#RPGaDay2021 – Day 27 – Fraction

I do not have a traditional schedule by any stretch of the imagination, but there is still something a little magical about Friday. Perhaps it is the promise that sometimes, it will be the 13th. Today is the 27th day of #RPGaDay2021 and of August and we did have a spectacular Friday the 13th this month, so all of that puts me in a good frame of mind, and I am ready to choose a prompt from among the four prospects: Fraction, Practice, Kindle, and Group. It would be easy to fire off a response that maintains the theme of celebrating our groups, but I think I will follow a different thread today. With that desire for challenge as a guiding principle, I think I will leap into the rending teeth of Fraction!

Many things are 1/2 the Battle and that just can’t be right

LISTEN to the Casting Shadows Podcast instead


I would like you to accept that we have agreed to separate all the things that make up a session of roleplay into constituent parts, or at least into fractions of distinct and observable difference. Call it a framing situation for a moment of roleplay.

I would also like you to accept that that example session which will receive our incisive separations is a specific session, not just the suggestion of an idealized session, and that it has been recorded so that the events of play and during play can be assessed and reviewed as needed.

If you are wondering about why I might make these suggestions, I hope it will suffice to say that this is yet another part of the hobby that I enjoy. For reference, check out this post from yesterday. Or THIS even better post from someone else from yesterday!

Ok, with this as background, a few questions should present themselves, right? Was this session one that we played in together and are we looking back at the video evidence with the added context of our own memories of the event? Was this session one that we are observing only? Are we familiar with the players? Are we familiar with the game from our own play? Are we familiar with its setting and/or rules? Have we just heard about it? Is it completely unfamiliar?

Why do these questions matter? I think you know, oh Clever Reader. They matter because all of those factors will change how we divide play into fractions. Remember, we are not talking about some idealized moment of play, the exercise here is to divide a specific session of actual play into its constituent parts. In other words, we would be separating out the roleplayed IC conversations from the in-game OoC conversations, the descriptions of the imagined interactions from the statements of intention, the talk about the rules of the game from the talk about the food the group will order later, and so on.

They matter even more tellingly when we consider if we played in the session or not. How the human behavior in the session recording appears to an observer may be markedly different from how it appears to an observer who is also a participant. Of course, we are only privy to the inside scoop on greater context for the recorded player that is ourselves, not anyone else at the table – no matter how well we think we know them. Let us not gloss over the transitory quality of memory and its brief and somewhat suspect fling with truth and accuracy. Ego can be a factor as well, especially if hindsight and video evidence might make us feel exposed or in error, right?

Finally, what I see from my perspective is likely not, or not identical to, what you see. Our perspective is based on things like experience in the hobby in a general sense, and in the specific sense of what different approaches to play we have been a part of and are aware of. Our perspective is based on what sort of observer we are and what sorts of things attract our attention and matter to us. Our perspective is colored by our preferences and our biases. We look with similar eyes at the same thing but may not see the same thing at all.

If the discussion spreads to others in some way, like a copy of a copy it will drift and change, and as other people intersect with it in these later stages, they will start their own divergences and discoveries. The conversation revolves, evolves, and devolves but ultimately involves us all in one way or another either implicitly through conversation or explicitly through our play of games that are the result of observations and conversations gone before.

If the picture of our experiment is now starting to seem to be framed in vast ambiguity then you and I are in sync. There is as much, if not more, mystery in this attempt to pierce the veil of what exactly happened in a given moment of play, than we might at first think. Why it happened, and how it happened, and which of the forces at work in that moment of play were involved in making it be the way that it was?

So much ambiguity…

But that mystery is the lure which keeps us playing, keeps us dreaming, keeps us designing, keeps us discussing, and keeps us enamored of this multi-faceted activity even the name of which sees debate almost 50 years on~

The whole, it seems, may be much more than the sum of its parts~

In Our Play

Below, I offer an example of part of a Video Response chain and how it highlights the magic and mystery both of the hobby and of our diverse perspectives upon it~

Speak your piece~

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