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Author Topic: new directions  (Read 4102 times)
joshua neff
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« on: July 25, 2001, 06:36:00 AM »

What are the assumptions about RPGs? What traditions have we become bound by? & how can we break these assumptions & rethink RPGs?

Off the top of my head:

* The old attributes & skills rule ("Ya gotta have both!"). This has, obviously, been broken by a number of games. But it still remains prevalent. Why?

* Experience points. Players must get some sort of reward for playing. Why? Is the experience of play not reward enough?

So, what are some other assumptions, regarding currency, for example, & player rewards & punishments (besides XP)? & why are these things seen as assumptions? What would happen if we threw them out & did RPGs much differently?
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
James Holloway
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2001, 06:47:00 AM »

This is fun! Let me try!

*Dedicated combat systems. Almost all RPGs still have distinct combat systems, often including quite separate rules. In a lot of games, this doesn't make sense, but is kept there by tradition.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2001, 07:27:00 AM »

Brian--

I disagree. I don't think those rules persist because the represent "reality" to people, I think they persist because people think they represent reality & because "that's how RPGs work". For quite a few people, these rules don't represent "reality", & for others representing "reality" isn't the highest concern.

I'm also less interested in why they persist than I am in hearing people's ideas for other ways of doing thing. I think RPGs are a vast medium, & most of it remains untapped. What we've got right now is the equivalent of superhero comics, with a few "outsider" comics. I'd like to see the envelope pushed as far as possible, & then even further.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Dav
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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2001, 07:49:00 AM »

A further question would be to ask why, in fact, RPGs have a prediliction for pantomiming "reality", when in fact they are based upon the premise of "this is not reality".

I think we need to see more games making the leap from "sort of reality" to "no, this is not reality".  We have the difficulty to shoot a man in the head as harder than shooting the man period... why?  Because that is realistic.  I say screw reality.  

Sorcerer has a mechanic for bonus dice based on "coolness" (that is my own quote, not from the game) and I love it.  Why not make things easier when they promote roleplaying and plot line?  

However, on the flipside, looking at experience mechanics, the end result is that most people want a tangible reward built-in to the experience of roleplaying.  It makes people feel as though they have accomplished something.  We can modify the importance of the experience mechanic, certainly, but to eliminate it wholly means that you are looking at a game most people will approach as a "one-shot".

And Brian, I would argue that Skill+Attribute is not indicative of reality.  Rather, a wide set of abilities to choose from is the core defining area of what models reality.  Agreed that Skill+Attribute does contain this facet, but I don't think that this is necessarily the *only* or *best* model for that precept.  However, as the "Skill Pool" system with a division of points has become tedious for many gamers I have interaction with (yes, Brian, in my experience, you are a different stripe of cat), I actively tend to avoid the 50 Skills with X points to divide theory of gaming.  So, my wuestion to you, Brian (specifically), is "are there other gaming models of play out there that will provide the adequate 'realism' while still being different or unique"?

Okay, I'm all finsihed for now.

Dav
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2001, 11:39:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-07-25 10:36, joshua neff wrote:
What are the assumptions about RPGs? What traditions have we become bound by? & how can we break these assumptions & rethink RPGs?


hmmm . . . a bit of a sidetrack, but perhaps related to the (slight and well-managed/expressed) "irritation" later in the thread, so forgive me:

Why?  Why should we break the assumptions and rethink RPGs?

I can come up with 2 reasons that seem good to me - one is "just to see what happens".  Another is because when I personally evaluate the time I spend/have spent playing RPG's, I'd say it ends up something like  30% annoying/60% mediocre/10% mega-coolo-o fun.  Maybe if we break assumptions I can make these percentages a little more attractive - what I've tried so far (as a result of discussion here and elsewhere) does seem to help.

But to be clear (because it is apparently never possible to over-stress this point), among the reasons to break assumptions is NOT "because no one could POSSIBLY enjoy things the way they are now."

Anything else to be said about the why?

Gordon C. Landis

[ This Message was edited by: Gordon C. Landis on 2001-07-25 15:45 ]
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2001, 11:44:00 AM »

It's already been/is being discussed a number of ways in various threads here on the Forge, but if you want a list of assumptions, a big one MUST be "you gotta have a GM".

Gordon C. Landis

[ This Message was edited by: Gordon C. Landis on 2001-07-25 15:45 ]
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joshua neff
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« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2001, 12:16:00 PM »

Okay, here's my Why.

Ron's mentioned here & there that he thinks we've only begun to explore what RPGs can be. I completely agree. I don't mean this as a knock on "traditional" RPGs. I just know that we've only really tapped a small percentage of the medium, & I'm curious as to see what else we can come up with. I like to experiment, I like to push, & I like it when others do it, too.
So, my big reason is: because we can. We can do things completely different from what has been done in RPGs. We've already seen a lot of changes. I think Jared's the mad scientist of RPGs. He's completely willing to throw everything out & try new things--it may not always work, but he tries, & I give him props for that. I think Ron & Jonathan Tweet & Robin Laws & the Soap guys, among others, have really pushed things. I know we can do more, & I'm curious as to what ideas people have towards that end.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
GreatWolf
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« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2001, 07:28:00 PM »

Heh.  Here's my contribution.

