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Author Topic: Complete games with unguided resource assignment  (Read 5572 times)
Callan S.
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« on: September 09, 2005, 11:53:43 PM »

Just a quick question or three: What is the take of people here on RPG's which ask for users to assign mechanical resources without system guidance? Say, like a game which has some combat rules and stuff but some guy, usually the GM, is to draw up a dungeon for it (a dungeon, or whatever material suits the setting and angle of the game).

Do you see these as complete games? And so I'm not starting an opinion poll, what's the reasoning behind your answer?

If you picked up one of these games and had a fun time playing, would you attribute that result to the game? What are the reasons for your answer?

Also, what do you think about the resource structures of games and what sort of effects newly added resources have on system (and how it matters)?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2005, 05:37:34 AM »

I don't know what you mean by "complete as games," which makes it hard to answer.

If you asked me, without further context, "Is freeform RPG, with no rules whatsoever, a game?" I'd say "Yeah, of course... you can see people playing it, in ways that are strongly reminiscent of all sorts of other games, like Truth or Dare."

If, on the other hand, you asked me "Is D&D a mathematically closed system, such that the behaviors of the system itself can be understood in logistical terms without reference to black boxes from which unpredictable numbers arise seemingly at random?" I'd have to ask "Are people faithfully running pre-published scenarios, or are they making up their own dungeons and monsters?"

But "complete game"?  Does my first answer mean that freeform RPGs are complete games?  Does my second answer mean that D&D isn't?  I don't know how you want to use the term, and I don't want to leap in to saying something that can easily be read as an indictment of one type of system.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2005, 02:10:27 PM »

Good clarification questions! Freeform is a complete game, I agree.

By complete I should have indicated written RPG's (in whatever format/paper/PDF/etc) which specify that they are complete and portable. As in the rules are written out and another group could follow them to successfully play the game as intended by the designer, rather than some/all of the rules being in certain peoples heads and you'd need to play with them if you want to play the game.

Also, complete refers to the designers insistance that it is indeed complete. In that the game has no footnote indicating that the game is actually incomplete or a draft.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2005, 04:13:48 PM »

Okay then, by that definition, the game is complete if there is no footnote saying it's not complete.  My opinion doesn't have any bearing.

It feels like you're fishing around, hoping to find somebody who will argue that such games aren't complete... and using such a vague definition that the person who bites at your bait will have to clarify what "complete" means, in order to make a thesis that they can argue.

Honestly, I'd much rather hear whether you think that such games are complete.  What's your opinion?
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2005, 06:02:39 PM »

By complete I should have indicated written RPG's (in whatever format/paper/PDF/etc) which specify that they are complete and portable. As in the rules are written out and another group could follow them to successfully play the game as intended by the designer, rather than some/all of the rules being in certain peoples heads and you'd need to play with them if you want to play the game.
These are not quite the same thing...

I read portable to mean that the rules are such that, when following the rules, it is not possible to fail to play the game as the designer intended, whereas your clarificatory sentence suggests that it's possible to use the rules to play the game as the designer intended, which is a much more permissive requirement.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2005, 08:40:16 PM »

Tony, I'd like to say my opinion but let's give non bias one more shot. The clarification isn't a definition, it's an example of 'written RPG's which specify that they are complete and portable'. The games text itself says that as an assertion (it's not me making a definition, I'm just paraphrasing what these texts suggest). Feel free to debate this assertion in any answer you give.

Shreyas, I'm not sure why your making the distinction there (I can see a distinction, but can't see why it matters). Are you saying something along the lines that "it is not possible to fail to play the game as the designer intended" just isn't possible in a design (to which I agree)? And further you might be saying that the more permissive requirement is thus inclusive of play that has the GM doing alot of unguided resource assignment? If I'm well off, can I get some more info from you about it?
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2005, 09:46:04 PM »

I'm suggesting that the more permissive requirement is so permissive that it's close to meaningless for the purposes of this discussion.
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2005, 11:20:46 PM »

Callan,

OK, let me break this down: we've got a game that consists of "combat system etc." and then requires GM (or someone) effort to build a MECHANICAL (meaning just exactly what, here?) resource-containing environment for play.  But there is no "system guidance" for doing so.  Is that a complete game?

