*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 23, 2019, 12:16:04 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Author Topic: the purpose of system/rules  (Read 6200 times)
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 1121

student, second edition


WWW
« on: September 16, 2002, 07:31:05 AM »

One of the stronger presences at the Forge is that of developing good narrative-focus games. Good. Most big games out there seem like the anti-narrative to me. I think the game I'm working on will be highly narrative.

So what to do about rules for this game? I took a cue from Yoda (you must unlearn what you have learned) and started backcycling. Eventually I asked myself, "why have a system at all?"

Seems like a cool idea for a thread. Whether or not there are fundamental reasons for having a rule system, I came up with a few for narrative games. I'm stealing some ideas from improv theater experience, which I think has a lot to do with narrative games.

1. To facilitate interaction between players. In improv theater, they used to tell us "don't deny the scene." If another actor creates a premise, you build on it rather than dismiss it. I've seen this one in a few games, mostly directed at the "GM," telling him/her not to reject players' attempts at authoring scenes, as in:

player: I'll grab that torch off the wall.
denying GM: there's no torch there. What are you talking about?


2. To make it easier to tell a long story. Has anyone done this? Ever seen an improv skit that was longer than a couple minutes? I think about scenes in games that can sometimes drag along, and wouldn't it be great to play an interrupt card and cut to another scene? Maybe the current scene was stalling because the GM's well was running dry, or who knows. Maybe you could play another token/card to jump back to it.

3. To make it easy to resolve conflict. Do you need rules to resolve conflict? No, but you might want rules that make it easier to do so. Maybe the narrative subset of this is actually "to keep the conflict feeling as much like a story as anything else." If you have to look up on charts to see if you convinced the guard to let you pass, it takes away from the story feel.

Anyone have any others? Those of you who are creating or who have created narrative-focus games, what did you set out to achieve?
Logged

Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2002, 07:56:44 AM »

Well, I'd add "encourage the exploration of a theme" to that list. That way you're creating a story with meaning, rather than just having a series of cool events.

-Matt
Logged

Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 1121

student, second edition


WWW
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2002, 08:20:20 AM »

Quote from: Matt
Well, I'd add "encourage the exploration of a theme" to that list. That way you're creating a story with meaning, rather than just having a series of cool events.

-Matt


Good call. Kind of a sister category to "telling a longer story." Any examples of how you'd do this with a set of rules?

-Matt (also)
Logged

Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2002, 11:14:24 AM »

To create information interesting and pertinent to play. Presumably, the Rolemaster crit charts are considered good by certain people (such as myself) because, they create information in use that helps us imagine the in-world events. Often by giving us a description of therm.

The arbitrariness of mechanics, such as this quality exists in a system, helps engender a feeling that the world imagined has a more than completely ephemeral existence. Not that it's real, but it may feel less false because of this effect.

Lot's of other reasons for system, IMO.

This is actually a very old question, that we've never brought up here at the Forge. It's been asked and answered a lot on other sites (check Usenet).

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2002, 01:40:45 AM »

Quote from: itsmrwilson

Good call. Kind of a sister category to "telling a longer story." Any examples of how you'd do this with a set of rules?


Well, there are a number of ways, usually involving the carrot and stick method of rewards. For example, with my own game Covenant, players have plot points which power use of their edges (anything that gives an edge in a conflict). You get bonus plot points for choosing to resolve a conflict in a way which emphasises the story's theme. The more the players play to the theme, the more they get to use their funky edges.

-Matt
Logged

simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2002, 03:26:52 AM »

Quote from: itsmrwilson
Quote from: Matt
Well, I'd add "encourage the exploration of a theme" to that list. That way you're creating a story with meaning, rather than just having a series of cool events.

-Matt


Good call. Kind of a sister category to "telling a longer story." Any examples of how you'd do this with a set of rules?


If I can chip in, there are a few good examples out there, and they generaly rely on special rules that encourage or impose appropriate behaviour. The sanity rules in Call of Cthulhu, for example. Force Points in Star Wars (WEG).

