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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Theory of X on August 09, 2001, 07:59:00 PM

Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: Theory of X on August 09, 2001, 07:59:00 PM

[ This Message was edited by: Theory of X on 2001-08-26 01:55 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Theory of X on 2001-08-26 01:57 ]

Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: Theory of X on August 09, 2001, 08:27:00 PM

[ This Message was edited by: Theory of X on 2001-08-26 01:56 ]

Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: jburneko on August 10, 2001, 08:53:00 AM
This is really interesting because I'm the exact opposite.  I prefer to have system upfront and setting details later but not for the reasons you think.  I prefer to have system upfront for the EXACT same reasons that you prefer to have setting upfront.  I want to see what the game's premise is and 'how it should be played.', so to speak.  If I can't discern these things from the mechanics then it's a poorly designed game in my opinion.

An example:

7th Sea.

Looking over character creation I see the stats Braun, Wits, Finesse, Resolve and Panache.  The last one really catches my attention and says to me, ah, 'style and flare' play so heavy a role in this game that it's actually brought up to the level of an ABILITY score.

I also see a mechanic for purchasing Backgrounds. That tells me this game should have its adventures tailored to the individual character and not some lofty external group goal.

Looking over the swordman's schools I see that most of the 'special' abilities are tailored to one-on-one fights and are largely useless during a large group fight.  Since this is a LARGE mechanic it suggests to me that dueling or at least mano-a-mano break-offs during en masse combat should play a LARGE roll.

The drama die mechanic again enforces that this is a game about style and flare.  It also tells me that logistical details are relatively unimportant and the focus isn't so much focused on the 'what' as on the 'how'.  The 'what' can always be tailed to the 'how' to yeild a more exciting scene.

The fact that there is no explicit death mechanic and that the worst that can happen to you physically is you get knocked out.  This tells me this is a game about devil-may-care heroes who act with reckless abandon and that the problems they face are more emotional and psychological than physical.

So, I look at this and I see a game that ultimately is about personal heroic struggles that is framed by classic swashbuckling action that emphasizes style over logistics.  I'm sold on the idea.  Now, I read the setting to mine for adventure ideas but the premise and 'what this game is about' is conveyed to me through the mechanics.

I like this because I can't read 150 pages of setting while looking at the book in the store.  But I CAN read the character creation overview and the basic resolution mechanics and so forth.  If the mechanics don't provide me with a summary of the 'meat' of the game, then it's a poorly designed game.  This says to me that the mechanics are fairly generic and do NOTHING to support what the game is really about.  That's just bad game design in my eyes.


Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: James V. West on August 10, 2001, 09:03:00 AM
I'm sorta with Jesse on this one.

What always bugged me about games like Werewolf was the fact that you had to dig through it to find out how the game works. I *like* the flavor of the stories and comics and all that, but I don't buy a game to read a novel, if you catch my drift. If you're going to put stories and setting info up front, make it short and sweet. Cut out the baggage. Get to the game's core as soon as possible.

That's just me.

James V. West

Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: Theory of X on August 10, 2001, 10:10:00 AM

[ This Message was edited by: Theory of X on 2001-08-26 01:56 ]

Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: jburneko on August 10, 2001, 10:39:00 AM

On 2001-08-10 14:10, Theory of X wrote:

Now, this is not a 'loaded' question meant to defend one side or the other, but which do you think works best for 'average joe gamer'? I've been playing RPGs since about 1979 or so, so it's hard to put myself in the seat of a relatively new gamer.

I don't think I can answer for 'average joe gamer.'  Besides, while browsing in a store or even at home the person can just skip to the section that interests them most.  Instead, I can answer your 'loaded' question with a 'trick' answer. :smile:

I think games should start with an essay that is a synethsis of both.  I want an essay that tells me how to play your game.  Look at my 7th Sea analysis. These are all things I've derived from the mechanics but no where is all that analysis done in the books and it should be and it should be on page one.