The main place I'll look is at that "system guidance" question.  What does that mean?  If the game text says something off-hand about not killing characters in the first room, is that "system guidance"?  I think the answer is yes, and thus, I guess as long as there's something like that, the game is "complete".  So I think an incomplete game is an excedingly rare thing - the "NO system guidance" qualifier basically never happens.  But a more interesting question is how much guidance, and in what form, works best to reliably produce enjoyable play? (I think we get many different answers, based on the tastes and CA's of those involved)

That's where I think you'd have to look as far as attributing the fun, too.  To what degree was that explicit and/or implicit guidance an important part of facilitating the fun?  A lot?  Then lots of attribution to the game.  A little?  Then some more attribution to the players than to the game.  It'll pretty much always be a mix, just a question of the portions involved in the mixing.

Resource structures?  Actual play always ends up being about this, in both obvious and inobvious ways.  Newly added resources can totally screw a previously-working system, or they can be a cool and fun-enhancing addition - the factors involved seem, off-hand, incredibly varied and tied to particular systems and circumstances.

As to the effect upon HOW system matters - I'm not seeing anything there.  Resource matters to system generally, and system matters to play generally, though in neither case is the first the whole of what matters to the second.  Nothing immediately occurs to me as unique about newly-added resources.  I mean, if less thought is put into the newly added stuff, then maybe you're more likely to create problems, but again that's a general truism, not a particular problem with newly addd resources.

Hope that's the kind of response you're looking for, and I join Tony in saying "hey, tell us what YOU think!"
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TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2005, 04:52:50 AM »

Tony, I'd like to say my opinion but let's give non bias one more shot.
Why do you think you'll get a more productive discussion by not putting your own opinion into the mix?  Let us know what you think, in a way that makes it clear that you also want to know what other people think even when they disagree with you.  As it is, your very successful nods toward non-bias have also created a topic which has non-meaning.

Anyway, here's my take on something near what I think your subject is, but not using any of your terms (because I don't know what they mean):

Roleplaying has a long historical connection with a kitbashing mentality.  Many early games (and even some modern games) are built in such a way that they cannot be played as written... the rules themselves need to be interpreted and drifted before they can be used.  Because of this, very few roleplayers believe that they can have complete artistic freedom simply by using the rules as their tools.  They are accustomed to the idea that if they're going to do something really creative, they'll have to do it outside the rules as written.  That's a much subtler kind of kit-bashing... the idea of bringing in things that the rules allow, but in no way support.

Many games that can be played as written assume this mode of contribution:  a lack of rules in some area is often trumpeted as a virtue because of the increased flexibility it provides.  I think that's true and false:  If the designer found herself unable to create a good set of rules that would facilitate a particular area of design then they did the players a favor by not giving any rules at all.  But it would clearly (to my mind) have been better to provide a set of rules that supplemented and refined the original creativity of the players in that area.

So, Worst:  Rules that are actively bad.  Better:  No rules at all, rely on player creativity and judgment.  Best:  Rules that do a better job than unaided player creativity and judgment.

My problem with the term "complete" is that it isn't anything relative like "better."  It's absolute, like "good enough."  I don't know whether such games are good enough to be considered complete.
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Kynn
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« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2005, 09:04:51 AM »

This seems like a leading question.

Why are you asking it?  Why does it matter?

I'm confused.

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Sean
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« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2005, 06:27:13 PM »

I'll also mention, just for the record, that D&D is actually better than most games of this type, because of the random encounter tables. There are fairly concrete guidelines.

But this topic is actually way way more complicated than I thought a few months ago, so I'll shut up now.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2005, 08:39:45 PM »

Okay, the reason I haven't stated my own opinions is because I already wrote a rant in word about this. Then I looked at it and realised I was only explaining one side (a negative side) and not asking for discussion on it. This negtive side I proposed in the rant, was a 'emporers new clothes' type illusion. However, trying to burst the illusion with a post wouldn't help me understand it any better/learn how to burst it more effectively. You can't examine an illusion at the same time your shredding it apart in a thread.

That didn't work out. So as asked for, my opinion is that despite the authors assertions, these are NOT complete games. However, the authors strong assertion that they are grants an illusion for players that thier own mechanical input (adding numbers and items) is part of the game. It's an illusion along the same lines as genuine 'my guy' sydrome, where the player isn't using that to conciously manipulate the game but instead really see's his characters actions as something not of his own making.