Another way is to provide the GM with apropriate tools, such as advice how to structure adventures (Paranoia), the kinds of rewards the characters get and why they get them. The best example of the latter I can think of is again in CoC. Spells are only found in dusty tomes, which are only (ok, usualy) found in the private libraries of sinister occultists, and reading them drains your sanity. Carrot, stick and genre trope all in one package!


Simon Hibbs
Logged

Simon Hibbs
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2002, 05:35:03 AM »

I think by "Meaning" Matt was probably referring to mechanics more like Sorcerer's Humanity, or the Animus mechanics in Paladin. Some mechanic that forces the characters to address some interesting issue.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Le Joueur
Member

Posts: 1367


WWW
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2002, 06:29:30 AM »

Quote from: itsmrwilson
"Why have a system at all?"[list=1][*]To facilitate interaction between players. In improv theater, they used to tell us "don't deny the scene." If another actor creates a premise, you build on it rather than dismiss it.

[*]To make it easier to tell a long story. [add "encourage the exploration of a theme"]

[*]To make it easy to resolve conflict. Do you need rules to resolve conflict?[/list:o]

Talk about receiving on the same wavelength.[list=1][*]You might want to check out the following threads: Communal Language (or perhaps Lingua Illudo) and Validating Conflicts where we discuss exactly these two points.

[*]While it may not sound like it, I think this is really an issue of consistency.  If you lose consistency, a 'longer story' probably can't be told.  (As far as 'exploring a theme,' I'm afraid you can quite easily game without doing that; Narrativist or thematically Ambitious play with possibly an accent on the Auteur Approach may need it, but gaming overall?)  Having everything down 'on paper' supports consistency; every Approach to play benefits from consistency.  My thoughts on how to have consistency are contained in Scattershot's Emergent techniques of Sine Qua Non for characters and Genre Expectations for games.

[*]I certainly think you do.  What most people miss (in my opinion) is that the actual act of resolution isn't between characters; it's between real, live people playing the game.  (For example, if both characters belong to a single person, like the gamemaster, no resolution is really necessary.)  This gets back to my ideas on Who's in Charge and objectivity.  In some ways conflict is the only thing that makes a game interesting.  Why do you need resolution mechanics?  To support the feeling of fairness; who'd play a game that treated them unfairly?[/list:o]

As far as Mike's additions...
Quote from: Mike Holmes
[list=a][*]To create information interesting and pertinent to play.

[*]The arbitrariness of mechanics, such as this quality exists in a system, helps engender a feeling that the world imagined has a more than completely ephemeral existence. Not that it's real, but it may feel less false because of this effect.[/list:o]

[list=a][*]I'm inclined to agree.  We went to a great deal of effort to include something very like this in Scattershot's Creating Detail Technique.

[*]And this one goes right back to #2 above.  His manner of playing is much more 'world-based' (I think) and therefore his stress on consistency has more to do with it.[/list:o]I'm not sure why he's said, "that we've never brought up here at the Forge;" it seems like that's all Pale Fire's been on about lately (and consistency goes way back).

I hope some of these archives stimulate more of your thinking.  As you can see across several of these references, we've really been wanting to discuss these kinds of 'meaty issues' for some time.  Please continue.

Fang Langford
Logged

Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2002, 07:11:37 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
As far as 'exploring a theme,' I'm afraid you can quite easily game without doing that; Narrativist or thematically Ambitious play with possibly an accent on the Auteur Approach may need it, but gaming overall?)


Perhaps I should have been clearer on the theme thing, I mentioned it because the original post seemed specifically interested in narativist play. I wasn't implying that it was a necessity of every play style, merely that for heavily narativist play it is a definite advantage.

-Matt
Logged

Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2002, 08:30:59 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
I'm not sure why he's said, "that we've never brought up here at the Forge;" it seems like that's all Pale Fire's been on about lately (and consistency goes way back).


What we haven't brought up here at the Forge is the age old debate between whether or not system has any merit at all. Many Freeformers will tell we "traditional" gamers that system is not at all necessary and only gets in the way. They have a point, but it's one of preference, IMO.

