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Author Topic: Pistols at dawn.  (Read 64118 times)

RPGPundit

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« Reply #45 on: April 24, 2006, 11:48:25 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen

That's rather interesting.  And if the check indicates something contrary to your impression of the roleplaying?


The roleplaying reflects what the character's position is, whereas the die roll represents a combination of how difficult the person he's trying to convince is being, and of course the measure of the character, as opposed to the player's skill (a debate champ player shouldn't be able to do effective diplomacy with his 3 INT 4 CHA barbarian just because he's a debate champ, necessarily, nor should a player who stutters or just can't form effective arguments be prevented from roleplaying a diplomat; the die roll combined with the roleplay serves to kind of equalize the two circumstnaces of character vs. player abilities).  Someone who roleplays excessively well or makes an argument that the DM rules will be particularly convincing to the NPC he's targeting can get a bonus to his roll.

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Let's say a player is in the mood for X, Y, and Z elements of play, and all those things are in "game A", but not "game B".
In your opinion then, when asked what he was in the mood for, he'd answer "game A".
And you think that I'm wasting my time looking for ways for him to be able to say "I'd like some X, some Y, and a whole lotta Z."
Is that what you're saying?


Well, what I'm saying is that in the real world there's a lot of reasons why a gamer might want to play a particular game; my "die-based personality type" theory was trying to make that point. I think most normal gamers out there don't start the process of play by saying "I want to play a game that deals with the theme of redemption"; they start out by saying "It'd be cool to play a game about Ninja Robots" or "it'd be great to play a historical campaign set in medieval spain, but with some supernatural elements". The "what" in those cases really tells you already which game is right for the person, and why the person would want to play a specific kind of game.
The real question of theory then becomes how to effectively create games that emulate particular settings, how to create systems that can adequately cover a variety of play-levels (I won't call them playstyles because clearly that's something different in your definition).
I think Theory has to start with the games, not with players or play groups or playstyles.

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I'd argue with that just a little, but not much.  Here's the part I'd argue.
Narrativism - the playstyle that these games are written to support - is basically a construct.  It's artificial.  Now, there are loads of things that people have developed to make it work that aren't artificial-feeling in play, like the idea of consistently front-loading a situation way, way harder than other games normally would.  But there's still a fair bit of artifice in games built specifically to support that kind of play.
Now, a small minority are willing to go along with that level of partial artifice in order to get what these games give in return benefit.  Others are flatly not.
This, to me, is the main cause that there's games haven't gone up like a house on fire.  Whether or not games that are highly focused on a single playstyle are likely to be more successful because of there focus has, I think, been flatly not proven either way, because we're never seen a game that had that kind of razor-sharp clarity and which was focused on a playstyle that the majority can get totally onboard with.


So wait, are you saying that the Forge games have not been great successes because they're basically Narrativist and Narrativism lacks enough popular appeal? Leaving aside the fact that I believe there were a few forge games that also tried to be purely gamist, are you suggesting that if someone were to make a purely Gamist RPG it might be more successful?

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XXXXXXXXXX


You left something out here again.

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No, we're close to meaning the same thing by playstyle, though I also include full-on "shared storytelling" as a playstyle - though not necessarily a roleplaying style.


Ah, ok.

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D&D's playstyle is "Heroic Adventures" - and regardless of what you play, so long as you focus it through that system, it will take on the tone of a Heroic Adventure.  If you drift the playstyle away from that feel, as you level up and play on, players look at their numbers and mechanical bits, and will get the urge to use them in play - and using them in play will slowly guide the group to trying to use them in a way that plays to the strengths of all the characters equally, because that's just good playing.  Heroic Adventures are the result.


Are you meaning "combat oriented" by "heroic adventure"? Because I really don't see anything in D&D that would mandate it to be "heroic adventure" other than the fact that characters go up in level and gain in combat ability (except maybe the XP system, that I've already mentioned to be poorly implemented). Most games I know of will have combat included in their system, even a few games that make a huge point of claiming to be about "more than hack n slash".
Interestingly, the campaigns I've had with the least combat in them have been D20 games, in particular my Traveller game that has had a grand total of 3 combat "scenes" in one year of weekly game play.

But pretty well any RPG will have "conflict" as a theme, and will generally have the characters get better at handling conflict as time goes by (though not always combat).

I really don't see this as a serious problem in D&D that prevents it from having sophisticated non-combat gameplay. In fact, in most D&D campaigns I've been involved in, the games shifts AWAY from combat-oriented play as the characters go up in level, when they usually tend to get less concerned about survival and more interested in the kind of conflicts going on in the setting that can't just be solved by teleporting in and kicking the shit out of people.

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d20 Versions of either of those games would completely miss the point, or would create a game that sucked so hard I can't even speak to it.
In DitV, the question is, what will you put on the line?  In D&D, you only have one flexible resource to put on the line - Hit Points.  It's not enough.


Even if you address it specifically as D&D, there's a lot more any character can put on the line than hit points. Their dignity, their sanity, their reputation, their wealth, their loves, etc etc.
And of course, a DiTV D20 game wouldn't be D&D.

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In Dragonraid, by my (admittedly rather hasty, because, yuck) reading, the real point of the game is to guide the players in the recitation and meorization of biblical passages in play, which d20 doesn't support and, frankly, shouldn't.


Yea, that one is a bit of a cheat. But still, a christian gamer could, in theory, run a D&D game that served as christian allegory or to instruct in christian morality.

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Do you also think that a d20 version of Amber would play the same way as the original, by that logic?


No, but the reason would be one of power level, not of "theme": D20 doesn't handle the kind of power level the average starting Amberite would have.

But if you're talking about the "theme" of Amber, which is really about a machiavellian dysfunctional family engaging in plots and counterplots to try to gain an upper hand against long-hated sibling rivals; yes, you could easily do that with D20.  My Roman Immortals campaign (which is True20, but still serves for the example) had evolved into sessions of Amberesque machiavellian scheming; playing with influences and favours, manipulating others, with some player's characters (hi Jong!) putting enormous energy into obtaining even small petty political victories against hated rivals.

D&D/D20 works, and is ultimately more popular than other games, because it is versatile and your games with it as a system will change and evolve as your interests in types of roleplay grow and change.

I mean, as an example of a less versatile system, you have Palladium.  When I was 13 years old, I played TONS of D&D (rules cyclopedia D&D), and I played TONS of palladium RPGs (Robotech, RIFTS, Beyond The Supernatural, TMNT).  Today, I still play tons of D&D (including Rules Cyclopedia D&D, so you can't just say that its because of the change of editions), but I have long since left Palladium behind. It really is less versatile as a system in the sense I think you're trying to say D&D is. Not that you COULDN'T play a deep meaningful and non-combat-oriented game of RIFTS (just like you could in theory play an ultraviolent shoot-em-up hack-n-slash-oriented game of My Life With Master or DiTV), but it'd be sincerely harder.

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And I don't.  You can make rules for whatever you like.  And if you keep at it, slowly, oh, so slowly, they'll get better and better until a group that wants what you do gets just what they want from play.


In theory that's certainly true; but in practice you are looking a seriously messed up rate of diminishing returns there; the more specific and narrow your scope gets, the more you "lock in" and therefore limit to your own particular vision as a designer these kinds of social or moral mechanics, the smaller the group of people will be who it will really appeal to as-is (or even the group that will be able to alter and fidget with the rules to get what they want out of it).

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #46 on: April 25, 2006, 12:27:01 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
The roleplaying reflects what the character's position is, whereas the die roll represents a combination of how difficult the person he's trying to convince is being, and of course the measure of the character, as opposed to the player's skill (a debate champ player shouldn't be able to do effective diplomacy with his 3 INT 4 CHA barbarian just because he's a debate champ, necessarily, nor should a player who stutters or just can't form effective arguments be prevented from roleplaying a diplomat; the die roll combined with the roleplay serves to kind of equalize the two circumstnaces of character vs. player abilities).  Someone who roleplays excessively well or makes an argument that the DM rules will be particularly convincing to the NPC he's targeting can get a bonus to his roll.


So, then, the gamelike elements act in fusion with the roleplaying ones?

:hmm:

That sounds familiar, that does.

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Well, what I'm saying is that in the real world there's a lot of reasons why a gamer might want to play a particular game; my "die-based personality type" theory was trying to make that point. I think most normal gamers out there don't start the process of play by saying "I want to play a game that deals with the theme of redemption"; they start out by saying "It'd be cool to play a game about Ninja Robots" or "it'd be great to play a historical campaign set in medieval spain, but with some supernatural elements". The "what" in those cases really tells you already which game is right for the person, and why the person would want to play a specific kind of game.


