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Author Topic: Cruft  (Read 2569 times)
Luke
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« on: May 31, 2003, 06:36:50 AM »

So my first question/topic of my first post goes directly to Clinton. "Tell me about my 'cruft'".

-L
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2003, 08:36:37 AM »

There's nothing like waking up on Saturday morning and finding out you've been put on the spot. I said the Burning Wheel has cruft? That seems somewhat familiar. Hmm...

Flipping through the rulebook (and searching to see if I could find where I said that), I'm not seeing it. If I said it before, chalk it up to a first reading of the rulebook, which can be a bit intimidating for people not used to the game. There are several mechanics - damage, for example - that work quite differently than other role-playing games.

I'll tell you what sold me on the first reading, though:
- The Wheel of Magic. Incredible stuff, there.
- The damage system, once I figured it out. One of my tests for a fantasy RPG with a lot of crunch is this: how hard is it to kill with a dagger? The Power, Add, Speed system in Burning Wheel lets me get in several dagger hits before a sword can swing, and while they are weaker, they improve quicker. It's an elegant way to do it, and in a little sample combat I ran, the fast guy with a dagger was able to slaughter a swordsman.
- Traits, Instincts, and Beliefs - these really add a lot to the game. For someone who enjoys Narrativist role-playing, Burning Wheel might not seem like the first choice. These three things add a nice undercurrent, though.
- Like everyone else, I think the Orcs are great. On them, though: I'm especially fond of the fact that life-paths don't have any description. In my own head, I can picture exactly what a Goblin Sun-Blotter does, and a description probably wouldn't live up to it.

The only down side in the game: your essay about "Don't Use This Game." I'm going to guess that you know the system so well after years of running it that it seems like you're not using it: it's second-nature. I have to admit, I can't quite tell if you're being sarcastic. I bought it up until the last paragraph, where you say "This system will inject such a fierce drama into the game that the players might come to enjoy it. They might look forward to rolling the dice - to seeing their ideas accurately represented in those little cubes. And we wouldn't want that!"

You're either taking system-less lovers to a pointed and funny task, or proving yourself wrong. Either way - I like Burning Wheel, and am looking forward to Using This System.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Luke
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2003, 11:17:21 AM »

CRN,
Sorry to put you on the spot, but I thought i'd start off with a bang!

I was browsing the forge a couple of weeks ago and i saw this quote from you:

Quote

The Burning Wheel, an independent fantasy RPG that I deem 75% of the way to greatness, with 25% of cruft that wouldn't let go.



It piqued my interest (I thought it was funny) and, frankly, it was what inspired me to get this forum started on the Forge.

So I wanted to know about my cruft!

On to the controversy!
Quote

The only down side in the game: your essay about "Don't Use This Game."


"Don't Use This System" has turned out to be quite controversial. I am, unfortunately, an opinionated man. No matter how I tried, I couldn't glean all of my mouthing off from the game. This essay is just one example of many.

However, DUTS also touches on what I see as some of the deeper truths in gaming. (And of course, I can't do it without being a smart-ass.) It is meant to be ironic, kind of funny, and a bit inspiring. Whether I have succeeded or failed, I don't know. But it has drawn a lot of comment. What I wanted to do was point out the inherent contradiction in gaming: That between the beautiful free-form acting and the numbers.

In any game, the numbers create the environs for the players. They let a player know all of the little cause and effects of this new reality. Players grow to fit these confines. I, however, am a great believer in structure. I think that limits create imagination and creativity. Limits=problems. "Problems" are stock and trade for rpgs, and solutions are the currency of the day. Problems like: "If I run up to that guy with a sword he's going to whack me and possibly kill me." Solutions: "Perhaps I shouldn't run up to him. Perhaps I should think of another way around."
A very simplistic example, of course. The BW system is designed to set limits, so players know exactly where their characters stand. It does this with pain, time, and hierarchy of tasks that will be easy for some and unattainable for others.

Superceding all of that is the almighty "story." I run a very narrative-oriented game. Not every game session is a single self-contained episode, but in all of my plots there is always a beginning and an end (both longterm and short term). How those ends are achieved is up to the players. But sometimes in the course of those achievements you need to stop paying attention to the numbers and start paying attention to the characters and their development——the story. It is a cyclical and contradictory argument. And BW is by no means a perfect bridge to span that gap. BW does, for what it's worth, work. Abiding the rhythm, fear, and limits built into the system really does create an undulating ebb and flow of story. I am constantly amazed by this. I guess this is what I am saying in that last paragraph: You have a story, let it guide you; but let the system guide it and you will be pleasantly surprised.

thanks for your comments, insight and support. I hope we get a chance to play.
-L


PS: BTW, I have a similar criteria for judging rpg combat systems: The Knives and Grenades test. Is the knife a deadly weapon? Is a grenade? I am sure you are well aware of systems where neither is the case. Though not perfect, the BW IMS system does work. Sure, you might not be able to stab someone once and kill them (unless you are very skilled or very strong). But you can sure put a hurtin on them! All without being too random or complicated and without using hit location charts!

We must play!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2003, 07:32:02 AM »

Hi Luke,

Quote
I guess this is what I am saying in that last paragraph: You have a story, let it guide you; but let the system guide it and you will be pleasantly surprised.


But dude, you don't say that. Your essay says something else entirely. It says, "Ignore this system, system is crap, it means nothing when you want to create stories." This essay directly contradicts your earlier point, back when you explain the resolution system, that the dice are at the heart of the game and their unpredictable results actually help rather than hinder play. I agree with this point, but your essay devalues (in fact, wholly invalidates) it.

