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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: lumpley on August 06, 2001, 06:08:00 AM



Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 06, 2001, 06:08:00 AM
I'm new, but that doesn't stop me having crackpot theories.

The point of every game mechanic is to create consensus among the players.  Consensus is the underlying mechanism of roleplaying, right?  If the players don't agree that something happens, it doesn't happen.  

Most mechanics work by simply commanding consent.  They take the role of the impartial arbiter, whose decisions everybody agrees in advance to abide by, setting aside whatever immediate concerns we might have.  This is useful when normal everyday agreement is hard to come by.  We all have different levels at which we're comfortable with it, but it's clearly not the only or necessarily best way.

So as we're designing our games and we're looking at conventional mechanics, do we use them, do we toss them, we can ask questions like these:

What does the mechanic create consensus about?  What impediments to simple agreement are the mechanics there to address?  Are those impediments real?  Do the mechanics address them?  Is there a better way?

Let's take Experience Points.  EPs are about character development, naturally.  What might get in the way of the players simply agreeing about how their characters develop?  

Hardcore simulationism might, where they players want their characters' improvement to closely match real-life skill improvement.  EPs pretty clearly don't address that, so there's presumably a better way.  I'm sure that there are systems out there with plateau hopping and practice vs. real application differentials and so on.  It's not my thing and I'll leave it to the hardcore simulationists.

Competition might, where one player wants her character to improve more rapidly than the others.  EPs seem to address that, having the players agree in advance to what kinds of things improve their characters and how fast.  Is there a better way?  EPs generally a. actively reward certain kinds of actions or b. leave the rewards to the gm.  Some games that's fine, but I don't really like either.  I want character development to be in the hands of the player, where it belongs.  Is there a way to let the players develop their own characters that solves the problem of competition?

I think that there are.  I have some ideas.  But the point is that we can ask those sorts of questions about everything that all y'all came up with in the New Directions thread.  Stats and Skills, what impediments to consensus do they address?  Is there a better way for my game?  Having a GM, what impediments does it address?  Is there a better way for my game?  Meeting once a week, what impediments, is there a better way?

-lumpley


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on August 06, 2001, 07:50:00 AM
Quote

Having a GM, what impediments does it address? Is there a better way for my game?


This is an idea I have been toying with for some time now for a variety of reasons.  Namely, I have read many pieces of RPGs addressing or eluding to the search for "a decent GM"  This refers to the player(s) finding the sort of person willing and able to run an RPG and who does so to at least the minimal requirements of quality for those involved.  (This concept is open to debate, but I digress)

The fact of the matter is there are few people out there with the necessary qualities to run a game in the traditional sense.  SOme game place more control in the players hands, and GMing these games may be easier, but I digress again.

This means many gamers either go without a regular group because they cannot find a decent GM or, more likely, they're stuck with, in their opinion, a sub-par GM because they cannot find someone better.  It may be that they're unaware of this condition since they have reduced their expectations over time.

The idea of a GM-less game is appealing since it precludes the need for finding a decent GM.

Such games may also be a good place for budding GMs to practice their skills without having to take the plunge and start running a game outright (which IME has often gone bad or just stopped suddenly)  But then, is GM-less games may turn out to be fun in their own right and not just an incubator for budding GMs, who may never GM after playing such games.

There's also the common complaint among GMs that they never get to play anymore.

In any case, I think this is definately worth exploring further and may turn out to be a strong variety of RPG in it's own right.


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 06, 2001, 06:35:00 PM
pblock:

GM-less is the stuff.

You may have noticed, over in Actual Play, under Narrative Sharing, one of my co-GMs just started to talk about the GM-less game we've been playing.  Maybe we should join her there?

-lumpley



Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Emily Care on August 07, 2001, 05:18:00 AM
Hail Lumpley and Pblock,

You've made my day :smile:

I believe you've hit the nail on the head, pblock.  GMless games can, perhaps should, and it is to be hoped, will become an important strain of RPG in their own right.  

I, for some reason, was not thinking of them as GM-less, but GM-full.  Spreading he power out among all, rather than restricting it to one, and parceling it out to players in small doses.  Same bug different name.

But back to Lumpley's questions:

What problems in group concensus do various mechanics addess? (forgive my paraphrasing, Webtv is not so facile with this forum)


--Having a GM is like voting in a Dictator.  (Hail the conquering GM!) You do it to give everyone else a target for their projection of disbelief.  Hmmm..what do I mean by that.  Well, this goes back to my own somewhat heretical beliefs about mechanics and the use of dice.  

You see, I believe people use dice (and mechnics) to trick themselves into believeing something happened in game.  To suspend disbelief.  Hence, if you can do that on your own (ie without external mechanisms) and accept that others have the right/ability to do it also, then you can dispense with the formalities of mechanics.  

Call me crazy, it's okay. I have fun anyway.

So, as I see it the GM exists to allow the players to believe in the world.  Since they didn't think of it/aren't enforcing it, they are more apt to feel like it exists.  The GM is a covention RPG'rs as a group have adopted to allow playing worlds to be used and interacted with.  

The GM, in turn, is empowered by the mechanics, world background and other gaming materials to be found in gaming circles.    

Rant over.

On with the discussion....

Yours in progress,
Emily Care


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 07, 2001, 07:07:00 AM
Hi Emily,

Welcome to the Forge!

I like your term "GM-full" as opposed to GM-less, as the latter usually results in cacophony. Soap, Pantheon, Human Wreckage, and related games are described very well by your term.

Your suggestion about dice (Fortune methods in general) doesn't quite hit for me, though. It applies well to Fortune-at-the-end, which most RPGs employ, but not to Fortune-in-the-middle, in which the random element is not necessarily the final arbiter of what occurs. Hero Wars, Zero, Castle Falkenstein magic, and The Dying Earth all make use of this principle.

It's also fair to state that many folks LIKE Fortune to play the role you describe, such that moving the physics or processes of the game-world out of the hands of the actual people is a goal on its own. (Mike Holmes, did I state that correctly?) In other words, Fortune-driven Simulationist play is with us and shouldn't be marginalized.

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Le Joueur on August 07, 2001, 08:39:00 AM
Quote
pblock wrote:
Quote
Having a GM, what impediments does it address? Is there a better way for my game?
This is an idea I have been toying with for some time now for a variety of reasons.  Namely, I have read many pieces of RPGs addressing or eluding to the search for "a decent GM."

So have I, so have I....
 
Quote
This refers to the player(s) finding the sort of person willing and able to run an RPG and who does so to at least the minimal requirements of quality for those involved.  (This concept is open to debate, but I digress)

The fact of the matter is there are few people out there with the necessary qualities to run a game in the traditional sense.

While I like the idea of a gamemaster-free structure, I think the root problem here is the whole loss of decent ‘technique’ material from published products.

All I see are mechanics and world, mechanics and world; if I see another game that starts with ‘you should already know how to game...’ I will post a rant (well, guess what I saw at Gen Con).

I would like to see more games come out with a decent section on how you run a role-playing game (or play one for that matter).  So many times I see designers trying to create some mechanic or another to eliminate a problem that a traditionally ‘good’ gamemaster would handle without pause.  This frustrates me to no end.

I have every hope for this industry, but if we, as the independents, do nothing to enlarge the market, who will?  The big concerns have little interest in this kind of expansion of the market because their stockholders only care about selling product and proven market return.  The little concerns now seem to polarized by the latest moves of the bigger concerns into an ‘us versus them’ mentality that plays right into the big concerns’ pocket.  The retailers always love a new fad, but care little for supporting audiences as units (being too busy ‘just keeping a roof...’).

