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Author Topic: About dices, rules and narrative  (Read 24031 times)
Josh Roby
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« Reply #30 on: October 20, 2005, 02:40:39 PM »

I mean, you still need to have content, don't you ? You don't just come to your friends and tell them 'tonight we'll play that system', let's throw dices !!!

Actually, most of the games produced here work exactly like that.  Thing is, gamers don't need content providers.  We're a pretty creative bunch, especially when handed rules and procedures that facilitate creativity.  Look at PTA -- the game starts with the players sitting down and deciding together what they want to play.  This is a recurrent theme in tons of games, some of which restrict the options (MLwM, Dogs) and some which actually broaden it (Universalis).
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #31 on: October 20, 2005, 03:22:32 PM »

But where do you get ideas for the content of your saturday (or friday, whatever...) game ? Obviously, you don't buy it...
I mean, you still need to have content, don't you ? You don't just come to your friends and tell them 'tonight we'll play that system', let's throw dices !!!
What Josh said.

I mentioned that I run Multiverser constantly, and it chews through universes fast at times. I've often hit a moment where I have to put a player character in a new universe and haven't given it a thought. Guess what? The game gives me the tools to let the world create itself, entirely in response to the player's choices and desires, if I want to go that way. It also gives me the tools to take anything and make it the foundation for a world--and I mean literally anything. I've built worlds starting from the open fields of local farms, the industry of Northern Delaware, the playground equipment at McDonald's, board games, movies, TV shows, books, conversations people have had, theories about time travel, theories about theology, outdated scientific beliefs, projected futures, alien invasions, witch hunts, moments in history, fairy tales, children's stories. I don't even have to know anything about these things to build a playable world from them in a few minutes; I just need an idea, something that lets me say, "O.K., this is what this world is about, and we'll fill in the details as we go, and see where we wind up.

I certainly don't do all my worlds on the fly; sometimes I put a fair amount of time and effort into them. But the time and effort is usually about the game-related details--stats, maps, equipment, skills, stuff like that. The stuff you want to sell me can be generated at need on the fly. In fact, it's actually more useful to me to know that someone wants to assassinate the king than that the king will be assassinated on a particular date. I can use my tools to determine whether the assassin is successful and when, and if the players get involved in that line I shift to a different set of tools to see whether they become aware of the plot and what they do about it.

Give me a starting place, and I'm good. Yes, sometimes it's nice to know that certain things will happen by a particular time if the players don't do anything about them--but then, as far as I can see the game is supposed to be about the player characters. Anything you write that is outside that with which they can be involved is merely background, of little or no interest to play except how it impacts them later. That is, "the king will be assassinated on this date, after which martial law will be imposed" is not really part of the game--it's background color providing an excuse for the world situation to change at some point, becoming more restrictive. On the other side, anything you write in which they can be involved is automatically derailed, because unless you intend for a heavy dose of illusionist technique to preserve your story (essentially railroading) the players are going to surprise you and derail it. Either they can't save the king, or there's a good chance they will. If the former, their involvement in the story is irrelevant. If the latter, your materials have been compromised when they do.

I'm old; I'm busy. I don't have enough time not only to create a vast Glorantha or Tekumel-like setting, I don't have time to read it, let alone learn it, and I actually don't need it.  I can put everything you need to know to run one of the largest, most complex worlds I create into fifty pages, package it with eight other short but fully playable scenarios in the remaining hundred, and sell it for twenty-some dollars, and you can use all of those in my game at some point.  And you won't have to spend your time adapting it to my game, because the information is already there.

And Multiverser, published in '97, is actually not that innovative compared to the games these guys are producing now. It just happens to do this really well.

--M. J. Young
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greyorm
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« Reply #32 on: October 20, 2005, 07:39:49 PM »

I'll take that !! That seems enough for me at the moment...

That's cool, then. Mine is not an attempt to dissuade you from content creation, if that is what jazzes you, merely to make sure you are aware of and can thus hopefully better deal with the pitfalls of the project you have envisioned.

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But what happens if I don't need mechanics to play intrigue?

Then you don't use mechanics. But your query is besides the point, which was that the greatest content in the world can (and will) fall flat on its face if married to the wrong presentation (mechanics system). Most people have absolutely no idea that mechanics really are that important to the presentation and fulfillment of content.

