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Author Topic: Part III: Being the Difference Between Players & Gamemasters  (Read 7782 times)
Le Joueur
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2001, 05:37:00 PM »

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joshua neff wrote:

You've referred to "GM-less"/"everyone's-a-GM" play as "sophisticated", & that Scattershot, as primarily for beginners, shouldn't expect people to be able to easily achieve this level of play.

Here's the thing. I don't think it's sophisticated. Not any more than "traditional" RPG play.

Let me put it another way.  When you were learning role-playing games for the first time, and the concept of having a scenario and background set up before play was broached, which would you say was simpler to understand?  Having a gamemaster to 'handle' those things or creating a kind of understanding that some things are 'sacred' to some people an some things aren't?

When you differentiate between personal, in-character, frame of reference and external, making-up-the-world perspective, it becomes more complicated to say how gamers should switch freely back and forth between these ways of handling things than to say that one is player perspective and one is gamemaster perspective.

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When I was in grade school, my friends & I played Superheroes everyday on the playground. We spun long, elaborate narratives over the course of the school year. Villains died & returned, heroes were faced with conflict, & dumb fart jokes were made. There was no GM, all decisions were made essentially by consensus. I don't think what we were doing was any more sophisticated than playing D&D with one GM making decisions (in the style of, as you said, a representative democracy).

Ah, but which way requires a good deal more 'forgiveness' for 'taking other peoples stuff?'  You might be the exception, but in my experience the days that play ended with arguments of 'did not' and 'did too' were extremely unsatisfying.

We're all adults now, and that means we think too much about these things.  We put rules on games that children played freely.  Why?  For consistency's sake, I think.

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I guess I feel like you're not giving beginners enough credit. Especially considering they haven't had the dysfunctional RPG experiences a lot of us old timers have had.

Unless you count 'did not,' 'did too.'  I think it is a lot to ask to describe what gaming is but stop short of giving any example of how to do it.  Again, which would be simpler to describe?  I think it is easier to describe the traditional way of doing it (especially when gamers who have had no other experiences will probably also be reading it).  When I have both of these groups 'on the same page,' then I can move on to the more experimental types of gaming.

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I think beginners could quite possibly handle a myriad of RPG styles easily. Which is not to say that the way you're going about Scattershot is wrong by any stretch of the imagination.

I think you come clearly from the camp of the experimenters.  From my experiences 'over the counter' at the retail end, I have to say that only a few gamers actively seek out non-traditional forms of gaming.  While it is great to push the envelope in every way with game design, that is not in Scattershot's design specifications.

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You've obviously put a LOT of thought into this, & so far it looks really good.

Thank you.  And thank you for the opportunity to describe the 'for the experienced and beginner, alike' component of Scattershot's design specifications.

Fang Langford
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joshua neff
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« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2001, 06:00:00 PM »

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When you were learning role-playing games for the first time, and the concept of having a scenario and background set up before play was broached, which would you say was simpler to understand? Having a gamemaster to 'handle' those things or creating a kind of understanding that some things are 'sacred' to some people an some things aren't?


Honestly? The whole idea of RPGs was so bizarre (in that, while I'd unconsciously been doing it for my entire life, it was amazing that you could actually buy these colorful books with weird art that purported to facilitate this kind of play) that one form wouldn't have seemed any weirder or more difficult than another. Plus, I was one of those kids who made up fantasy worlds & characters at the drop of a hat, so leaving it all to the GM was always kind of a pain (which is one of the reasons I often GMed).

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When you differentiate between personal, in-character, frame of reference and external, making-up-the-world perspective, it becomes more complicated to say how gamers should switch freely back and forth between these ways of handling things than to say that one is player perspective and one is gamemaster perspective.


See, I'm not so sure. I'm not really sure why one is essentially different than another. When an author is writing a novel, do they really differentiate between "I'm making up a personal, main character" & "I'm making up a background character" & treat them differently? I don't. I think the main reason that stuff is seen as different is because of tradition--it's how RPGs have been done. Which is different than how they could be done.

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You might be the exception, but in my experience the days that play ended with arguments of 'did not' and 'did too' were extremely unsatisfying.