Where does that leave us?  We are the niche marketers; we should go for the gaps.  Do you realize if you create a product that becomes the new entry-level fad, everyone will think of your company as synonymous with gaming in general?  How’s that for success?  A game that teaches how to game can only ‘fill that gap.’  This is one of the concerns we address throughout the design of Scattershot.

What do you do about it?

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-07 17:51 ]


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 07, 2001, 10:06:00 AM
Fang,

The key is to write to one's peers in the text of the game, not to some mythical middle-class population who is supposed to bop themselves on the forehead and run off to role-play, having read this specific incarnation of the Cops & Robbers bullshit.

I've tried to do that in Chapters One and Four of Sorcerer, and to a very great extent in the two supplements for the game. John Wick does it too, in Orkworld, using example and conceptual "prods" rather than person-to-person instructions. Although I don't much like Zero's in-book starting scenario, I do think its section on theme and development of the setting through play is excellent.

It's especially hard to do because the philosophies and techniques of play rely on focus; they cannot be expanded outwards for all games and all players without moving into the social and the abstract (which is what GNS is for).

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Le Joueur on August 07, 2001, 01:57:00 PM
For me the key is to write for people who are going to love gaming as much as we do, but have not tried it yet.  I am not talking about watering down a product with plurality and soft-speak so that the mythical ‘masses’ will like it, I am talking about considering people who haven’t yet played.  At one point you’d never played a role-playing game, at one point I had never either.  Products that start out saying that the reader needs to already understand role-playing gaming, are not written for who we were back then.

I agree that the ‘Cops and Robbers’ guff has gone on long past its usefulness, but I like to think you can explain how to game without even mentioning it.  Like you say, it’s a matter of writing to one’s peers.  I happen to think writing only to the peers who already game is preaching to the choir.  Sooner or later you will find yourself alone unless you plan to replace those who die or leave with an aggressive breeding program.  (Don’t think I am not trying that too.)  Word of mouth and indoctrination can only work about so well.

I have skimmed Sorcerer and am quite impressed by your works towards my goal.  (Wick’s too, even without reading them.)  You do a good deal explaining the "how’s."  It is the bulk of the industry and indie game producers in general I am down on.

And I have to disagree about the issue of focus.  So what if you feel a game design needs focus?  Focus it, just make sure you explain how to play to those who will enjoy that focus once they get it even if they have never played before.  This tirade is not geared to the idea that one game can be all things to all people.  It is not even under the assumption that all people will like gaming if you write it ‘just so.’

I am merely saying that writing only to those who already play is choosing a peerage destined for extinction (or something nearly as obscure).

What is so wrong with a little technique instruction in with the mechanics and the setting?  (And Ron, since you are not guilty of this, you will have to defend some other position than your own if you choose to respond.)

Fang Langford


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Paul Czege on August 07, 2001, 04:00:00 PM
Hey Fang,

For me the key is to write for people who are going to love gaming as much as we do, but have not tried it yet....At one point you’d never played a role-playing game, at one point I had never either. Products that start out saying that the reader needs to already understand role-playing gaming, are not written for who we were back then.

I personally think this is a certainly ineffective tactic. I rarely run across a person who learned to game in isolation of more experienced gamers, and have never known one whose gaming continued to have its original character once exposed to a larger gaming community. You're an optimist in thinking that strongly influencing the originary gaming experience for someone will have a lifelong effect on the character of their gaming, so much so that when they're ultimately exposed to the larger gaming culture that it's the larger culture that will be changed for the better. I've never seen any evidence of this occurring. It always goes the other way.

But I can't agree more that the "cops and robbers" stuff is bullshit, and the absence of meaningful "how to understand roleplaying" text in a game is a disservice to gaming.

Like you say, it’s a matter of writing to one’s peers. I happen to think writing only to the peers who already game is preaching to the choir. Sooner or later you will find yourself alone unless you plan to replace those who die or leave with an aggressive breeding program.

The solution is to aggressively address the behaviors and skills of the experienced gamer. Because the naive gamer's instincts will certainly be conformed by exposure to the practices of the experienced. Let me give an example. The rules for SOAP make use of the term "secret" and describe how when your character's secret is revealed, only then can you die. Despite the fact that secrets are exposed in soap opera episodes with wild abandon, the average person fears having his personal secrets exposed, and fears death. I've seen a mixed group of experienced and inexperienced gamers playing SOAP default to a play style characterized by carefully protecting their secrets, rather than playing toward risky soap opera-esque drama, because the cautious and traditional immersive play style of the experienced gamers worked in conjunction with the personal fears of the inexperienced gamer to override her ideas about how a soap opera game should be. To the detriment of the game, it became the group's play style.

You have to address the psychology and learned skills that the gamer is bringing to the table. When you've opened doors for that gamer, their enthusiasm will carry out evangelism as a matter of consequence. The rpg-curious will flock about like moths drawn to a flame.

Paul


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 07, 2001, 06:12:00 PM
Ron says:
Quote
It's [that is, writing to one's peers in the text of the game is] especially hard to do because the philosophies and techniques of play rely on focus; they cannot be expanded outwards for all games and all players without moving into the social and the abstract (which is what GNS is for).


I think I'll cautiously disagree.

Certainly at the (theoretical, maybe mythical) extremes, what works for a gamist won't work for a narrativist won't work for a simulationist, but my instinct is that there's a lot of under-described common ground.

Every rpg is made out of narrative and description, for instance.  Give me new tools to make my descriptions bright, engaging and unexpected, and I'll use them, wherever I fall on the triangle.  Similarly that stuff I was saying about consensus at the top of the thread.  I want tools to help me and my players buy into the action and the setting.  I want stuff about when to hold power as a player and when to let it go, how to respect the other players' visions, how to apply mechanics in a smart and flexible way(1).

Anyway, that's what I look for in the How To Play chapter of every game I open(2).  It seems to me that focusing on How To Play A Simulationist Game, say, one might miss some cool stuff on How To Play.

I'm saving my pennies for Sorcerer, I haven't seen it yet, so this is in no way a substantive criticism.  It just seems to me is all.

--

(1) Which practically requires smart and flexible mechanics.

(2) Mostly of course the How to Play chapter says Don't Play Favorites and then launches into the EP mechanics, and still ends up half as long as the Kombat chapter.

-lumpley

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-08-07 22:13 ]


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Emily Care on August 08, 2001, 05:53:00 AM
Thanks for the welcome, Ron! I'm very glad to be reading/posting here.

Thoughts on enticing new players, and on innovative ways to use the "How-To Roleplay" section in a game to enhance group consensus:

Most of the RPGr's I know who have been seduced to the dark side--I mean started playing, have been introduced to it by a group of seasoned players.  Anecdotal evidence only, of course.  We need statistical data....However, everybody, including a seasoned GM etc, needs to start somewhere.  Or perhaps we have those charismatic geeks in junior high to thank for all of our delicious role playing experiences. Sandman got people reading comics who did not identify as comic-readers, but role-playing requires much more time, effort, people, courage etc. So, getting non-wierdstreamers into it is challenging.

Actually, GMless or multi-Gm'd games seem like a great way for inexperience groups of people to start playing.

