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Author Topic: new directions  (Read 4095 times)
james_west
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« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2001, 07:46:00 PM »

Jesse -

Your comments make me pine to write up a set of rules and try out these ideas on two or three people.

Unfortunately, I've already overbooked my life.

Per other comments: it occurs to me that I'm always -far- more interested in doing extensive write-ups, for instance, for other peoples' games than my own. I wonder if this is the opposite of others' experience.

        - James
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2001, 12:00:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-30 20:38, jburneko wrote:
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.


Check out Pendragon if you have the chance. It seems to blend these sorts of mechanics into a more comfortable use. Interestingly, it includes some things that are almost always accepted, with those that seem less acceptable as categories for controlling character response. For example, one virtue is Valor (I think), which is opposed to cowardice, and gets used a lot for the same sorts of stuff that fear mechanics get used for in other games. This is very acceptable to most people, and exists in most games. They understand intuitively the idea of losing control due to fear, or lack of Valor as the case might be.

Also on the list, however is Thrift opposed by Greed. So imagine your player when you inform him that his greed has taken hold of him and that he must try to get a valuable bauble or something. By linking familiar control tests with less familiar ones, the game makes a comfortable transition.

The players fears, not entirely unfounded, is that the GM may just run away with the game and just start directing your players actions by making them roll for every little thing. This is probably very rare in actuality, and you can grow accustomed to the idea of only having limited control (very simulationist, really). In fact its as if you were the Superego of the character trying to control the Id (If I have my Freud right).

Interesting that many games have mechanics for this, but you get points for having problems in these areas. I refer to disadvantages in most point based games. Nobody complains about it if they get stuff for their flaws. Recently I've been folowing the model that gives you some alternate reward when you behave in a flawed manner. The irony of this is that playing these sorts of limitations is realistic. When a player plays their character as thought they had no flaws whatsoever claiming that "My guy" (thanks Paul) wouldn't do it, they are being ridiculous. Even Superman has a couple of soft spots. Its these sorts of activities that should get the big "role-playing" rewards.

Somebody once proposed a Herman's Head RPG where you would each play a facet of a single character's most important character traits, in Herman's case, his Intellect, Lust, Fear, and Sensitivity. Each player would battle for control of Herman as he went about his every day sitcom life. This would be taking the whole partial control thing to the extreme. I believe that there are a couple of obscure games that have explored this sort of thing in actuality.

Mike Holmes
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Valamir
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« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2001, 01:15:00 PM »

Well, this is a bit tangental, but related.  The first question I would ask is:

"What's wrong with the box?"

In other words before you go and spend a lot of time thinking outside of it, you should have an idea what you're looking for.

I've always been a believer that "why not" is rarely ever a good answer to the question "why?"

So the answer to "why do most games do this, or have that or have this other thing" has less to do with hidebound tradition and more to do with "because it works".

If there is a certain aspect that *doesn't* work for a specific purpose you have in mind THEN you start thinking outside of the box for a new and innovative solution.

"Why do games have both skills and attributes?" Because it works.  Is it necessary? Maybe not, but there aren't many situations where its harmful.  Unless there is something specific you are attempting to accomplish that can't be accomplished as well with a Skill + Attribute system there is zero value to changing it.

Change for changes sake is not innovation, its brainstorming masquerading as creativity.

Useful creativity is not just about new ideas, its about new ideas that promote a goal.  Columbus didn't attempt to sail to west to China because he woke up one morning and said "why not".  He had a specific goal (basically to make a fortune) and applied his unconventional thinking to attempt to achieve that goal.

So for my perspective, these questions by themselves don't carry alot of weight.  What would make it a more valuable excersize is to determine a specific goal that these items are an impediment to.  In other words the important question is not "is it necessary to have Experience Points".  It is "what situation exists for which Experience Points rules are detrimental", and then "what alternative works better for that situation".

