Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Reference, Homage, Inspiration and Thievery

Started by Valamir, June 11, 2003, 09:37:20 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


Oh, one last thing that I suspect you already understand but wanted to make sure is absolutely clear; all of the mentioning of these other games that Chris and I have done are in no way shape or form a suggestion that those games are better, or BW pales by comparison, or anything like that at all.  

Its just that I know I at least have benefited enormously in my own game designs from the cross pollination of ideas and seeing how other games have done things successfully or where they fell down.  So think of these other games as being 1) games which have various elements that I think you'd probably really enjoy playing and 2) potential places to plunder ideas and inspiration from.

Just wanted to make that clear in case it wasn't.



Right caveat with everything Ralph said!  Simply suggesting some "sisters and brothers" of BW in terms of interesting alternative ways folks did similar things for the purpose of your inspiration and insight into BW :)



Ralph and Chris made some comments at the tail of the BITs thread that sparked a whole different thought train. I moved them here so we could discuss them without bogging down BITs with off-topic stuff.

Just a warning: This has more to do with game design in general than Burning Wheel specifically.

So it has come up a number of times that I know next to nothing about contemporary rpgs. This is actually deliberate. When I set out to design my game I stopped reading and even stopped playing other rpgs. I didn't want their ideas to infect my own.  I wouldn't even go into game stores! I had an idea of BW being "pure of taint."

Obviously, this is not the case (nor was it possible--BW references a number of older games). But it was my intent. Now Ralph and Chris have espoused a wholly opposite philosophy, "Read more RPGs to get more/better ideas!"

So I ask you: Is this stealing? Is it incest? Or I am designing in jar and doomed to recreate the mistakes of the past?

scared of the future,

Ron Edwards

Hi Luke,

I may as well be first to point you here:

Designers! Know your hobby!

Long ago, I posted a bunch of stuff about inspiration, modification, and referencing others' games. I'll do some hunting for those threads.



That's a damn interesting question Luke.

For me I'm far too much of a systems junkie to not devour everything I can find.  Plus my personal creative process is basically to have every "ohh neat" idea, whether mine or from elsewhere sink into the deep muck and ooze of my brain where it periodically bubbles to the surface.

But I do see the appeal of how you did it.  There is a certain artistic purity in being able to say "all of this came from me" (at least to the point that's possible).  I'll say again, knowing this quite frankly impresses the hell out me, because there's lots of really cool stuff you managed to come up with. perspective, YMMV is this.  Consider your effort a success... "It LIVES!!!".  Now, however, is the time to "kick it up a notch" so to speak.  By that I mean, that there are certain elements of reinventing the wheel in BW, no biggie...everybody does that, but now you have the opportunity to say...ok...what else is out there.  What am I struggling with that maybe someone else already achieved and how can I use that.  Its still winds up being yours because you'll be putting your own unique stamp on it, but it may be a bit faster than going it alone.

As for cheating or stealing...nah.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Just make sure you acknowledge the sources of your inspiration.  Credit where credit is due is not only polite, its good business sense.  

For my current project, my acknowledgements page already includes Donjon, Sorcerer, Riddle of Steel, Mongrel, Adventure!, and yes, Burning Wheel.

Its a pretty personal decision which only you can finally make, of course.

But if you've really been denying youself all this time...heh...I get this image of you at GenCon playing crazy demo games with a big kid in a candy store grin on your face :-)


Hi Luke,

I find what you've done without knowledge of other games to be very inspiring and brilliant.  

It makes me think of this story about a guy in East India who scrounged up enough money and education to get an 8th grade math equivalent, then proceeded to develop from that knowledge what took us 300 years of study to develop, up to early college level.  He sent a letter to some college professors, hoping to see if he was right on the money, most of them were like,"Um, yeah, basic stuff", but one guy realized this guy just did it alone, and he immediately ran out to get this guy a full paid scholarship...

"If this guy can reinvent 300 years of education in less than 2 years, what happens when we get him up to speed?"