Note that freeform -- systemless RPing -- is a bit of a seperate issue in this, because the system is the social contract.

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Does that mean I didn't play a role playing game ? Is that some kind of flaws to not throw dices ?

Well, technically, I could (rather easily) make the argument that while it is RPing, it is not RPGing, because it is missing the vital game component. Such play is much closer to LARP than anything else. But for the moment makign that distinction is about as useful as splitting hairs.

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What about competent director and bad script ? Do you really need an example ?

Arg. I feel this response is a bit of a dodge of the issue I put on the table. Either you understood what I was saying or you didn't. I have no clue because all you did was throw an oppositional question up in response in what seems a sort of "Ah-HA! What about that, foo'!" way.

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Did I pretended it to be ? I guess not.

Any number of your statements insinuate it. For example, you have been talking about what you have never seen in gaming before, and how your approach is different from all these, etc. So, yes, it was implied by you, though perhaps unintentionally.

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Do I have to quote myself here to explain it ?

If I didn't understand it the first time, and I have misunderstood what your intention or solution is, yes. Please direct me to the appropriate information.

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Truly I know you mean well. Anyway, must take you some time to write those long posts. I appreciate it, really, and I hear you, thanks for the advice...

That is good, because I was hoping I was not coming off like an insensitive hardass. I'm hoping this thread has been helpful for you and beneficial towards your approach to your product.

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I mean, you still need to have content, don't you ? You don't just come to your friends and tell them 'tonight we'll play that system', let's throw dices !!!

Josh and MJ have already responded to this quite adequately, but I'll add my two cents as well. Some games are set up such that the content is generated by the group during play, others use various ideas from novels, magazines, and a variety of media as a base to generate whatever is needed in play. And some people, yes, use pre-packaged settings and storylines (either together or seperately) in their games. I don't generally say "Let's dice!" and then worry about content later, and instead borrow content from where I can get it. For example, I recently played in a game of Donjon where we borrowed all our content from the DarkSun campaign setting (from TSR).

Interestingly, most people do refer to games by system, not content, because system is inextricably tied to content. Take Sorcerer as an example: when you talk about the game, you are talking about mechanics, not content, because the content IS the mechanics. Or near enough that they are inseperable in that manner.

Humanity, demons, sorcery, bargains with the devil, thematic struggles against our darker sides, it's all right there in the mechanics. The mechanics inform and even create the content.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
pells
Member

Posts: 192


« Reply #33 on: October 21, 2005, 01:43:34 AM »

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I get it, he is talking about a multi-line or multi-plot game where you can have concurrent plots resolving at the same time.  But his big thing is you aren't "rolling'  you ARE the character so it isn't a choice of luck of the roll, it is who can outthink the plot basically.

First part, I'd agree. I guess you can see it that way. Second part represents, more or less, the way I'm playing it. That said, I roll dices... sometimes. Mostly for battles, and as you can guess, I don't put many in my games. About the plot, I wouldn't use the term outthink, seems a little bit competitive. But, yes, I hope my players get most of their pleasure discovering the plot, trying to understand his many components. And interact with it.

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Actually, most of the games produced here work exactly like that.  Thing is, gamers don't need content providers.  We're a pretty creative bunch, especially when handed rules and procedures that facilitate creativity.

It helps me understand why you say content and mechanics are so tight together. And yes, you are very creative people. So, to do what you're describing, I think (but maybe I'm wrong), you have to be a very good DM, with very good players. It's not 'everybody can do it'.

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I certainly don't do all my worlds on the fly; sometimes I put a fair amount of time and effort into them. But the time and effort is usually about the game-related details--stats, maps, equipment, skills, stuff like that. The stuff you want to sell me can be generated at need on the fly

I agree with you that you don't need to create all the details about the plot, the content. And I think the fun part of DMing is creating on demand, around the table, with his players. But then, for myself, I still need written, script in advance. As of today, I won't be buying details like name of inns and their owner, mayor, the exact two little pieces of information a secondary chacracter has to offer. I won't even give anything for that secondary character. But I would pay for a narrative weave (in a philosophical sense). Anyway, I think the details are part of what railroads a script.

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Yes, sometimes it's nice to know that certain things will happen by a particular time if the players don't do anything about them--but then, as far as I can see the game is supposed to be about the player characters

And the end, I hope it comes to that. I've seen my players discussed for an hour, trying to decide which of the three stories I was proposing them. That, I think is about players characters : what they choose to do with their "lives", the choices they make, the differences they can make.