I must be the exception then, because I only remember the "did not/did too" stuff coming up with my brother. With my friends, it was more like improv--"yes, but..." If someone suddenly decided their character had a new superpower or was immune to someone else's power, we went with it with out bickering about it. I don't remember anyone really trying to "power game"--it was all geared towards keeping the game going & everyone having fun.
Now, I could just be remembering this stuff through the rose-tinted nostalgia shades, but I don't think I am. I dwell enough on the dysfunctional & neurotic experiences of my life that I trust the good memories as being accurate. (And my cousin's main character was a superhero called "Anything-Changer" who could, as his name would imply, turn into anything at all. Although he only ever turned into the Hulk, his favorite superhero.)

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I think it is a lot to ask to describe what gaming is but stop short of giving any example of how to do it.


No argument there.

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From my experiences 'over the counter' at the retail end, I have to say that only a few gamers actively seek out non-traditional forms of gaming.


Well, my own personal bias is this: I think the last thing RPGs need are more "gamers" buying "what gamers buy". I deal with enough of those. I'd like to see more people who don't play RPGs but would be interested given the right opportunity. If I'd never played RPGs in my life but knew people who did, & then met someone at a coffeeshop who said "Oh, yeah, I game. You should try it, it's fun. Why don't you come over this weekend & play.", the odds of me actually playing something like D&D or GURPS (disclaimer: I'm not saying Scattershot is anything like either of those games, this is just for the sake of argument) would be extrememly slim. But show me Story Engine & I'd be damn intrigued. Let me watch a session of InSpectres & I'd be very curious to try it. Let me read through Over the Edge & I'd be hooked. Okay, so my narrativist bias is showing through. But my point is, I don't give a toss what gamers buy. This activity is saturated with bloody gamers. And when I try to hook new blood into a game (& I would dearly love to), I'm not going to do it with "traditional" RPGs.

Again, just my personal take on things. I think my point is this: I like what I see so far for Scattershot, & I think it's brilliant that you've thought about this stuff as much as you have, but I remain unconvinced that it's for beginners any more than any other RPG.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2001, 09:21:00 PM »

I think I am beginning to see our differences here.

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joshua neff wrote:

I was one of those kids who made up fantasy worlds & characters at the drop of a hat, so leaving it all to the GM was always kind of a pain (which is one of the reasons I often GMed).

I find these kinds of people to be few and far between, and I think as your case demonstrates, they will not likely support a game line when they can create their own.  (You do design, don't you?)

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When an author is writing a novel, do they really differentiate between "I'm making up a personal, main character" & "I'm making up a background character" & treat them differently? I don't.

Actually that makes you pretty unique in either of two ways.  You are a most unusual author; most of the published fantasy authors I know up here (Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steve Brust) never come close to the level of character identification I have seen in even the most casual role-playing game player.  (Only one author I have spoken to ever had a problem killing off a character for the service of the plot, because she liked him too much.)  Or you are an unusual player (in my experience); not having that attachment to 'my guy' such that you become cautious about the lethal dangers.  (I mean not differentiating between player character and non-player character as a player?)

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I think the main reason that stuff is seen as different is because of tradition--it's how RPGs have been done. Which is different than how they could be done.

My goal is not about pushing the limits like this.  Are you saying that all new games must reach the boundaries of what has been done?  One of the initial ideas we had after a few years becoming familiar with the publishers who show at Gen Con, it became apparent that virtually all new companies were out to 'redefine gaming.'  Looking at what lasted and what did not, I did not like the odds.  I said to myself, "if everyone is testing the boundaries and doing nothing but innovating, then the center of the field is practically empty - that's where I think I will go."

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I think it is a lot to ask to describe what gaming is but stop short of giving any example of how to do it.

No argument there.

Then why do you see to have such a problem with using a seemingly traditional paradigm if only as the example?

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From my experiences 'over the counter' at the retail end, I have to say that only a few gamers actively seek out non-traditional forms of gaming.

Well, my own personal bias is this: I think the last thing RPGs need are more "gamers" buying "what gamers buy".

Whereas I see this as possibly the only way to bring new gamers 'into the fold.'  If you create a whole new market, based solely on a gaming model foreign to the current market, I think you'll have about as much luck as Beta versus VHS or Macintosh versus IBM (scale it down to the numbers in the current market of gaming and I think the 'scrappy lightweight' market becomes small enough to fail to hold an identity).

