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Subject... yeah... uh...

Started by Paganini, May 05, 2002, 06:29:16 PM

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Paganini

I'm really not sure what to call this thread, but it deals with an odd thought that struck me this morning while I was out back throwing knives.

First, a question: How many of the forge-ites actually play the games they design and talk about? More generally, how many members of the RPG net community actually play the games they design and talk about?

I know some of us do... reading the Actual Play forum is proof of that; but I wonder how many of us really actually *play* these games. I know that I hardly ever actually play an RPG... I live in a rural area. The few gamers I know don't live nearby, and are interested in vastly different thigns (frex, my brother's friend is an anime dude... Sailor Moon, FFVII, and so on, while one of my colleagues in the ISO is a D&D3e guy). So out of neccessity I do pretty much all of my gaming on the internet. But that itself is problematic... it's difficult to schedule IRC games, and PBeM games suffer from flow and commitment problems.

I know several guys on the net who make no bones about admitting that they're too busy to play, or, like me, have no gamers around, and so on.

So, this morning I found myself questioning my own hobby. Really, I thought, does it make a lot of sense for you to have this obsession with an activity that you never actually participate in? Isn't kind of wierd for you to design games that you never get to play? You spend a great deal of time writing about games, reading games, reading gaming websites, sitting and thinking about RPGs, discussing RPGs. Are you maybe just a little bit crazy?

So, I went on like this for a while, when a different thought struck me.

Could it be that the discussion and design of RPGs is a valid recreational pastime in itself? I find myself deriving quite a lot of satisfaction from getting such and such a mechanic just so, even though I know it's never going to be used.

I found myself thinking of chess kibitzers, who typicaly have a vast knowledge of the game, spend disproportionate lengths of time discussing the game, and yet never play the game. Or, music aficianados who attend every symphony performance, can list opus numbers for obscure works, but who have never played an instrument.

Has anyone else ever thought about this, or am I just a bit insane?

Clinton R. Nixon

I've thought a lot about this - for the first six or so months after I started the forums on The Forge, I didn't play much. I finally started playing - and enjoyed all of this much, much more. I now find it frustrating not to be playing games that we're discussing, and make it a point to.

This is a strong statement, but I think it's much, much less valuable to discuss and theorize about games than to actually play the games and derive discussion and theories from that.

- Clinton
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Paganini

Clinton:

With that in mind, I wonder if it would be worthwhile and possible to set up some Forge game sessions. Not just for fun, but to actually see how all the stuff we discuss here works out in practice. There are so many games posted here; wouldn't it be cool if we could just pick some out and try them?

Maybe a forum for play-by-post games, or a Forge IRC channel could be set up. Now that it's closing in on summertime I imagine a lot of us have more free time, so scheduling for IRC games might be easier. There are enough of us on the Forge that different gamers could play the different games that they're interested in. That is, the guys that want to play Shadows could do that, and the guys that want to play Donjon could do that. Play reports could generate a lot of discussion in the Actual Play and RPG Theory forums.

What does everyone think? Would this be valuable? Practical?

Ron Edwards

Nathan,

Some of us have gone through the tunnel, with great care attention, whereas you are currently merely poking at its entrance.

Back on GO, years ago, I posted a thread regarding "Do you actually play, or are you just a big talker?" That wasn't its exact title, but it was something like that. It prompted a huge amount of (1) lame excuses and (2), over the months, actual play. Some of the people involved in that discussion have been playing to this day and represent some of the more active members of the Forge.

The Actual Play forum, here on the Forge, is the direct descendant of that thread, which itself was born of my frustration with pseudo-role-players. I have no interest in the claims of those who don't play, with some few exceptions. I don't think much of reviews based on lack of play, nor is any claim to be able to "just know" what an RPG is like going to interest me. (I do recognize that not all "real" role-players play all the time, or are currently engaged in it.)