About railroading : as the DM needs to create a lot of details, to add many things, usually players will impact improvised content, not script one. Anyway, using a web of events instead of a railroad, linear story, might prevent "catastrophe". As for a calendar, I'm glad when my players leave a town and come back couple of weeks after, to just have to open my newspaper and see what's happening by reading the headlines... and not having to calculate everything and making mistakes. And thought not having to require some illusionist trick afterward...
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #34 on: October 21, 2005, 09:13:36 AM »

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Actually, most of the games produced here work exactly like that.  Thing is, gamers don't need content providers.  We're a pretty creative bunch, especially when handed rules and procedures that facilitate creativity.

It helps me understand why you say content and mechanics are so tight together. And yes, you are very creative people. So, to do what you're describing, I think (but maybe I'm wrong), you have to be a very good DM, with very good players. It's not 'everybody can do it'.

Pells, seriously, for the love of all that is holy, go download Capes Lite (for free) and read it.  Creating content for games is not rocket science.
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pells
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« Reply #35 on: November 06, 2005, 02:23:42 AM »

Well, I'm back from vacations, downloaded Capes, read it, had some other thoughts and I'd like to conclude on some points this thread.

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Pells, seriously, for the love of all that is holy, go download Capes Lite (for free) and read it.  Creating content for games is not rocket science.

I think it's not that difficult, but that inexperienced players would be less prone at doing it, that improvisation is not seen as a easy thing, especially in a "typical" game with DM/players. As for Cape, it seems to me, it is conceived for improvisation. Seems almost to me like a table game.

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I'm old; I'm busy. I don't have enough time not only to create a vast Glorantha or Tekumel-like setting, I don't have time to read it, let alone learn it, and I actually don't need it.

I know what you mean. That's why I'm trying to write in a "novel" style, "novel" size. I don't have time and patience of reading thousands of pages of setting, but I do have time to read books. And I enjoy it.

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On the other side, anything you write in which they can be involved is automatically derailed

Last note about railroading. "The king is dead, been murdered, martial law is risen and civil war starts". Let's say your players prevent the death of the king. My main concern, as a DM, is the outcome of the event of the death of the king. Following the failed attempt, will the martial law be risen anyway by the king followed by civil war ? What is the main point in the outcome : the death of the king or the civil war ?
One other thing. I think we are not used at seeing people fail and retry, in books or movies. Let's say that at the end of the first book of the lord of the ring, Frodo is prevented from leaving the group, I'd guess he would try it later. So, after the failed attempt at the life of the king, I guess there would be others. Maybe the event of the death of the king has just been delayed.

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Such play is much closer to LARP than anything else.

I've written for LARP before and most of my reflexion about, let's called it a multi-plot story, comes from this experience. Because, in LARP, you can't railroad your story, or go into too many details. Also, you have to prepare adventures for everyone, the protagonists (the "good" and the "bad") but also the players (the "slashers" or "intrigue lover"). You have to prepare a challeging intrigue, but also put an object to find. You have to offer the players a vast menu to choose from. Some will surely want to join the evil mage as others will confront them. I'd say there is no predefined story for the players, but still many stories open to them. Finally, when writing for LARP, I tended to create general ideas about the story and the setting, focussing on the outcome and the motivation of the protagonists. I'd say that's what I'm trying to acheive.

I think I'll present later, in another thread, my theory about writing as a web of events, the general concept I have developed to fit my needs. Note that this theory applies to RPing, LARP, but also newspapers, normal novels, TV shows, movies. I'd like to call it a general theory of scenarisation.
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contracycle
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« Reply #36 on: November 07, 2005, 01:56:47 AM »

Actually, most of the games produced here work exactly like that.

Indeed.  Thats a major failing, IMO.

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  Thing is, gamers don't need content providers.

Yes, we do.  I'm willing to pay people to produce content - rather than rules.  Rules are easy, content is hard.  Content also benefits from industrial production va;ues unlikely to be available to the end user.

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Look at PTA -- the game starts with the players sitting down and deciding together what they want to play.  This is a recurrent theme in tons of games, some of which restrict the options (MLwM, Dogs) and some which actually broaden it (Universalis).