We here seem to prefer system to no system almost universally. I doubt that we'd have a reason to debate the topic.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Le Joueur
Member

Posts: 1367


WWW
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2002, 08:40:37 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: Le Joueur
I'm not sure why he's said, "that we've never brought up here at the Forge;" it seems like that's all Pale Fire's been on about lately (and consistency goes way back).


What we haven't brought up here at the Forge is the age old debate between whether or not system has any merit at all. Many Freeformers will tell we "traditional" gamers that system is not at all necessary and only gets in the way. They have a point, but it's one of preference, IMO.

We here seem to prefer system to no system almost universally. I doubt that we'd have a reason to debate the topic.

Good point, and right again.

Perhaps the reason we're on about system is because it's hard to design or sell nothing.  (Not that some are not above that.)

Fang Langford
Logged

Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2002, 08:52:10 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
What we haven't brought up here at the Forge is the age old debate between whether or not system has any merit at all. Many Freeformers will tell we "traditional" gamers that system is not at all necessary and only gets in the way. They have a point, but it's one of preference, IMO.


Except that freeforms 9at least the one's I've been in) quite definitely do have a system and game mechanics. They're lightweight, but definitely there.

Resolution is commonly of the rock-scisors-paper variety and I suppose it could be claimed that this is virtualy systemless, but in fact there's more to it than that. The type of contest allowed in the game (combat, chases, seduction, repartee, etc) do consititute game system design. The special ability cards and how they are used are another example of system, as are special powers or privileges given in character sheets. If you added up the resulution mechanics with descriptions of all the ability cards and special rules in a typical 40 or 50 player freeform you'd end up with a lot of text, all of it effectively game mechanics.

The illusion of freeforms is accomplished by distributing this matrial very thinly across the players, and employing minimalist mechanics in each case. Nevertheless there are conventinal RPGs with equaly trivial game mechanics. Prince Valiant for example (coin tossing), or Amber (highest ability wins, except when they don't). In fact Amber is often used for either regular, or freeform modes of gaming.


Simon Hibbs
Logged

Simon Hibbs
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2002, 10:21:04 AM »

Quote from: simon_hibbs
Except that freeforms 9at least the one's I've been in) quite definitely do have a system and game mechanics. They're lightweight, but definitely there.


Oops, terminology problem, here. The English and Aussies use Freeform to mean what we call LARP. While we on the Forge (and many Americans) use Freeform to mean systemless (or, actually, near systemless) play, mostly performed online via PBEM or Forum play, etc.

In the debate in question, those playing LARP-Freeform would be at least a bit on our side. There are a considerable number of people who play entirely without rules otehr than Social Contract notes (they say stuff like be good to the other players, and post xyz often, etc). It is some of these folks who see system as nothing but a hinderance.

Then you have people like me who can see value in both. There are people on the other side too who aren't aganst traditional RPGs. They just prefer the other sort.

Fang has a point. Systemless play often occurs in well established universes. For example, people play inthe SW universe a lot. As such they only need to have seen the movies. No sourcebooks are neccessary as you do not need stats. Just use the primary sources. As such, no system, no setting... not much to publish.

OTOH, some do make money with subscription fees. But few, if I understand these things correctly. Hey Lance, do I have this all more or less right?

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
lumpley
Administrator
Member
*
Posts: 3453


WWW
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2002, 10:46:27 AM »

There was this thread, which I drifted pretty aggressively into system/non-system play.

-Vincent
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2002, 10:52:32 AM »

Hello,

A comment on this thread in general: I'm pretty sure the original post is not referring to what we call Narrativism. In fact, I think this thread would be improved a lot if itsmrwilson would clarify exactly what he means by "narrative-focused games." What would such a thing be or look like during play?

People have said some good and interesting things so far as statements & replies, but reading the thread from the beginning, frankly, the actual discussion itself isn't focused on anything.

As for why system itself is an issue in role-playing, I think Vincent nailed it.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!