From a lay-marketing standpoint I think it is more profitable to reach both current gamers and newcomers rather than newcomers alone.  (Sort of 2 + 1 compared to 0 + 1.)

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Let me watch a session of InSpectres & I'd be very curious to try it.

You are truly unique sir.  I have a copy of the original InSpectres (I was quick to notice that it printed real nice onto 11" x 17" paper and saddle-stitched into a nice booklet with no blank pages).  From my experience playtesting people who have never gamed, it would bomb seriously.  It is just too brief to carry much of an understanding of how to game.

On the other hand, get someone talking about the movie Ghostbusters and when they get to the point where they say, "If I were one of the ghostbusters..." and you hit them with a more traditional game and they usually pick up on it quite quickly.

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And when I try to hook new blood into a game (& I would dearly love to), I'm not going to do it with "traditional" RPGs.

Your choice, but they won't be hooked into the 'culture of gaming' which time and again is cited as the only 'real way to learn to play' (even though I am not too sure about this advice) unless you use a 'traditional' game.  While clearly 'doable,' it is an uphill battle, and I don't think I have some fantastic, new idea that will virtually sell itself.

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Again, just my personal take on things. I think my point is this: I like what I see so far for Scattershot, & I think it's brilliant that you've thought about this stuff as much as you have, but I remain unconvinced that it's for beginners any more than any other RPG.

Well, in that respect, I compare it to all those 'experimental' games that start out with, "Since it is assumed that you already know how to game..." (like InSpectres, for instance).

Fang Langford
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joshua neff
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« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2001, 04:55:00 AM »

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I find these kinds of people to be few and far between, and I think as your case demonstrates, they will not likely support a game line when they can create their own. (You do design, don't you?)


I haven't designed an RPG since high school (a long, long time ago). I get ideas every now & then, but generally I find that the ideas I get for games tend to be setting-based or premise-with-a-little-p-based, so I don't need new mechanics--I could just use Story Engine or Over the Edge or whatever.

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Or you are an unusual player (in my experience); not having that attachment to 'my guy' such that you become cautious about the lethal dangers. (I mean not differentiating between player character and non-player character as a player?)


Being the pervy narrativist that I am, I generally throw my characters into lethal (or potentially lethal) situations with gusto--or rather, I throw them into conflict. The character would try to avoid it, but I seek it out, because it's the only way the character is guaranteed a good narrative. But that's not really my point.
I guess my point is that, yeah, identifying with "my guy" is important. But I still don't see any real difference between creating a PC & creating an NPC so that there needs to be two different kinds of players (a "regular" player & a GM) to do these two things. I don't see everyone-is-a-GM as being any more sophisticated. I'm an optimist--I believe that given positive encouragement & good facilitation, people overall are pretty creative & can handle quite a bit of imaginative work.

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My goal is not about pushing the limits like this. Are you saying that all new games must reach the boundaries of what has been done?


Oh, not at all. If people want to stick by what's been done, I think that's good, too. It's all good. I just happen to think that a lot of what stands as tradition in RPGs isn't necessarily useful, but it stays around because people think it's supposed to be that way. I was like that. When I was younger & used to design my own RPGs, they always had a group of set abilities, generally pretty similar to the ones in D&D, & a list of set skills. It wasn't until much later that I realized you don't have to do it that way, that there are gazillions of ways to design & run RPGs.

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Then why do you see to have such a problem with using a seemingly traditional paradigm if only as the example?


It's not that I have a problem. I think it's fine. I just question how the traditional paradigm is any better for beginners than any other way.

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Whereas I see this as possibly the only way to bring new gamers 'into the fold.'


Well, my point is that I'd rather see more people coming into the world o' gaming who aren't the traditional "gamer". I don't see traditional RPGs as the best entry point for them. The problem with your Beta/VHS analogy is that any RPG is, at some point, compatable with any other RPG, & the technology of RPGs is dead cheap--all it takes is at least one other person to play with, & maybe some paper, writing utensils, dice or cards or something. RPGs cost extremely little to make & play, which is one of the things I love about them. So there's no prohibitive cost to playing any one RPG from another, really. Plus, the games & examples I've mentioned are "experimental" only in that they aren't the mainstream--it's not like they're really freakin' weird or anything. InSpectres isn't any stranger than any other RPG I've ever played, & it doesn't take a rocket scientist to learn how to play it. It's really pretty simple.