The real question of theory then becomes how to effectively create games that emulate particular settings, how to create systems that can adequately cover a variety of play-levels (I won't call them playstyles because clearly that's something different in your definition).
I think Theory has to start with the games, not with players or play groups or playstyles.[/QUOTE]

For that purpose, I already have a theory: Just buy more d20-system books.  No "theory of games" is required; pure marketplace darwinian selection will cull the rejects there.

And, yeah, I think my definition of playstyle includes more stuff than yours.

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So wait, are you saying that the Forge games have not been great successes because they're basically Narrativist and Narrativism lacks enough popular appeal? Leaving aside the fact that I believe there were a few forge games that also tried to be purely gamist, are you suggesting that if someone were to make a purely Gamist RPG it might be more successful?


Bingo.

It might be.  It depends - is "Gamist" actually the way that the majority plays?  

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You left something out here again.


And I can't figure out what.  Crap.  I'll come back to it.

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Are you meaning "combat oriented" by "heroic adventure"? Because I really don't see anything in D&D that would mandate it to be "heroic adventure" other than the fact that characters go up in level and gain in combat ability (except maybe the XP system, that I've already mentioned to be poorly implemented). Most games I know of will have combat included in their system, even a few games that make a huge point of claiming to be about "more than hack n slash".
Interestingly, the campaigns I've had with the least combat in them have been D20 games, in particular my Traveller game that has had a grand total of 3 combat "scenes" in one year of weekly game play.


What the characters gain isn't just combat ability, though.  It's a specific range of abilities, which are all keyed to different kinds of action (with combat high on the list), and each of which is treated with a specific level of detail.  Put those together, in anything roughly like the order of detail that they're treated with by the rules, and you get the action that takes place in a "Heroic Adventure".

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But pretty well any RPG will have "conflict" as a theme, and will generally have the characters get better at handling conflict as time goes by (though not always combat).


Ayup.  Games without conflict are boring.

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Even if you address it specifically as D&D, there's a lot more any character can put on the line than hit points. Their dignity, their sanity, their reputation, their wealth, their loves, etc etc.
And of course, a DiTV D20 game wouldn't be D&D.


Ah, sorry.  In d20 modern, they have more resources - wealth, for example.

But what "drives" DitV is that what you're putting on the line is actual stuff right there on your sheet, not just elements of the fiction.

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Yea, that one is a bit of a cheat. But still, a christian gamer could, in theory, run a D&D game that served as christian allegory or to instruct in christian morality.


It'd be a stretch - and that's my point.  Why stretch?  Why not purpose-build?  I mean, Dragonraid is a terrible example of a purpose-built game to teach Christian morality, but it could be done, and no stretching would be required.

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No, but the reason would be one of power level, not of "theme": D20 doesn't handle the kind of power level the average starting Amberite would have.

But if you're talking about the "theme" of Amber, which is really about a machiavellian dysfunctional family engaging in plots and counterplots to try to gain an upper hand against long-hated sibling rivals; yes, you could easily do that with D20.  My Roman Immortals campaign (which is True20, but still serves for the example) had evolved into sessions of Amberesque machiavellian scheming; playing with influences and favours, manipulating others, with some player's characters (hi Jong!) putting enormous energy into obtaining even small petty political victories against hated rivals.

D&D/D20 works, and is ultimately more popular than other games, because it is versatile and your games with it as a system will change and evolve as your interests in types of roleplay grow and change.


Then why isn't GURPS more popular than D&D, if that's the case?  And why is d20 Modern, with it's past and future supplements, not nearly as popular as D&D itself?

The popularity of D&D isn't about versatility, in my opinion; it's about a lot of things, but versatility isn't on that list.  Certainly, it's more versatile than DitV (to use the perennial example) by a long, long ways.  But it's hardly the most accomodating system that exists.

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In theory that's certainly true; but in practice you are looking a seriously messed up rate of diminishing returns there; the more specific and narrow your scope gets, the more you "lock in" and therefore limit to your own particular vision as a designer these kinds of social or moral mechanics, the smaller the group of people will be who it will really appeal to as-is (or even the group that will be able to alter and fidget with the rules to get what they want out of it).


Depends on how your rules develop.  I'm pretty dead sure that Ron Edwards wasn't thinking of serving "Immersionists" with his Kicker and Bangs thing, but that trick works really, really well for many of those same folks.

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« Reply #47 on: April 25, 2006, 02:22:26 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
So, then, the gamelike elements act in fusion with the roleplaying ones?

:hmm:

That sounds familiar, that does.


Yup, but like I said, its a question of diminishing returns. A little bit of that sort of thing can be really useful, but more than a little will make a barrier, not an aid, to game play.

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For that purpose, I already have a theory: Just buy more d20-system books.  No "theory of games" is required; pure marketplace darwinian selection will cull the rejects there.
And, yeah, I think my definition of playstyle includes more stuff than yours.


I figure you're being sarcastic here, but basically, you've got a point.
The only games that really have a raison d'etre outside of D20 are games that do things beyond D20's scope (ie. stuff like Amber), or games that have a mechanical appeal outside of D20 (games that are considerably more rules-heavy, like GURPS, or games that are considerably more rules-lite, like OtE), or games that manage to emulate a specific setting better than D20 (like, say Paranoia).
Thats still room for a lot of games.  There is also the question of how to do a "better" mod of D20 for certain ranges of setting (ie. like what True20 does).
But yea, there's a whole slew of other games who's existence is pretty much unwarranted.
And I'm a huge fan of marketplace darwinian selection.

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Bingo.

It might be.  It depends - is "Gamist" actually the way that the majority plays?  


Well, be it gamist or simulationist, I think games that tried to be "purely" either one of those would not find itself having serious success. In no small part than the fact that trying to make a game narrowly fit any one of these three requires that it be a highly specific, highly focused game.  That is clearly what has caused the "microsetting" phenomenon in the Forge.


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What the characters gain isn't just combat ability, though.  It's a specific range of abilities, which are all keyed to different kinds of action (with combat high on the list), and each of which is treated with a specific level of detail.  Put those together, in anything roughly like the order of detail that they're treated with by the rules, and you get the action that takes place in a "Heroic Adventure".


I hate to get all into semantics here, but I think you might have to define "heroic adventure": Because the only way I can see you defining this that would honestly fit D&D is a definition that would still be broad enough to encompass all of the play-types that I've been claiming D&D can encompass.

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Ayup.  Games without conflict are boring.


Well, yea. I think pretty well every game has conflict, though. Even if its just "man's conflict with his own navel" (my life with master) or "a symbolic representation of goths' deep struggle to maintain the illusion of being dark and brooding after they've been repeatedly wedgied by the jocks" (Vampire).

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Ah, sorry.  In d20 modern, they have more resources - wealth, for example.

But what "drives" DitV is that what you're putting on the line is actual stuff right there on your sheet, not just elements of the fiction.


I've found the two of them can be equally meaningful.  If your players are sufficiently "into" the world and their characters, they will be just as upset at losing a political struggle or endangering their family as they would be at losing the +4 battle axe or 2 points of strength.

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It'd be a stretch - and that's my point.  Why stretch?  Why not purpose-build?  I mean, Dragonraid is a terrible example of a purpose-built game to teach Christian morality, but it could be done, and no stretching would be required.


Well, given how unusual the dragonraid "goals" are, this is one of those cases where creating a purpose-built game would be justifiable; but then again given the history of those kind of things (a medium being subverted to promote/preach a specific ideology) and the way people in general, and geeks more specifically react to them, I wouldn't give it too many hopes in the old Darwinian Market.

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Then why isn't GURPS more popular than D&D, if that's the case?  


GURPS is not as versatile as D&D. Its more rules-heavy, and the range of setting types it accomodates are less broad.  GURPS does superheros even worse than D20 does, and does Epic high fantasy much worse.

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And why is d20 Modern, with it's past and future supplements, not nearly as popular as D&D itself?


D20, Modern and otherwise, is a variant derived from D&D. D&D, being the main "fantasy" part of the D20 "family", is just the most popular part of the system.

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The popularity of D&D isn't about versatility, in my opinion; it's about a lot of things, but versatility isn't on that list.  Certainly, it's more versatile than DitV (to use the perennial example) by a long, long ways.  But it's hardly the most accomodating system that exists.


Just out of curiousity, which do you think would be?

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #48 on: April 25, 2006, 06:35:55 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Yup, but like I said, its a question of diminishing returns. A little bit of that sort of thing can be really useful, but more than a little will make a barrier, not an aid, to game play.


I've had plenty of players that want oodles of it.

Quote from: RPGPundit
I figure you're being sarcastic here, but basically, you've got a point.
The only games that really have a raison d'etre outside of D20 are games that do things beyond D20's scope (ie. stuff like Amber), or games that have a mechanical appeal outside of D20 (games that are considerably more rules-heavy, like GURPS, or games that are considerably more rules-lite, like OtE), or games that manage to emulate a specific setting better than D20 (like, say Paranoia).
Thats still room for a lot of games.  There is also the question of how to do a "better" mod of D20 for certain ranges of setting (ie. like what True20 does).
But yea, there's a whole slew of other games who's existence is pretty much unwarranted.
And I'm a huge fan of marketplace darwinian selection.