--nobody has to be the brave one and GM

--people can stumble through together and have all the fun of both playing and GMing

--even if not everybody wants to GM, if it even becomes more acceptable for people to team-GM, I expect that the quest for a "good GM" would get easier.

Hmm. That has a great deal of appeal.  If more than one person GM'd as a matter of course, even aside from radically changing the player-GM relationship, then it would just make it easier.  

--the co-GM's could specialize (one loves to run combat, one loves to build world and do description)

--it would give more variety to NPC's and allow people to put more depth into them since their play would be spread out among more than one person.


Immediate problems I see with this are that the players might feel double- or triple-teamed.  I think that the traditional imbalance of power between players and GM (GM having all the power or most of it) would give many players the response of "Hey, it's bad enough that there's one of you!  Two GM's and we players are out of luck!"

Also, in a group of say 5 people gaming, once you have 3 GM's the other two players might not feel like it's worth playing since they are "alone."

In actual fact, in my initial roleplaying experiences with Sarah Kahn et al.  I was one of those "just a player" players playing with a group of (essentially or at least more so) co-GM's.  And my experience was that it was fantastic! Instead of having one person to query about the world and it's denizens, I had three or four. I love to have out of character discussions of world, and so I was in heaven.  It was like reading an interactive novel that I had the power to give input to by my questions or making suggestions.


Anyway, if we want to encourage gamers and non-gamers to play with a wider variety of GM-sets, then the "How -To Roleplay" section of a game is the natural place to start.

Suggestions I have for what might be helpful:

Guidelines for play rather than rules.

Explicit rather than implicit setting up of Group Contract of Play.  This could be a very convenient way for groups to rein in their GM-less/-full play.  And it shouldn't be set in stone: I always find that characters are different in play from how I've written/imagined them initially, the diference for a group's real contract of play would be exponentially greater.  But this would give people words to deal with issues like the one Josh (?) posted about in RPG theory where his leanings a a GM shifted mid-play bringing him into conflict with a player. It is to be hoped that the game would not devolve into endless sessions trying to work out the contract...

But in the group contract issues of Narrative/Gamist/Simulationist orientation could be addressed.  People could express interest in various different areas of mechanics support and enforcement, world development, inter-character conflict adjudication, snack bringing (and sundry metagame concerns), and plot development.  It need not be apportioned all at the start of the game, but bringing all of these issues and more up will be a good way to allow people to see what they might want to add.  

It occurs to me that the "perfect GM" is rare because so few people combine talent of all of the different areas needed to GM.  GMing collectively allows the group genius to rise up like cream from milk. :smile:

And, lastly, getting back to re-iterate some of my last post here, the single-GM paradigm which interestingly enough seems like one among _many_ choices to me now, rather than one of two or even three, does arise from gamers projecting power onto one member of the group.  Natural leaders, and excellent charismatic GM's are normal and wonderful additions to the universe.  It just does't _have_ to be that way, and there are great benefits to be found from moving away from the single paradigm the RPG world is exploring right now.

Yours in discovery,
Emily Care



Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Emily Care on August 08, 2001, 06:02:00 AM
Errata of my last post:

Paragraph 3:  "Most of the RPGr's" should read "Most of the nonRPGr's"


Last paragraph:  "single paradigm the RPG world" should read "single paradigm much of the RPG world"

Thank you.

Emily Care


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 08, 2001, 06:19:00 AM
Whew! Lots going on, on this already-diverse thread. Maybe we should splinter it into new ones ...

Anyway, not following my own suggestion, here are a couple thoughts. My apologies especially to Emily for not dealing with her post yet.

Fang,
I agree with you that gamers-to-gamers prose is a sure path to extinction. And I think we also agree that writing to someone who isn't going to be reading the book in the first place is absurd.

So that puts us all in a pickle - how to involve people who would LIKE role-playing, via the book's text?

My thought is this: that no one gets exposed to or interested in role-playing solely by reading a book. It's a socially-transmitted activity; one's friends invite one into it, and that's just about the only way. But once the book is cracked, there should be prose there that speaks to the person reading such stuff for the first time.

It's the kind of prose and point that makes sense to that person, and THEN, years later, STILL makes sense, after tons of role-playing experience.

And let's not forget one other thing: there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who WOULD like to role-play but have had bad experiences. They buy games and pore through them, wondering why they never seem to get a successful game together. The very same prose ought to grab them - hey! this book actually makes sense! - and contribute to some people actually enjoying their hobby.

So I agree with you that such sections should exist in role-playing games, but I am also thinking that the audience member is neither the total non-gamer nor the total gamer, but in between.

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Le Joueur on August 08, 2001, 06:21:00 AM
Quote
Paul Czege wrote:
Fang Langford wrote:

For me the key is to write for people who are going to love gaming as much as we do, but have not tried it yet....  At one point you’d never played a role-playing game, at one point I had never either. Products that start out saying that the reader needs to already understand role-playing gaming, are not written for who we were back then.


I personally think this is a certainly ineffective tactic. I rarely run across a person who learned to game in isolation of more experienced gamers,

You’re a luckier man than I.  From my roots in darkest, rural Minnesota (USA), I have met few others (excluding the conventions that I am lucky enough to attend).  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I think it might be too founded on observation.

Granted that what you have seen is true, but could that not be a result of those whom you haven’t seen (gamers who might have learned in isolation) having actually been so ‘turned off’ by the experience (in accords with my opinion of the materials so poorly written in their regard) that they never went on to be gamers?

People who fail to become gamers because of poorly written materials fall outside of your experience of gamers.  My idea is that some of them could have been reached; some of them really might have liked it (some of them, as our peers at the point of ‘yet to game,’ might have joined in).  I think forsaking these people is as bad an idea as thinking that a product does not need shelf appeal.

Quote
and have never known one whose gaming continued to have its original character once exposed to a larger gaming community.

I am not sure how this is relevant to my point.  If gaming never ‘takes’ with someone in the absence of "a larger gaming community," it seems pointless to think about how the character of their gaming continues.

Quote
You're an optimist in thinking that strongly influencing the originary gaming experience for someone will have a lifelong effect on the character of their gaming, so much so that when they're ultimately exposed to the larger gaming culture that it's the larger culture that will be changed for the better.

That is probably quite true.  Forgive me for engaging in hyperbole and propaganda, it is just that it bugs me that writers these days think they can casually hand-wave off potential customers, assuming that indoctrination will be a ‘good enough’ market expansion tool.

I didn’t realize I had suggested that the larger culture would be changed.  This was never my intention.  (Well, except that a larger, larger culture might be better for all the publishers.)

And on the point of "originary" experiences, in your experience, how many people never harken back to the ‘good olde days’ when they had just started out gaming?

(Besides, I am convinced, to paraphrase, that optimism will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no optimism.)

Quote
I've never seen any evidence of this occurring. It always goes the other way.

Yes, that’s right, once a person begins gaming!  What I am really saying, outside of the hyperbole, is that I think the products themselves should be geared to expand the market in the absence of "a larger gaming community."  It only make sense to me that if you have two groups of people, one with access to "a larger gaming community" and one without, that writing something that appeals to both gives you a larger audience.  A larger audience is a wider group who might partake of your product and that by writing only to those with access to "a larger gaming community" you foolishly limit your exposure.

That I resorted to hyperbole and propaganda is very poorly done of me, but you might understand the underlying sentiment that motivated it.

Quote
But I can't agree more that the "cops and robbers" stuff is [expletive deleted], and the absence of meaningful "how to understand roleplaying" text in a game is a disservice to gaming.