The content of Sorcerer and most especially the preface to The Sorcerer's Soul express my viewpoint on this topic. Basically, that game, as well as the existence of the Forge, is about the practitioning of role-playing. GNS is about role-playing as a real in-the-moment activity, and only secondarily about game design.

So, in some ways, Nathan, I respect your point, but it's an old point, and in many ways the existence of this website has already provided a non-debatable answer to it. If anyone does not agree with the "actual play is the fundamental issue" orientation of the Forge, he or she has to put that view aside in order to participate here at all.

Again, this is not to say, "If you didn't play recently, get out." I am saying: actual play is fundamental to game design, to publishing, to reviews, to theory, and to the existence of the site.

Best,
Ron

Paganini

Quote from: Ron EdwardsNathan,
Back on GO, years ago, I posted a thread regarding "Do you actually play, or are you just a big talker?" That wasn't its exact title, but it was something like that. It prompted a huge amount of (1) lame excuses and (2), over the months, actual play. Some of the people involved in that discussion have been playing to this day and represent some of the more active members of the Forge.

And here I thought I was coming up with something new and interesting. :) Oh well... does that GO thread still exist? I'd like to read it, if you can point me to it.

Anyway, I more or less agree with everything you said - especially about reviewing games one hasn't played - after all, games are designed to be played in the long run.

I was just thinking that the kind of gaming I do isn't really the kind of gaming that I'm interested in. (I mostly play one shot combat-oriented games like Tunnels and Trolls with my brother.) The games I write are intended to be different from the way I actually play.

But in any case, my basic question still stands; I know it arises from the fact that I don't get to play very often, which is what you dealt with, but even so - regardless of whether or not you actually play, is design for design's sake a valid activity?

This is more important than it may seem at first glance. It appears to me that many of the commercially published games are produced in just this way.  It's my perception that many recent games are founded on what the designer *thinks* would be cool in play, rather than what the designer has *found* to be cool in play. Their games have the advantage of being play*tested* by large groups of people, but it's my understanding that a lot of game designers are to busy writing games to actually play them themselves.

This could perhapse spawn a subthread: is third party playtesting a valid replacement for actually playing your game yourself?

Lance D. Allen

I hope I'm not intruding by not taking this to a sub-thread, but I want to answer Nathan's last question, at least how I feel about it.

QuoteThis could perhapse spawn a subthread: is third party playtesting a valid replacement for actually playing your game yourself?

Without a doubt or hesitation, NO. Just like hearing about a game is no replacement or substitute for actually playing it yourself, playtesting is no different. However, 3rd party playtesting is a vital supplemental to playtesting it yourself. But, as someone pointed out in one of my MB threads, running the game yourself isn't the only way. Get one of your players familiar enough with the game to run it, so you can see it from both sides of the line. The broader your base of playtesters, the better off your final product will be, so long as you maintain focus, rather than trying to please everyone on every point.

But as for the main topic of this thread, so as to not derail it completely.. I play D&D3E to get a gaming fix, though it's a mostly unsatisfactory one. Currently, for me at least, it is the only game in town. I've been trying like crazy to get MB to playtest, and I've also been pushing Riddle of Steel a lot lately (this group is SO not ready for Sorceror... I'm not sure *I'm* ready for Sorceror). Anyone with the level of obsession with RPGs that they would attempt to make one independently, yet who does not attempt to roleplay something, somehow, whenever the opportunity presents itself is a foreign concept to me. This is why I'll settle for a game which doesn't meet my needs just so I'll be playing something.

A gamer without a game is a sad, sad thing, so says I.

If you do try to get together a Forge gaming group, let me know. If I have the time, I may be interested in joining you.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

Sidhain

Do I play the games I write? No.

Not as a player at least.

I do tend to run them as a GM--mostly it has to do with my current players, I'll let them run my games if they have an interest in them, but mostly they just want me to run them.


I wouldn't be writing them though if I didn't plan to use them. That be a waste of my time--I do have /many/ ideas for games I won't run "right now" but will at some point.