I was basically joking around, but the point was serious; you want more and better d20, wait a month.  It'll come; no theory needed.

It's when you want something d20 doesn't offer that you go elsewhere.  It would seem our opinions on "what games offer" differ somewhere way down at the very base.

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Well, be it gamist or simulationist, I think games that tried to be "purely" either one of those would not find itself having serious success. In no small part than the fact that trying to make a game narrowly fit any one of these three requires that it be a highly specific, highly focused game.  That is clearly what has caused the "microsetting" phenomenon in the Forge.


I agree that trying to peg playstyles dead on is what caused the tendency to create those games.  However, I think that GNS is dead wrong on what makes a playstyle for design purposes; not only do people not play strictly to those three types (which they acknowledge), but the whole structure has a problem.

Here's the problem, as I see it.

The way that a group plays is built of a whole lot of stuff.  Previous experience, what it says in the book, what the rules inspire you to do with them, the different things that people want out of play, all sorts of stuff.  With practice and time, each group develops a style - and groups that have similar experiences or share members or use the same books are similar.  But every group is different - not only that, but they're different every time they play a different game, to some degree, if only because their characters are doing different stuff.

Now, a game poses a style to the group; the stuff in it, when you read it, leads you to think of it as "here's the way to play this game".  And every group will bring their own spin to that stuff - but if they can't fit their basic ideas of how to play into the game, they're toast.  It doesn't go.

A game that supports a focused style, therefore, needs to match what groups actually bring to the table, or it needs to effectively re-educate the players to the style.  If it fails at both, it fails.  Period.  

GNS-inspired games often don't match what people outside of that already-existing circle of players bring to the table, and only some of them do a really good job re-educating the players on what they actually should expect.  This leads to all kinds of "I don't get it", which quickly turns into "I don't like it" when people that are enthused by these games push people to like them even before they've bothered to show others what those games actually try to do.

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I hate to get all into semantics here, but I think you might have to define "heroic adventure": Because the only way I can see you defining this that would honestly fit D&D is a definition that would still be broad enough to encompass all of the play-types that I've been claiming D&D can encompass.


Ur, not quite.  See, D&D defines a playstyle made up of a whole pile of stuff - characters that get stronger in specific ways as they overcome challenges, tactical confrontations, and so on.

Now, you can play outside that style - plenty of people do.  And the characters can be Florentine Italians doing politics in the style of Dangerous Liasons.  But as soon as those characters get into a duel, they are playing out a tactical combat.  And, say they like that - it's a good combat engine.  So they get into a few more tactical combats, and start thinking about combat tactics.   Now, someone else in the group is a Rogue, and they see the Fighter doing all this duelling.  They want some cool moments showing off their neat stuff, too, so they do a few of the cool skill things from the books - they don't quite fit the whole motif, but such is like.  And slowly, slowly, unless the GM spends time and effort offering cool stuf back over in the genre they were playing to, the whole tone of the game drifts closer to classic D&D play.

I'm a lazy bastard.  I don't want to have to lure my players away from the fun stuff the system offers to keep them in the style we're aiming for.  I want, in fact, a system that keeps offering them fun that does jive with the feel I have in mind.

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I've found the two of them can be equally meaningful.  If your players are sufficiently "into" the world and their characters, they will be just as upset at losing a political struggle or endangering their family as they would be at losing the +4 battle axe or 2 points of strength.


Can be.  But see my comments above.

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Well, given how unusual the dragonraid "goals" are, this is one of those cases where creating a purpose-built game would be justifiable; but then again given the history of those kind of things (a medium being subverted to promote/preach a specific ideology) and the way people in general, and geeks more specifically react to them, I wouldn't give it too many hopes in the old Darwinian Market.


I wouldn't hold out any hope for that one either.  

...I mean, a pictionary-style game where all the things people needed to guess were bible stories would do it better.

But I digress.

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GURPS is not as versatile as D&D. Its more rules-heavy, and the range of setting types it accomodates are less broad.  GURPS does superheros even worse than D20 does, and does Epic high fantasy much worse.


More rules heavy?  They seem roughly the same to me.  And it depends what you want, again; I can think of about ten games I'd want to run in GURPS, about twenty in D&D - but if I really liked GURPS, is suspect that'd revese itself.  Which makes it a matter of perspective, to me.

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D20, Modern and otherwise, is a variant derived from D&D. D&D, being the main "fantasy" part of the D20 "family", is just the most popular part of the system.


So "being fantasy" is more important to the market than "being versatile"?

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Just out of curiousity, which do you think would be?


Off the top of my head?

FUDGE.

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« Reply #49 on: April 25, 2006, 04:09:39 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
I've had plenty of players that want oodles of it.

With more than a "little" of it, the mechanics become a substitute for real roleplay, rather than a compliment.
This is one of the things I've never gotten about the "roleplay not rollplay" crowd; they seem to think that the more rules you have about roleplaying (ie. the more rolls you have for things like social interaction) the better it is; but you'd think it would be the other way around.

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I was basically joking around, but the point was serious; you want more and better d20, wait a month.  It'll come; no theory needed.

It's when you want something d20 doesn't offer that you go elsewhere.  It would seem our opinions on "what games offer" differ somewhere way down at the very base.

Sounds like its time for you to talk about what you think games "offer".

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I agree that trying to peg playstyles dead on is what caused the tendency to create those games.  However, I think that GNS is dead wrong on what makes a playstyle for design purposes; not only do people not play strictly to those three types (which they acknowledge), but the whole structure has a problem.
Here's the problem, as I see it.
The way that a group plays is built of a whole lot of stuff.  Previous experience, what it says in the book, what the rules inspire you to do with them, the different things that people want out of play, all sorts of stuff.  With practice and time, each group develops a style - and groups that have similar experiences or share members or use the same books are similar.  But every group is different - not only that, but they're different every time they play a different game, to some degree, if only because their characters are doing different stuff.
Now, a game poses a style to the group; the stuff in it, when you read it, leads you to think of it as "here's the way to play this game".  And every group will bring their own spin to that stuff - but if they can't fit their basic ideas of how to play into the game, they're toast.  It doesn't go.
A game that supports a focused style, therefore, needs to match what groups actually bring to the table, or it needs to effectively re-educate the players to the style.  If it fails at both, it fails.  Period.  

What you're protesting here is the game designer imposing his vision on the gaming group. Well, you're not really protesting it; I'm protesting it, you're pointing out that it can be a problem, though you seem to be ok about it if the game designer can "re-educate" people.

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GNS-inspired games often don't match what people outside of that already-existing circle of players bring to the table, and only some of them do a really good job re-educating the players on what they actually should expect.  This leads to all kinds of "I don't get it", which quickly turns into "I don't like it" when people that are enthused by these games push people to like them even before they've bothered to show others what those games actually try to do.

I think any game that requires that players be "re-educated" to play a certain game differently than a normal RPG has already got a serious problem.

To me, one of the fundamental things that RPGs "offer" are the freedom to create your own adventures, to make your own worlds.  My principle objection to the "story-based" games of White Wolf fame are that they reduce the GM from the principle creator of the game to a mere messenger for the Game Designer's delusions-of-grandeur, would-be-author metaplots.  Usually the Player Characters are also reduced to cheerleaders for the game designer's pet NPCs.
Forge games and other "theory" games suffer from a similar problem; where the game's design is so locked into the particular interests, agendas and priorities of the game designer, that they do not allow for easy adaptation to fit the GM's actual needs.

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Ur, not quite.  See, D&D defines a playstyle made up of a whole pile of stuff - characters that get stronger in specific ways as they overcome challenges, tactical confrontations, and so on.

Can you name any other beside the two you just named? I still don't see what adds up to be called "heroic fantasy" other than "It is teh bad because it has levels and lots of fighting".

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Now, you can play outside that style - plenty of people do.  And the characters can be Florentine Italians doing politics in the style of Dangerous Liasons.  But as soon as those characters get into a duel, they are playing out a tactical combat.  And, say they like that - it's a good combat engine.  So they get into a few more tactical combats, and start thinking about combat tactics.   Now, someone else in the group is a Rogue, and they see the Fighter doing all this duelling.  They want some cool moments showing off their neat stuff, too, so they do a few of the cool skill things from the books - they don't quite fit the whole motif, but such is like.  And slowly, slowly, unless the GM spends time and effort offering cool stuf back over in the genre they were playing to, the whole tone of the game drifts closer to classic D&D play.

