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Author Topic: At What Point Is Redundancy Redundant?  (Read 4923 times)
Mark Johnson
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« on: March 21, 2003, 07:37:15 PM »

How much redundancy is necessary in writing game text?
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greyorm
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2003, 09:20:09 PM »

Could you clarify what, specifically, you are talking about in regards to redundancy? That is, what elements do you see needing to be repeated?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2003, 09:28:38 PM »

Pending Mark's answer to Raven's question, I will state, personally, that any key point should be stated at least twice in the text and rephrased to make sure it is understood.

The problem lies in defining a key point.
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Mark Johnson
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2003, 10:31:02 PM »

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate

Does a game need to spell out many possible uses of a vanilla basic core mechanic or simply allow the players to deduce it on their own?  

Should there be game play examples and visual representation if there are already concise and clear rules?  

Should game text be tutorial or reference?
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Tar Markvar
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2003, 11:03:00 PM »

Personally, I like to read examples of play, just to get an idea how the designer pictures the flow of the game, especially for games that differ greatly from my mental picture of how a game is played.

The first time I read Sorcerer (with apologies to Mr. Edwards), I was scratching around everywhere I could look for examples of play, simply because I didn't really grasp quite how the game played. Same for Trollbabe. Both games were really different from the stuff I'd played before, and just didn't work within the paradigm I'd set up for myself.

The groups I've played with would have suffered greatly without examples and more precise rules, simply because I grew up as a gamer with games that took care of the crunchies for you.

On the other hand, if the system is simple and well-explained enough (everything is a permutation of one simple dice system, and it's clear the system isn't made to cover all little details like length of rope, etc.), I'd think it's fine to let the rules speak for themselves.

I think I would write just as much as I need to to get across the flow I'd like my game to take. If you think your game is fun the way you play it, then put in enough detail and reinforcement to help other players play it that way if they want.

In a way, I see game rulebooks as recipes that show me how to reproduce the game experience the way the designer intended, with notes on how I can customize it to suit my own tastes.

Jay
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greyorm
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« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2003, 11:10:39 PM »

Thanks for the clarification, Mark!

Quote from: Mark Johnson
Does a game need to spell out many possible uses of a vanilla basic core mechanic or simply allow the players to deduce it on their own?

It is always best to provide examples of every situation in which your core mechanic is used.
Note I said is, not can be; but that goes along with the idea that one should make clear, concise rules that do what they are supposed to do.

However, this is difficult to answer precisely without actual examples of what you refer to as a "vanilla basic core mechanic." Would you refer to a situation you've encountered to which this problem applies?

Quote
Should there be game play examples and visual representation if there are already concise and clear rules?

Without a doubt. Some gamers can parse rules and apply them appropriately, others parse examples well and fail to get rules-only text (I am of the latter type).

In any case, it is always a good idea to use examples in your text to showcase the proper use of the rule in question as it will only increase clarity.

As well, I must point out that what one individual considers "concise and clear" writing may not be viewed as such by another.

Quote
Should game text be tutorial or reference?

Both. If necessary (and it usually is), seperate the two methods in some fashion, either spatially or with formatting.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Mark Johnson
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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2003, 12:14:03 AM »

Quote from: greyorm
However, this is difficult to answer precisely without actual examples of what you refer to as a "vanilla basic core mechanic." Would you refer to a situation you've encountered to which this problem applies?


My current game uses a basic conflict resolution mechanic to resolve the conflicts as delineated in seventh grade English class: man vs man, man vs nature and man vs self.  The game revolves largely around the last conflict.  To what level of detail do I need to show how the system applies to examples of the first two conflicts: surviving an avalanche, seducing a rival's wife or engaging in combat given that these events can occur, but are not the focus of the game?
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Mark Johnson
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2003, 12:41:28 AM »

Quote from: Tar Markvar
The first time I read Sorcerer (with apologies to Mr. Edwards), I was scratching around everywhere I could look for examples of play, simply because I didn't really grasp quite how the game played. Same for Trollbabe. Both games were really different from the stuff I'd played before, and just didn't work within the paradigm I'd set up for myself.

The groups I've played with would have suffered greatly without examples and more precise rules, simply because I grew up as a gamer with games that took care of the crunchies for you.


My gut reaction was that an indie rpg would require less redundancy because its audience would have already had extensive experience with rpgs (i.e. a sophisticated audience would require fewer explanations.)  However, you seem to imply that if a game flies in the face of the expectations of most experienced gamers that more explanation and redundancy is needed, not less.