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You are truly unique sir.


Why, thank you.

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I have a copy of the original InSpectres (I was quick to notice that it printed real nice onto 11" x 17" paper and saddle-stitched into a nice booklet with no blank pages). From my experience playtesting people who have never gamed, it would bomb seriously. It is just too brief to carry much of an understanding of how to game.


I wasn't talking about the text, I was talking about watching it being played (which I did one night at GenCon, & then I actually played it the next night).
Roleplaying is like sex--reading about will only take you so far. The only real way to learn how to do it is to just do it. And the only way to get better at it is to keep doing it. So while I think that explanations & examples of play are really important, the only real way to teach people how to play RPGs is to play RPGs with them. I've introduced RPG "virgins" (to continue with that metaphor) to gaming with Immortal, Over the Edge, & Psychosis. When I was talking about gaming with some guys I'd met recently, the girlfriend of one of the guys said "Yeah, I've seen people play roleplaying games, but it always seemed like to much numbers & stuff." Then I gave a brief explanation of how Story Engine works & her face lit up. She said, "Now, something like that would be cool."
My point being--I don't think the games I've mentioned are all that experimental, except to longterm gamers. To beginners, it's all experimental, & one form of play isn't inherently more difficult than another.

But I've pulled this discussion pretty far from the role of the GM. Sorry. If you want to continue this in Private Messages, that'd be fine.
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James V. West
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« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2001, 11:37:00 AM »

"Let me put it another way. When you were learning role-playing games for the first time, and the concept of having a scenario and background set up before play was broached, which would you say was simpler to understand? Having a gamemaster to 'handle' those things or creating a kind of understanding that some things are 'sacred' to some people an some things aren't?"

Having a GM is an easy way to play, hands-down. The GM's stuff is seperate, all the player has to do is "get in character".

That doesn't mean its the easiest way to play, nor the perfect approach. These things are always going to be a matter of personal and group taste.

I was/am wrestling with some of this in http://www.geocities.com/randomordercreations/tqb1intro.html">The Questing Beast (that is, with the idea of reaching an understanding of what is "sacred" to others and where you can draw the boundaries for shared creativity).

By the way, and forgive me if I've missed something important, but where exactly is Scattershot? I know its a work-in-progress, but of everything I've read I still can't find any concrete examples of how the game works (i.e. mechanics). Have you posted anything?



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Le Joueur
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« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2001, 12:59:00 PM »

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joshua neff wrote:

I haven't designed an RPG since high school (a long, long time ago). I get ideas every now & then, but generally I find that the ideas I get for games tend to be setting-based or premise-with-a-little-p-based, so I don't need new mechanics--I could just use Story Engine or Over the Edge or whatever.

Then I have nothing to offer you.  You appear to be beyond products in general, so I am not sure how your point has any bearing on the product I am describing.  I have never said Scattershot was for everyone, far from it.  All I have been saying is my approach is to start with the traditional approach, partly because it is easy for beginners to pick up, and partly because, as a widespread practice, it would make those same beginners able to 'network' with the existing role-playing gaming community.  But the point I have been ultimately trying to make it getting lost in this series of clarifications.

The traditional framework is Scattershot's starting point, nothing more.

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Being the pervy narrativist that I am, I generally throw my characters into lethal (or potentially lethal) situations with gusto--or rather, I throw them into conflict. The character would try to avoid it, but I seek it out, because it's the only way the character is guaranteed a good narrative.

And this underscores the point I am making about your style.  You clearly put 'story' over character.  This makes you part of a minority (a rather small one, if I am not mistaken).  I have not been able to design Scattershot to include everyone, 'deep' Narrativists are notable in this regard.

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But that's not really my point.

Actually, either this is your point or you are arguing that the traditional framework is an unworthy starting point for Scattershot.  Any other point you might be trying to make (as far as I can tell) has no bearing on why I posted this part.