That really hasn't been my experience. I mean, pretty much any game of D&D will have some "adventuring" and some "heroism", that's kind of the point of RPGs in general. But I've never had a problem doing D&D campaigns that were not drawn to combat or "cool skills" as a solution in a way that screwed up a campaign that wasn't meant to be about combat.

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I'm a lazy bastard.  I don't want to have to lure my players away from the fun stuff the system offers to keep them in the style we're aiming for.  I want, in fact, a system that keeps offering them fun that does jive with the feel I have in mind.

Ok, I'll bite: can you name a system that would be able to handle the Florentine plots & counterplots aforementioned BETTER than D&D would, and WHY that would be the case?
Or are you suggesting that you pretty much have to make a microgame for that? Because at that point you're saying that making microgames for everything is the natural choice, and I just don't accept that. Microgames suck because they FORCE you to play in a specific way.
If I have a guy in a florentine game that wants to resolve things from combat or breaking & entering, I would want him to be able to do that, and not be told that "there's no mechanic for it" or "it goes against narrative" or whatever else.

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More rules heavy?  They seem roughly the same to me.  

GURPS lite is actually a little less heavy than D&D, and about the same as general D20; normal GURPS is heavier than D&D, and "GURPS with ALL the fixings" is unbelievably more rules heavy than D&D.
GURPS' point-buy system alone makes it more complex than D&D, not to mention the tactical rules, etc etc.

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And it depends what you want, again; I can think of about ten games I'd want to run in GURPS, about twenty in D&D - but if I really liked GURPS, is suspect that'd revese itself.  Which makes it a matter of perspective, to me.

To me its a matter of genre emulation. If i want to run a totally historical campaign that's meant to have "realistic" (hate that word) combat and a gritty level of survivability, GURPS is superior. But if I want to run high fantasy, or even superheroes, or run of the mill tolkienesque/moorcockian fantasy, its D20 all the way.

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So "being fantasy" is more important to the market than "being versatile"?

D20 is versatile. D&D is the most popular fantasy iteration of D20. Fantasy is the most popular genre of RPGs.

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Off the top of my head?
FUDGE.

I knew you were going to say that. FUDGE isn't even a real RPG.
EDIT: I should have said a "full RPG". I don't mean FUDGE is too "alternative"; just that its not in and of itself a real RPG, its just a toolkit for RPG construction, so its kind of unfair to use as the example of a game system more "versatile" than D20

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« Reply #50 on: April 26, 2006, 12:17:15 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
With more than a "little" of it, the mechanics become a substitute for real roleplay, rather than a compliment.
This is one of the things I've never gotten about the "roleplay not rollplay" crowd; they seem to think that the more rules you have about roleplaying (ie. the more rolls you have for things like social interaction) the better it is; but you'd think it would be the other way around.


To be fair, most of the players of mine that want it are chasing story, not roleplay.  I have at least one other other player that fits the "roleplay not rollplay" crowd that despises social mechanics, though.

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Sounds like its time for you to talk about what you think games "offer".


Social engagement with friends.  Escape and a chance to blow off pressure.  Tactical fun.  Story generation.  Exercises in resource management that can be tactical or engaging.  Theatrics without theatre.  A chance to walk in another world in your own imagination.

...In almost any balance you like and can build a rule-set to match (though some such sets will take you outside of what I'd call a roleplaying game proper).

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What you're protesting here is the game designer imposing his vision on the gaming group. Well, you're not really protesting it; I'm protesting it, you're pointing out that it can be a problem, though you seem to be ok about it if the game designer can "re-educate" people.

I think any game that requires that players be "re-educated" to play a certain game differently than a normal RPG has already got a serious problem.

To me, one of the fundamental things that RPGs "offer" are the freedom to create your own adventures, to make your own worlds.  My principle objection to the "story-based" games of White Wolf fame are that they reduce the GM from the principle creator of the game to a mere messenger for the Game Designer's delusions-of-grandeur, would-be-author metaplots.  Usually the Player Characters are also reduced to cheerleaders for the game designer's pet NPCs.
Forge games and other "theory" games suffer from a similar problem; where the game's design is so locked into the particular interests, agendas and priorities of the game designer, that they do not allow for easy adaptation to fit the GM's actual needs.


Okay, this is kind of funny - because I've thought of a game book that sets up a playstyle just a little ways away from D&D, serves a method of play that gamers actually do play, is slightly more focused, and is selling like a hot damn.

Iron Heroes.

It "re-educates" players the short step required almost instantly; you can see Conan, Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser, and other such characters walking out of the system.  And what it shakes off in terms of rules, it brings back in terms of more and more thoroughly focused tactical combat.  

In terms of fitting what a number of groups actually do, it succeeds; in terms of teaching what it does differently, it succeeds, and in terms of market position, it succeeds.

It's closer to clearly defining the "Gamist" agenda that most people actually practice at the table than the GNS definition of Gamism is.

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Can you name any other beside the two you just named? I still don't see what adds up to be called "heroic fantasy" other than "It is teh bad because it has levels and lots of fighting".


Grab the skill list and read over it.  Let's say that a group did each of those things once in an game session.  You're already getting close to that feel.

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That really hasn't been my experience. I mean, pretty much any game of D&D will have some "adventuring" and some "heroism", that's kind of the point of RPGs in general. But I've never had a problem doing D&D campaigns that were not drawn to combat or "cool skills" as a solution in a way that screwed up a campaign that wasn't meant to be about combat.


So in your game set in Imperial Rome, the players never took even the slightest of steps out of their way to turn something into a fight or to use their neat abilities?  Ever?

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Ok, I'll bite: can you name a system that would be able to handle the Florentine plots & counterplots aforementioned BETTER than D&D would, and WHY that would be the case?
Or are you suggesting that you pretty much have to make a microgame for that? Because at that point you're saying that making microgames for everything is the natural choice, and I just don't accept that. Microgames suck because they FORCE you to play in a specific way.
If I have a guy in a florentine game that wants to resolve things from combat or breaking & entering, I would want him to be able to do that, and not be told that "there's no mechanic for it" or "it goes against narrative" or whatever else.


Seventh Sea.

Because the list of cool stuff in the game already matches the cool stuff that you want to do in the genre pretty closely.

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GURPS lite is actually a little less heavy than D&D, and about the same as general D20; normal GURPS is heavier than D&D, and "GURPS with ALL the fixings" is unbelievably more rules heavy than D&D.
GURPS' point-buy system alone makes it more complex than D&D, not to mention the tactical rules, etc etc.


I haven't read the new GURPS yet, so I'll have to concede this one.

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To me its a matter of genre emulation. If i want to run a totally historical campaign that's meant to have "realistic" (hate that word) combat and a gritty level of survivability, GURPS is superior. But if I want to run high fantasy, or even superheroes, or run of the mill tolkienesque/moorcockian fantasy, its D20 all the way.

D20 is versatile. D&D is the most popular fantasy iteration of D20. Fantasy is the most popular genre of RPGs.


See, I would have said that GURPS has greater range, but a large chunk of that range lies outside what a lot of gamers actually want to play.  I'd say that Dd20 has a smaller range, but that range is centered almost perfectly on what gamers actually do.

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I knew you were going to say that. FUDGE isn't even a real RPG.
EDIT: I should have said a "full RPG". I don't mean FUDGE is too "alternative"; just that its not in and of itself a real RPG, its just a toolkit for RPG construction, so its kind of unfair to use as the example of a game system more "versatile" than D20


You can play it directly out of the recent hardcover release; basically, after flipping the switches to the setting you want.  That strikes me as a full game with a lot of options, no more.

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« Reply #51 on: April 26, 2006, 12:53:29 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Social engagement with friends.

Agreed. This one is extremely important. Its important that your gaming group be of friends, though I disagree that it necessarily needs to be with friends that you'd want to do things other than Roleplaying with.

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Escape and a chance to blow off pressure.  Tactical fun.

Yes, and yes.

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 Story generation.  

Here, I disagree, as per the earlier parts of the debate.

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Exercises in resource management that can be tactical or engaging.  Theatrics without theatre.  A chance to walk in another world in your own imagination.

I agree about all of these, even the theatrics bit.

To me, the most important parts of the RPG are the "Having fun with friends" bit and the "walk in another world" bit. But all the rest of those are legitimate reasons.

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...In almost any balance you like and can build a rule-set to match (though some such sets will take you outside of what I'd call a roleplaying game proper).

Well, I know you seem to think these things work on some kind of percentage/recipe sort of thing; but to me its more of an "on/off" switch. And every one of the things you mentioned can be found/done in D20, even the misguided "story" business.

