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Author Topic: One Page RPGs  (Read 1428 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« on: April 23, 2002, 07:37:54 AM »

This probably isn't a new thing, but it seems to me that one page RPGs are popping up all over.

SLUG, GRAPE, REAL and so on. brief RPG rules that fit on one page, or less that five pages.

I was wondering what the Forge membership thinks of all of this.
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Daredevil
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2002, 07:55:27 AM »

I think many roleplaying games could be condensed to five or less pages if there is less emphasis on flavor content, explanations for those not immediately familiar with the terminology of roleplaying games and such things in the treatise, resulting in less textual content. Many games as presented on the web fit this description.

I'm not sure what I think about it as a general trend, but for purposes of discussing, developing and considering game designs, I think it is very functional. However, in publication I like games to be thick with stuff.

This thread probably belongs to the Theory forum, though.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2002, 08:09:19 AM »

Hey,

Joachim is right - this is a Theory topic. Folks, what do I have to do to get people to stop posting "neat idea" or "general analysis" topics in Indie Design? The announcement is very explicit and the Beef Injections all carry the same message in their first paragraph.

Jack, as you probably know, SLUG has been around for well over ten years. The one-page RPG is not a new idea at all.

I have a couple of comments about it, though. For one thing, SLUG is a broken and frankly unplayable game. Its author subscribes to a "system doesn't matter" viewpoint and its dice therefore are present only as a kind of "well, gamers like them for some reason" element. They present none of the internal logic that even The Window's dice display, and as such can only exist as distractors - they're there in order for the GM to ignore them.

I am not especially impressed by so-called One-Page RPGs on a more general level, however, and for more substantial reasons.

A usable RPG provides the inspirational qualities of Exploration. It might not give all the elements to be Explored, but it gives enough so that the reader can fill in what's missing if necessary, and what is more, is inspired to do so. Note that Fudge does deliver this, both by Exploring System in some detail and also by providing plenty of Color through its unusual mode of illustration. The Pool barely, barely manages to deliver the minimum requirement because its System necessarily implies Situation, as well as giving clear rules to produce a Character with added Color.

I have not yet seen this crucial quality in any one-page RPG text.

Best,
Ron
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Paganini
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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2002, 08:42:26 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hey,
A usable RPG provides the inspirational qualities of Exploration. It might not give all the elements to be Explored, but it gives enough so that the reader can fill in what's missing if necessary, and what is more, is inspired to do so. Note that Fudge does deliver this, both by Exploring System in some detail and also by providing plenty of Color through its unusual mode of illustration. The Pool barely, barely manages to deliver the minimum requirement because its System necessarily implies Situation, as well as giving clear rules to produce a Character with added Color.


Go check out How to Cheat Death without really trying. It's got situation out the wazoo, and I bet it fits on one page.

Quote

I have not yet seen this crucial quality in any one-page RPG text.


Now you have.

;)
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2002, 11:32:45 AM »

I'd suggest my own the Jon Morris Sketchbuk RPG, SLURPS and Fungeon as good examples of short & "complete" rpgs. (As far as they provide for Exploration: Situation, Situation + Color, Situation + Color + Setting, respectively)

I think, in part, one-page RPGs are a reaction to commercial RPGs, that load their rulebooks with tons of rules. Most of them seem to be bloated versions of simple systems, and could use a bunch of trimming. (See Dying Earth's falling/drowning rules for a small example of rules bloat).

It could follow the same principles as art since (at least) shortly before the French Revolution: It tends to go in cycles of reactions to the previous norm. RPGs just haven't been around long enough to have a cycle. It's more like:

D&D -> Vampire -> Indie Explosion into Mainstream (which I think we're at the cusp of ... I mean there's going to be an Indie booth at GenCon for chrissake)
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2002, 09:09:34 PM »

In front of me I have GRAPE, SLUG, Heritage, and Real. Here's a couple observations:

* first of all, they aren't all one page. Slug prints on two pages. Heritage is six pages with very small type.  Lots of white space but small type. So I guess we'll need a new name for this phenomenom. "One-page RPG" just doesn't fit.

* SLUG is by far the oldest, and the others seem to owe their existence to that game.  They either cite it as an inspiration (Heritage) or it is an obvious descendant (GRAPE)

* In spite of their brevity, they are difficult to read through because of the pretentiousness, although some are better than others.

Quote
from Hertitage:
You have read correctly. We don't need dice or tables or any crutches to set our creative potential free.


* All follow a similar structure. WHether this comes from SLUG or just traditional RPG design I am uncertain (and probably varies)

    [*]Character Creation
     Generally, there is little direction given for creating a character. The basic feature is simply do what you want, although they all allow for a GM edit or veto of a character. Mostly they seem to be in favor of writing an essay about the character and figuring out what the character can do from that. Numeric stats aren't used.

    [*]Task Resolution
     There's a joke RPG out there called the Six Word RPG: "Players roll dice, GM determines results" or something to that effect. This describes the task resolution systems.

    [*]Character Advancement
     Over time, the character will improve either by acquiring more traits in their description or by improving the existing traits. No system is given for this, which is really no surprize. It would have been a surprize to find a detailed or strict method for advancing a character after having no guidance for creating or using the characters in the first place.
    [/list:u]

    All four of these games seem to think of themselves as storytelling games AKA Narrativist.  And they may be to a group that already knows what they're doing, and that's fine for them, but what about the rest of us? These games are about one or two steps above free-form role playing, which is a movement somewhere, I'm sure. WHat I find lacking is a reason to use these games rather than simply going pure freeform (whatever that may be) Rather than starting with freeform and developing rules to enforce and aid that, they took traditional RPG design and watered it down until the rules were bare minimalist.

    This is not a bad thing, but many, many assumptnions from traditional design remain, such as the GM as the primary storyteller, the concept of character advancement (you can almost hear them say "levels"), the Task Resolution section contains a sub section on combat, and so on.

    In the end, these games are disapointing. They have an idea but simply handle it badly.  The idea is to turn up the volume on the storytelling element but they've mistaken minimalist design for story-enforcing design.

    Personally, I don't mind these games so much.  Think of it like the music industry. d20 is like the boy bands out there. These games are like that guy on the street corner strumming his guitar next to the open case. A lot of times that guy isn't very good.  He only knows one song, an old Kansas tune, that he plays over and over and over. But sometimes he's pretty good.  Sometimes he's doing something actually original.

    What does it take to stop for a minute and listen and, if you like what you hear to drop a coin into the case?
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    Ron Edwards
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    « Reply #6 on: April 24, 2002, 05:38:50 AM »

    Jack,

    Well put. This is one of those empty posts that just says, "I agree."

    (I try not to do that very often, but you know, sometimes ya just gotta.)

    Best,
    Ron
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