Well said!

Quote
Fang continues:
Like you say, it’s a matter of writing to one’s peers. I happen to think writing only to the peers who already game is preaching to the choir. Sooner or later you will find yourself alone unless you plan to replace those who die or leave with an aggressive breeding program.

The solution is to aggressively address the behaviors and skills of the experienced gamer.

And I heartily disagree.  Fanning the flames only spends the fuel faster.  I believe that ‘fresh kindling’ is being too frequently overlooked.  Besides, as a designer and writer, I have less chance intentionally increasing the conflagration than I do igniting new combustion.

Quote
Because the naive gamer's instincts will certainly be conformed by exposure to the practices of the experienced.

Not if they don’t ever start gaming!  (But I sense you are getting away from my point.)

Quote
You have to address the psychology and learned skills that the gamer is bringing to the table. When you've opened doors for that gamer, their enthusiasm will carry out evangelism as a matter of consequence. The rpg-curious will flock about like moths drawn to a flame.

Now it is my turn to ring the ‘optimist’ bell.  If you think that all that "evangelism" would do as well as the same "evangelism" plus print-based indoctrination (sort of self-indoctrination using printed materials), then you must believe that making games for the uninitiated is completely pointless.

In that case we fundamentally disagree and neither of our opinions is likely to change.  And I can agree to that, can you?

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-08 10:53 ]


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 08, 2001, 07:03:00 AM
Lumpley,

I agree with you that there is a shared role-playing "oomph" that underlies all of GNS; in fact, I've appropriated the term "Exploration" from other RPG theorists to describe it because all definitions I've read of Exploration seem to fit.

My only problem with using Exploration for an explanation is that it has no goals. In my experience, when people look for a definition, what they REALLY look for is a guide to behavior or at least to starting behavior. So my current thought is for a game designer/author to understand his or her own GNS focus (which includes some combinations) and explain THAT clearly and in an inspiring way.

Fang & Paul,
I'm not sure we're getting too far with the current tug of war, and I *am* pretty sure that the rhetoric is overtaking the points. Your call, but I'm willing to drop it.

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Le Joueur on August 08, 2001, 07:34:00 AM
I know I promised to not quote your words to pick them apart, but in this case I must make an exception.

Quote
Ron Edwards wrote:
How to involve people who would LIKE role-playing, via the book's text?

My thought is this: that no one gets exposed to or interested in role-playing solely by reading a book. It's a socially-transmitted activity; one's friends invite one into it, and that's just about the only way. But once the book is cracked, there should be prose there that speaks to the person reading such stuff for the first time.

It's the kind of prose and point that makes sense to that person, and THEN, years later, STILL makes sense, after tons of role-playing experience.

And let's not forget one other thing: there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who WOULD like to role-play but have had bad experiences. They buy games and pore through them, wondering why they never seem to get a successful game together. The very same prose ought to grab them - hey! this book actually makes sense! - and contribute to some people actually enjoying their hobby.

So I agree with you that such sections should exist in role-playing games, but I am also thinking that the audience member is neither the total non-gamer nor the total gamer, but in between.


Sir, my hat is once again off to you.  In five short paragraphs you have summed up, succinctly, the design philosophy we are employing for Scattershot.  (My primary error of expression is the assumption that the book would be in the hands of someone who shows no interest in gaming; you’re right, that’s absurd.)

I especially like your comment about the once and future relevance of the prose.  That is the challenge, isn’t it?  I thank you for the inspiring text.

Fang Langford


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 08, 2001, 10:23:00 AM
Thanks, Fang. I occasionally manage to get all points of my mind aligned properly. Too bad we didn't get any time to hang out at GenCon.

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Doc Midnight on August 08, 2001, 04:52:00 PM
Okay, Emily:

I am all over the idea of GM-full gameing experiences. My goal is to make my group with consists of The G, N, and S types not notice the difference.

Some players need to believe that the ideas must flow from somewhere else and therefore a light must strike them on the day they are ready to take the reins and become the little shrivled up man in the red robes.

I have nothing but love for the writers with enough vision to share and the charisma to get people to follow it though.

Fang:

If you have a way to get John and Joan Filo-Fax into a game store to LEARN about what the funyon generation have been doing in the basement all these years, I'm all ears my friend.

There are ways to market games and as you think about those games, think about how the mainstream find the products they do buy. MTG expanded a market and they didn't do it with so called mainstreamers either.

There is a chance that a number one draft pick stayed off the streets because he needed to get more XPs for his Ranger/Assassin but that's less likely than him just playing NBA street alot.

On a more grass roots level, If every gamer could get one non gamer to join a session once in a while instead of well...not, then that would be market expansion.

That would even be the market that could buy into GM-full gaming experiences too (pulling it all together Ron).

Gaming traditionalists will not become extinct anymore than people have run away from baseball since inter league play.  Gaming traditionalists could do a bit more to NOT seem like the secret society who wants the mainstream to respect what it does so badly.

Now get out there and lets get that chick with the kate Spade Bag into the Games Joint and hope she doesn't chip a nail and sue.

Doc Midnight


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Le Joueur on August 09, 2001, 07:21:00 AM
Quote
Doc Midnight wrote:
If you have a way to get John and Joan Filo-Fax into a game store to LEARN about what the funyon generation have been doing in the basement all these years, I'm all ears my friend.

Okay, back in the day, this occurred to us: make a Goosebumps role-playing game and package it so that the retailer (I have worked in those trenches) would just as likely put it on the ‘Goosebumps’ shelf as relegating it to the hinterlands of the gaming section.  Provocative enough, it might go home with the readers; this is the kind of exposure I think you mean.

Let me take a moment and honor the licensees who went before us.  Great job!  You open new realms in role-playing game design.  My hat is off to you, gentlemen.  [No sarcasm intended-ed.]

Unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, they did it backwards.  It was great how they brought licensed product to the customers of our industry, but that means they were targeting a market inherently smaller than that we already have.  My feeling is they missed a great opportunity to instead take role-playing games to people who were fans of the licenses and expose them to role-playing gaming (all without alienating current gamers).

Quote
There are ways to market games and as you think about those games, think about how the mainstream finds the products they do buy.

I have and I do.  I worked 6 years in a bookstore chain (that also anchored the local gaming community’s product needs) in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area, so I have some networking in this area.  Having racked all kinds of printed product, I have some experience with how displaying and ordering work outside of ‘gaming stores’ (which are incredibly rare outside of metropolitan areas, like the rural area I grew up).

This is why I say that the presentation of games like Ghostbusters and Men In Black missed the boat.  Their format almost guaranteed they were racked with games only.  What a loss.  Properly, I think they ought to have considered pursuing formats that rack easily with any other products a consumer might be seeking in the sections their licenser’s products would be in.

Not only that, but the choice of license has been characteristically geared primarily towards people who already game.  As my example above, the Goosebumps market was wide open.  Not only would such a product have been a great entry point for people who had never gamed, but also, at its height, bookstores were ordering anything they could get their hands on with the Goosebumps brand on it.  Truly this is where commercial success lay, selling it to the retailers.

Now I am all for profit-taking, but I think a well-written general system buried inside a Goosebumps game would be an excellent vector to flood our market with ‘new blood.’  Another example of an ‘untapped market’ lie right in our own back yard, collectible card games.

