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Author Topic: Semi-RPGs?  (Read 4899 times)
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #30 on: May 07, 2004, 08:16:36 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
I definitely prefer the term "finite RPGs" to "semi-RPGs", by the way.
I do, too, actually. I wish I'd remembered that term before accidentally creating a new one. Personally if we'd move to Finite RPG for the moment, I think it would be a good step.

Quote
This has the potential to be a fad rather than a reasoned pattern of design.
This is absolutely what I thought when judging the contest. That the concept is a fad at the moment.

Quote
I consider it highly questionable to be inspired by a game which one has never played.  Design should be informed and guided by actual play.
Are you talking playtesting? I think that's axiomatic. It's not surprising that the games that were posted didn't have playtesting considering the duration of the contest. But that's an artifact of the contest, not of these designs in general. I personally playtested MLWM before it's publication as did other groups. Which did result in quite a bit of change to the game before it was published. So this represents a Finite RPG that was well tested before production.

Quote
If one is going to make a short-term and quick-play RPG, why does it need to have a character creation system at all?  You can just have pregenerated characters.  This seems like a sacred cow of sorts -- i.e. an RPG has to have character creation as a required step.  
I've always said this, too. My example was a "Scooby Do" RPG where the players always just select between the characters from the show. And, again, the "Do your own Murder Mysteries" and most LARPS have this as a normal condition.

That said, I think that one can create some replayability in some of these games (not all) by allowing for chargen. Finite, short-term, and quick-play, all don't mean that the game is only meant to be played once. That is, not all Finite games are also One-Shots. And there might be elements of strategy in chargen, or something that would make the play of the game unique, even if it were a One-Shot. It's a form of player interaction with the scenario. So I think each game has to be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine the appropriateness of chargen or pregen.


On the subject of One-Shots as a definition, the name would imply playing only once. Meaning that I think it applies to very few of these games in actuality. Basically to those where the characters don't change in ways that make the play very different (or not at all), and in which playing out the game will reveal information that would be uninteresting to "discover" a second time. That is, if the themes produced, or the tactics discovered, or the things explored will not change from play to play, then I think that One-Shot is a good title for this sort of game. The "Do Your Own Murder Mysteries" are a good example of One-shots. Once you know whodunnit, why play again? Even for those games where the murderer changes, if the characters don't change, or the strategies involved in determining it, there's very little actual replayability (I suppose it might work to rotate characters).

Mike

Mike
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Rich Forest
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« Reply #31 on: May 07, 2004, 09:32:19 AM »

Interesting stuff, as usual. I have to talk about this fad thing. While nobody's saying that finite rpgs are necessarily good or bad, there's a bit of concern about it being a fad.

I'm not sure why.

Finite rpgs have hardly been done to death yet, and I suspect there are a lot of interesting games that could come out of a design trend or fad in that direction. Would most of the games fail to take full advantage of the new/different constraints in making a finite game, whatever those are? Yeah, sure, just like most games fail to really pull off what they're trying to do as well. Would something really cool and interesting come out of a trend like this? I suspect it would. Would the trend come to dominate games at the Forge to the point of pushing out other designs? Possible, I guess, but I doubt it.

Take my entry, for example. I was definitely drawing on some of the constraints that are being identified with finite rpgs here, and I was doing it for a variety of reasons, one of which is interest in how MLwM opened up the category, one of which was system does matter, one of which was Hero Quest (yeah, you have to invert how you're looking at it and think of the system as "core rules do it all and apply always," and squint real hard and you might see it), and one of which was speed and the ability to fill in as a pick-up game. And there were probably more. Oh, my current fascination with German board games, especially the really tight ones. And the highly constrained nature of what I was emulating. And whatever other influences I'm missing.

Ok, you get the picture, I was part of the trend. But I have a ton of other game ideas, and most of those would not fit the finite games mold. I suspect the other designs are similar—we got a bunch of them all together at once, but that doesn't mean everyone who made one is going to keep pumping them out. So I don't know whether it's really the kind of trend that will see everybody writing lots of finite games and nothing else. I doubt it. But if so, I'd be interested in seeing what came of it.

Of course, with a fad there's the danger that people are doing it but really, really don't know why they're doing it, or how it's going to affect how the game comes out. So I can see some danger there. But that's easy enough to deal with. The first question you get in Indie Design is always "Why?" I see no greater danger of unreflexive finite rpg design than any unreflexive rpg design. Besides, finite games at least offer us something different to screw up from say a bog-standard sim design or yet another cutting edge narration-trading game that is destined to be forever called narrativist, so I'm interested in seeing people give it a shot ;-)  I'd like to see how people would screw this one up, and then of course how they would get it right, and what we can learn from it. I certainly don't think designing a finite rpg is easier than designing an infinte rpg. It has some difficult pitfalls of its own. I agree with Dev that it seems easier to build toward, but I also think it may be harder to come through on successfully. There aren't many models, you're doing something really focused, and if your game doesn't deliver, I think it's a lot more obvious just from looking at it what ways it doesn't deliver. You can't just wave your hand and say "ignore these rules here if they don't work." There aren't enough rules to get away with that.

