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The Problem With This Forum: Too much damn theory

Started by Valamir, February 14, 2005, 04:05:04 PM

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QuoteRalph seems to be suggesting that people like me don't belong here.

Now hold the phone here MJ.  That's an entirely unfair and baseless statement for you to make.  I went out of my way to flat out state that I wasn't reprimanding anyone and that I appreciated the time taken by folks to post here.  Do I think you've contributed a hell of alot...absolutely.  Do I think you're contributions would be even greater if you spent an hour less time in the theory forum and an hour more time talking about actual play experiences.  Yeah...I do.

The bottom line for me is not Theory vs. anti-theory.  I like theorizing as much as the next guy.  I've done a hell of alot of it myself.

My point is however, that theories of roleplaying from people who don't actually play (or who's range of play experience is exceedingly narrow) are about as valuable ultimately as legal advice on copy right law from folks who aren't practicing attorneys in the field.

In other words, there may be some really interesting points that get you thinking...but ultimately its just speculation and conjecture and thus largely unreliable.

Quite simply, if you aren't actually playing, then your theories are...frankly put...less valuable than if you were.  And if you are actually playing, then your theories become more valuable by sharing those actual play experiences that were formative to the development of your ideas.

I didn't ask for an end to theorizing.  I simply asked that those people most vocal in the theory forums spend a little more time in discussion of actual play.  Unlike Athena, roleplaying theories (good ones any way)don't spring forth fully formed from the mind of matter how bright and academically credentialled Zeus might be.  Good theories on roleplaying are the result of actual experiences at the table with other people...PLAYING.

If you're not playing you should be, and if you are, then you should be talking about that play as well as the theory behind it.

John Kim

Quote from: ValamirGo through the list of threads on the first page of this forum (and GNS too for that matter). Count how many of those threads are broad discussions involving many members and active participants vs. how many are primarily private discussions between 2 or 3 or 4 interested many cases...the SAME 2 or 3 or 4 interested parties.

If you happen to be one of those parties take a second to count your number of recent posts in the two theory forums and compare that to the count of your recent posts in the Actual Play forum, or posts about play in any of the publisher's forums.

If that ratio is horrendously lop sided...then IMO you need to slow down the volume of your theory posts and start actually playing more...and then post about that actual play...and THEN seek to tie that actual play into your theories.
OK, following Ralph/Valamir's advice, I've looked at this a little.

During 2004, I played in two bi-weekly campaigns, with maybe 3 cons and one-shots (?).  With missed sessions, I played or GMed maybe 50-something sessions total during the year.  During the same time, I have 611 Forge posts to the two forums (Theory+GNS), compared to 99 in Actual Play.  However, it's even more lopsided than that, because many of my posts to Actual Play have been comments on other people's play -- not reporting my own.  So, for example, I started only 8 threads in Actual Play about my own games during 2004 -- several of which were only one post.  

On the other hand, let's compare here a moment.  Ralph/Valamir, I only see one thread about your own Actual Play in the past year (your">Motocaust report).  Your ratio of posts during 2004 is about 442 Theory+GNS to about 136 Actual Play -- so less lopsided than mine, but still lopsided, and like me, most of your Actual Play posts aren't about your own play.  

Chris Lehrich is in a similar boat.  During 2004, 81 posts to Actual Play vs 508 to Theory+GNS.  So he has about the same lopsided ratio of posts as me.  He also had only a single thread about his own play (his">Age of Paranoia report).  

I have a few conclusions:

1) Number of posts in the Actual Play forum doesn't reflect amount of actual play.  I don't dump my session summaries into there -- it isn't useful.  Similarly, I presume that you, Ralph, have played a lot more than just Motocaust during 2004.  

2) Given the lack of our own play reports, I think suggesting that other people lack sufficient play experience for Theory is wrong.  Truthfully, I don't think anyone seriously involved in RPG Theory is lacking experience of real RPG play.
- John


Thanks for the numbers, John.  Maybe now we can start talking about what this is really about.
--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters

Paul Czege

Hey Jonathan,

Maybe now we can start talking about what this is really about.