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I guess my point is that, yeah, identifying with "my guy" is important. But I still don't see any real difference between creating a PC & creating an NPC so that there needs to be two different kinds of players (a "regular" player & a GM) to do these two things. I don't see everyone-is-a-GM as being any more sophisticated.

I will have to go on record saying that I do not think that a game of nothing but gamemasters is actually a role-playing game.  A game where all the players share the role of gamemaster would still be a role-playing game, but lacking players, it fails to be role-playing gaming in my opinion.

And that scores back to the point I have been trying to make to you all along.  Being both a player and a gamemaster is more sophisticated (largely because of the switching) than being just a player or just a gamemaster.  I realize your preferred method of play never has you being strictly a player, but I think it is arguable that you can be both simultaneously (especially without any sophistication of method).  And it comes back to my point that being one or the other is simpler.

And therefore I must restate that I think a simpler approach is a better starting point.  There is absolutely nothing in what I have said that suggests that once started participants would not be able to 'evolve' their style to match yours.  Far from it.  I think it is important that I write the 'starting point' so that what you do can seem like one of a number of natural progressions from it.

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I'm an optimist--I believe that given positive encouragement & good facilitation, people overall are pretty creative & can handle quite a bit of imaginative work.

And all I am saying is that a starting point must be chosen.  You cannot start doing everything at once 'like a pro.'  You mistake my point about the starting point if you think I mean that that is where 'it' needs to stay.  As a matter of fact, my preference is that once 'started' participants should move on to other styles of play.

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My goal is not about pushing the limits like this. Are you saying that all new games must reach the boundaries of what has been done?

Oh, not at all. If people want to stick by what's been done, I think that's good, too. It's all good. I just happen to think that a lot of what stands as tradition in RPGs isn't necessarily useful,

And on this we will continue to disagree.  Can we drop the argument and just admit we each have different opinions (and that Scattershot does not need to encompass your opinion)?

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but it stays around because people think it's supposed to be that way.

You are ignoring the fact that however many problems you have with it, it works!

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Then why do you seem to have such a problem with using a seemingly traditional paradigm, if only as the example?

It's not that I have a problem. I think it's fine. I just question how the traditional paradigm is any better for beginners than any other way.

And that's where our opinions differ, especially since you seem oblivious to the idea that I am only using this as only a starting point.  This means once 'up to speed,' I want new gamers to move on to other things.  I don't see any harm in using a starting point that is familiar to the general gaming public, especially if these newcomers are expected to 'get beyond it.'

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the games & examples I've mentioned are "experimental" only in that they aren't the mainstream

Experience suggests that (probably because of their diversity) it will stay that way.

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I have a copy of the original InSpectres (I was quick to notice that it printed real nice onto 11" x 17" paper and saddle-stitched into a nice booklet with no blank pages). From my experience playtesting people who have never gamed, it would bomb seriously. It is just too brief to carry much of an understanding of how to game.

I wasn't talking about the text, I was talking about watching it being played (which I did one night at GenCon, & then I actually played it the next night).

And by and large who do you think are the people who are going to be doing most of the demonstrating 'out there?'  That right, traditional gamers.  If I make a game that is too non-traditional, the argument is that people trying to learn-by-watching will most likely see something other than what I published.

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Roleplaying is like sex--reading about will only take you so far. The only real way to learn how to do it is to just do it.

And badly (from what I can remember).

To use your analogy, you are suggesting that people start with the Kama Sutra because the missionary position isn't the best.  I'm saying that is too sophisticated for beginners and that the missionary position will not cause any harm in learning 'how to do it' in the first place.

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And the only way to get better at it is to keep doing it. So while I think that explanations & examples of play are really important, the only real way to teach people how to play RPGs is to play RPGs with them.

And I recognize that this is not always possible.  And yet, to use your analogy, many people (at least in my high school - four babies by graduation - yeesh!) figured it out from what they read alone.

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My point being--I don't think the games I've mentioned are all that experimental, except to longterm gamers. To beginners, it's all experimental, & one form of play isn't inherently more difficult than another.

Then why do you have such a problem with Scattershot's starting point?