I'll give some room for right of reply to my opinion, before responding to posts given so far.
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2005, 09:08:04 PM »

Callan,

At the moment I'm still having trouble understanding your initial question.  You say you're talking about games that require players to assign mechanical resources without guidance.  You then say you're talking about games that are, either directly or by omission, claimed to be "complete" or "portable" (which strike me as two radically different concepts).

Clarification questions:  Dogs in the Vineyard requires the GM to assign values to NPCs and provides a section on how to do this.  Is that assigning mechanical resources with guidance?  D&D 3.5 requires the DM to come up with adventures/dungeons and populate them with obstacles.  It includes Challenge Ratings and level-loot tables and the like.  Is that assigning mechanical resources with guidance?  So, perhaps an example of what you're talking about would help since I'm still not entirely sure what you mean.

You later clarify "complete" by saying that you're talking about games that self-identify as complete.  Is this in addition to providing no guidance for mechanical assignment?  It seems that you might be saying that you don't consider any roleplaying game to be complete.  I don't think so, but it might be what you're saying.

Also, "portable" and "complete" seem to be radically different concepts to me.  Are you making them synonymous here?  Are you intending that claims of "completeness" be claims of "portability" for the purposes of this discussion?

Thomas
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2005, 09:21:10 AM »

So as asked for, my opinion is that despite the authors assertions, these are NOT complete games.

No book is a complete game.  The game is the people sitting around a table playing.  The book may provide guidelines for the game, but it will never provide a set of rules which entirely describes the social interactions going on between the players.

I don't know if you've completed one of your own games and seen it played by others, Callan, but I can tell you, as a game designer the one thing you are never doing is writing instructions for other people to follow.  The published material is not and will never be "the game" -- at best you'll inspire the game.  The players are an intrinsic part of the game, and unless you're writing for a very specific, very small audience that you personally know, you can't predict who is playing the game, what will be important to their play style, what rules they will decide to gloss over, what rituals and procedures they'll import into "your" game from elsewhere.

I think what you're seeing is the difference between books that are more or less open to this inevitability, and more or less rely on it.  The spectrum stretches from Dogs to Risus, but no matter how specific the book is, it will never be "complete" to the point where the players don't contribute something to the game.  After all, if the players didn't contribute anything, why would they play?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2005, 10:00:57 PM »

Mechanical resources
A healing potion is described as having a deep blue hue, with strange swirling shapes. At a purely mechanical resource level it recovers 1D8+1 HP.

Complete and portable
Here's an example: Someone writes a recipe for almond cake, which lists the ingredients, the measures involved and the way to cook it. They hand someone else that recipe and that other person follows the recipe and makes another almond cake. I'd call that recipe complete and portable. Now, if another guy writes up an almond cake recipe but skips writing down half the ingredients before handing it on. I'm not sure someone else would end up making almond cake, even with a picture to work from. I'd call that recipe incomplete and given the differing results, not portable from one individual to another.

Quote from: Gordon
But a more interesting question is how much guidance, and in what form, works best to reliably produce enjoyable play? (I think we get many different answers, based on the tastes and CA's of those involved)
You used the word reliable, I used the word portable (as in, if it produces a certain type of (fun) play in one group, can it produce that in another group? Is it portable?). I think were saying the same thing, just differently.

System guidance
An example of system guided resource allocation "There are six stats and you have twenty points to spread amongst them as you see fit"

Quote from: LS
You later clarify "complete" by saying that you're talking about games that self-identify as complete. Is this in addition to providing no guidance for mechanical assignment?
Yes.


Hi Joshua,

Take the almond cake example from above. That is a fixed set of instructions for someone to follow. Yet it doesn't control how they taste the eventual cake, or what tastes they like, or how they talk about what they like, or how they use the almond cake to cement a special occasion.

The completeness of the recipe doesn't eliminate this player input. Further, what do you think would happen to this input if the recipe was only half written up?


All,

I don't have a great grasp of Capes mechanics, but from what I understand and from reading actual play I believe it complete and portable. So I'm going to give an example where I take that quality and break it.

Imagine if in capes, there was some way to 'find' story points in game and it was one players job to hide them in various spots, at his discretion (though imagine there's a section that gives a lot of talk on how to do that fairly or some such).

A question for everybody; How many story points would it take before the story point economy of Capes pales in significance compared to the input of this player, in his placing of this resource?

It's best if you answer it for yourself, rather than a theoretical answer. Because what will be important is that what amount is important to you will not match with everyone else's opinion. That's the key to the portability issue.
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