Also since playtesting came up, I thought I'd mention that I actually did manage to get playtesting in—twice, and with two different groups. The actual play was short each game—about an hour and a half each time, I think, followed by a lot of talk about the game, but it did have a real effect on what I submitted (although a lot also didn't make it in for time reasons—entirely my fault for procrastinating). It's off topic for this thread, but I'll talk about it eventually when I post in Indie Design. I have a lot of other stuff going on right now, so that'll have to just happen eventually. But when it does happen, I'll be using this thread and especially Mike's comments in the judging thread (which I more or less agree with) as a jumping off point.

Rich
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Mike Holmes
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #32 on: May 07, 2004, 10:12:44 AM »

I think the problem with fads is that they potentially distract people from going off in other new directions, or from improving old methods. It's like you say, they may not know why they're doing it. It's the same phenomenon as fantasy heartbreakers - the person is designing to a particular spec because they know that spec works, and thus aren't trying to make something new.

Nothing wring with using the form if it's really what you want to design. But I hope that we don't start seeing a slew of these things killing off creativity elsewhere.

This all said, I think that the form, since it lends intself to shorter presentations, was likely to become a favorite for the IGC competitions because they are easy to get relatively high "completeness" scores with. It's easy to know when the game is done in terms of having rules that will get you from A to Z in play. So I think that what we've seen here is an artificial effect - we won't really know if it's an actual fad until we start seeing the majority of Indie Design over-run with such designs (other than the IGC ones).

From another POV, I could see someone making their whole living doing nothing but making games like these. I mean, one-shots especially have the ability to allow you to really expand your line.

Mike
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #33 on: May 07, 2004, 11:24:52 PM »

My understanding of the term "One-shot" in common use has always been that it refers to a game that is played in a single session, not to one that might extend to multiple sessions but has no replayability. That is, Puppetland (from what I understand) is a one-shot, because everything from character generation to the conclusion of the story takes place in one session, and the next time you play you start by creating new characters. Host a Murder games are also one-shots, usually, but not because they lack replayability, but because they are designed to be played out in a single night. (Only really serious gamers play games that are held in the middle and continued later, and although when I was a kid we would do that sometimes if we all had to go to bed in the middle of a board game, in the main that's the province of RPGs, Wargames, and those who play games like Chess by correspondence.)

Is my understanding of the word not consistent with common usage? I'm inclined to think that we need a different term for games that lack replayability, because I've heard a lot of people say they "ran a one-shot of Unknown Armies" or something like that.

--M. J. Young
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #34 on: May 09, 2004, 11:49:06 PM »

Quote from: M. J. Young

Is my understanding of the word not consistent with common usage? I'm inclined to think that we need a different term for games that lack replayability, because I've heard a lot of people say they "ran a one-shot of Unknown Armies" or something like that.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the term seems to mean different things to different groups.  Partly I guess becuase its not needed clarification.  We could distinguish between:
* games that are run once, but perhaps in a fully multi-session style
* games that CAN only be run once (and then you know whodunnit)
* games that are limited to single sessions

I've often heard people use the term in what I took to be the first sense: a test-run or play-test or single run for variety.
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« Reply #35 on: May 10, 2004, 01:08:59 AM »

Speaking of terms, how do people feel about the word "short-form" alongside some of these RPGs? I often attach those to some RPGs to signify that (a) these are unlike traditional ones, (b) might be artsy/hip, and (c) LOW TIME COMMITMENT! LOW TIME COMMITMENT! WHEE!. Is this another useful unifying phrase for some RPGs? (Different that finite RPGs; you may well have something that's "short-form" without being finite, and even converse!)

Also, it should be reminded: MLwM is not a One-Shot game! (Yes Dev, even if you ran through a con demo start to finish with 8 minions in 2 hours. That was a corner case.) I have *played* it primarily as a one-shot game, but that's largely due to the environment I'm in.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #36 on: May 10, 2004, 08:04:25 AM »

Good points. I think we should skip "one-shot" and move on to other terms that are indicative of the individual phenomena:

Single-session - meaning the game is intended to be played to completion in one session.
Low/High Replayability - whether or not it will be entertaining to play the game again with the same players after having done so once.
Open-ended/Close-ended - a game meant to be played indefinitely vs one that has terms that define it's end.

Thus MLWM is not single-session (though it can be played that way, it's not an expectation of the design), High Replayability (each master alone brings up all sorts of new avenues for dysfuncitonal relationships to be explored), and Close-ended.

Mike
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #37 on: May 11, 2004, 08:42:04 PM »

Good terms, Mike; and good that we're not trying to say that "one-shot" means a specific thing when apparently people are going to take issue with that.

Stepping away from design for a moment, it is clear that many games can be played in single sessions which are not necessarily so designed. Is there an appropriate term floating around for "I ran a complete game adventure of X one night"?

--M. J. Young
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #38 on: May 12, 2004, 08:18:48 AM »

Again, is a term neccessary? Can't you just say, "I ran an entire campaign of D&D in one session?"

Mike
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DevP
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« Reply #39 on: May 13, 2004, 12:16:13 AM »

Our traditional big honking RPG has nearly-infinte options (this is how many presnt RPGs as different from boardgames/wargames to newbies); our finite RPGs are notable for having very focused and limited game choices, but are still very much RPGs because the locus of the "action" is the storytelling.

Do people put much stock in Author/Pawn stances as being more "comfortable"'/less intense than immersive Actor stances?
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #40 on: May 13, 2004, 09:08:02 AM »

I'd say that author/pawn stance is what most non-rpg players are used to. Actor stance is somewhat of a stretch for most people. But not horribly so.

Mike
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