Certainly you see plenty of collectors at gaming conventions, but how many have you asked if they role-playing gamed?  The first and second year Magic the Gathering hit, that was all I did at Gen Con, and you know what?  Virtually every one of them under the age of 25 had never done it, nor even considered it.  What does that say to me?  "Where is the crossover product?  Where is the collectible card game that is both fun to play and forms a perfectly transparent gateway to role-playing games?"

It might not work, but according to all the game designer displays I have seen at Gen Con then and since, it has not been even tried.  Oh sure, there are plenty of role-playing games that have cards in them now, but that’s backward.  What I am suggesting is a stand-alone card game that provides the ‘on ramp’ to role-playing games.  Since the chain I worked for were three-in-one stores (baseball cards, magazines, and books, in that order at thirteen locations), I also have some grounding in the marketing of collectible cards.

Take my word for it, Magic the Gathering players were buying anything with the imprint; a role-playing game would have gotten huge exposure.  (My opinion is also that such a game would have to more reflect personal-level role-playing otherwise the difference when shifting over might alienate the potential market, but I digress.)

Quote
MTG expanded a market and they didn't do it with so called mainstreamers either.

They didn’t expand a market; they created one.  The pocket card game market never had collectibles, and collectible cards never really were games.  They tapped not only into role-playing game players as a market, but the venture capitol investors of the collectibles market too; that it hit as a fad amongst school-aged kids who couldn’t afford Gameboys was just gravy.

Here is what I saw; while gamers may have been the market in the beginning, the reason it really took off was because of all the non-gamers attracted to it.  As a matter of fact, I would say after the second year, gamers had divided into two camps, Magic players and Magic snobs.  The gamer/Magic player made up less than a third of the collectible card game market at that time.  While this is anecdotal, I think it still says something potent.

Quote
On a more grass roots level, If every gamer could get one non-gamer to join a session once in a while instead of well...not, then that would be market expansion.

Only if they sold the non-gamer our products.  If every Magic the Gathering player was continually exposed to 1) ads for related role-playing games and 2) the fact that (in this hypothetical example) Magic the Gathering was just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and that only one product away was that viscerally involving feeling of the emotional investment of playing the character who they were in the card game, I think that could only lead to market expansion.

And if, right next to the Goosebumps novels (that arguably succeeded because they were also written about people fitting the demographic of the audience), there was a game where you could actually take on the role of one of the heroes or heroines in stories just like in the novels (this being even more engaging than ‘just reading about it’), I can only believe that it would result in market expansion.

As a game publisher (not as a designer), the idea that in both these cases the product has already been shipped and paid for, cannot lack appeal.  So what happened?  Where am I missing something in my ratiocination?  Or am I onto something here?

Quote
That would even be the market that could buy into GM-full gaming experiences too (pulling it all together Ron).

Eventually, exactly!

Quote
Gaming traditionalists will not become extinct anymore than people have run away from baseball since inter-league play.

This is a poor analogy because there are no professionally played, televised, role-playing game events.  Let’s instead talk curling.  They struggle constantly for exposure first and indoctrination later.  Shouldn’t our metaphor match that?

Fang Langford

(Whose really getting up a ‘head of steam’ to sit down and pull together a first rough draft.  Pardon the passion.)

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-09 11:26 ]


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 09, 2001, 07:43:00 AM
Damn, I don't know if I'm EVER going to get to Emily's topic ...

Fang,
My concern about licensing and topic-crossover comes from comics. The observation there: although comics fans will run out to see (say) the Barb Wire movie, moviegoers will not swarm into the stores to buy Barb Wire comics.

Substitute any title you please and it still applies. The flow is one-way, in the service of the film/TV medium.

(Those of you who are saying, "Hey, Ron's channelling Dave Sim," are sort of right. However, I arrived at this view prior to his famous essay on the topic, and there are some differences between our views. He blew my mind with several points and went waaay-strange with a couple of others.)

That's why I've never been optimistic about licensing with RPGs. Start with a non-RPG topic and make a game - it didn't work with Xena and it didn't work with Star Trek (it KIND of works with Star Wars). Go the other way, start with an RPG topic and make a movie - it didn't work with D&D.

Now granted, there are many other variables at work here. One might say that we have yet to see a really excellent RPG and a really excellent fan-based topic come together, and if THAT happened, the attraction-effect would occur. However, I'll cite Cthulhu, the aforementioned Star Wars in its original design, and Pendragon. Coherent, fascinating, exciting games, highly tuned to the priorities of those who find the topics themselves interesting outside of gaming. Yet these fine examples did NOT bring people of the fan-persuasion swarming into gaming.

You see, the hell of it is that I have found RPGing to be EXACTLY like comics in terms of attracting or interesting people - it can happen! Many people who either poo-poo the medium or hadn't really thought about it DO turn out to like it, a lot. If they are exposed to it properly. However, I've always had to provide effective introductions verbally because the games themselves (God knows) did not. I applaud Fang's effort to change this problem.

It's just that licensing and topic-crossover isn't my pick for the means to do it.

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Le Joueur on August 09, 2001, 09:17:00 AM
With respect Ron, I think the movies-to-comics comparison is poor in one regard.  The membrane between them is substantial.  In this vector, a moviegoer must travel to a separate location and seek out a product in an obscure situation (not being comic book fans they don’t likely know where to get something that was as ‘independent’ as Dark Horse’s Barb Wire at that time).

What I am talking about is getting onto the same shelf with a product of nearly the same media.  Not film to graphic art, but print to print, right on the same shelf in the same store they are already shopping in, right with the product they came looking for in the first place.  (To repair the analogy, this would be the movie theatre selling videos of the television series based on the movie at a price comparable to the ticket price.)  This is a much ‘thinner membrane’ and I have seen this kind of product ‘bleed over’ sales.

(As a side note, with the Barb Wire reference, I don’t really think there was ‘flow’ either way.  Arguably, it was mostly a vehicle for the starlet and ‘flowed’ both ways in that regard.)

As for your examples, Xena and Star Trek are again things that already score heavily into the gaming audience.  As far as I have seen, both of those products were marketed to that audience almost exclusively.  The reason Star Wars is potentially a counter-example is because it quickly got racked with most of the Star Wars art books, being relatively the same size.  Unfortunately it didn’t ring terribly well as a Star Wars product and wound up failing to attract enough market on the follow through products (apparently this and the licensing costs weakened the company noticeably).  (Who was Pendragon marketed to, outside of gaming?)

Likewise, I am not talking about swarms of people.  Is it really necessary to grow the market 10% or more?  I would be satisfied with 2% (especially if it were my products).  Heck, if you want a movie example, let’s talk about the huge sales spike for orange-box Dungeons & Dragons, following the release of E.T. the Extraterrestrial (or Reese’s Pieces for that matter), and that’s just product placement.

Ron, allow me one quote, if you please.
"I've always had to provide effective introductions verbally because the games themselves (God knows) did not."

And that’s what I am talking about changing.

Fang Langford


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 09, 2001, 09:29:00 AM
Fang,

OK, I do see your proposed tactic of "print with print" as a viable and untried option. I also agree with your philosophy of "any positive gain is positive gain." That all flies well with me, and I think your counterarguments have dealt well with my suspicions and fears.

You know, it's perfectly OK to quote me ... my objection is to the line-by-line dissection of posts that fails to address the overall argument ... but I suspect you know this and are enjoying yanking my chain a little.