Do we need numbers?  Really?

Are there ways of getting away from them?  If not, can we mask them better?  Should we?

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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Uncle Dark
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2001, 10:10:00 PM »

Seth,

I think  we need some way of defining ways in which characters or tasks may be different from each other, and numbers are an easy way to do it.  I'm not against the possibility of doing it another way, though.

I do find it hard to imagine a rules-heavy system that does not depend on numbers in some way, though.  If only to translate from one part of the game to another.

Lon
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Reality is what you can get away with.
Uncle Dark
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2001, 10:10:00 PM »

Seth,

I think  we need some way of defining ways in which characters or tasks may be different from each other, and numbers are an easy way to do it.  I'm not against the possibility of doing it another way, though.

I do find it hard to imagine a rules-heavy system that does not depend on numbers in some way, though.  If only to translate from one part of the game to another.

Lon
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Reality is what you can get away with.
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2001, 10:39:00 AM »

One big assumption or perhaps it's better described as a habit is that RPGs are adventure-style games.

This habit has been broken by a few games, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

RPGs also tend to be fantastic in nature, containing super-science, fantasy and the paranormal.

Where's the Seinfeld RPG?  The Game About Nothing.  
Where's the Bridges of Madison County RPG?

That sort of thing.
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Damocles
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2001, 06:12:00 AM »

A fairly random list:

A group of players ranging from about 4-8 people.

Meeting once a week all at the same time.

Characters are together most of the time or at least meet frequently.

Rpgs are supposed to emulate another medium as close as possible.

Each player plays one character exclusively.

The GM has the last word on rules disputes.

Characters increase in power/abilites over time.

Characters are either outsiders or 'elect' of some kind, often both.

The players have an objective knowledge of their characters abilities.

Magic accessible to players is significantly limited in some way.

Characters are supposed to cooperate most of the time.

Some games which have challenged assumptions: Ars Magica, Paranoia, Amber, Rune.

Amber is especially interesting because it actively encourages stuff like writing journals and drawing character pictures etc., which seems to me to challenge assumptions on a deeper level than just rules and setting and to actually take players emotional investment into the game actively into account.

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jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2001, 12:14:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-27 10:12, Damocles wrote:
Amber is especially interesting because it actively encourages stuff like writing journals and drawing character pictures etc., which seems to me to challenge assumptions on a deeper level than just rules and setting and to actually take players emotional investment into the game actively into account.


This one is especially interesting to me because Castle Falkenstein basically REQUIRES players to keep a journal.  In fact it has no concrete player advancement mechanics.  When and how the players improve in skill is entirely up to the GM.  And from what I've read the GM is supposed to use the player's journal as guideline for what should improve in the character.

So periodically the GM collects all the players journal's and 'grades' them by improving the character's abilities.

And this leads to another asumption that has always appealed to me but has also worried me: That the GM is the player who invests the largest amount of time in the game.  Castle Falkenstein basically says, Well, if the GM is going to put in all this time PLANNING the game then the Players should put in just as much time REFLECTING on the game.

Jesee
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joshua neff
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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2001, 12:22:00 PM »

Jesse--

Falkenstein also encourages player-authoring (without any real mechanics for it) in the way of players writing scenes that happen "off stage" in their journals, for the Host to add to the larger narrative later. (The journals, by the way, were the reason my players bitched & moaned when I suggested running Falkenstein--"I don't want to do all that extra work!")

Ron's pointed out some problems with CF's mechanics, but it will always have a place in my heart for being one of the first games I ever encountered that was so freakin' Narrativist, & for having more style & panache than a dozen other games combined.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2001, 04:38:00 PM »

Here's one assumption I've always been fascinated by and have seen broken but never could figure out how to use effectively without angering my players.

The assumption is that the mechanics are there to model conflict resolution between a player desire and something external to the player.

In its simplest form this is the classic: model.  But the only time we ever roll dice is when the opposing force is EXTERNAL to the character.  I'm trying to hit a dodging enemy.  I'm trying to seduce a resisting woman.  I'm trying to dodge an active trap.  I'm trying to climb a rope thereby resisting gravity.  And so on.

But I sometimes see mechanics that ask you to roll inorder to overcome something INTERNAL to the character.  This post was inspired by Ron's review of the Wuthering Heights RPG because he mentions that you have to roll inorder to be sincere.  I've read that game and there are mechanics where you have to roll in order to physically attack someone and such.  The idea of course is that there is some aspect of your character that is running against your desire for action.

I LIKE mechanics like this because I think they would have interesting results but I can't see too many players being happy with them.  I instantly hear, "What do you mean I have to roll inorder to see if I can even ATTEMPT the action.  It's my character and if I say he does X, then he does X."  and so on.

Like I said, I'm not sure how to use such mechanics judiciously without angering the players.

Jesse
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