I don't mind the author bringing in his own views, and in fact, I love the little icons which let us know when he's doing it. What I don't like are views that contradict the earlier points of the text. It weakens the text as a whole.

Best,
Ron
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Luke
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2003, 08:07:04 AM »

i gotta disagree with you on this one, ron.  Whether or not it is well written, I think it is pretty clear that the end of the last paragraph is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.  The essay says, Dice Suck, don't use'em. But if you do "the system will inject such a fierce drama into the game that the players might come to enjoy it. ...And we wouldn't want that!"

Come on! It's meant to be cheeky. Again, whether I really succeed or not is up to the reader. So my defenses are of little use. If you didn't find it amusing and enlightening, then I have to hit the drawing board again. The great thing about author's notes/intention and stuff is that they don't really mean jack. The work really can and does exist independently of them. The story, the system, or movie always takes on a life of its own in the mind of the reader. A life usually quite different than what was originally intended. Which is a good thing.

This essay has been quite controversial.  I probably should have just let the system stand on its own without further comment from me. Ah well, there will be a next time.

-L
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taepoong
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2003, 08:34:08 AM »

Quote from: abzu

The great thing about author's notes/intention and stuff is that they don't really mean jack. The work really can and does exist independently of them.


This is where I strongly, passionately disagree. If you put it in the book, it becomes part of the whole. You can't expect us to seperate it from what came before. Obviously you put it in there for us to read, just as you did with the rest of the rules. It's like putting in goofy out-takes at the end of a serious drama. The tone is dramatically shifted, intentional or not.
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Abzu yelled at me and called my old sig "silly."
nebulous menace
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2003, 07:07:03 PM »

Well, there was an infamous intro to an Aberrant product called "This Is Not The Superfriends" which was an incoherent rant about how you could play superpowered chefs or semi-catatonic XWF wrestlers. Pretty much everyone went, "You go over there and play your superchef. I'll be in the cloud of brick dust over here, hitting people with a lamppost. "

I mean, regardless of how you TELL people to use your system, they're ALWAYS going to hit each other with the sharp things. At least until they figure out how much it hurts. Which in BW, is a lot.

I love BW for the lifepaths and the damage system. There are a lot of things the Wheel does differently than any other game I've seen, and they WORK. On the other hand, I'm not sold on the scripting system, though I haven't used it much, and we're actually playing with slightly different Steel rules and damage penalties.

And those are REAL RULES, not semi-coherent rants from the author. Abzu knows where I live and he can't stop me. Nyah.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2003, 08:02:45 PM »

Hi,

I've been trying to figure out what it was that bugs me so much about the BITs rules, and its just occurred to me that BITs effectively are, "Don't Use This System!"  As you put it, you want BITs to be "above the rules, above the dice", in which, I sense cool stuff happening.  Then there's no real solid guidelines about how and where they are allowed to violate the system or by how far.

As I see, there's been great rules to cover almost every situation, but no real solid guidelines about how this aspect is used, despite being put as "More important than your Mortal Wound".  That's the part that's been nagging at me.

And here's the reason why-  When I buy a game, I see it as a Social Contract document.  Yeah, it gets drifted, altered in play, but just the same, its a starting point.  Important questions like "How do things get done?" get answered by it.  And the biggest cop-out I've ever seen is "Ignor these rules", is a fairly pointless statement without guidelines of WHY to ignor rules.

Consider these differences in ignoriing rules or fudging:
-You don't like 'em(slow, boring, broken whatever)
-"Unrealistic"
-"Unfair"
-"Gets in the way of story"
-The GM feels like calling in GM fiat, based on one of the above, or maybe feels like railroading or punishing one of the players, or some other metagame reason
-or something else...

All of these are very different reasons to ignor rules, and result in very different play styles when you do that.  Ignoring the rules for realism and ignoring the rules for story happens a lot with D&D3E, and results in different styles of play.  In fact, you can get vastly different play experiences this way....

Bringing it back to BW, which is where I get lost.  We've got a great set of rules based on what some folks would call "realistic" so we don't need to ignor the rules too much based on that.   Then we've got a whole essay on not getting caught up in the system, instead using it as a vehicle for what I'm going to argue is expressing (Exploration of) character at the very least, and perhaps intended as a means of telling meaningful stories.  And when it comes to BITs, its just short of giving solid guidelines.

It seems to me that the Cruft of BW is the willingness to give us lists of skills, detailed combat rules, but shying away from the dangerous ground of establishing Social Contract guidelines about goals that may be different than simply "realism" or "leveling up".

Maybe that's just my Narrativist leanings reading too much into your game there, but especially reading DUTS, I can't help but think you're looking in the same direction...

Chris
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2003, 05:54:30 AM »

Quote
but shying away from the dangerous ground of establishing Social Contract guidelines about goals that may be different than simply "realism" or "leveling up".


I think that's a great way of putting it.  And you know it really highlights I think one of the great divides in gaming circles.

There are "supposed to be" rules for handling resolution with some nod towards realism and there are "supposed to be" rules for character improvement.  But there are sizeable circles of traditional gamers who will roundly declare that there *arent'* supposed to be rules for character behavior or psychology.

I think the shying away that you mention is perhaps the unconcious realization that the BITs rules were getting too close to that category of rules that "they" declare you aren't supposed to have rules for.  And, since Chris and myself, pretty much have no problem with the idea of rules of this sort, we're left wondering where the rest of them are.
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