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 09, 2001, 12:30:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-08-07 11:07, Ron Edwards wrote:

It's also fair to state that many folks LIKE Fortune to play the role you describe, such that moving the physics or processes of the game-world out of the hands of the actual people is a goal on its own. (Mike Holmes, did I state that correctly?) In other words, Fortune-driven Simulationist play is with us and shouldn't be marginalized.

Best,
Ron


[Mike, donning hat of resident Simulationist proponent]

Ah, yes, Ron, very much so. Thank you.

Consider this. Hiesenbergs Uncertainty Principle tells us, essentially, that the universe has some random elements. If my Role-Playing universe is at all simulative of the real one, I would be doing it a disservice by ignoring Herr Hisenberg. God may not play at dice, but he allows the universe to.  :wink:

We've even had some discussion of late of moving even more stuff out of player control to simulate things more precisely. The whole debate on whether or not it makes sense to be able to control fear or any strong emotion can be taken to the extent that one might take away player control of these aspects of the game. Its an interesting line that many games draw. Few players have a problem with the idea that they can't control, say, their shock reaction to injuries. But this is a mental process to an extent. The sanity rules in CoC are seen as a good addition to that game by many, as is the madness meter of UA. Where do you draw the line?

Pendragon takes away much of the character's control as far as the passions and virtues go. CRPGs take even more than that away at times, even limiting what your character is allowed to say in certain situations. The problem with this in simulation is that the more you try to control with mechanics, the more the fallacy that certain things can be simulated well may slip in. This is why CRGPs are not particularly "realistic" as compared to tabletop where character dialog (amongst other things) is concerned.

I'd suggest that Simulationists are usually looking for that
fine line that gives the players power to simulate what they can do well, and give the game the power to simulate all else. The line is traditionally drawn at the decisions of a single character because this is similar to our own control of ourselves in RL. This is one of the appeals of LARP for many, that you even get to simulate (act) the role of a character including dress, movements and mannerisms.

For certain specific simulations the system may be able to do better than the player. I think that Pendragon does this very well using the passions and virtue mechanics. The stories produced seem to my mind to simulate Authurian Legend pretty well. I think that people have made RPGs about being insane, which would certainly require mechanics for controling either your behavior or perceptions to become an accurate simulation.

A lot depends on how specific your simulation is as to what it regards. Many intend to be able to handle anything in a generic form, and do so only so well, therefore. Not to say that a game like GURPS does a terrible job, in fact I find it perfectly acceptable, overall. However it won't do Arthurian Legend as well as Pendragon specifically because its rules aren't as limiting as those in Pendragon.

My appologies, we now return you to your regularly scheduled thread.

Mike Holmes


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 09, 2001, 12:43:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-08-09 11:21, Le Joueur wrote:
-snip-

Oh sure, there are plenty of role-playing games that have cards in them now, but that’s backward.  What I am suggesting is a stand-alone card game that provides the ‘on ramp’ to role-playing games.

-snip-

As a game publisher (not as a designer), the idea that in both these cases the product has already been shipped and paid for, cannot lack appeal.  So what happened?  Where am I missing something in my ratiocination?  Or am I onto something here?



I think that you are onto something (though it might be a little late). I've been toying with this idea for the longest time now, as well. Even worked up some ideas. Need a collaborator?

I've always meant to look into Dragon Storm. Isn't that exactally what we're talking about here? Maybe it's poorly executed or something. Anybody know details? I've always theought that the Middle Earth CCG was close to being an RPG engine as well.

Quote

(My opinion is also that such a game would have to more reflect personal-level role-playing otherwise the difference when shifting over might alienate the potential market, but I digress.)


What did you mean by that comment?

Mike Holmes


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 09, 2001, 01:01:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-08-06 10:08, lumpley wrote:
What impediments to simple agreement are the mechanics there to address?  Are those impediments real?  Do the mechanics address them?  Is there a better way?

-Snip-

I think that there are.  I have some ideas.  But the point is that we can ask those sorts of questions about everything that all y'all came up with in the New Directions thread.  Stats and Skills, what impediments to consensus do they address?  Is there a better way for my game?  Having a GM, what impediments does it address?  Is there a better way for my game?  Meeting once a week, what impediments, is there a better way?

-lumpley


Good post. I think that you have hit on something there, in general. We could all just go out and Collabotratively Storytell with no rules. For every rule you add, ask yourself, how does this improve on Collaborative Storytelling? This works from a Narrativist POV especially well, because the forms approach each other in ways.

For Gamism, I'd say that the rules are the point. Without them there is no judging quality, success, failure, and the other sorts of things that deal with challenges which interest Gamists. For Simulationists, the rules are what compose the simulation, they provide the framework on which to rest suspension of disbelief in something external. For Narrativists, its a framework for propelling the development of stories, having a starting point.

All IMHO.

So to what extent do particular rules do these things, and improve on our neighboring form, Interactive Storytelling?

Neat question.

Mike Holmes


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Le Joueur on August 10, 2001, 05:47:00 AM
Quote
Mike Holmes wrote:
Quote
Le Joueur wrote:
Oh sure, there are plenty of role-playing games that have cards in them now, but that’s backward.  What I am suggesting is a stand-alone card game that provides the ‘on ramp’ to role-playing games.

-snip-

As a game publisher (not as a designer), the idea that in both these cases the product has already been shipped and paid for, cannot lack appeal.  So what happened?  Where am I missing something in my ratiocination?  Or am I onto something here?

I think that you are onto something (though it might be a little late).

It’s never too late for a really good idea.

Quote
I've been toying with this idea for the longest time now, as well. Even worked up some ideas. Need a collaborator?

Yes and no.  I really need a lot of help getting the motor running, but I can’t really spare any ‘design space’ (that’s pretty much locked up).  That is to say, I need a lot of feedback, but can’t afford any input.  No, that still doesn’t make sense (we have a complete card game mechanic without any specific cards yet).  How about helping playtest the thing?  (We can go into details privately.)

Quote
I've always meant to look into Dragon Storm. Isn't that exactly what we're talking about here? Maybe it's poorly executed or something. Anybody know details? I've always thought that the Middle Earth CCG was close to being an RPG engine as well.

Actually, to do it the way I am thinking, the card game in question cannot be a role-playing game.  It really must stand alone and have no requirement for role-playing on the part of the participants.

Quote
Quote
(My opinion is also that such a game would have to more reflect personal-level role-playing otherwise the difference when shifting over might alienate the potential market, but I digress.)

What did you mean by that comment?

Unlike Magic: the Gathering or Illuminati, the player should have more of a one-to-one relationship with their ‘playing token.’  None of this, you’re an immensely powerful mage draining real estate for power or you run an incredibly secret cabal of illuminati stuff.  I believe its gotta be ‘you versus...’ in a fashion that leads eventually to thinking outside the cards to things like, ‘well if it were me....’

Then we can hit them with ‘Want more?’ and get them in at the low end of role-playing games.  I guess it might parallel the original transition from Chainmail to Dungeons & Dragons somewhat.  First you get them playing the genre on a personal level, playing on their emotional investment in their character (as represented by their deck), then hit them with the role-playing possibilities.

Just a thought though.

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-08-10 09:57 ]


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 10, 2001, 11:05:00 AM
Mike Holmes says:
Quote
Neat question.

Why thanks.  One tries.  :smile:
Quote

For Gamism, I'd say that the rules are the point. Without them there is no judging quality, success, failure, and the other sorts of things that deal with challenges which interest Gamists. For Simulationists, the rules are what compose the simulation, they provide the framework on which to rest suspension of disbelief in something external. For Narrativists, its a framework for propelling the development of stories, having a starting point.

