Monday, November 07, 2005

Mmm, That Void's Fruity

PREAMBLE: I wrote this insanely late a couple nights ago, then pulled it offline because I was afraid it was too incoherent. Rereading the draft, it's good enough for gummint work. I'm republishing it.


An offline discussion pointed me at Vincent's post about the Fruitful Void, which I had glossed over the first time because I hadn't read the comments to it and thereby grasped what it was all about. Bad Ed!

Man it is an awesome post. So awesome it makes me forget to use commas and contractions in my sentences.

I think I have written earlier about this distinction between open and closed, between setting the stage and scripting the action, between going in knowing exactly how it's going to go and going in wondering exactly how it's going to go. This is somehow parallel to that.

The most important things in the game, the MOST important things, there are often no rules for. Or the rules are strangely open rather than tight. The comments give the example of the way Sorcerer's Humanity doesn't limit your action, the way there is no Faith stat in Dogs, no Defiance stat in MLWM, no Honor rules in Mountain Witch or Duty rules in Polaris.

I might add, that's also why there is no "Successfully Overcome Dungeon Obstacle" skill or stat in Tunnels & Trolls. (No, the Luck stat doesn't count.)

Hmm... reading on I see that maybe I'm generalizing it a bit too much. It's not just about structures with openness to fill in, it's about the existing structures pushing people towards the openness and demanding they fill it in, without telling them exactly how and without there being a right answer.

I think that's what Umberto Eco called an "Open Work" -- one which does not assume a single interpretation of itself, but which draws the reader/hearer/viewer in and gives them tools to interpret it, and motivates them to interpret it, but does not set out exactly how to do so.

Of course, Eco was not talking about games, but about finished works of art. But the parallel seems strong to me, intuitively, nonetheless.

Man, I'm up way too late reading this darn thread and thinking and writing about it.

It is important to me that creativity comes from a place of mindfulness, and the place of mindfulness is the place where there are unknown lands, where there are no formulas, where things can be questioned and reconstrued. The place of the unknown. Once it is mapped you are not there anymore -- until you come to doubt your map and decide to make a new one.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The Name that can be named is not the lasting Name.

The Fruitful Void of a well constructed set of rules -- like a well constructed work of art, if the Eco analogy holds -- is a place where the work thrusts you, questioning you, forcing an answer from you, but not dictating the answer.

How does one create such a work? I don't know, but my guess is that one creates it by being mindful oneself about that which is in question. By opening one's own mind to its mysteries.

I don't think you can come up with a ten point plan for creating a Fruitful Void. I don't think it's a coincidence that Vincent introduced this with a diagram and a shout of "what the hell are we talking about?" and that while Ron in a sense diagrammed it for Sorcerer long ago he did it in his *third* published supplement to the original rulebook... Vincent and Timfire explicitly disavow using the concept of the Fruitful Void consciously to design games.

There's a *lot* in this thread (as there often is in anyway threads); I've touched on just a bit here. Well worth reading, though I don't know why I'm pointing this out; the notion that somebody would be reading Murmurs and missing stuff on anyway seems a bit fanciful now that I think about it!

Losing all coherence. Must sleep.

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