And these games are only interesting to some people.
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greyorm
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« Reply #37 on: November 07, 2005, 10:03:14 AM »

Indeed.  Thats a major failing, IMO...And these games are only interesting to some people.

Gareth makes a good point that not everyone like the same things, which is why there probably is at least a small market for your product out there, Pells. Finding them and selling to them once found is another matter, however, and something else to think about. Unfortunately, the above is otherwise: "Danger, Will Robinson! Unsubstantial commentary! Danger! Danger!"

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Rules are easy, content is hard.

This statement is coming from an individual who, in six years of participation at the Forge, has never once produced, discussed, or attempted to produce an RPG, so treat it as you would treat medical advice from your teenage neighbor who works at McDonald's and gets high every weekend.

Certainly, good content can be just as hard as good rules; the problem with content is that there is plenty of good content already available for anyone who cares to raid a library or the internet -- too much, in fact -- merging that with a rules-system that does that content justice is the trick, or designing it such that each system is able to play up its own strengths (thus resulting in different stories from the base content provided, dependent upon system), as was discussed earlier.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
komradebob
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Posts: 462


« Reply #38 on: November 07, 2005, 10:51:27 AM »

Y'know, I like the Forge because of the generally civil nature of conversation here compared to other sites.

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This statement is coming from an individual who, in six years of participation at the Forge, has never once produced, discussed, or attempted to produce an RPG, so treat it as you would treat medical advice from your teenage neighbor who works at McDonald's and gets high every weekend.

Of course, exceptions do occur.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Josh Roby
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« Reply #39 on: November 07, 2005, 10:56:02 AM »

I like the Forge because it has standards, of which Grey's post was a shining example.  But let's not tangent the thread, bob.
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komradebob
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« Reply #40 on: November 07, 2005, 12:11:03 PM »

I like the Forge because it has standards, of which Grey's post was a shining example.  But let's not tangent the thread, bob.

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The Forge is not only a place for role-playing game authors, though. It's here for anyone interested in discovering new games, having better role-playing experiences, or discussing role-playing game theory.
That's from the About the Forge page. And publicly slagging someone is crude at any time. It's especially crude on athread started by a newcomer to the Forge asking advice on developing a game idea.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
pells
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Posts: 192


« Reply #41 on: November 07, 2005, 03:27:49 PM »

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That's from the About the Forge page. And publicly slagging someone is crude at any time. It's especially crude on athread started by a newcomer to the Forge asking advice on developing a game idea.

I just hope I'm not the "village's fool', as in reality televison : putting out the village's fool and laughing at him!!

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Certainly, good content can be just as hard as good rules; the problem with content is that there is plenty of good content already available for anyone who cares to raid a library or the internet -- too much, in fact

There's has been a lot of hyperlink in this thread... but the DM I am looks for "scenario" or "story" first in a website. And I didn't see a lot of it. I mean by that there is a lot of 'context', setting, not much scenarios, stories...

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Gareth makes a good point that not everyone like the same things, which is why there probably is at least a small market for your product out there, Pells

Indeed, that might be my bigest problem... Surely my market is out there... reaching it is another problem, maybe the purpose of a thread in 'publishing'. That said, this thread didn't discourage me... and made search alot into the forge. As I see it, narrative purpose isn't 'complete' yet... and I intend to contirbute to it. I once thought I needed to stay in my 'bubble', not to see my idea 'being stolen', but I think I was wrong... If more people would write the way I do, I would benefit from it.

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Yes, we do.  I'm willing to pay people to produce content - rather than rules

That's quite encouraging!!!
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #42 on: November 08, 2005, 01:51:11 AM »

This statement is coming from an individual who, in six years of participation at the Forge, has never once produced, discussed, or attempted to produce an RPG, so treat it as you would treat medical advice from your teenage neighbor who works at McDonald's and gets high every weekend.

WTF?  Considering I've been using my own system for years, I owe you no explanation whatsoever.  When you have a game as developed and playtested as mine under your belt, then you get to wear those big boots, kid, and not before.
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Impeach the bomber boys:
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #43 on: November 08, 2005, 02:08:42 AM »

Indeed, that might be my bigest problem... Surely my market is out there... reaching it is another problem, maybe the purpose of a thread in 'publishing'. That said, this thread didn't discourage me... and made search alot into the forge. As I see it, narrative purpose isn't 'complete' yet... and I intend to contirbute to it. I once thought I needed to stay in my 'bubble', not to see my idea 'being stolen', but I think I was wrong... If more people would write the way I do, I would benefit from it.

