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Author Topic: Thoughts  (Read 4193 times)
« on: May 25, 2001, 05:04:00 AM »


What follows is just some thoughts I feel like voicing. They're not anything I feel too strongly about, but merely things that have occurred to me while pondering the nature of RP Games and Game Design.

I'm not really that familiar with the G/N/S paradigm nor at all with the Stances, so I don't know if they have large relavance to what I'm writing about. Just pointing out that I'm speaking out of a different mindset (as far as those things go) than most here have.

I'm going to start with stating the obvious. I think the most important thing for a roleplaying game is to provide a vehicle for people to satisfy whatever it is they want from it. People's wants will vary, of course. I'm going to assume that most belong to the category where they seek to get their enjoyment by roleplaying, or playing the game itself.

Different GMs and players play different types of games, of course. Sometimes the differences in playing are small, sometimes they're very large. For that sake, I think it is important for a game to provide a chance for quite a large number of different styles of play.

A game can be very specialized. It can be designed to cater to a very small crowd, or it can try to please a bit larger number of players. Of course, if you try to make your game so that everyone will like it, you'll fail miserably. It's better to specialize in at least some fashion, I think, but extreme narrowing takes away from
the game as a whole, as a work of design and art. I think a game should provide chances for a few different types of playing experiences.

The game has two parts of greater relevance : the SETTING and the SYSTEM.

Of course you can make a game without one of them. You can make a worldbook style production, or a gamesystem suitable for varying settings. Let's not get into that right now. Personally, I strongly favor systems which are tailored to fit certain settings. It really complements the atmosphere.

A lot can be said about settings in general. They should be original and in-depth. RPG settings need to be stock full of stuff the GM can throw at the players, or what the players can use to create backgrounds/etc or explore.  If the setting isn't original enough, I hear one big question in mind? Why bother writing it? There's lots of good settings out there and if a game isn't offering anything new you should just forget about it.

Systems are I think a much harder thing to talk about. Settings are in many ways like good books, with huge amounts of detail thrown in. Systems are a whole new thing and constantly evolving. A system can ruin a good setting, or fuse a mediocre setting with some fire of life. It is this aspect that also divides up the players further (beyond the fairly simple divisions setting is creating ; ie. those who like scifi settings, fantasy, etc.) and into a far more complicated mess. I believe this is where the G/N/S thinking sets in.

What do we get out of making paradigms like this? Good conversation maybe, but how does it help people design games? Are people making games catering to one of the three viewpoints?

I return to my argument. A good game (system + setting) should allow for all types of playing experiences. Of course there's going to be people who want games specialized in certain areas, but that is a minority. Or is it? Indeed, when I look at my players, I see a bunch of people who have a varying motive for playing. As a GM, I try to make campaigns that fulfill and take into account all of them. There are people who like rolling dice : good, I'll have some good ol' dice-rollin' for them. There are players who are more interested in truly feeling their characters. I also try to give them what they want. The trick is balancing it and making sure that these different areas are not eating up each other.

A game should be good enough to make that possible. There should be lots of material in the setting and the system should never feel too cumbersome. To use a UI design term, it should be invisible even when it is reinforcing the setting.

I think I'm seeing RPG game design moving into the turf of the Gamemaster. There's lots of neat systems and settings around, with varied and often quite interesting takes on playing a roleplaying game. However, the importance of the GM shouldn't be underestimated. We're seeing systems that are impinging on the turf of the GM, creating feeling and mood for the game. Of course it can be a useful too, but a setting a GM (one GM, or all GMS considered) can use to run different things in is extremely valuable.

Just some random thoughts.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2001, 06:35:00 AM »

Hey DD,

Welcome to the Forge, and I agree with a great deal of what you say. I especially like the view that "satisfaction," often referred to vaguely as "fun," is the OVERALL point, and that it takes on personal tones immediately in application.

I'd add a couple more things to your "components" list. In no particular order:

Resolution system
Premise (for Narrativism; replace with appropriate equivalents for the other goals)
Situation (expand to Metaplot in some forms of Simulationist design)
Character (broken into Effectiveness, Metagame, and Resources, as linked by Currency covertly or overtly)

I sure hope I'm not forgetting something. This is one of those lists that I always remember N-1 items for, with the missing one being random.

« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2001, 10:33:00 AM »

Yeah, certainly the list of important components to a game can be broken down like that (and surely in some other ways as well).

I was, however, aiming towards a simple resolution and a quick start when I said just "setting and system". The things you said could be reduced back into those two overall categories.

Of course, if we want to go deeper in analyzing gaming we should further categorize, as long as won't make the categories more important than the "meat" of the matter, which is why I am usually reluctant to divide and subdivide anything into increasingly abstract categories unless they present immediate benefits and applications.
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2001, 10:57:00 AM »

Also, there's something that I forgot to write about when I put up this thread. One of the reasons I'm leery (not to say that I dislike, because I don't, I'm just leery - see my above post for the reasoning) about the G/N/S divide is the fact that I see myself and my players (using them as examples as I don't of course have much experience beyond that, which seems quite self-explanatory :smile: having varied motives for playing.

If I look at the G/N/S categories, I see myself in all of them and not just in the "oh yeah I kinda agree"-fashion, but in a sense that they are all strongly manifested in me. I feel so about most of the players I've known, most of course have some slight emphasis towards one direction or the other. If the emphasis is extreme, I feel that the person in question is missing a good deal of the RPG experience.

I'm not saying it's a wrong way of playing RPGs (there isn't one, of course), favoring one approach, but for me atleast RPGs are an endearing balance of many things. The G/N/S metaphor quite well outlines those different things, but I would be inclined to look at them as three forces that are constantly active in the game (rather than as three pillars that support it, in varying degrees) : on a meta-game (with this I mean the motivations for the players to be playing the game and to come to a session) level, within the campaign world, within the setting, within the current scene .. in almost everything, in a dynamic fashion.

Or maybe I'm just a thoroughly balanced Gamist Narrativist Simulationist. (A bit weaker on the Narrativist emphasis myself, atleast in-game, though in pre-production I'm quiute heavily so)

Ahh, I hope you understand my point from my hasty ramblings. I'd love to elaborate on this at length, and when I get more time, I'll do that.    
Zak Arntson

Posts: 839

« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2001, 10:58:00 AM »

I put this way deep in the Simulate vs. Explore thread, so I'll repost it here.

I design games like this:
Premise -> Experience -> Rules

The Premise is a one-sentence basis for the game.  Experience is what I want players to get out of it.
Rules are the mechanics.  They should support both Premise and Experience.

Check out that other thread for examples ...

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