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-12-29 16:18 ]
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2001, 01:28:00 PM »

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James V. West wrote:

That doesn't mean its the easiest way to play, nor the perfect approach. These things are always going to be a matter of personal and group taste.

As far as I can tell, there is no perfect approach and I chose a more widely familiar style as a 'starting point' because of its accessibility, over the 'easiest.'  I felt that being able to connect with the bulk of the gaming community had more value than the ultimate in remedial gaming.

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By the way, and forgive me if I've missed something important, but where exactly is Scattershot? I know its a work-in-progress, but of everything I've read I still can't find any concrete examples of how the game works (i.e. mechanics). Have you posted anything?

That would be the next very next part, please be patient.  (I have said that my work progresses very slowly, by comparison.)

Fang Langford
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joshua neff
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« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2001, 02:00:00 PM »

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Then why do you have such a problem with Scattershot's starting point?


I don't. I obviously can't, because I don't know what Scattershot is, except in the most abstract sense. Not really knowing anything about the mechanics (yet), I can't comment on that.

What I disagree with is your assertion that the one-GM/representative democracy model is the easiest & most accessible way of playing for beginners, & that games with multiple GMs or with everyone as a GM are more "sophisticated" & less accessible. I'm not a step ahead of the pack, I'm not smarter than the average bear, & yet I've been able to play in a variety of ways in a variety of games. Games that lie on the "fringe" of the mainstream are there only in sales & number of people playing. Considering how few people play RPGs amongst the population of the world, that's not really telling at all. "Fringe" RPGs are on the fringe for a variety of reasons, few of them having to do with the fact that "they're weird & not very accessible" while D&D (to use the big gun as an example) is "easy to play & accessible to all".
Also, I would agree that a lot of traditional aspects of RPGs remain because they work. That doesn't mean they're the only or the best way to design & play RPGs. Superheroes have dominated the medium of comics. That doesn't mean they're the best or most accessible subject for comics. They've remained the dominant subject in comics for a variety of reasons that have little to do with "superheroes are just best for comics". & I think there are a lot of RPG traditions that don't work, but stick around because people are just damn stubborn & resistant to change. They work for "gamers", & I think that's the reason the hobby isn't more popular than it is--because aspects remain in RPGs that please the stereotypical gamer, but repel a lot of other people. Comics are the same way, although thanks to some breakthroughs & some flukes, there are now a lot of people who would otherwise avoid comics stores like the plague (& I can't say I blame them) now reading comics.
I also question your assertion that "everyone-is-a-GM" isn't playing an RPG. Huh? I'm not sure what kind of definition of RPGs you could have that would include Ars Magica as it is generally played but would exclude Ars Magica as lumpley & his friends play it. That would be, to me, a very problematic definition. What, then, is it? And who cares? It's close enough to roleplaying that I find drawing a distinction between them essentially useless.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2001, 03:00:00 PM »

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I also question your assertion that "everyone-is-a-GM" isn't playing an RPG. Huh? I'm not sure what kind of definition of RPGs you could have that would include Ars Magica as it is generally played but would exclude Ars Magica as lumpley & his friends play it. That would be, to me, a very problematic definition. What, then, is it? And who cares? It's close enough to roleplaying that I find drawing a distinction between them essentially useless.


Whatever reason Fang has for saying that GM-full games are not RPGs, is probably the same reason that Paul Czege and others say that Universalis (which fits the bill perfectly) is not an RPG. I'm not sure exactly what it is as nobody has been able to state the claim as other than a general feeling. But the claim gets made frequently.

That being said, if the general community rejects labling the game that Ralph and I have created as a RPG, then maybe we'll call it something else. I think Paul suggested storytelling game. Whatever, maybe we'll just skip labeling it altogether (that might avoid some stigmas, no?). Anyhow, we will be marketing it to the same crowd and to outsiders as well. If it's not an RPG, it's certainly a close enough relative. Oh, and fun too (IMHO). :smile:

I'd agree with Fang that, given the usefulness of teaching RPGs as a means to spread them, that the traditional method is probably best from a marketing standpoint. OTOH, if no RPG had ever been written before, and the core of gamers did not exist to do this facilitating, then I'd think that the GM-full method might be best. But that's not the way things are.