All IMHO.

So to what extent do particular rules do these things, and improve on our neighboring form, Interactive Storytelling?


Precisely.  Although as a non-buyer-into of the GNS, I don't immediately jump to "How does this rule support a gamist (or whichever) game?"  I'd rather start with "How does this rule help the players respect one another's visions?" or "How does this rule help make settings/characters/events new and interesting?" and as an absolute minimum "Is this rule smart and flexible?"  

(After all, no matter how well a set of rules supports e.g. gamist play, if it interferes with the players' investment in the action and setting or if it sabotages description or if it's stupid and rigid, the kind of play it really supports is: lame.)

But, again as a non-buyer-into, I have some questions for you.  (And for anybody else who's reading, but I'm quoting you, so.)  I'm trying to locate myself on the triangle.  This may not be the best place, but, well, here we are.  

As you say, simulationists prefer/need an external something to hang suspension of disbelief on, and gamists prefer/need an impartial judge of success, failure, quality, etc., yes?  Does that mean that mechanics -less to -light folks are generally a. not simulationists or gamists (i.e. they're narrativists) or b. poor simulationists or gamists?

For the longest time the damage system I used for every game was my partner, an EMT.  I'd say, here's what happens, what's the effect? and she'd tell me, and that's what I'd go with.  She was always also a player in the game.  Simulationist?  Narrativist?

Because frankly I don't give a bean for story, I want a game where what probably would happen probably happens and it's interesting.  But I play a shared-gm, rules-light, description-based (as opposed to quantified) diceless game.

What's up with that?  Am I broken?

-lumpley

(Just in case: :smile:)



Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: greyorm on August 10, 2001, 12:05:00 PM
Quote

I want a game where what probably would happen probably happens

Classical Simulationist, IMO.


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 10, 2001, 05:47:00 PM
With a healthy dose of gamism ("...and it's interesting") is how I see myself too.

No problem reconciling that with mechanics-light diceless etc.?  No need for an external framework on which to suspend disbelief?

Cool.  I'm fine with that.

-lumpley



Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Tim C Koppang on August 10, 2001, 07:55:00 PM
Quote
As you say, simulationists prefer/need an external something to hang suspension of disbelief on, and gamists prefer/need an impartial judge of success, failure, quality, etc., yes?  Does that mean that mechanics -less to -light folks are generally a. not simulationists or gamists (i.e. they're narrativists) or b. poor simulationists or gamists?


Before I get way off topic (this probably belongs in the GNS forum but hey what the hell?), I'd like to ask why the GNS model immediately assumes that certain rule-heavy/rules-light systems are atttached to the three points of the triangle?  From my understanding, and I should tell you that I prefer the GENder model, a position on the triangle gives you a goal.  Do GNS goals automatically dictate a style of rules for you?  From the sounds of it yes, but why can't a simulationist be happy with a rules-light system?  If the GM fiate is accurate to the setting's reality, then set in stone rules shouldn't matter.  The simulationist's goal, to play an accurate representation of reality, has been accomplished - or is there something more to his goal?

As a side note, this is my problem with GNS: it relies too heavily on the relationship between the RPG system and the player.  Rules are a tool to allow a gamer to accomplish his goals, not part of the goal itself.

It think I'm going to browse the GNS forum now.

_________________
- Tim C K

[ This Message was edited by: fleetingGlow on 2001-08-10 23:56 ]


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 10, 2001, 11:06:00 PM
Folks,

The GNS model does not suggest that Simulationist play is necessarily associated with "rules-heavy" system design.

To the contrary, it suggests that Simulationist play is represented across a wide spectrum of "rules-density," from the detailed causal mechanics of RuneQuest to the nearly-rules-less Elayjitist play style.

The final paragraphs in the "System Does Matter" essay explicitly state that rules-light vs. rules-heavy is not related to GNS discussion.

Best,
Ron


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 11, 2001, 04:18:00 AM
I think I'll post my followup to this part of the thread over in GNS.  See you there!

Mm, later, unfortunately.  Gotta go bathe the kid.

Oh but meanwhile, where can I find more about Elayjitism?  I've seen y'all refer to it but I've no clue what it is.

-lumpley

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-08-11 08:22 ]

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-08-11 09:10 ]


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 11, 2001, 08:49:00 AM
I've been thinking hard and I changed my mind.  Turns out I don't have much more to say about the GNS, and the last thing we need is a thread about me disagreeing about how y'all may possibly have characterized a description of the way I play that I don't even 100% identify with.  I mean, please.  I think my Crackpot persona was slipping and revealing the Whiney Belligerent Dogmatic Gimboid underneath.

But I'm still curious about Elayjitism.  Can somebody help me out?

-lumpley




Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on August 12, 2001, 03:47:00 AM
http://live.roolipeli.net/turku/school/

That should do it - the uh, absolutism and arrogance displayed at the site left me laughing at this notion for a long time, but as I've come to understand the desires and motivations of its' practioners better, I've realized they've got a really HARD problem, so maybe the Elaytijist stuff ain't completely wacko.  It's not for me, but if your into that kinda thing, it might help.

Gordon C. Landis


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 12, 2001, 06:38:00 AM
Huh.  Well, I'm all for confronting people and being in their faces and all, but it seems to me that a sense of humor can sometimes help.

What's the hard problem they've got?  I didn't spot it in my casual read-through.

And I understand now why more people call it 'the E-thing' than its name.

Thanks for the link.

-lumpley


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on August 12, 2001, 07:52:00 AM
boyoboy

I, too, have only casually glaced at the Turku's Manifest and gawd!

I state this much to be fair but now to be unfair:

I sounds like the Turku School take themselves and their games very, very seriously.  And that's fine, although I have to wonder where the fun is, but that's just me.

It also sounds like a lot of work.  With so much effort being presented, I have to ask what do you get out of it?

This is something that goes along with the whole GNS model and it should probably go there.

In fact, it will go there.

Later.


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Emily Care on August 12, 2001, 06:28:00 PM
There is a phrase I've heard recently:

Before speaking, consider is words are an improvement over silence.

I was reminded of that by the discussion of the use of mechanics, and the comparison with Group Storytelling. If you don't need a mechanic, don't use it.

That's how I feel, too. But in many ways I'm a lazy GM, or at least I would be in some circles. The folks I co-gm with think I'm pulling my weight.

Back to the original question:
When does a mechanic support SOD/help overcome a breakdown in concensus?
When doesn't it?

A classic example for me of mechanics that always break down my SOD are attribute purchasing lists.  I know the lists are there to help me think up neato keen things for me character to be/be able to do. But I always find myself buying an Eidetic Albino with Perfect Timing and Absolute direction. (Yes, I really did this, actually I don't remember if she had timing _and_ direction) Drives me nuts, and I know it's my own darn fault, but I often find that skill lists block my creative juices when I'm character building, rather than helping them flow.

Emily Care




Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on August 12, 2001, 09:41:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-08-12 10:38, lumpley wrote:
What's the hard problem they've got?  I didn't spot it in my casual read-through.


The "problem" *I* see (it wouldn't be phrased this way on their site, if it's there at all - it occured to me in the context of GNS discssions here) is that they desire a "pure" simulation, and "complete" immersion.  That's tough to pull off.


