This post will, unfortunately, be mostly theoretical but in the end I'm hoping that game designers will come forward with thoughts or examples of how this might work. What I mean by this is a game system where the mechanics do not steer or direct play. To the best of my understanding Nar facilitating game design employs various mechanics to steer, hold and reward play that focuses on the Premise Question. Gamist facilitating game design holds the game to address of Challenge by primarily (only?) having mechanics that reward and focus on Challenge Situations. I understand that these mechanics systems are not self enforcing and that any game design can be played in any CA. That being said, the underlying assumption in both these CA's is that System is privileged over the SIS and thus helps direct play toward a desired CA of the game creator. Unless I'm badly mistaken this shouldn't be a controversial proposition as has been argued for a long time now, "System Does Matter."
But what if, instead, Setting and thus Character and Situation were privileged and System was not? What if the Mechanics were subordinate to (the on going creation of) the SIS? This absolutely does not mean that anything can go, but rather that what is considered plausible is based ultimately and thus primarily upon the Setting. This formulation holds that what types of characters that are "allowed" are based upon both the characters in the source material but the Setting as well.
I can see the standard arguments of why this can't happen but many of them can also be laid at the feet of dysfunctional G/N games.
DM deprotagonization of the players.
How will the players know what to do?
How will the players know what they can/can't do?
The world/gameplay will be incoherent.
This can be the case, but it does not have to necessarily follow. From what I've read on boards and seen played at conventions demonstrates that these problems arise no matter the game system or the CA.
So my question is can anyone see a way how this can work. (I know it can because I've spent the last 25 years playing in a game that's been running the past 40 years.) I should note that in our particular iteration we do not have campaigns nor companies but we do have folios of characters and that the world and characters cultures do expand over time....as does the system.
I'd appreciate any thoughts on this from anyone but especially from designers. Thank you in advance.