Regardless, I imagine the following are redundant in most indie RPGs:
    What Is An RPG? ("its like cowboys and indians with dice")
    The History of RPGs ("Gary Gygax.."),
    Good Gamemastering ("all stories have a begining, middle and an end")
    Basic Terminology ("the plural of die is dice and they come in many shapes and sizes")
    Equipment ("you can get a D37 at any well stocked game store")
    Sample Solo Adventure ("turn to entry 10 to attack Bargle, entry 22 to run away.") [/list:u]
    Or are they?
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Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2003, 06:40:13 AM »

Despite any personal opinion on the game, look at D&D 3rd edition from this angle.  It makes excellent use of repetition, particulary with the multiple different ordered lists of the spells: alphabetically, by cleric domain, by level, etc.  Whenever you've got a chunk of info that the players may need to access in different ways at different times repetition can really slim in-game book searching time.
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- Cruciel
ethan_greer
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« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2003, 07:49:31 AM »

I'm of the opinion that manuscripts should be "playtested" along with the game itself.  In other words, show the manuscript to people you trust to give an honest evaluation, and respond to the criticisms you get - it will have a definite positive impact on issues such as redundancy, grammatical errors, overall clarity of the rules, and more.

Another thing to do would be to look at other games and what they do, as Cruciel suggests.  I personally feel that PHB3E isn't the best example of good organization, but it obviously works for some people.  Compare a few game texts from your collection, indie and otherwise, and base your own work on what you feel is good use/non-use of redundancy.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2003, 10:17:47 AM »

Hey Mark,

<mode="soapbox">You've got some good points, but your making some arcane assumptions.  See the problem is that you are naming 'redundancies' that are actually traditions.  Furthermore, I have to say they are traditions so far out on the edge of what gaming could be that hewing to them hides a lot of fertile ground.

Let's take it by the points:
Quote from: Mark Johnson
Regardless, I imagine the following are redundant in most indie RPGs:
    What Is An RPG? ("its like cowboys and indians with dice")
    The History of RPGs ("Gary Gygax.."),
    Good Gamemastering ("all stories have a begining, middle and an end")
    Basic Terminology ("the plural of die is dice and they come in many shapes and sizes")
    Equipment ("you can get a D37 at any well stocked game store")
    Sample Solo Adventure ("turn to entry 10 to attack Bargle, entry 22 to run away.")[/list:u]Or are they?

    What Is An RPG?
      Thinking in Context, with friends╣.[/list:u]
      The History of RPGs
        The most well-known I can think of is battlefield reenactments, but any kind of 'talk it out' practice is (not just the kids stuff).[/list:u]
      Good Gamemastering
        Play
      with the other participants; share.[/list:u]
      Basic Terminology
        The plural of gamer is friends, dice and rules are
      optional.[/list:u]
      Equipment
        The most important resource is people, which are everywhere.[/list:u]
      Sample Solo Adventure
        "Let's go to the mall and pick out our prom gear."  "We can't afford anything."  "We can dream, can't we?"[/list:u][/list:u]It's this myopic view that
      Dungeons & Dragons is somehow the ideal of gaming, rather than an arcane, not terribly representative, example of gaming.  Ron Edwards touched off a huge realignment of thought by making the rather obvious point that "D&D Fantasy" is the alternative and that designing games very like it and calling them mainstream squarely faces our backs to the rest of everyone.

      The 'roots of gaming' are every flight of fantasy and that goes all the way back to prehistory.  Role-playing games are doing this with friends.  People play all different kinds of things other than 'magical medieval fantasy' games; it's long past time to try some of those.

      Brothers!  Throw off the shackles of the past!  Embrace your friends, your neighbors, let everyone in!  Accept the reenactors!  The Ren Festies!  The Murder Hosts!  Turn finally towards the mainstream.</mode>

      Ahem....

      Fang Langford

      ╣ I'm so done with the 'cops and robbers,' 'all gaming is child's play' explanation.  It's like saying, "Hi!  I'm immature 'cuz I still play children's games!  Geek me!"  Another myth that should bite the dust.
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      Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
      Ron Edwards
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      « Reply #11 on: March 22, 2003, 11:18:00 AM »

      Hi there,

      Much as I liked Fang's point, appreciated its reference to me, and most especially enjoyed the Face of the New Fang, whose passions are right out in front, I think the point of the thread is wandering a little. Mark, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think your examples of redundancy fall into two categories, one of which is so broken in itself that it prompts (e.g.) responses like Fang's.

      Category #1: actual redundancy, stating Point A over and over. I think the text of Alternity is my best pick for this. "SKILLS. A skill is a learned or trained ability or area of expertise, reflecting how well a character performs when attempting tasks of the given type. The better the skill rating, the better the character's chance to perform, within the definitions of the skill being employed. The following list of skills represents the training and learned activities that are available to characters." Then add to it whole paragraphs per skill to explain what (e.g.) Climbing is. This is all paraphrase, but I'm not kidding. The whole book is like this. Guaranteed to elicit instant confessions from war prisoners.

      Category #2: simply wrong and misleading text that's included out of habit and imitation. Most of your categories, Mark, fall into this one, I think, which is why Fang felt the need to beat one of them with a baseball bat. (Forge motto: when well-established fallacy emerges, give it extra whackety-whacks. Then wait, then hit it again to be sure.)