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: contracycle on August 13, 2001, 01:40:00 AM
All in all, it does seem like to much work.  And possibly flawed in conception, but thats another argument.


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Logan on August 13, 2001, 05:55:00 AM
Hey, Gordon,

I think the way I'd put it is "Immersion to the exclusion of all else." But there is one thing that's weird about their doctrine. While they seem to be all about being the character, they also talk about supporting the GM in achieving the GM's goal for the game. Seems to me, these 2 stated goals might sometimes cause a contradiction.

Logan


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Logan on August 13, 2001, 06:43:00 AM
There are a couple things I wanted to add to the discussion about games with a distributed GM arrangement. It seems to me, the idea works very well for a game like Soap. The premise is such that the resulting chaos from allowing everyone to have a pretty free hand in saying what happens just adds to the fun. I'm not certain how well such a free arrangement works with more serious subject matter.

I also must respectfully disagree with the notion that the GM is some sort of elected dictator. Certainly, some GMs may treat the role as such, but sometimes that is exactly what the players want and expect. Different social contracts for different groups. Some GMs simply end up with the job because no one else wants it or because that person is the one with the greatest desire to make the games happen.

Give the GM some credit. Seems to me that most games demand the GM to make a pretty steep commitment in time in order to run a game. Most RPGs are rather heavy games. They have a lot of rules, a lot of bookkeeping, and require a lot of work to set up adventures. It takes a certain kind of person to willingly deal with that. Yet, the real world has its own demands. The time to do all that and a person's willingness to put in the time often fades as the roleplayer gets older.

In practice, having a GM as moderator, peacemaker, and final arbiter can help keep the attention centered on the game. From a certain point of view, the GM can set the tone. Finally, not all GMs act as dictators. Ron and I have been talking recently about the role of GM as facilitator. We pretty much reached the same conclusion by independent means.

Ron and I both think that author/director power for the players is a very good thing. For it to work, the GM has to give up a lot of his power as, umn, dictator, and give the players freedom to take the game where they want to go with it. The GM still has input, but it's a very democratic approach to running a game. The primary benefit there is that the GM can still remain detached and help keep the game from degenerating into chaos or silliness. He can also run the game more loosely, reducing his preparation time and increasing everyone's enjoyment of the game.

Logan


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: lumpley on August 13, 2001, 12:19:00 PM
Logan says:
Quote
It seems to me, the idea [of a distributed GM arrangement] works very well for a game like Soap. The premise is such that the resulting chaos from allowing everyone to have a pretty free hand in saying what happens just adds to the fun. I'm not certain how well such a free arrangement works with more serious subject matter.


Well, I don't know a better way to play Ars Magica, and it's relatively serious.

There are some games that I can't imagine sharing GM power/responsibility in.  A Spend the Night in a Haunted House game, for instance.  There, I'd want a tight, taut, bounded game, thematically consistent, focused, with only one person's sense of timing.

But a big, sprawling, long-term game like Ars Magica, as long as all the GMs like the game, it'll work fine.  Giving everybody free reign makes the game diverse and rich, not (merely) chaotic.

Quote
Ron and I both think that author/director power for the players is a very good thing. For it to work, the GM has to give up a lot of his power as, umn, dictator, and give the players freedom to take the game where they want to go with it. The GM still has input, but it's a very democratic approach to running a game. The primary benefit there is that the GM can still remain detached and help keep the game from degenerating into chaos or silliness. He can also run the game more loosely, reducing his preparation time and increasing everyone's enjoyment of the game.


I see it as a continuum.  At one end you have what the E-thing-people do, where the only right of the player is to play the character and every every EVERY thing else belongs to the GM.  At the other you have what Meg and Emily and I are doing, where there is nobody more GM than anybody else.  In between you have all sorts of tasty stuff: powerful player-directors, troupe-style multiple PCs, rotating GMs, a story-GM and a rules-GM, and so on.

Short form: it's all good.

-lumpley

p.s. A couple of times you mention that the GM can keep the game from degenerating into silliness.  Why do you need a GM to do this?  Why can't the players just do it them own selves?


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Emily Care on August 13, 2001, 06:38:00 PM
Hi Logan,

Thanks for writing about GM as facilitator. That's a very good model for play.  

And from my experience, polyGMing doesn't add chaos or detract from focus. Lumpley's discussion of different distributions of GM power for different types of games is helpful.

By dictator, I was alluding to the original sense.  Before the Emperors, the Senate in ancient Rome would choose a dictator at times of crisis.  Lumpley's original post about the "breakdown of consensus" made me think of that process.  When a group of roleplayers has a break down in their consensus, by which their collective disbelief is suspended, they elect a dictator: a GM.  Only in the sense, that one person at a time, generally, is given the power to enforce the rules and make binding decisions.  

My experience has lead me to believe that powers traditionally held by a single GM can be spread among multiple people, and play can still be focused. If done in a haphazard fasion, chaos might ensue, but if everyone is pulling together, then instead what you get is greater complexity. Meguey gives an example of this with regard to NPC's in the "Narrative Sharing" thread in Actual Play.  

My main point is not that the GM holds too much power _over_ the players or characters, but that the GM holds an imbalance and unnecessary amount of power in the world.  Good GM's facilitate and guide, and help and encourage and challenge and stump and allow their players to go beyond their own experience.  However, I think you've said yourself, Logan, why it is that so few people GM vs. play.  The complexity of the rules of most roleplaying games.  
When you simplify mechanics, or question the need for them altogether---although, I rather think that co-gming simply uses different kinds of mechanics that we are in the process of mapping out, and I believe that if we want to encourage it in more people guidelines will be extremely helpful--it becomes easier for more people to GM.  

Another stumbling block, ability to create plot/character/world/goal/etc. would be lessened if people were encouraged to do these things as a matter of course in play, or if it were more acknowledged and appreciated that that is what they are doing (often) in the course of writing and playing their character(s).  

Emily Care


Title: An approach for mechanics and innovation
Post by: Logan on August 14, 2001, 05:43:00 AM
Silliness, in this case, is just a sort of catch-all for behavior which doesn't help the game go. GMs can contribute to that as much as anyone. YMMV. If you're running serious stuff with distributed GM arrangement, that's great!

I have to agree with Lumpley. The whole Balance of Power thing is a continuum. There are some folks who aren't going to want anything to do with distributed GM arrangements. Immersive roleplayers come to mind. For them, the time and effort to be part GM interferes with their all-consuming effort to be their characters.

The rules-light/rules-heavy issue has a lot of impact here, but I think the way it actually plays out is weird. Lighter rules give more freedom to everyone just as a matter of course. They're easier to learn, easier to use, more open to interpretation. I'm a big fan of lighter systems. Yet, heavier rules seem to flourish in the marketplace. The 3E PHB is an emblem of that. People complain that it reads like an encyclopedia, yet most of the players I know own the thing and play the game. I don't. It makes my eyes glaze over after a few minutes, though I suppose I would have been thrilled with it when I was in high school.

Heavy rules have been the historical hedge against giving the GM too much power. The GM has a rule to consult for resolving everything that happens. His freedom to interpret results is limited. The knowledgable player can monitor how the rules are applied and point out discrepancies. Ergo, the power for resolving actions goes more to the rules themselves than to the players or the GM. The designers fix it so that the GM retains great power over the setting and events in the world.

It works after a fashion, but I think Emily's got the better idea: Encourage players to use Author/Director power, develop their creative abilities, and make the game more a collaboration of equals using a lighter system.

Logan