Mike
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« Reply #24 on: December 29, 2001, 03:28:00 PM »

Hey, I gotta say that I don't think Fang was excluding me and mine.  I think he was saying that if none of us spent any time being players, but spent all our time being GMs, then it wouldn't be roleplaying.

There are lots of times in our game when nobody particularly feels like GMing, so we just sit there in character and shoot the shit.  Since it's mostly a social/political/personality game, and not so much an adventure game, we still get a ton done, when no GM is even called for.

Hope I'm not way out of line, Fang.

I prefer GM-distributed to GM-full.  A lot of the time, like I say, we have no GM at all.  When we need a GM, we all pitch in.

-lumpley Vincent

PS: if anybody actually does think we're not roleplaying, they're wacked.  If they came to our house and watched us, they'd change their mind.

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-12-29 18:45 ]
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« Reply #25 on: December 30, 2001, 12:19:00 AM »

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lumpley wrote:
Hey, I gotta say that I don't think Fang was excluding me and mine.  I think he was saying that if none of us spent any time being players, but spent all our time being GMs, then it wouldn't be roleplaying.

Hope I'm not way out of line, Fang.

Nope, you've got it dead on.

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I prefer GM-distributed to GM-full.  A lot of the time, like I say, we have no GM at all.  When we need a GM, we all pitch in.

"If it isn't broken, then don't fix it."  I hope you understand that I won't be suggesting that beginners start where you are, but that I don't think that anyone should stay away from it either.

Fang Langford
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« Reply #26 on: December 30, 2001, 12:29:00 AM »

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Mike Holmes wrote:

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I also question your assertion that "everyone-is-a-GM" isn't playing an RPG. Huh? I'm not sure what kind of definition of RPGs you could have that would include Ars Magica as it is generally played but would exclude Ars Magica as lumpley & his friends play it. That would be, to me, a very problematic definition. What, then, is it? And who cares? It's close enough to roleplaying that I find drawing a distinction between them essentially useless.

Whatever reason Fang has for saying that GM-full games are not RPGs,

Actually, I need to clarify; I don't mean that a game is not a role-playing game simply because it is gamemaster-full, but rather when it is player-less (without players).  As Lumpley describes, a game with all gamemasters, all the time, and no players, at any time, is not a role-playing game to me.

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is probably the same reason that Paul Czege and others say that Universalis (which fits the bill perfectly) is not an RPG. I'm not sure exactly what it is as nobody has been able to state the claim as other than a general feeling. But the claim gets made frequently.

From what I have read about Universalis, I'd say that the claim that it is not a role-playing game is groundless.  It clearly has points when there is 'playering;' that is what I regard as the minimum criteria.  (But then I also think Baron Munchausen [sp] is a role-playing game.)

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I'd agree with Fang that, given the usefulness of teaching RPGs as a means to spread them, that the traditional method is probably best from a marketing standpoint. OTOH, if no RPG had ever been written before, and the core of gamers did not exist to do this facilitating, then I'd think that the GM-full method might be best. But that's not the way things are.

I have to agree.  If role-playing games had never existed, then Scattershot would be totally different.  I am not going to write our game as though none other existed.  I do not think I have reinvented the wheel, here.

Fang Langford
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« Reply #27 on: December 30, 2001, 01:22:00 AM »

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joshua neff wrote:

What I disagree with is your assertion that the one-GM/representative democracy model is the easiest & most accessible way of playing for beginners,

Then you're going to have to reread my posts.  I never said it was either 'easiest,' 'most accessible,' nor even 'best.'  In fact, if you go back, it is clear you invented the idea that I pursue the 'easiest' or 'most accessible.'  I have gone as far as saying, in response to James V. West, that I chose traditional in place of easiest (and I can quote me on that one).

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& that games with multiple GMs or with everyone as a GM are more "sophisticated"

You know, you have yet to refute (as opposed to the repetitive denials) the idea that multiple gamemaster/players is not more sophisticated, whereas I think I have made a strong case about the differences.

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& less accessible.

Sigh.  Why are you still attacking this straw man?  I never said perfect accessibility was my primary goal.  As Mike points out, there is a whole market of games out there.  I think to treat it either as if it does not exist or as if it were of only 'poorly' designed products would be the height of hubris on my part.