Agreed.  You might be interested in this post of mine discussing "RPG as set text" over here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=5334.0

I very much agree that the overwhelming bulk of RPG setting, "plot" and published situation are mostly, well, crap.  There is very little in the way of purposeful desaign of setting, and providing appropriate materials to the players with which to play in a given setting.  The emphasis is on the system, and the content is hand-waved onto the shoulders of the GM, usually.  As I often remark in this regard, I find it striking that we have so many games set in a sorta feudal europe, and yet so little information on the care and handling of horses, which play a big part in these settings.  The emphasis on the moral aspects of play, ethical dilemmas and similar triteness, has distracted attention from properly realising the setting, filling out the imaginary outlines with imaginary colour.

As a result there are very few actually interesting settings IMO.  Now that is to a degree merely an expression of taste, but that granted I would further argue that most RPG settings are virtual carbon compies of one another.  People say, oh there is a lot of content on the net, and that is true IF you are looking for yet another bastardised Forgotten Realms with the names of the orcs and elves changed to protect the guilty.  There is signal lack of creativity and innovation in terms of setting design IMO, and this extends into system design, in that proper representation of historical contexts will require, IMO, properly representational mechanics.

But the step of systemetising a society is a complex one and in the mean while construction of interesting and engaging setting would be an admirable stopgap.  Certainly, I would in fact be more willing to pay folding green for a well researched setting sans system than for a system sans setting; for one thing, the amount of work that goes into the former is likely to be much greater than that which goes into the latter.
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Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
brightstar
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #44 on: November 08, 2005, 06:43:00 AM »

I couldn't agree with you more contracycle. 

The lack of real innovation is definately apparent in the RPG world.  We've been using the same basic mold of "system" to create numerous off shoots from the same "basic set" established by Gygax decades ago.  This pattern has rarely been called into question and redefined by someone else.  The same techniques he prescribed are the same techniques people are employed by a good number of systems (I'm talking main stream).  Real advancement in setting has been completely disregarded as ways to reconstruct how system interfaces in the narrative priciples of roleplaying. 

The funny thing is though, and mind you I am knew so I haven't read all the posts, but it seems the Forge's direction (be it unspoken) is to institutionalize those common system threads into one cohesive texts.  This becomes the standard, the rule, or as this board calls it the Authority.  We give credibility to that authority by adhering these principles.  And the biggest stagnation for progress is institutionalization of ideas into techniques.  Therefore, the forge fails in its own end to break out of common molds of the way "things have always been done."  Instead, they try to work within the established frame of reference. 

This reference mold requires adherence to age old structures and traditions.  Though some may be outdated and redefined, the structure exits...especially in the work design patterns of successful RPG's.  By measuring success and claiming it in the title it suggest a successful RPG is one that follows these guidelines, therefore, misguiding innovators back to traditional molds.  It becomes a quick engine of regergitation of patterns. 

While play testing some of my system elements players asked me the other day, we have a system that works, so why don't we just use it.  That's a darn good question.  But here's why.  It's TOO typical.  You could find it anywhere really, it's just a hodge podge and doesn't push the boundries enough.  Because, as I see it, there are many things wrong with RPG's.  Instituationalizing the principles won't fix it.  Tearing down institutions and building new ones will fix it while creating their own new set of problems.  It's just a different way to go about things. 

For instance, Alignment.  Reading the thread on alignment people began to justify the need for its existence with huge extrapolations and bending of function to put alignment with types that were very dissimular to alignment itself.  In essence, they were trying to make it "fit" or "work" within the context of standard RPG.  It's a flawed concept, yet this board responded rather irrately to the writer's bias against it because they saw it as a useful technology even though a dozen other non traditional advancements have surpassed it's function. 

This leads to why you see hefty morality systems in RPG.  Every writer takes alignment, looks at it, and tries to redefine it.  However, morality is not so black and white to prescribe every human interaction between good and evil, personality archetypes etc.  Personality and moral choices are so complex they cannot be contained by these mechanics.  Yet RPG's continue to beat their head against this wall without abandoning the concept or finding a 100% new way to express it. 

This is just my feelings.  Take it or leave it. 
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