant in the room. But most of the time, if you just assume the characters themselves simply know [stuff] is only possible 1/day, or needs a specific component, or whatever, those characters don't even have a reason to bring it up.

That said, in 4e the disconnect the OP described is a little bit too much even for me (healing surges? daily powers?), so I'm sticking to my 3.5 guns. In 3.5, I haven't encountered much that can't be either explained away or conveniently ignored.
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SneeR
Bi-Curious George
****
Posts: 432


Sneering


« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2011, 12:48:40 PM »

You're right, Empirate. Most of 3.5 goes under the assumption that the mundane, however fantastic, can be done all day like. There aren't many egregious omissions to this from what I've seen. 4E is putting all classes on an even playing field with the daily power things, and it makes no sense for mundane powers.

When I think about it, 3.5 has its own twisted internal consistency, almost like messed up laws of physics. Rules for one thing often apply to other things, and it all pretty much makes sense. Magic is the one thing that messes everything up, of course, but that seems par by now. I think the internal consistency is actually what made D&D, namely 3.5, so easy to learn and fun to play.

I have little familiarity with other systems. Are there any as "well-made" as 3.5 or as dissociated as 4E?
Logged

The answer to everything:
SneeR
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
veekie
Organ Grinder
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Posts: 9034


WARNING: Homing Miko


« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2011, 01:38:48 PM »

Internal consistency is somewhat key there. Most limited use abilities are supernatural in nature, or can be put down to exhaustion of some reserve of power(generally supernatural), positioning or timing, some are not(like the Dervish's Thousand Cuts).
Really a lot of the dissociation could be dealt with with more granular mechanics like point based resource costs and pools. Those are easy to relate to as some form of fatigue, compared to vancian fire-and-forget mechanics. Of course, the cost is a steeper learning curve for resource management, people do tend to blow their whole wad in a spectacular burst after all.
 
Imagine if instead of giving individual abilities a use limit, 4E instead gave every class a small number of combat abilities that cost an increasing number of points as you gain higher level ones. You can very easily justify it all as simple energy levels(a MP pool as you could call it).

Other systems...theres some on either end.
Highly dissociated rules light games(Magical Burst, Maid) where one of X stats(generally 3) govern everything. Whatever you do, you roll those. Setting detail is minimal generally, they're made for genres rather than solid setting.
Slightly less dissociated is games like FATE, where conflict is staged in a cinematic manner. You handle damage via consequences(which are vaguely defined, and physical, social, mental consequences are all simply labels you take as a result of staying in a conflict).
Most commonly, these tend to have a common thread in that you generally use these games to tell a story, rather than create one out of the game.

Highly associated games now, I've seen a bunch as well.
Exalted for example, is on the upper end of the scale, on the basis of making game mechanics actual in-game physics. The nine attributes and twenty five abilities are reflected in the setting mythology, and even the apparently association defying stunts work because the creatures that weave fate like to watch and interfere.
Same goes for World of Darkness and other White Wolf products, in reading the rules alone, you kinda know how the world works. Conceptually speaking, this is quite fine, unfortunately its hampered by the terrible editing and lack of any conception of game balance.

In the other extreme of association is GURPS, which opts for making a system that can accurately simulate a wide variety of game settings rather than tailoring a setting to the rules. This makes the system clunky and difficult to work with without experience in the system, with the problem of excessive detail.

Though...funny that in all of them, grappling still sucks.
Logged

The mind transcends the body.
It's also a little cold because of that.
Please get it a blanket.

I wish I could read your mind,
I can barely read mine.

"Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. At 2:15, it begins rolling up characters."

"Just what do you think the moon up in the sky is? Everyone sees that big, round shiny thing and thinks there must be something round up there, right? That's just silly. The truth is much more awesome than that. You can almost never see the real Moon, and its appearance is death to humans. You can only see the Moon when it's reflected in things. And the things it reflects in, like water or glass, can all be broken, right? Since the moon you see in the sky is just being reflected in the heavens, if you tear open the heavens it's easy to break it~"
-Ibuki Suika, on overkill

To sumbolaion diakoneto moi, basilisk ouranionon.
Epigenentheto, apoleia keraune hos timeis pteirei.
Hekatonkatis kai khiliakis astrapsato.
Khiliarkhou Astrape!

There is no higher price than 'free'.

"I won't die. I've been ordered not to die."
SneeR
Bi-Curious George
****
Posts: 432


Sneering


« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2011, 04:28:42 PM »

Though...funny that in all of them, grappling still sucks.

