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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 70 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: RPG Design Patterns  (Read 34975 times)
tj333
Member

Posts: 76


« Reply #30 on: October 02, 2005, 09:53:19 PM »

tj333,

By the way, do you have a name?  It is somewhat disconcerting to speak to a couple of initials and a number, although my employer has the opposite opinion.

My name is TJ McCrea. TJ is still intials but Ive always used them as my name.Now the number is waht makes me distintive. Googling tj333 give near 3 pages of links to me, including this thread. ;)
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Owen
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #31 on: October 02, 2005, 10:26:02 PM »

I would just like to say that I, too, thoroughly enjoyed looking through your book.  I haven't read it all yet, but it definitely seems interesting.

Also, I want to echo the desire to see some explanation of dice mechanics, and/or of fortune mechanics in general.  Though that might be a large enough topic for an entire sequel!
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Montola
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #32 on: October 02, 2005, 11:56:31 PM »

Hmm, I haven't read this book yet, but at a quick browse I concluded that the approach is quite similar to Game Design Patterns approach advocated by Staffan Björk and Jussi Holopainen. Their main collection of game design patterns has been published recently as a book, containing some 300 or 500 patterns -- including such as "role-playing" and "character". (There are also some conference publications on their website).

Oh dear, I wonder when I get the time to read 260 more pages. :-)


 - Markus
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Rob Carriere
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #33 on: October 03, 2005, 12:16:26 AM »

John,
I've finally had a change to look at your book this weekend. Wow. That's an impressive achievement.

My one nit at this point is one that's been pointed out before, namely the change of voice. I don't actually think the voice changes themselves represent a serious problem, the high overall quality of your writing ensures that, but in many places they are symptomatic of a change from objective description to subjective opinion. Since, as you argue eloquently in the introduction, a pattern is neither good nor bad without context, it follows that either your opinion as stated is not valid, or the thing described is not actually a pattern.

So I would recommend going over these places and adding context to your opinion (i.e. from "pattern X is foo" to "pattern X is foo when either Y or Z"). You'll probably find that tones down the informality automatically, so you'll be killing two birds with one stone. If it turns out that, actually, pattern X is always foo, then you've got anti-pattern on your hands.

SR
--
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Stefan / 1of3
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #34 on: October 03, 2005, 06:59:17 AM »

John, if you are interested in the Tarot pattern, you might want to check Engel by Feder&Schwert. The game is published with two sets of rules: D20 and the Arcana System.

In the latter the only gauges are the fuzzy ones created by a set of cards and the equally fuzzy effects of the characters' supernatural gifts.
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Stefan / 1of3
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #35 on: October 03, 2005, 07:00:20 AM »

The game was translated by White Wolf.

((Why can't I edit my posts?))
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ffilz
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Posts: 468


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« Reply #36 on: October 03, 2005, 08:55:27 PM »

I've just started to dip into this, excellent work. One thought on adding additional games that demonstrate the patterns you've already identified:

While I understand your desire to get the most patterns for the least number of games described, I think it is worthwhile including more mainstream games, and also very well known examples of particular patterns. People will be better able to relate to the ideas the more of the games they are familiar with.

Identifying first occurence of each pattern would be interesting, but I agree it's value might not be high. It might be interesting though to see how the patterns developed, and maybe there's something to extract there. Perhaps such a study would make a nice paper for someone to write.

Frank
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Frank Filz
John Kirk
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #37 on: October 03, 2005, 10:26:28 PM »

Hmm, I haven't read this book yet, but at a quick browse I concluded that the approach is quite similar to Game Design Patterns approach advocated by Staffan Björk and Jussi Holopainen. Their main collection of game design patterns has been published recently as a book, containing some 300 or 500 patterns -- including such as "role-playing" and "character".

