I just had another read through of Vincent Baker’s Dice and Clouds series of blog posts, which is very good. The basic idea is that Cloud represents fictional game state and dice represent prop game state, including sheets, tokens and dice. The arrows represent the players enacting changes on fiction and props, taking hints from either fiction or props. The examples are quite good for a general overview, but I wonder: What kind of arrows are there? How do we enact those changes?

On typical mode of changing the fiction, named explicitly in many Forge and post-Forge games, is narration. A player narrates an outcome. But that is only one kind of arrow. When I move my miniature three squares towards the zombie miniature, there is a change in the fiction. My dwarven princess has just engaged the vile zombie. But I haven’t narrated anything. In fact, I do not even have to say anything for this part.

Other kinds of arrows include:

  1. Speaking and acting as a character.
  2. Uttering certain keywords like “Charge!” or “That shall not come to pass.”
  3. Talking back and forth until we have a new shared understanding of the new fictional state.
  4. Taking notes and keeping list of fictional elements up to date.

Those are simple examples. Curiously, a rather complicated one is rolling dice. The most simple example might be a coin flip. Before we flip it, we a assign an outcome to each side. Those outcomes are in a way little clouds, little fictions and we can manipulate them in any way that we manipulate the big cloud, our shared fictional world. We can have a single player state them, we can talk back and forth, we can rely on certain keywords and other props, like spending tokens for a better result on heads. Once the coin has fallen, one of the little clouds is disappears, while the other is integrated with the main cloud, our shared fiction. That integration can involve some explicit cloud work (narrating, acting) or it might be just as automatic as the idea of my dwarven princess engaging the vile zombie.

This is only the most basic form a random result might be used. With a more advanced form of dice rolling. We might calculate a total from existing values, assign bonuses based on the fictional situation, spend resources. In the end, we might take notes based on the dice’ shown results or move the dice physically to some area of the gaming table.

But bur dice or coin choosing between (resolving?) mini clouds is just one way dice can be used. Consider rolling on a random table with 100 entries. We do not imagine a hundred situations here. In fact we do not have read through the table at all before consulting it. I’m sure that analyzing some of the examples I gave in my first post here with these concepts, will yield very different results.

Of course, analyzing rules in terms of arrows between fiction and props, that is the players making specific alterations to either domain, is a very low level approach, but that might in fact be useful to approach certain problems like players complaining that certain rules are too “meta” or “disassociated”. The problem with such complains usually is that the same players have no problems with things that are even more “meta”. I’m still looking for some explanations that holds waters. Maybe you have one.