A Standard Unit of Thingness

edited November 2011 in Story Games
I wanted to talk about a particular subject, but realised I didn't have any terminology for it'; does it exist or can we make it? Here's what I'm looking for:

The Bit: A standard unit of 'thingness' in computing, you can measure the 'size' of digital information by counting the number of bits its takes to communicate it.

The Phoneme: A standard unit of the spoken word, you can measure the 'size' of verbal information by counting the number of phonemes it takes to communicate it.

What's the equivalent in RPGs and storygames? Let's take A Penny for My Thoughts as an example; here are the units of thingness to be communicated:
- 3 memory triggers per player(n).
- n-1 questions per memory trigger (except when extra questions are posed)
- at least 9 guiding questions per player over the course of one game (2 pennies+3 pennies+4 pennies)
- 2 answers per guiding question.

Therefore, a 4 player game of Penny has approximately 108 units of thingness; what does this tell us, other than that A Penny for My Thoughts is clearly the work of the Dharma Initiative? What I'd like to be able to do is roughly calculate how long a game might take, by comparing the number of units it would take to complete my game to the number of units it takes to complete other, similar games, e.g. if I want my game to have a similar length to Penny, then I should aim to have around 108 units in it; if I look at my game design and its got far fewer units, then I might want to think about adding other options or additional rounds of play. If my game has far more units, then its overrunning and needs to be trimmed down.

Finally then, what would be a good common name for the standard units of thingness in a game?
Ludeme?: This might be technically correct, but it sounds a bit lame.
Ludosum?: Approximately meaning "I am gaming" in very bad Latin.
Ludino?: Now we're just getting ridiculous, but at least it sounds cool!


  • I am so confused. But keep going!

    sounds best.
  • In your PfmT example, the units are clearly statements of some kind, either questions or answers. I don't imagine that they take the same time to do, so it's probably not a good idea to add them up. They are also very player and game dependent. I think you'd have to analyse a lot of games to see how long, on average, each type of thing takes.

    It's not a bad idea to work out how long each game lasts but I don't think you're going to be able to get it from non AP considerations.
  • Huh. This sounds interessting, but also problematic to me. (Not sure if I understood what you are aiming for, please correct me if I misunderstood something.)

    Obviously, the concept of Ludinos to determine the length of a game would only work for games where the number/structure of scenes is defined by the system: It could work for Fiasco, but not for Lady Blackbird.
    But then, why bother with Ludinos and not just count the number of scene as a measure of how long a game will take?

    And then, individual playing styles will have a huge impact. Look at Fiasco, which has a fixed number of thingies (scenes) per player, but in my personal experience, a 4-player-game can last between 2 and 4 hours, and I remember Jason telling an anecdote somewhere about people playing 8-hour-games.
  • edited November 2011
    Yes, ludino's would only be an approximation of game length: obviously, a ludino in one game might only take 5 seconds, whereas in another game, it might take a minute or two.

    What I'm aiming for is an accetable definition of the minimum interaction between the storytelling and the system, a clouds-dice interaction. For example, the narration between guiding questions in Penny can be of immensely varying length, but that is not a ludino, as there is no clouds-dice interaction taking place during the narration.

    Ludinos should be markers that state the game requires me to do something with my narration now or my narration has reached a point where I require the game system to resolve something now.

    I guess its not strictly the game length that I'm trying to assess, though that is certainly a consideration, but also the complexity and the amount of contribution required by the players: for example, Penny has a moderate lpm rate spaced evenly throughout the game, whereas Fiasco has a very low lpm, with most of the ludinos concentrated at the beginning and end of the game and only two occurring during each player's turn (choosing whether to direct the beginning or end of the scene, then choosing a black or white die at the end.)

    Edited: the idea of ludinos per second was absurd; ludinos per minute is a far more realistic 'bit-rate'.
  • Posted By: James MullenWhat I'm aiming for is an accetable definition of the minimum interaction between the storytelling and the system, a clouds-dice interaction.
    Ah, that helped me a lot to understand what you are aiming for, thanks! (Need to think about it for now, may post more later.)
  • I like ludino, it is both vaguely ridiculous and sounds like a sub-atomic particle.

    This sort of measurement will work great in pretty much any GM-less game, where pacing and scene economy is typically rigid.
  • Of these choices I also like "ludino" the best, but I have another suggestion to consider: "geme." It's like a gene or a meme, but it's for a game.
  • Some existing approaches to this question from digital game studies (both of which are applicable to non-digital games, though both are flawed):

    Ralph Koster discusses "ludemes" as the atomic unit of gameplay: http://users.skynet.be/bura/diagrams/
    Ian Bogost discusses "unit operations" as the atomic unit of game meaning: http://www.bogost.com/books/unit_operations.shtml
  • edited November 2011
    At the risk of reintroducing forge jargon that may be better dead,

    Is a ludino the same thing as a point of contact? As I recall, a game with high points of contact was a game where you had to interface with the system a lot to get things done, but maybe I totally misunderstood that...

    It seems there are two variables here: the number of ludinos per session-atom, and the amount of time between ludinos.

    If we're looking for a time estimate, then I think the most likely metric would be ludinos per session times the MINIMUM amount of time between ludinos. That would give you a baseline, and then depending on the verbosity of the group you could grow your estimate.

    In other words, how fast can you play an RPG?