I read the book a couple of months ago.  You can imagine my nervous anticipation as I waited for Amazon to ship it to me.  Yes, the approaches are similar but attack the problem from different angles.  Their book mainly focuses on computer games, although some of it is applicable to tabletop RPG's and other games as well.  I counted 166 patterns, actually.  My book focuses on tabletop RPGs, although some of it is applicable to computer RPG's as well.  I'm trying to keep the number of patterns down to less than 50.  The primary difference, though, is that most of their patterns are more abstract than mine.  (As you say, "roleplaying" is a pattern in their book.)  Perhaps because of their more abstract thrust, they omit the "Samples" section that I feel is vital to convey how a pattern is used in practice.  And, it's probably why the book contains no diagrams.  Even so, I'm sure it is quite useful in computer game design and promises to give game programmers a well-defined terminology.

John, if you are interested in the Tarot pattern, you might want to check Engel by Feder&Schwert. The game is published with two sets of rules: D20 and the Arcana System.

In the latter the only gauges are the fuzzy ones created by a set of cards and the equally fuzzy effects of the characters' supernatural gifts.

Is this a drama-based resolution system then?

One thought on adding additional games that demonstrate the patterns you've already identified:

While I understand your desire to get the most patterns for the least number of games described, I think it is worthwhile including more mainstream games, and also very well known examples of particular patterns. People will be better able to relate to the ideas the more of the games they are familiar with.

That is a good point.  I'll keep that in mind.
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John Kirk

Check out Legendary Quest.  It's free!
Stefan / 1of3
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #38 on: October 03, 2005, 11:07:57 PM »

Is this a drama-based resolution system then?

Yeah.
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Sydney Freedberg
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Posts: 1293


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« Reply #39 on: October 04, 2005, 09:45:48 AM »

John,

First off, extraordinary. It's a real contribution to the hobby (dare I say "the art"?) that someone has attempted for techniques (as you put it, the engineering) what Ron Edwards & co. have attempted for the theory: systematically look through what's out there, identify patterns, and suggest a common framework and terminology.

Second, I want to suggest more work for you to do. (Of course). From my still-partial reading of the book, your patterns are overwhelmingly concerned with (a) how characters are built, i.e. "chargen" and (b) how characters interact with the game-world, i.e. "task resolution"/"conflict resolution" -- which is of course what the vast majority of games spend the vast majority of their rules discussing. But I would argue that the pattern you identify as "Structured Story" (e.g. My Life with Master) actually belongs to another and poorly-understand category of patterns altogether, a category of which it is not the sole examplar: These are Patterns about how the game-world is set up, not just in terms of general "setting" but in terms of the specific environment that the player-characters must then interact with in play -- what we might call (c) "scenario design" or (to use the Forge term) "Situation design."

Now, most games are frankly very weak on structured, patterned scenario/situation design. They include what amounts to general advice ("rising action precedes the climax" or "don't kill the party in the second room") as opposed to specific, concrete procedure for constructing Situation. Vincent Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard is one of the few examples: Look at the "Town Creation" and "NPC creation" section and note how clearly defined the steps are, how constrained the GM's resources are, how focused the whole procedure is on a particular end result, and then compare with the vague "GM advice" in most RPGs. This isn't quite "Structured Story" -- the sequence of in-play events is not structured, but rather a sequence of pre-play decisions -- but it is clearly akin.

Are there other examples of situation/scenario design Patterns?
- I would suspect that much-maligned Dungeons & Dragons, with its linkage of player-character level to dungeon level to monster level in early editions, and the whole "challenge rating" system in later editions, is one of the few games besides Baker's to attempt comparably clear procedures for scenario design.
- There was an interesting discussion of how to create formal rules for how general setting translates into specific situations on Vincent Baker's website www.lumpley.com, which I link to and summarize in this Forge discussion which I shamelessly threadjacked. But this "rules of derivation" mechanic hasn't been identified in any published game I know of.