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Okay, this is kind of funny - because I've thought of a game book that sets up a playstyle just a little ways away from D&D, serves a method of play that gamers actually do play, is slightly more focused, and is selling like a hot damn.
Iron Heroes.
It "re-educates" players the short step required almost instantly; you can see Conan, Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser, and other such characters walking out of the system.  And what it shakes off in terms of rules, it brings back in terms of more and more thoroughly focused tactical combat.  
In terms of fitting what a number of groups actually do, it succeeds; in terms of teaching what it does differently, it succeeds, and in terms of market position, it succeeds.
It's closer to clearly defining the "Gamist" agenda that most people actually practice at the table than the GNS definition of Gamism is.

Well, its still a part of D20, and proof of the versatility of that system; but you are right that its a more "gamist" game than D&D.  We can only guess whether Mearls consciously set out to make the game more "gamist". Note that its only "more" gamist, not "solely gamist". But its still a good argument.

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So in your game set in Imperial Rome, the players never took even the slightest of steps out of their way to turn something into a fight or to use their neat abilities?  Ever?  

Given that the game is also a game of highlander-style immortals, that one in particular might be a bad choice. But the point is that the players weren't out looking to solve everything with "Jong Smash!!" just because they'd gone up in level.

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Seventh Sea.
Because the list of cool stuff in the game already matches the cool stuff that you want to do in the genre pretty closely.

Well, except for the metaplot cthulhu-aliens.

In any case, other than the vagaries of setting, I don't really see what in 7th sea would make it more apt than D&D as a rules-set to run that Florentine campaign.

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See, I would have said that GURPS has greater range, but a large chunk of that range lies outside what a lot of gamers actually want to play.  I'd say that Dd20 has a smaller range, but that range is centered almost perfectly on what gamers actually do.

It depends on if you define "historical games" (which is what GURPS does best) as just one category, or you say "GURPS can run any place any time in history ever!!! (plus gritty fantasy, modern, and hard sci fi)"

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You can play it directly out of the recent hardcover release; basically, after flipping the switches to the setting you want.  That strikes me as a full game with a lot of options, no more.

Ok, I didn't realize that; I haven't read the latest hardcover of FUDGE. And yes, if you consider it a system, its pretty damn versatile. Its also got some design features (such as the need for special dice that aren't the "usual special dice") that make it a harder sell than D20.  Also, part of what I meant by "versatile" was that it had full/complex rules that do not require deep roleplay, but at the same time didn't impair deep roleplay.  
FUDGE has oodles of versatility in terms of what settings you can run, but it doesn't really have the level of tactical complexity that would satisfy that kind of gamer.

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« Reply #52 on: April 26, 2006, 04:25:30 AM »
Okay - we're getting close to the middle of this debate, so I'm going to restate almost my whole set of positions, updated to suit the conversation thus far.

Some of these, I think we agree on more, others, not so much.

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Roleplaying games are a fusion.
Roleplaying games are much like what they sound like – there are elements of roleplaying, in a generally theatrical sense (but the bit about art not being special applies here too), and elements of gameplay like you’d find in a board or card game, and these things come together to form a unified thing distinct from it’s component parts.   Despite this, though, all roleplaying games provide at least slightly different fusions of these elements.

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Roleplaying Games are art.  This doesn’t make them special.
When we play these games, we are taking part in the performance of art.  Art isn't some kind of elite title.   If, in calling an RPG art, you’re just speaking to what the games already are, good on you.  But if, in doing so, you’re trying to somehow “elevate them”, shove off.  I don’t want to be elevated that way; very few gamers do.  And walk carefully; plenty of folks out there have seen the “elevate” thing one too many times, and immediately believe if you call an RPG art, that’s what you’re up to.

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Roleplaying Games create stories.  But they aren’t for telling stories.
Every game creates stories, as a side effect if nothing else.  People tell stories about their game experiences, reliving the moment; some of these stories can be good, or funny; some of them, you had to be there.  They also sit back at the table now and then and think things generally like “That was really cool, story-wise”.  That’s something some gamers want to explore further.  But the first impulse of a lot of GMs when they meet this idea is to control the story so they can be sure that it’ll turn out ‘properly’.  This is a mistake; if you want the story to turn out your way, go write it down.  If you do it, you’ll take away the ability to make meaningful choices from the players and you’ll have to interfere with their ability to play their characters; this means that your game will have problems both as something to roleplay and as a game.  If you want an RPG to act as an engine that works purely for the generation of collaborative stories, you’re likely going to push outside of the boundaries of what most people would consider a Roleplaying Game – it might be good, and RPG rules may be a good place to start, but you’re looking for a different creature than the one I’m talking about.

----------------------------

Getting more ‘story’ from an RPG is simple.
You front-load, and you drive (I’ll define those in a second), and that’s all you really need to do.  Going further than this can, again, carry your game outside of either “roleplaying” or “game” or both, and unless your players are with you in doing that, it’s best avoided.  I’m going to talk about those two things for a moment.

   Front-Loading: Front-loading is another way of saying that the group (sometimes the GM, sometimes the players, sometimes both together) builds a starting situation that focuses on the same stuff that the characters are focused on.  Not only that, but this situation involves conflicts that the characters will be drawn into, but which could be resolved any number of ways.  The person or people creating this situation should not know how things are going to turn out, only that conflict will always occur.  This is just basic preparation – an evil army threatening the town where the characters live is some serious front-loading.  The place where this turns into specifically story preparation is that a group (in this case, almost always the GM) can front-load elements that require choices from the characters – hard stuff that will give depth to the character no matter what they choose.  Again, the creator shouldn’t have picked “right choices” out in advance, just created things that require those choices be made.

Driving: This may not be the best word for it, since ‘driving’ implies a degree of control that really isn’t involved.  Driving is pushing the characters to make to those choices on their own, harder and harder, until they do, by adding intensity and requiring action based on each choice as play continues.  This often requires that the GM bring on characters and events that hit those choices in new ways; this is the part that takes practice, because doing it ham-handedly produces artificial-feeling play.

----------------------------

Every group has it’s own style of play.
No two players are the same – they have different attitudes, different past experiences, and sometimes want different things out of an RPG - some want more roleplay in their gaming, some want more gaming in their roleplay, some want more story, some want to get further “into character” than others.  That’s just the nature of what happens when you get people together.  But if they play together, they start to balance out a singular style of play between them that works for them.  This group style includes how they use the mechanics of the game, the things they agree on as other rules, and even the social structures that exist between them when they sit down at the table.  

----------------------------

Games influence style.
Every actual game book out there has its own slant – the writers had at least some of the elements that make up a style of play, however loosely or firmly conceived, in mind when they wrote it.  These are passed on to the players in a variety of ways.

First, and most obvious, a game book has advice in it that talks about how to run the game.  Some games go on at length about how to get just the game you want from the rules, working to accommodate different playstyles.  Others give the reader a solid impression of the kinds of play the creators had in mind, but also talk about adjusting it to get what you like.  And still others (though not that many) describe a single, tightly focused style that the game is “fine-tuned’ for.

Second, and either more or less obviously, a game shows you what it’s about in the presentation of the material itself.  If it has a lot of art, that can be pretty obvious.  Even if it doesn’t, examples of play given in a book speak to the style, as do descriptions of the various smaller bits of “how you do things”.

Third, the actual physical components of a game can have an impact.  If the game requires big piles of dice or miniature figures, its best played at an actual table, which can change the group dynamic to something less casual than just sitting around a living room.

And finally, the characters you can build, the various components of them, and the specific kinds of rules-based fun that you can get from those components, all speak to the style.  If there are detailed rules on some specific thing, and players engange with those often and enjoyably, the game will be drawn to those things more often, making the game more “about” those things.  Some examples of this; and I’m going to use games that I wrote myself because I’m a big stinky egomaniac.  

--

Perfect 20 is a d20-based system; because it has a lot of emphasis on combat and the like, it lends itself basically to action-adventure games; this is pretty much the “baseline” kind of thing.

The Playtest kit for The Pulse presents something notably different – the rules drive the characters to do and get things in a completely blatant fashion, because the game is about raw need.  And if anyone thinks they can get that same feel, at the same speed and intensity, from d20, without basically rebuilding that system, I’d love to hear about it.

The Exchange does something different again; it’s all about description, nothing else.  You can plug it into whatever genre you like, but what you always get is a game that’s high-description, low-tactics.

8bitDungeon isn’t even a roleplaying game; it’s an adventure game. And while it’s all about action and adventures, certainly, it pushes the “feel” that it’s aiming for so hard in it’s game mechanics that most people that have tried it out never even consider actually roleplaying with it.

----------------------------

In many places, roleplaying games have an image problem (Revised slightly)
People that play roleplaying games are often looked at as being “weirdos”, simply because of what we do, and because of the popular media impression of us.  It’s a bit of a sore spot in some places, and a complete non-issue in others.  But what we do, really, isn’t freaky at all.