    Ooh, this is exciting to me... it's like speed chess with your emotions.

    Edited to add:

    I've also just remembered that a "bit" or "beat" is ALSO a fundamental unit of thingness in improvisational theater.
  • 1-barter worth of gameness.
  • Ludette?

    Actually, I think we should co-opt my favourite french word, which is "truc", according to my french teacher translating as "thingie".
  • What wonderful suggestions! I'm overwhelmed :-)

    Yes, point of contact is, I believe, the Forgist term for what I'm talking about, though I stand prepared to be corrected; I still think it deserves its own, proper one-word name though... geme is oddly tempting, but then I'm always drawn to anything with rich potential for puns and wordplay. ;-)

    In 50 years time, when every game is legally required to have an information panel on the back cover listing the geme content, you'll all remember that you were here when it started.
  • I'd much prefer an understandable descriptive term. Ludino and geme sound cool, but then I'd have to go look up, "What does that mean again?"

    Maybe MOSC? "Moment of system contact." Then you can talk about MOSCs per session, MOSCs per level, MOSCs per instance of play (if that's more than or less than a session), etc.
  • We should do it the traditional way: Call it geme in the US and ludino in europe, with 1 geme = 2.8173424 ludinos.
  • edited November 2011
    I am not sure about the tone of the thread, so I'll pretend it's a serious question :-)

    You make up the boundaries of things and concepts because you use them for something or they explain something.
    Why do you need a Ludino? That will tell you what a Ludino is.
  • Posted By: David BergI'd much prefer an understandable descriptive term. Ludino and geme sound cool, but then I'd have to go look up, "What does that mean again?"

    Maybe MOSC?
    Ha ha ha ha! Good one, Dave!
  • James, I just want to check whether these concepts are similar to what you're talking about:

    'Goes' (from S/Lay w/me): the player and GM take it in turns to narrate. A 'Go' describes one significant forward-moving event in the story.

    'Moves' (from Apocalypse World): like turns in a conversation (but not like taking turns, you know), Moves feel like they have that contact with the system you're looking for.

    'Beats' (from script writing): a signficant moment of dialogue or character action. (Perhaps a little too micro for what you're looking for.)
  • AW's Moves are probably the closest to the type of thing I mean, but even then they're a bit macro, as they incorporate:
    - making a tactical decision about what move to use (a clouds-dice interaction)
    - actually rolling the dice, with modifiers (another interaction independent of but influenced by the first)
    - then possibly adjusting character resources (harm, barter, Hx, experience) depending on the result (another semi-independent interaction)

    So actually even one move consists of around three ludinos. AW actually has a fairly compressed bit-rate for ludinos!

    'Beats' are probably closer in terms of minimum amount of significance, but of course there's no mechanical effect associated with them; I haven't played S/Lay w/me but it sounds like one 'go' might equal 1 ludino.
  • edited November 2011
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarHa ha ha ha! Good one, Dave!
    Acronyms are infallible. Don't make me bust your bunker with my RPG...
  • Posted By: MartinBWe should do it the traditional way: Call it geme in the US and ludino in europe, with 1 geme = 2.8173424 ludinos.
    This is my preferred suggestion, since it creates the opportunity for trading in geme futures or ludinos derivatives, with the fate of roleplaying ultimately resting on a bailout of the ludino resulting from recklessly over-leveraging geme/ludinos both by the roleplaying industry and individual roleplayers. That is surely an outcome everyone can get behind!

    Also: I can't believe nobody has suggested the ludicrous as a unit of measurement.
  • Posted By: James MullenFinally then, what would be a good common name for the standard units of thingness in a game?
  • edited November 2011
    [cite]Posted By: Wordman[/cite]
    [cite]Posted By: James Mullen[/cite]Finally then, what would be a good common name for the standard units of thingness in a game?

    That would only be half of what a ludino represents, otherwise every story in the world would be a ludino sponge.

    Maybe we should play a storygame at the bottom of a deep mineshaft to see if we can detect any ludinos?
  • Mine shafts are real tests of group cohesion, and you have to be skinny to get down there. So don't bring any weakly interacting massive players with you.
  • Mr Berg? This is Colin Creitz, your attorney-at-lol? Yeah, bad news, your punning license is getting pulled. You're going to have to stick to put-ons and irony for six months until we can get a new hearing.
  • Dammit, man, what do I pay you for?! Can't you find a loophole? Maybe it doesn't count as a pun when it's an obscure science acronym...
  • edited November 2011
    I got you leniency. Right before your hearing, a guy got suspended for 5 years over a crack involving overcooked pasta and the Continuum Hypothesis. Six months is pretty good, given the way you tortured the entente prime.
  • One ludo, several ludos.

    A ludo (a play/move/action) is the standard measuring unit of a game. By counting ludos you may estimate game length and complexity. You may also measure complexity-waves/peaks by counting the variable frequency of ludos in a game or a game text.


    I don't know! Why did humans start counting in the first place?
  • edited November 2011
    This is a Ludo.
  • edited November 2011

    Ludo is latin, meaning to play, to sport, to cheat, etc. It is short, and related to the point, so I think it is a very nice term to use. Transforming it from a latin verb to a modern substantive is the little twinge it needs.

    (it is also a silly old board-game we used to play in my family's mountain cottage, much to my chagrin, as it was hard to loose)
  • What is the potential for change inherent in a single action?
Sign In or Register to comment.