Haha.
How do you think grappling would work ideally? I think that the D&D grappling mechanic makes sense: every time you want to do something that the opponent could prevent, you roll a grapple check. I know it certainly isn't smooth, but I don't understand everyone's hate-on towards it...
Logged

The answer to everything:
SneeR
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
veekie
Organ Grinder
*****
Posts: 9034


WARNING: Homing Miko


« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2011, 05:50:03 PM »

Naw, more that few games have found an elegant way to make it work.

My personal preference is to have it as a status on the recipient, which restricts their motion and makes it easier to perform additional combat maneuvers and attacks on them.
Logged

The mind transcends the body.
It's also a little cold because of that.
Please get it a blanket.

I wish I could read your mind,
I can barely read mine.

"Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. At 2:15, it begins rolling up characters."

"Just what do you think the moon up in the sky is? Everyone sees that big, round shiny thing and thinks there must be something round up there, right? That's just silly. The truth is much more awesome than that. You can almost never see the real Moon, and its appearance is death to humans. You can only see the Moon when it's reflected in things. And the things it reflects in, like water or glass, can all be broken, right? Since the moon you see in the sky is just being reflected in the heavens, if you tear open the heavens it's easy to break it~"
-Ibuki Suika, on overkill

To sumbolaion diakoneto moi, basilisk ouranionon.
Epigenentheto, apoleia keraune hos timeis pteirei.
Hekatonkatis kai khiliakis astrapsato.
Khiliarkhou Astrape!

There is no higher price than 'free'.

"I won't die. I've been ordered not to die."
SneeR
Bi-Curious George
****
Posts: 432


Sneering


« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2011, 01:13:33 AM »

Naw, more that few games have found an elegant way to make it work.

My personal preference is to have it as a status on the recipient, which restricts their motion and makes it easier to perform additional combat maneuvers and attacks on them.

Sorry for the late reply.

Isn't that, ironically, and extremely dissociated mechanic, making grappling into a status effect? It makes it less of a struggle between two people and more of somethig one person is doing to another...
Logged

The answer to everything:
SneeR
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
Bozwevial
Organ Grinder
*****
Posts: 4497


Developing a relaxed attitude to danger.


« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2011, 01:22:08 AM »

Isn't that, ironically, and extremely dissociated mechanic, making grappling into a status effect? It makes it less of a struggle between two people and more of somethig one person is doing to another...
You could allow a check to free oneself from the grapple and a tougher one to transfer the condition to the attacker instead.
Logged

veekie
Organ Grinder
*****
Posts: 9034


WARNING: Homing Miko


« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2011, 02:41:33 AM »

Naw, more that few games have found an elegant way to make it work.

My personal preference is to have it as a status on the recipient, which restricts their motion and makes it easier to perform additional combat maneuvers and attacks on them.

Sorry for the late reply.

Isn't that, ironically, and extremely dissociated mechanic, making grappling into a status effect? It makes it less of a struggle between two people and more of somethig one person is doing to another...
Not exactly.
The grappled guy is hindered by the condition, the grappler is in a position where he can abort any time. If his rival is good at grappling, then the other guy would initiate his own grapple to place the condition onto the attacker, so it becomes a two way grapple.

A target that is grappled is:
Unable to move without breaking the grapple.
Suffers the grappler's margin of success as a penalty to all non-grappling actions.

The grappler gains:
Easy combat maneuvers on the target. Bull rushing, Tripping, Disarming, Dirty Tricks, etc are all easier on the target.

If both parties are fully grappled, then they basically can only engage each other easily.
Logged

The mind transcends the body.
It's also a little cold because of that.
Please get it a blanket.

I wish I could read your mind,
I can barely read mine.

"Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. At 2:15, it begins rolling up characters."

"Just what do you think the moon up in the sky is? Everyone sees that big, round shiny thing and thinks there must be something round up there, right? That's just silly. The truth is much more awesome than that. You can almost never see the real Moon, and its appearance is death to humans. You can only see the Moon when it's reflected in things. And the things it reflects in, like water or glass, can all be broken, right? Since the moon you see in the sky is just being reflected in the heavens, if you tear open the heavens it's easy to break it~"
-Ibuki Suika, on overkill

To sumbolaion diakoneto moi, basilisk ouranionon.
Epigenentheto, apoleia keraune hos timeis pteirei.
Hekatonkatis kai khiliakis astrapsato.
Khiliarkhou Astrape!

There is no higher price than 'free'.

"I won't die. I've been ordered not to die."
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