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joshua neff
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« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2001, 01:27:00 PM »

Valamir--

Difference of attitude, maybe. I've always been of the opinion that "why not?" was a perfectly acceptable answer. I sometimes claim that I write poetry to express myself, sometime because I want to cause some sort of change or effect people in some way, but it really boils down to: I write poetry because I can. & I experiment with poetry, trying to push it as far as I can, especially in regards to performance, because I can.
Similarly, "because it works that way" is a horribly inadequate answer for me. How do we know it works well that way if we don't try other ways? ("Hey, maybe other ways have been tried, & they didn't work!"--Maybe, but I've seen no evidence of this, & I don't take very many things on faith.)

The universe wants to play, both in the box & out. To not experiment with RPGs would be, to me, a terrible crime. I'm not satisfied with just playing RPGs, I want to play with them.

Quote
Change for changes sake is not innovation, its brainstorming masquerading as creativity.


I'm not sure what that sentence means. Personally, I think change is change. I'm a big fan of change. Stasis bores me.

Quote
Useful creativity is not just about new ideas, its about new ideas that promote a goal.


Who said I didn't have a goal? Maybe change is my goal. Maybe experimentation is my goal. Those are, to me, perfectly valid goals in & of themselves. You don't have to have a destination in mind to start travelling.


[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-07-31 17:33 ]
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--josh

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Valamir
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« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2001, 03:10:00 PM »

Almost certainly a difference in attitude.  I've never had much use for poetry.  The only stuff I've ever liked is less a poem and more a story that happens to be told in verse.  Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Charge of the Light Brigade, Icelandic Sagas...that sort of thing.

But what I'm saying is that asking "how could this be done differently?" is a question that should be asked AFTER one decides WHY it needs to be done differently at all. First one should identify what specifically it is about the status quo that doesn't meet expectations, THEN one finds ways to make it:  better, stronger, faster, cheaper.

If one can't identify a specific shortcoming than it doesn't really need to be changed.  There's a reason why "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" is a common saying.  And just because something isn't NECESSARY, doesn't mean its broken.  This is the main reason why so many of the RPG staples you list persist.  Because for most purposes in most situations they work just fine.  Its when a talented designer sees something they'd like to emphasize differently that these "rules of thumb" are altered or replaced or discarded.

Change may be the spice of life, but consistancy is the main course.  If you change something just to change something you wind up with a novelty.  If you change something to overcome a weakness in the status quo you wind up with innovation.

I'm all for innovation.  Novelty (IMO, OC) is a waste of time and effort.

Now I'm not saying experimentation is bad.  But that's not what you were asking.  You weren't asking for a catalog of all of the different ways that have or could be used to accomplish X, Y, and Z.  In fact, it was specifically stated that WASN'T the point of the thread.  You wanted to know why why X, Y, and Z persist as staple approaches to roleplaying (with strong implications that this is not a desireable state of affairs).

I'm all for experimentation.  We could come up with a list of alternatives to "experience points" etc. that experimentation has provided us.  But you wanted to know why such a standard persists.  The answer is because it works.  For specific cases where it doesn't work (or doesn't work as well as desired) people have experimented and come up with alternatives.  But the fact that most game have some form of experience and those tend to look fairly similar to each other is not because we're married to tradition (at least not in the main), its because by and large it works just fine, and most people don't see the point in throwing out the baby with the bath water.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2001, 07:31:00 PM »

Valamir--

I'm sure you didn't mean it that way, but never tell a poet you "have no use for poetry". It's like telling a physicist "I have no use for gravity". Anyway...

You're right, the reason I started this thread wasn't to get a catalog of all the things we could do just for experimentation.
The thing is, I'm not all that convinced that the "tried & true" standards of RPGs are there because they aren't broken. Yes, they do work for some people, but I think a lot of the time, these things persist solely because it's assumed that RPGs must be like that. & to be honest, the answer "because they work well that way" doesn't do it for me.

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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: August 01, 2001, 05:09:00 AM »

Folks? Ralph? Josh?

Speaking as an outsider (aka butting in), I think the two of you have beaten the general issue into a flat, evenly-distributed pancake. It's very clear where both of you stand, and the posts are starting to get away from what you are saying and into more personal territory like "how can you say that about what I said."

I'm not telling you what to do. I'm SUGGESTING that maybe this thread has served its purpose and perhaps should be allowed to retire gracefully.