Personally, I'm mystified by the extent to which folks across the Internet try to accrete social validation via theorizing. The Internet is half full of theory driven by someone defending their personal self-esteem, or working to establish a reputation. And the other half are people deterred (and silenced) by the endless theory war when they're looking for something they can really use. Theory without the goal of improving play (through technique and through design) is The Forge's biggest barrier to entry. There'd be fewer calls for glossaries and intro articles if the conversation was as real as it was three years ago (and as real as Vincent's weblog is today). With so many online venues for pure theory, I see no reason the Forge needs to be one of them. Especially when it's so contrary to what we were once so excellent at: helping folks figure out how to have fun again with RPGs.

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans



I agree with you except for your asumption that pure theory is "contrary to what we were once so excellent at: helping folks figure out how to have fun again with RPGs."   How can that be true when there are so many people in the RPG Theory forum figuring out how to have fun after their endless theory posts?  Frankly, I don't read most of them because they bore me.  However, from the few I do read I always see pople getting something out of it who can't wait to apply it to their RPG playing.  I find it hard to believe that other people can't see this.  In fact, it makes me wonder what this is really all about.

I hope that was clear and helpful and free of all the nonsense that people like to spout on internet forums.
--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters

M. J. Young

Quote from: Paul CzegeWith so many online venues for pure theory, I see no reason the Forge needs to be one of them. Especially when it's so contrary to what we were once so excellent at: helping folks figure out how to have fun again with RPGs.
I wasn't here when the exodus from Gaming Outpost happened. It seemed to me, though, that there was a lot of valuable discussion about theory and design that were very integrated over there, and part of what eventually persuaded me to come here was that that discussion had moved here and I was missing it.

I don't know how "pure" theory can ever be, and I don't know how "pure" design can ever be. You can't effectively do either without some relation to the other, I think. It's more a matter of degree.

It took me a while to get through Chris' article on ritual. Even when I read it, I wasn't sure it had any real value to me. However, just tonight I was writing a post about how many of my games begin with someone reading an in-character synopsis of the events of the last session--and that in doing so, the beginning of the session is created in much the same way as an invocation or call to worship will open a church service. I have a better understanding of some of what happens in my games because of the "pure theory" that happens here, and from that I get a better idea of how to facilitate better game play when I'm running games and when I'm designing them.

Like Eero, I can't imagine theory that has no practical value. Even if the theory proves wrong, it has the value of calling our attention to those aspects of play that don't fit it.

Ralph--thanks for the clarification. I doubt there's anyone here who has no RPG experience at all, and I think that I have been through times over the past seven years when I was doing a lot more discussion of theory than I was actually playing. However, I still had my past on which to draw, and I think that's valid. Sure, it's better if you're playing, because then you can see how the things being discussed relate to what's happening in your current games; but I don't think that anyone in a situation in which they are not currently able to play is automatically disqualified from being able to contribute to theory.

--M. J. Young

John Burdick

I'm wondering how the recent agreement in a theory thread relates to conflict with either the text or other players. I started to make a new thread, but stopped because all I came up with to start was "Everyone tell me how this element connects to System Does Matter in play dysfunction." That doesn't seem right. I don't know how to approach the question more usefully.



Just to provide some closure to this thread, check out this thread

THIS is what I'm talking about.  Sure, its in RPG Theory, but its chock full of actual play.  I'm not talking about gol'darn session reports.

Note where Tony snips a chunk of PBeM game to illustrate a point.  Or Kat's excellent illustration of Violet and her football player crush (not a hypothetical scenario, its from actual play).  Or Vincent's responding to John with examples of GMing struggles within his own group.

THAT'S theory backed by actual play people.  THAT's the sort of thing we need more of.  Lets all do more of that.

[edit to add]
Contrast how quickly and easily people came to mutual understanding in that thread with this Doug the Dice Guy Thread.

Doug the Dice Guy is swirling into its 4th page with no resolution in sight.  Why?  IMO it has alot to do with the fact that Doug the Dice Guy, Will the Writer, and Amy the Artist aren't real people doing real things in real games.  Its all based on conjecture regarding hypothetical situations.  
That to me is the difference between theory backed by actual play, and theory which is not.l

Ron Edwards

Thread's all done, folks. Everyone's had a say.

Make your own choices and post accordingly. I'll freely admit that I'm only closing this thread because it makes me physically tired, which is obviously a form of emotional defense on my part. But what the hell, for once I'll cop to abusing moderator privilege.