Which is not to say you are ignorant, undereducated, or whatever, but to say that I'd really like to see what you churn out once you see some of the various ways folks have done things.  Especially if you are intent on looking down those alleyways that folks haven't tried yet.




thanks for the compliments, but I am undeserving.

This game has its influences. How could it not? When I was a young tyke I used to play heavily in many systems (Paranoia, Marvel Superheroes, Shadowrun and DnD were the main), but they all drove me mad. So I guess you could say that my initial effort was a reaction against other systems.

When BW first sprang from my brain, I had just finished playing a lengthy shadowrun (1st Ed) campaign. I think you can see that readily in a few sections. But over the years, as I played BW more and more, I tried to yank out the cruft and replace it with what I thought was the "right thing."

More than anything, these mechanics sprang from my style as a GM and what I needed to make my game make sense in my head.

I read Mike Holme's essay. Martin Scorcese is on your side. He's made a few decent films, and if you ever listen to a serious interview with him he only talks in film reference. Shot to shot he is pulling from films that inspired him and translating them into his text. This amazes and baffles me. I am terrified of becoming a soulless pastiche of reference. Perhaps I just studied too much Post Modernism in school, but originality seems more potent than reference or imitation. ...But Martin makes some fine films that are definitely all his own even if they constantly reference Antonioni.

Tangentally, there is an old adage "take your favorite sentence (or shot or mechanic) and throw it out. Get rid of it." I didn't understand this when I first heard it. But after a couple of years of playtesting it hit me. What I think is "kewl beyond belief" at the time is not what is necessarily good for the game. As I found more and more kewl bits like this in the game, I saw that they were really just me rehashing rules from other games and not thinking what was best for my game.  So I took them out and rebuilt them. Sheesh, every mechanic was thrown out and rewritten/reworked at least three times. The published Artha system is one of those hold overs. It is a rehash of Shadowrun Karma. I always hated it, but I could never think of anything better. Until, that is, I read some post (by Ron, I think) that said something like, "Every element of the game should drive toward its purpose." I immediately knew what I had to do. Out went the old crap, and in with the Wheel.

I guess what my philosophy comes down to is: It is impossible to design in a vacuum, but once your research is done you need to forget everything you've learned and start from scratch.

rambling and all that,

Mike Holmes

LOL :-)

QuoteI read Mike Holme's essay. Martin Scorcese is on your side. He's made a few decent films, ...
You have the art of understatement down my friend. Any surprise that I'm a big Scorsese fan? Not that that's an original position...

The point is that you did, with what you knew at the time, do all the things that it takes to make an original game. And no matter what you know, no matter what you learn, you already have a proven ability to create originally despite the context of what you know.

Ever note how most really good postmodern writers are well read? They have to know what to avoid. It's precisely that you want to not do the wrong things that others have done that you study their works.

At least that's my take on it. Originality is not unimportant. But it comes from looking at what's present, and doing something different.


P.S. now I really have to get a copy of this damn game so I can see what you did with what you had. And, oh yes, I agree with Ralph (there I go again). GenCon is going to be fun. I think you'll be in my camp. :-)
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Brennan Taylor


You are dead on the money. I think it is absolutely essential to have as wide an experience with game systems as possible when designing a new one. My original foray into game design was made before I had wide experience, and I think it shows in the final result. Many things I should have examined were just inherited from previous systems without review.

I have just recently finished converting an old game to d20, which I must say is also an extremely useful experience. Taking an existing universe and adapting it to a new system can teach many valuable lessons for game design. It is especially useful in making the designer really examine the interplay of game rules and desired effects. Even if you do this as a lark, it will help a lot.

Also, read the Forge. ;)


"Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal." Igor Stravinski, classical composer

Personally, I count myself fortunate to work in a non-competetive field, where the best ideas are ruthlessly appropriated at all times.  I'm happy to grab as much as I can that's good, but feel compelled to mention that most of my ideas are from other people.



If I could, I would change your title to Necromancer. Why would you post to a three year old thread? DON'T ANSWER THAT!

This thread is dead. Leave it be.