In order to keep, or make, the hobby healthy in your area, gaming needs one thing above all else - to maintain a healthy image.  The image that we have now in many places is pretty crappy, and making it healthy again isn't that hard.  We have four basic image problems, and each one is a kind of person. They are:

The first, and most common, is "silent" but otherwise perfectly great.  There are loads of gamers out there that are great people, but the more they keep quiet, the more that regular hear about roleplaying by means of people that aren't them.  This isn't a good thing, people.  Don't be ashamed - the majority of gamers are totally cool people.  Be confident; it’s amazing how many people will be interested in what we do when it’s presented to them by someone who does so smoothly.

The second is the basically thoughtless – gamers that speak up, but are plainly bad at it.  These are the gamers that babble on about roleplaying in earshot of non-gamers in ways that freak them out.  The group of LARPers that wear their costumes home on public transit and talk loudly.  The guy that talks about his outrageous character to people at his work that really don't want to hear it.  If you think that you're guilty of this, check with a friend that you can trust to be honest – after all, it’s not just our image that this one is about – it’s yours, too.

The third is the slightly unwashed.  These are gamers that have taken the idea that they'll be accepted as they are just a few steps too far.  Folks, we need to tell these people that they can't be this way.  A lot of these people are great folks, and may be friends of yours - and if they are, give them a hand if you can.  Sometimes giving them a hand means you'll need to tell them that specific form of behavior won't stand.  Sometimes it's easier than that.  Sometimes it's harder.  And if it simply doesn't happen, maybe you can't help them - maybe they're just not willing to put in the energy; if that's the case, you decide if you want to keep on playing with them.  Again, this isn’t just about us – this about you.  Do you really want to keep having to put up with a guy at your table who is great fun, except for his volume control problem?  If you’ve got him, or someone similar, chances are you’ve got to work up the guts to talk to him, sooner or later; personally, I recommend “sooner”.

The fourth, and the rarest by far, is the unrepentant.  These are the few that have irredeemable habits, utterly inexcusable behavior, and no intention of changing it.  The best thing we can do as gamers for these people is put as much distance as possible between us and them, and make that completely clear.  We're not camouflage for them; we shouldn't act like it.

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« Reply #53 on: April 26, 2006, 03:43:23 PM »
Thread derailment posts moved to new thread. Continue with the debate itself - this is interesting stuff.

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« Reply #54 on: April 26, 2006, 05:27:09 PM »
Given that this was supposed to be a no-holds barred debate, about the state of the RPG hobby and what's good and bad in it, I feel that the topic of RPG.net was not a "strawman" but a perfectly legitimate part of the argument in question, ESPECIALLY considering that Levi is a collaborating participant in the RPG.net modclique, and I'm rather well known as the most outspoken (and given Cessna's own commentary on trouble tickets, feared) critic of RPG.net's policies.

However, Pooka chose to intervene and separate that discussion into a different thread. That's fine, but I am still counting it as part of the 100-post count. The good news is that those six posts being removed from this thread, plus the addition of Pooka's extra post, mean that the six posts that were removed balance out perfectly with the (now) six "non-debate" posts that had accumulated in this thread. This means that assuming there will be no other interrupting posts that are not volleys in the disputation, this debate will now end precisely at post #100, with me getting the last word, as agreed.

Since RPG.net's totalitarian policies are apparently off-limit in this disputation, I will now go back to presenting my own summary of points thus far in the debate:

Roleplaying Games are Not a Fusion
Roleplaying games were not created as a mix between improv theatre or collaborative story-writing and wargames; they were created as an evolution from miniature wargames. They are not an unwieldly combination of two different games that are forced together, they are a completely seperate entity of their own; they're not wargames, they're not improv theatre, they're not therapy groups.  They are games that use mechanics to allow GMs to create a shared world, and allow players to participate as characters in those worlds.  Games that assume that mechanics are either barriers to roleplay or the means by which to create roleplay have misinterpreted the nature of RPGs. The mechanics of RPGs are meant to govern physical actions in the game, in a degree inversely proportional to that which the players can actually portray them outside the game. So things like combat and physical activity are fully portrayed by the rules, and things like social actions require mechanics only to the extent in which they complement the acting out of these activities.

RPGs Must Be Viewed Primarily as Games
Efforts to interpret RPGs as "art", "intellectual pursuit", storytelling, etc. are detrimental to both the enjoyment of the game and the popularity of the hobby at large. Arguing about whether or not RPGs can be defined as "art", "intellectual pursuit" etc all come down to semantic arguments about these labels themselves, and are pointless. On a pragmatic level, the only reason to include these definitions in Roleplaying are to create elitist sentiments in those who play these games. Since the public at large does not recognize artistic or intellectual merit in the playing of RPGs (be they D&D, Vampire, or any other RPG), the insistence that these things are such appears pretentious and serves to contribute to the idea that gamers are delusional individuals. Treating RPGs as entertainment, and addressing the design of RPGs as such, best contributes to the wellbeing and expansion of the hobby.

RPGs Can Sometimes Create Stories, But This Is Incidental To Their Purpose
If the purpose of RPGs is entertainment, then the creation of stories as a conscious act is detrimental to the value of RPGs as such. When play takes place in such a way that it forms a coherent story by coincidence of how the play turns out, there's nothing wrong with that. But trying to change RPGs into vehicles for story-creation is a misguided enterprise set upon by would-be artistes and failed second-rate "authors" who have found a willing audience of sycophants among RPG "collectors". The railroading and forced play required to change a typical RPG session into a "story" takes it outside the realm of regular roleplaying.  Games that are designed for collective story-telling rather than the orthodox GM-Player activities found in mainstream RPGs may or may not be well designed for their intended function, but the intended function of "story-building" itself means that these games are NOT RPGs.  Likewise, RPGs that claim to be "storytelling games" but do not in practice have any mechanical difference from regular RPGs, but rely on insistence on the GM railroading the players and the Game Designer's Metaplot railroading the GMs are not in fact "storytelling games", only poorly-designed Roleplaying games that fail to satisfy either would-be storytellers or would-be RPG gamers.

Story In RPG is only acceptable when it occurs Organically
In an RPG, the only part of a "story" that can be intentionally included in the game without worsening the gaming experience is the "set up" for a story. Indeed, most RPG adventures begin with a premise based on the setting or based on the Player Character's own characteristics.  However, pushing the GM or the players to try to resolve this set-up in a way that is of "literary value" will only result in inferior game play.

Each Group is Different, Gaming as a Whole has Clear Structure
Its true that every gaming group will have its own particular interests, starting from which game they would like to play, what kind of setting and system is most appealing to them, and what style of adventures they want to run. On a practical level, these different make-ups are so unique to each gamer that attempts to pigeonhole gamers or gaming groups into different categories of "gamer types" (ie. "narrativists", "gamists") is a futile endeavour that only works in the fever-dream of delusional theorists. Inevitably, most individual gamers and for certain all gaming groups will actually end up blurring the lines and consist of combinations of all the various different criteria you could create for gamers, by simple virtue of the fact that human beings are complex.
On the other hand, with the exception of gamers or gaming groups that do not in fact wish to play RPGs, the structure of RPG gaming as a whole is very clear cut. The GM, the players, the rules, the adventures, all follow traditional structures that are as fundamental to the definition of "Roleplaying games" as the rules and movement of chess-pieces are to the game of chess. The aforementioned exceptions are gamers or gaming groups that believe for one reason or another that they want to play RPGs, but in reality would be better suited to engaging in some other kind of activity; whether it be wargames, collaborative storytelling, or group therapy.

RPGs are Best Designed when they are Versatile
Since its a practical impossibility to create practical categories by which to pigeonhole gamers, and given that most gamers actually enjoy playing a multiplicity of styles depending on their interest at the moment or the vagaries of the group they're involved with, the best designed RPGs are those  RPGs that are versatile in design to accomodate a wide variety of styles of play. Games that are micro-designed to fit non-functional gaming theories are bound to be of highly limited appeal and functionality; as are games that are too closely tied to the designer's own cult of personality, petty interests, or literary ambitions. Games that are capable of emulating specific genres well, or games that present a type of play that is hard to imitate with other systems are useful.  On the other hand, games that try to intentionally limit traditional gameplay in order to be "innovative" or to impressed some group of self-titled "cognosenti" usually fail at the level of being popular or playable.