Best,
Ron
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2001, 08:55:00 AM »

I'll chime in, since I think the underlying question about looking for alternatives is important. Rather than pose an argument of some kind, lemme just give you my personal experience.

Before I came across Castle Falkenstein, I hadn't thought about merging attributes and skills, and the idea of using text labels for ability levels hadn't occurred to me. Before Vampire, I hadn't thought about Conscience as a quantifiable player attribute linked to dice. Before Amber, I hadn't thought about having players bid against each other for their stats. Before Over the Edge, I hadn't realized you could have an RPG where all character traits were open-ended. I hadn't thought about using vision cards and tarot decks for character and gameplay inspiration before Everway. Sorcerer taught me about kickers, bangs, and relationship maps. Sorcerer, Amber, Risus, most of the Memento-Mori games, and the Pool provided new ways of thinking about streamlined mechanics optimized to produce a particular kind of gameplay and milieu. Pendragon and Ars Magica showed me you can use personality stats to be a vibrant part of the game. Mage produced a powerful, versatile magic system that doesn't rely on spell memorization (or spells at all, for that matter). eight unveils a powerful and highly original text-based way to use magic. I could cite many more games, but that's plenty for now.

All these games broke with tradition and offered something new by challenging the prevailing way of doing things. They've shaped my own thinking about gaming, stimulated my creativity, and given me a great deal of pleasure along the way. I'm damned glad the designers didn't let themselves be constrained by whatever box prevailed at the time they made their particular game. If they hadn't gone beyond the mechanics and philosophy of "what worked," the discussion here would be much poorer.

Posing the question this thread asks is one of the most important things we can do. It's important for me, anyway, and when I focus on getting out of the box or losing reference to the box entirely, it's not meant as a negative judgment on what's come before; it's about finding something new. In writing, you produce a lot of crap before you hit something cool. Creativity works the same way, I think. One hits a lot of interesting but flawed ideas en route to something great.

Take computer games, for instance. Nearly every conceivable roleplaying game on the computer uses the D&D class-level model. An enormous number of them also use the stereotyped high fantasy races -- elves, orcs, dwarves, ad nauseam -- in the usual Tolkien knock-off fashion. It's a chore to convince anyone to design a CRPG without these elements, because the perception is that (a) this is what the customer is familiar with and expects, (b) that's what most designers are familiar with, (c) the code problems and game balance issues with the class-level approach are pretty well-known and thus make producing such a game much easier. Taken with the tendency for big-budget productions to be conservative risk-takers, you have little movement toward finding a new and more innovative way to make CRPGs.

The first step toward improving anything is to question the prevailing assumptions and look for alternatives. With great respect to Valamir's points, I very much appreciate Josh posing the question for our consideration. This is one of the most intensely original assemblies of people I have encountered, and I look forward to seeing what we come up with.

Best,

Blake

[ This Message was edited by: Blake Hutchins on 2001-08-01 13:04 ]
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contracycle
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« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2001, 01:30:00 PM »

Trying to look outside the box gives some idea of the box itself; how big it is, what its made of, in what context it occurs.  All useful stuff, even if you decide to stay in the box.

I was just thinking about the attributes thing (because they bug me) and have an idea top throw out.  What if we reversed the conventional numerical pattern of attributes and skills - had a verying number of attributes, and a fixed number of skills?

Most games use a fixed number of attributes out of what I think is a kinda sim, perhaps rationalist, idea that the character must be measured against a fixed standard and categorised as to ability in these categories. It recognises (or asserts, whichever) that skill is more variable and thus endows it with a much greater freedom of movement.

Could we get interesting relationships if we did it the other way around?  What if skills were categorised - say administrative, analytical - and fixed in catgories, perhaps with a caveat of potentially different breadth.  By making attributes variable in number, we approach some freeforom styles, a bit like HeroWars maybe.  Many things that might have been Merits ro Flaws could become Attributes, and loses the positive-negatiove connotation.

I have not thought about this at length, nor can I offer a model to examine, but its worth thinking about, I think anyway.
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