Now, you're familiar with far more games than I, so you may be able to come up with more examples of this family of Patterns if you consciously look for them. In practice, since so few games actually do this, I suspect it'd be fairly easy to add another Pattern or two to the list and amend the existing entries (e.g. for Dogs) to show their specific implementations. Obviously, this is, as I said, me saying "Good job! Do more!" but I think it would add an important additional layer to what's already a great contribution.
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matthijs
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Posts: 462


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« Reply #40 on: October 04, 2005, 01:00:32 PM »

Just wanted to say "yay!". And "fsck, now I have even more stuff to read". Amazing work, John!
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Christoph Boeckle
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Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland


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« Reply #41 on: October 04, 2005, 01:14:04 PM »

@Sydney:

Just off the top of my head, here are two more examples of games with situation-structure:

My Life with Master is chock-full of them: The Horror Revealed, Overture scenes on errands for the master, Endgame and probably more.

Polaris has them as well, with the Zeal gauge gently going into Weariness. A knight can only die after having reached enough Weariness. This can also give rise to a confrontation with the knight of Polaris.
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Regards,
Christoph
Sydney Freedberg
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Posts: 1293


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« Reply #42 on: October 04, 2005, 01:28:33 PM »

Ah, yes, how could I have forgotten Polaris -- John, I'm afraid that's required reading on several fronts now.

But to proceed to quibble with you, Christoph: I think a mechanically predetermined story arc during play, a la Polaris or My Life with Master, is a subtly but significantly different thing from a mechanical procedure to generate backstory prior to play, a la Dogs in the Vineyard.

Note that Dogs play does have a loosely predetermined story arc of "arrive, investigate, understand, and judge," but that's a separate thing from the Town Creation rules.

Note also, now that I think of it, that My Life with Master may exemplify both these Patterns, which may help me explain the elusive difference:

1) Structured Situation: The rules for Master specifically instruct the players to brainstorm together to come up with the Master, without the sequential steps of Dogs but with specified issues to consider, e.g. Brain/Beast, Feeder/Collector/Breeder/Teacher, The Others, Need, and Want. The game also specifies the Master's relationship to the Village and mechanically embodies it in the Fear and Reason scores, which again are set pre-game.

2) Structured Story: Once Master play begins, the fact that Self-Loathing and Weariness values can only go up, while Love goes both up and down, and the rules for scene-framing keyed to those values (including the Master's commands, Overtures to beloved Connections, Horror Revealed, and Endgame), all combine to produce a back-and-forth between Master and Minions over the fate of the village generally and their loved ones specifically until the Minions rebel, and the master dies.
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John Kirk
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #43 on: October 04, 2005, 11:10:01 PM »

From my still-partial reading of the book, your patterns are overwhelmingly concerned with (a) how characters are built, i.e. "chargen" and (b) how characters interact with the game-world, i.e. "task resolution"/"conflict resolution" -- which is of course what the vast majority of games spend the vast majority of their rules discussing. But I would argue that the pattern you identify as "Structured Story" (e.g. My Life with Master) actually belongs to another and poorly-understand category of patterns altogether, a category of which it is not the sole examplar: These are Patterns about how the game-world is set up, not just in terms of general "setting" but in terms of the specific environment that the player-characters must then interact with in play -- what we might call (c) "scenario design" or (to use the Forge term) "Situation design."

That is an excellent idea, Sydney.  The previously mentioned Ritual concept might represent a sort of "Structured Session" pattern as well.  So, all of these patterns collectively might fit under a heading like "Structured Play".  I suspect Endgame would fit there as well.

Ah, yes, how could I have forgotten Polaris -- John, I'm afraid that's required reading on several fronts now.

Okay.  I just ordered it, along with some other things I've been wanting to look at.  Unfortunately, Engel is unavailable for purchase right now.  I guess they sold out.  I also ordered Over the Edge and Feng Shui.  Amber and Castle Falkenstein are unfortunately out of print as well, so no luck there.
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John Kirk

Check out Legendary Quest.  It's free!
Darren Hill
Member

Posts: 861


« Reply #44 on: October 05, 2005, 03:07:57 AM »

You can get a pdf of Falkenstein at DriveThru:
http://tinyurl.com/cblgz

Engel, too:
http://tinyurl.com/bve6g

Does the scene requesting/framing element of play in Primetime Adventures qualify as a design pattern?
Does PTA also fit both the Structured Story/Situation Design along with My Life With Master?
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