      So, I'm thinkin', maybe we aren't talking about redundancy at all. Maybe we're talking about things like utterly nonsensical "what is role-playing" sections, in which case, I think the consensus is, "Lose it," without much need for debate, or, "Replace it with novel and relevant text which unfortunately seems to have no pre-existing model in games so far."

      On the other hand, if we're talking about redundancy, then it's a really interesting issue. Redundancy plays a very important role in teaching, and RPG texts are teaching texts whether we like it or not. But effective, pedagogic redundancy is different from mere repetition (as in the Alternity text), and nailing just what can work best (as I imagine there's a range) would be a worthwhile topic. I hope that this thread can do that, but your examples so far seem more oriented toward the second category.

      Best,
      Ron
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      Mark Johnson
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      Posts: 238


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      « Reply #12 on: March 22, 2003, 11:31:32 AM »

      Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
      Pending Mark's answer to Raven's question, I will state, personally, that any key point should be stated at least twice in the text and rephrased to make sure it is understood.

      The problem lies in defining a key point.


      If the game is rather focused with very little extraneous, most points are probably then key.  The problem I am encountering is that in such a situation, a 16 page PDF quickly becomes twice that size.  At which point it is highly obvious that the redundant material is redundant.

      Game examples seem more the way to go according to some here as it is qualitatively different than rules.  

      Quote from: cruciel
      Despite any personal opinion on the game, look at D&D 3rd edition from this angle. It makes excellent use of repetition, particulary with the multiple different ordered lists of the spells: alphabetically, by cleric domain, by level, etc. Whenever you've got a chunk of info that the players may need to access in different ways at different times repetition can really slim in-game book searching time.


      My guess then is that complicated rules systems require complicated presentation with a mass of redundancy.  Simpler systems require the opposite.  Without D&Ds robust spell list, the Player's Handbook would be more lithe.  

      (I am not advocating that D&D change one iota.  I think its pervy, broken spell system is actually a large part of its appeal).

      Quote from: ethan_greer
      I'm of the opinion that manuscripts should be "playtested" along with the game itself. In other words, show the manuscript to people you trust to give an honest evaluation, and respond to the criticisms you get - it will have a definite positive impact on issues such as redundancy, grammatical errors, overall clarity of the rules, and more.


      I have found much information on the Forge regarding mechanics, but less regarding presentation (other than a few threads regarding use of art and formating).  I suppose that many of the same principles apply that apply to any other type of technical writing.  However, there is one important difference:  if I am writing for, say, a professional physics journal, I can assume a certain level of knowledge in my peers.  I do not need to make redundant presentations if the implications of my work are clear.  

      Quote from: Le Joueur
      You've got some good points, but your making some arcane assumptions. See the problem is that you are naming 'redundancies' that are actually traditions. Furthermore, I have to say they are traditions so far out on the edge of what gaming could be that hewing to them hides a lot of fertile ground.


      What sort of presentation can be made to explain what is going on to the potential gamers of which you speak?  I am not sure that loads of redundancy helps as I would think a large redundant manual actually would raise the barriers to entry.  As one who has introduced a few to RPGing, the best way is to for an experienced gamer to sit down and play the game without the novice ever having read the game manual.  My experience may be atypical though.

      I am still reading your suggested threads.  I will follow up later.
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      Mark Johnson
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      « Reply #13 on: March 22, 2003, 12:03:00 PM »

      Quote from: Ron Edwards

      On the other hand, if we're talking about redundancy, then it's a really interesting issue. Redundancy plays a very important role in teaching, and RPG texts are teaching texts whether we like it or not. But effective, pedagogic redundancy is different from mere repetition (as in the Alternity text), and nailing just what can work best (as I imagine there's a range) would be a worthwhile topic. I hope that this thread can do that, but your examples so far seem more oriented toward the second category.


      We crossposted.  My original intention was to address actual redundancy.  I addressed the second topic because I am limited in space and want the text to be tight as possible yet still useful.  I had already eliminated the extraneous material ("What are RPGs," etc.) I had mentioned, but the fact that you and Fang agree so strongly makes me feel better about the decision.  My only concern was RPG novices; but I semi-addressed that in my comment to Fang.

      One area ripe with redundancy is repeating definitions within the text.  Do players find that a glossary in the back (or in the front) necessary or sufficient?  How about defining important terms in sidebars?
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      szilard
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      « Reply #14 on: March 22, 2003, 12:12:26 PM »

      Quote from: Mark Johnson

      One area ripe with redundancy is repeating definitions within the text.  Do players find that a glossary in the back (or in the front) necessary or sufficient?  How about defining important terms in sidebars?


      For shorter texts (say 24 pages or under), I prefer sidebars. For longer texts, I prefer sidebars with a redundant glossary - or (even better) a good index that specifically notes the location of definitions - in back.

      White Wolf has an annoying habit of putting glossaries toward the front of their books. I don't know that anyone wants to read through a glossary as if it were text, particularly without having any context for the terms. Also, sticking it towards the front like that makes it difficult to find later.


      Stuart
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      My very own http://www.livejournal.com/users/szilard/">game design journal.
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