Gaming Has a Very Real Problem as a Hobby
The negative image that gaming suffers in the public eye is not a product of unfair perceptions, or the ignorance of an uninformed public.  The problem is a natural result of real issues within the hobby for which gamers themselves are to blame. Gaming has, like several other "subculture" hobbies, become infested with a group of socially dysfunctional individuals on the one hand, and a group of intentionally-elitist pretentious pseudo-intellectual poseurs on the other.  These two groups have served to alienate gaming from mainstream acceptance to the point that regular people will avoid trying RPGs out of fear of being associated with these kinds of individuals, and regular peope who were already gamers become discouraged with the hobby and abandon it.
For gaming to avoid becoming a virtually extinct as a hobby a concerted effort must take place in game design to create games that are appealing to the natural demographic of the mainstream that would be drawn to gaming (in particular to young people), and to avoid allowing gaming to be subverted by the pseudo-intellectual crowd that have a vested psychological and personal interest in maintaining gaming an obscure and elitist practice; and likewise among the gamer base an effort must be made to demand that gamers who insist on sociopathic activity and comportment not be tolerated in the hobby, especially as "representatives" of the hobby to the public at large. Part of what this requires is that mainstream gamers who are socially and psychologically normal be willing to be more open about their particular hobby, and willing to make a point of informing the public that RPG gaming is a game hobby that does not belong to either the socially dysfunctional nor to elitist pseudo-artists.

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #55 on: April 26, 2006, 06:44:33 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Given that this was supposed to be a no-holds barred debate, about the state of the RPG hobby and what's good and bad in it, I feel that the topic of RPG.net was not a "strawman" but a perfectly legitimate part of the argument in question, ESPECIALLY considering that Levi is a collaborating participant in the RPG.net modclique, and I'm rather well known as the most outspoken (and given Cessna's own commentary on trouble tickets, feared) critic of RPG.net's policies.

However, Pooka chose to intervene and separate that discussion into a different thread. That's fine, but I am still counting it as part of the 100-post count. The good news is that those six posts being removed from this thread, plus the addition of Pooka's extra post, mean that the six posts that were removed balance out perfectly with the (now) six "non-debate" posts that had accumulated in this thread. This means that assuming there will be no other interrupting posts that are not volleys in the disputation, this debate will now end precisely at post #100, with me getting the last word, as agreed.


It is Pooka’s forum, but I agree that those posts ought to “count” towards our total.  End at 100, barring further interruptions.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Roleplaying Games are Not a Fusion
Roleplaying games were not created as a mix between improv theatre or collaborative story-writing and wargames; they were created as an evolution from miniature wargames. They are not an unwieldly combination of two different games that are forced together, they are a completely seperate entity of their own; they're not wargames, they're not improv theatre, they're not therapy groups.


The origins of roleplaying games do not wholly define their current state.  I have never called this fusion “unwieldy”, and I have never once stated that roleplaying games were for use as “therapy”.  Beyond that, you haven't adress the combination of elements or lack thereof.

Are you writing generally, here?

Quote from: RPGPundit
They are games that use mechanics to allow GMs to create a shared world, and allow players to participate as characters in those worlds.


Agreed, though players can also participate in the creation of the world to a greater or lesser degree (sometimes, if only by detailing the backstory of their character).

Quote from: RPGPundit
Games that assume that mechanics are either barriers to roleplay or the means by which to create roleplay have misinterpreted the nature of RPGs.  The mechanics of RPGs are meant to govern physical actions in the game, in a degree inversely proportional to that which the players can actually portray them outside the game. So things like combat and physical activity are fully portrayed by the rules, and things like social actions require mechanics only to the extent in which they complement the acting out of these activities.


The mechanics of RPGs are “meant to be” what the writers intend.  I write RPGs, and you don’t speak for me in this instance.  I don’t expect you speak for any designers other than yourself.  So where do you get “meant to be” from?

Quote from: RPGPundit
RPGs Must Be Viewed Primarily as Games
Efforts to interpret RPGs as "art", "intellectual pursuit", storytelling, etc. are detrimental to both the enjoyment of the game and the popularity of the hobby at large. Arguing about whether or not RPGs can be defined as "art", "intellectual pursuit" etc all come down to semantic arguments about these labels themselves, and are pointless. On a pragmatic level, the only reason to include these definitions in Roleplaying are to create elitist sentiments in those who play these games. Since the public at large does not recognize artistic or intellectual merit in the playing of RPGs (be they D&D, Vampire, or any other RPG), the insistence that these things are such appears pretentious and serves to contribute to the idea that gamers are delusional individuals.


I believe it would be entirely possible to attempt to incorporate actual artistic – likely theatrical - elements into roleplaying practice; and I mean the real stuff, not merely the pretense.  However, as there is no notable body of practice attempting this outside of a few discussions I’ve seen and occasionally participated in regarding costuming and staging in LARP, I will concede that the semantics of the term “art” are misleading at best, until and unless such a body of practice emerges.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Treating RPGs as entertainment, and addressing the design of RPGs as such, best contributes to the wellbeing and expansion of the hobby.


This, I agree with, though I believe that the semantics of the term “game” as used in the title of this piece are equally misleading.  “A set of rules from group entertainment” is not the firs thing that comes to most minds when they meet the word game.

Quote from: RPGPundit
RPGs Can Sometimes Create Stories, But This Is Incidental To Their Purpose
If the purpose of RPGs is entertainment, then the creation of stories as a conscious act is detrimental to the value of RPGs as such.


Stories aren’t entertainment, now?

Quote from: RPGPundit
When play takes place in such a way that it forms a coherent story by coincidence of how the play turns out, there's nothing wrong with that.   But trying to change RPGs into vehicles for story-creation is a misguided enterprise set upon by would-be artistes and failed second-rate "authors" who have found a willing audience of sycophants among RPG "collectors".


I disagree with your assessment of these people entirely, but I also think that it’s nether here nor there.

Your opinion of the people involved in the attempt doesn’t speak to the value or lack of value in the attempt itself in any way whatsoever.  Even if a drooling moron painted the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, it’s still the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.  If a true genius build a dogshit sculpture from popsicle sticks, it’s still dogshit.

Quote from: RPGPundit
The railroading and forced play required to change a typical RPG session into a "story" takes it outside the realm of regular roleplaying.  Games that are designed for collective story-telling rather than the orthodox GM-Player activities found in mainstream RPGs may or may not be well designed for their intended function, but the intended function of "story-building" itself means that these games are NOT RPGs.  Likewise, RPGs that claim to be "storytelling games" but do not in practice have any mechanical difference from regular RPGs, but rely on insistence on the GM railroading the players and the Game Designer's Metaplot railroading the GMs are not in fact "storytelling games", only poorly-designed Roleplaying games that fail to satisfy either would-be storytellers or would-be RPG gamers.


And I’m not arguing for either of these two types of “stories from roleplaying”.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Story In RPG is only acceptable when it occurs Organically
In an RPG, the only part of a "story" that can be intentionally included in the game without worsening the gaming experience is the "set up" for a story. Indeed, most RPG adventures begin with a premise based on the setting or based on the Player Character's own characteristics.  However, pushing the GM or the players to try to resolve this set-up in a way that is of "literary value" will only result in inferior game play.


Notice that I didn’t say to drive towards “literary value”, only toward decisions, intensity, and action.  

Was this meant as a rebuttal of any of the points I’ve made, or is it just a clarification of your position?

Quote from: RPGPundit
Each Group is Different, Gaming as a Whole has Clear Structure
Its true that every gaming group will have its own particular interests, starting from which game they would like to play, what kind of setting and system is most appealing to them, and what style of adventures they want to run. On a practical level, these different make-ups are so unique to each gamer that attempts to pigeonhole gamers or gaming groups into different categories of "gamer types" (ie. "narrativists", "gamists") is a futile endeavor that only works in the fever-dream of delusional theorists. Inevitably, most individual gamers and for certain all gaming groups will actually end up blurring the lines and consist of combinations of all the various different criteria you could create for gamers, by simple virtue of the fact that human beings are complex.


Tastes remain distinct, despite any shortcomings in the current systems used to categorize the actual players.  And any two groups composed of people with similar tastes, are clearly recognizable as playing differently.  These differences are worth acknowledging and enjoying.

Quote from: RPGPundit
On the other hand, with the exception of gamers or gaming groups that do not in fact wish to play RPGs, the structure of RPG gaming as a whole is very clear cut. The GM, the players, the rules, the adventures, all follow traditional structures that are as fundamental to the definition of "Roleplaying games" as the rules and movement of chess-pieces are to the game of chess. The aforementioned exceptions are gamers or gaming groups that believe for one reason or another that they want to play RPGs, but in reality would be better suited to engaging in some other kind of activity; whether it be wargames, collaborative storytelling, or group therapy.


What are these traditional structures, then?

Quote from: RPGPundit
RPGs are Best Designed when they are Versatile
Since its a practical impossibility to create practical categories by which to pigeonhole gamers, and given that most gamers actually enjoy playing a multiplicity of styles depending on their interest at the moment or the vagaries of the group they're involved with, the best designed RPGs are those  RPGs that are versatile in design to accomodate a wide variety of styles of play. Games that are micro-designed to fit non-functional gaming theories are bound to be of highly limited appeal and functionality; as are games that are too closely tied to the designer's own cult of personality, petty interests, or literary ambitions. Games that are capable of emulating specific genres well, or games that present a type of play that is hard to imitate with other systems are useful.  On the other hand, games that try to intentionally limit traditional gameplay in order to be "innovative" or to impressed some group of self-titled "cognosenti" usually fail at the level of being popular or playable.