A lot of games have been trying to do what I'm suggesting by including a story up front.  The idea is to say to the reader, this game is trying to produce gaming sessions that feel like this story.  Not good enough.  It's not good enough because it requires me to be a litterary critic.  It requires me to have the analytical tools to disect that story into its core elements and then map those elements onto specific game mechanics and elements of the setting.

This upfront essay should do that for me.  The opening sentence should be: This game is about X.  The first paragraph should detail the core elements of X and explain why they are core elements.  The body of the essay should contain two parts.  The first part should be a overview style walk through the setting and system and should show how the emphasized elements of the setting and specific core game mechanics enforce the core elements.  The second part should be a little more abstract and should explain the responsibilities of the players and the GM and what they should be looking for and thinking about to help stress those core elements.  And of course a conclusion sumarizing and reiterating is just good essay practice.  

But all in all when I'm done reading your essay I know what I'm looking for while reading the rest of the details.  I know the lines I should be thinking along and I understand your personal technique and approach to playing the game.  When I read a game I want the designer to tell me what the 'right' way to play it is, so to speak.


Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: James V. West on August 10, 2001, 11:24:00 AM
I can't really answer the question either. People are all very different. Some folks will not like your game if there isn't a lot of mood-building prose, others will ignore it if there is.

My preference is to have some of that in there, but not too much. At least, like I said before, if you're going to put a novella in there, put it at the end.

I kinda like this idea of having an up-front "essay" of what the game is about. One page to sum it up, not unlike a querry letter sent to a publisher for a new novel. If you can't sell it in one page, you can't sell it.

But there are more complications for me. Artwork. I like it much better than prose. I can get more of a feel for a game from the imagery than just about anything else. That's why some game's turn me off. Take GURPS for example. Much of their older stuff (not sure about new stuff as I haven't seen it) had rather stiff art. Not all of it, mind you, but just enough that it turned me off.

I like a package to be designed with everything in mind. Some designers put art where there is a hole in the text. I prefer to design the actual look of a page around both art and text. There should never, ever be filler art. All images should speak about the game. I should not see an image that screams "swashbuckling fantasy" if the game is pure dark horror.


James V. West

Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 10, 2001, 11:43:00 AM

The basic question at hand - system stuff [usually PC creation] first or setting stuff first - is flawed.

The key to the problem is hidden in Jesse's post - what needs to be first in any RPG is the PREMISE. It rarely is, and I suggest that presenting either setting-first OR system-first is a stopgap or correction for this lack.

By "premise," I mean small-p. That is, ANY reason to play, backed up with ANY aspect of the game that corresponds to that reason. That second element doesn't even have to be explained in detail. Premise is a matter of PLAYER interest (meaning any live person, GM/player).

[In a Narrativist-focused game, of course, premise becomes Premise with a big P and takes on some more detail.]

Without such a premise, the text attempts to provide it inherently in either of the two familiar ways:

1) Character creation - speaking to player priorities through either the strategy or creativity available in the PC creation system, or perhaps through the reward method implied in the development system.

2) Setting description, often with a GREAT deal of color text (fiction, etc) - speaking to player priorities through either audience-style awe at its niftiness or author-style inspiration at its potential.

Again, I consider either of these ways USUALLY flawed. Historically, I tend to prefer the former over the latter, but as the lesser of two evils. My preference, although it is satisfied by very few games, is for premise (or Premise) to be stated up front, and after that game material can be presented in practically any coherent order.

1) The use of whole, entire stories in Orkworld, followed by a lot of setting material. This time, it worked, because the Premise of Orkworld is so solid and focused that it cannot help but leap from the setting and color material.
2) The use of challenge questions and theme regarding PC creation in The Whispering Vault, which again puts the player's decisions about premise on the table.


P.S. And it suddenly strikes me that this entire thread belongs in Indie Game Design. Sigh ... OK, from now on, everyone, please consider your placement of threads more carefully.


Title: E=p/c@ert%4
Post by: Theory of X on August 10, 2001, 12:41:00 PM

[ This Message was edited by: Theory of X on 2001-08-26 01:57 ]