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Also, I would agree that a lot of traditional aspects of RPGs remain because they work. That doesn't mean they're the only or the best way to design & play RPGs.

Again you imply that I have said that traditional equates with 'best.'  Why can't you see that we are only doing the 'best' that we can?  Sure there might be better ways, but I have to argue that we haven't invented any of them.  What has you so tied up that you attack me for choosing this particular route?  The very premise of Scattershot is to be familiar.  How can I do that and pursue this non-traditional, 'excellence' beast you have such a wild hare about.

I do not think I am presenting the only or the best way to design a game.  I am presenting the way we designed it, nothing more.  If you know so much about what's best, then you damn well better get out there and publish it, because if you can't then you don't (either).

Again, if traditional means are not the only way to design a game, then they are clearly a way, and that's the one we have chosen, good, bad, best, or otherwise.

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Superheroes have dominated the medium of comics. That doesn't mean they're the best or most accessible subject for comics. They've remained the dominant subject in comics for a variety of reasons that have little to do with "superheroes are just best for comics".

Ah!  But what if the reason was more something like, "comics are the best way to present superheroes" that anyone has tried?

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I also question your assertion that "everyone-is-a-GM" isn't playing an RPG. Huh?

Yeah, well, that was poorly explained on my part.  What I meant was more that "nobody-ever-as-a-player" isn't role-playing gaming to me (and only to me as far as I am concerned).  Whether or not people agree with that opinion is their problem, it has no bearing on a game that only starts as a gamemaster-and-players game in design, because such could clearly evolve into a "no-player" game if the participants so desire (and the game design supports it, remember I invented the term Transition on the Forge because that is what I want Scattershot to do - Transition traditional players to newer forms).

I still don't see what made you think I felt that traditional gaming was best for anything.  I never specifically said that (I checked).  What I did say (mostly elsewhere in the Forge) was that Scattershot is designed to be familiar to traditional gamers enough that they might not only be able to play, but with enough 'new' things that they might also learn something.  I have also said that I needed some starting point to serve all the new gamers I would like to reach.  I would also hope to connect these newer players to older communities, because (as even you have put it) there is something to be learned from playing with the experienced.  In order to do all this, it seemed easiest, for us as designers, to make a game that teaches the traditional paradigm of play (at first).

What you seem to be missing is that "'new' things" part.  Because if we are going to do that, it means we are going to have to explain how to evolve away from the traditional model (for both beginners and traditionalists alike).

But mostly I need to say that, given all this, this is the best way we have come up with to do this.  It may not be the best way, but whatever that may be, I don't know what it is.  (And it's beginning to sound like you don't either.  It's a lot easier to tear other people down than to do better than them, I guess.)

Fang Langford

[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-12-31 00:20 ]
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #28 on: December 30, 2001, 01:27:00 AM »



[ This Message was edited by: Le Joueur on 2001-12-31 00:25 ]
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« Reply #29 on: December 30, 2001, 05:10:00 AM »

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You know, you have yet to refute (as opposed to the repetitive denials) the idea that multiple gamemaster/players is not more sophisticated, whereas I think I have made a strong case about the differences.


You've pointed out differences, but that, to me, doesn't signify "more sophisticated". Just different. The only refutation I can think of off the top of my head is I simply don't see "GM-less" play as any more sophisticated, just different. There's no hierarchy here.

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Sigh. Why are you still attacking this straw man? I never said perfect accessibility was my primary goal.


Then I apologize. I took the idea of "being for beginners" as "being accessible". My bad.

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Again you imply that I have said that traditional equates with 'best.' Why can't you see that we are only doing the 'best' that we can?


Actually, when I said "best", I meant "the best we can". I'm not asking (or looking) for any Philosopher's Stone of RPGs.

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I still don't see what made you think I felt that traditional gaming was best for anything.


I don't either. I think both of us have gotten way too defensive about our posts. Which is probably a signal to pull back & let it go. It was never my intention to attack you or your design, or to make you feel like you were being attacked. I will say in my defense that proposing alternatives is not anything like attacking tradition or your design. I'm not trying to tear anything down, merely include alternatives. But this whole argument has gotten pretty far off topic & out of hand, I think. Best to just drop it.
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