Popularity is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of a design.  It’s an indication of market value, and of the broad appeal.  It’s entirely possible to custom-build a niche product in any field; the only failure is in pretending that a niche product is something other than what it is.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Gaming Has a Very Real Problem as a Hobby
The negative image that gaming suffers in the public eye is not a product of unfair perceptions, or the ignorance of an uninformed public.  The problem is a natural result of real issues within the hobby for which gamers themselves are to blame. Gaming has, like several other "subculture" hobbies, become infested with a group of socially dysfunctional individuals on the one hand, and a group of intentionally-elitist pretentious pseudo-intellectual poseurs on the other.  These two groups have served to alienate gaming from mainstream acceptance to the point that regular people will avoid trying RPGs out of fear of being associated with these kinds of individuals, and regular peope who were already gamers become discouraged with the hobby and abandon it.
For gaming to avoid becoming a virtually extinct as a hobby a concerted effort must take place in game design to create games that are appealing to the natural demographic of the mainstream that would be drawn to gaming (in particular to young people), and to avoid allowing gaming to be subverted by the pseudo-intellectual crowd that have a vested psychological and personal interest in maintaining gaming an obscure and elitist practice; and likewise among the gamer base an effort must be made to demand that gamers who insist on sociopathic activity and comportment not be tolerated in the hobby, especially as "representatives" of the hobby to the public at large. Part of what this requires is that mainstream gamers who are socially and psychologically normal be willing to be more open about their particular hobby, and willing to make a point of informing the public that RPG gaming is a game hobby that does not belong to either the socially dysfunctional nor to elitist pseudo-artists.


Who, exactly, “has a vested interest in gaming being obscure and elite”?  Name names, if you would.  I don’t think that such a group of people exists.

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« Reply #56 on: April 26, 2006, 10:32:46 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen

The origins of roleplaying games do not wholly define their current state.  I have never called this fusion “unwieldy”, and I have never once stated that roleplaying games were for use as “therapy”.  Beyond that, you haven't adress the combination of elements or lack thereof.

Are you writing generally, here?


Yes, generally.
As for the combination of elements, there isn't really a combination of elements; there are elements that make up the game, but they aren't a fusion, they're all vital components that must be in the same proportion.

To say that RPGs are a "fusion" of elements (presumably of "game" and "roleplay" or what have you) is like saying that Chess is a "fusion" of checkers and Stratego.

Quote

Agreed, though players can also participate in the creation of the world to a greater or lesser degree (sometimes, if only by detailing the backstory of their character).


The option of how much they should participate in the creation of the world should be in the hands of the game-master.  Although they should have the freedom to create the character THEY want within the limits placed by the setting parameters.

Quote

The mechanics of RPGs are “meant to be” what the writers intend.  I write RPGs, and you don’t speak for me in this instance.  I don’t expect you speak for any designers other than yourself.  So where do you get “meant to be” from?


Orthodoxy.

Quote

I will concede that the semantics of the term “art” are misleading at best, until and unless such a body of practice emerges.


Ok.

Quote

This, I agree with, though I believe that the semantics of the term “game” as used in the title of this piece are equally misleading.  “A set of rules from group entertainment” is not the firs thing that comes to most minds when they meet the word game.


What is it about "rules for group entertainment" that doesn't fit with the concept of game? I mean, certainly some games are for only two people, which might not constitute a "group". But I can think of all kinds of games, from hide-and-go-seek to poker, that are basically a fit with that definition.

But please, if you have a better definition, let's hear it.


Quote

Stories aren’t entertainment, now?


Reading or hearing stories are, even telling them can be. Constructing them is   work. And most specifically, none of these things are a game; or at least not a Roleplaying game.

Quote

I disagree with your assessment of these people entirely, but I also think that it’s nether here nor there.
Your opinion of the people involved in the attempt doesn’t speak to the value or lack of value in the attempt itself in any way whatsoever.


No, but the term "misguided enterprise" does. You're right that their motives could be from simple foolhardiness or for more malignant reasons of personal aggrandizement, but the point is that trying to force RPGs to be about story-creation is a counterproductive activity.

Quote

And I’m not arguing for either of these two types of “stories from roleplaying”.
Notice that I didn’t say to drive towards “literary value”, only toward decisions, intensity, and action.  

Was this meant as a rebuttal of any of the points I’ve made, or is it just a clarification of your position?


It wasn't meant to be a rebuttal, I'm establishing my own points here.

Quote

What are these traditional structures, then?


The traditional structures of the RPG: The GM establishes and controls the world, and adjudicates the actions of the players. The players control their own character and his actions in the world. The rules detail how to create characters, how to act in the world, how to settle conflict, and advance over time as well, usually. The adventures are conceived of by the GM, with a fixed starting point but an unfixed middle and ending.
There are tons of others as well, traditions and conventions (like: the GM is supposed to treat all players equally, the die rolls, etc etc.).

Quote

Popularity is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of a design.  It’s an indication of market value, and of the broad appeal.  It’s entirely possible to custom-build a niche product in any field; the only failure is in pretending that a niche product is something other than what it is.


I would suggest that market value does directly connect to quality of design. This isn't Fast Food we're talking about here, this is a game; no one would buy a game just because its popular, if it wasn't also good.  That's been the constant error of the gaming theorists, claiming that D&D's popularity couldn't possibly mean its well-designed, and in fact means it couldn't possibly be well designed. Its a fundamentally elitist way of thinking, and one that mostly rationalizes their constant defeats ("clearly the reason people didn't buy my game about transvestite leprechauns was because the IGNORANT MASSES are fooled by that crap D&D system").

Quote

Who, exactly, “has a vested interest in gaming being obscure and elite”?  Name names, if you would.  I don’t think that such a group of people exists.


The Swine. The story based crowd and the Forge crowd alike. They want Gaming to be something mature and sophisticated, something that only especially artistic or intelligent people could possibly understand (with the rationale that they are the special elite few who "get it") and having the "unwashed masses" as I've heard them called by Swine being interested in RPGs would only be counter to that image they want to create. To them, there is no worse news than hearing of games having popular demand.

Hell, the very assertions people on RPG.net have made (the infamous "McDonald's argument",sometimes the "britney spears argument") is so clearly evidence of that pompous pretentious attitude that any game that has popular appeal is automatically seen by them as being of inferior stock.

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Also, now with the CULTS OF CHAOS cult-generation sourcebook

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #57 on: April 27, 2006, 02:42:13 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Yes, generally.
As for the combination of elements, there isn't really a combination of elements; there are elements that make up the game, but they aren't a fusion, they're all vital components that must be in the same proportion.

To say that RPGs are a "fusion" of elements (presumably of "game" and "roleplay" or what have you) is like saying that Chess is a "fusion" of checkers and Stratego.


Proportions can, and do, differ wildly.  Or are you saying that the old school dungeon-bashers "aren't roleplaying" and the people that dig on what theory tends to call immersion "aren't gaming"?

As to the chess analogy - In chess, you don't move from speaking in-character to rolling dice and moving miniatures, or anything remotely anagolous.  Find me a game where you do make jumps of perspective that large that isn't an RPG, if you can.

Quote
The option of how much they should participate in the creation of the world should be in the hands of the game-master.  Although they should have the freedom to create the character THEY want within the limits placed by the setting parameters.


Why?  Because the GM is incapable of retaining their authority in the face of things he didn't create?  Bull.  Either the GM leads, or he fails.  He can do that with or without full creative control of the game content.

Quote
Orthodoxy.


Sorry, tradition doesn't get to define how I build "rules for the entertainment of myself and others", and isn't interested in trying.  It can and does determine a significant degree of the market value, but market value doesn't make a single game session at my table one whit better than it is.

Quote
What is it about "rules for group entertainment" that doesn't fit with the concept of game? I mean, certainly some games are for only two people, which might not constitute a "group". But I can think of all kinds of games, from hide-and-go-seek to poker, that are basically a fit with that definition.

But please, if you have a better definition, let's hear it.


Here's mine:

Game: An activity defined by rules, for the purpose of entertaining a group, typified by both strategic thinking and a system or attitude of competition or one-upmanship.

Quote
Reading or hearing stories are, even telling them can be. Constructing them is work. And most specifically, none of these things are a game; or at least not a Roleplaying game.


I've given methods by which creation of story can be play, rather than work, and part of what the majority of gamers would consider a roleplaying game.  Do you deny that?

Quote
No, but the term "misguided enterprise" does. You're right that their motives could be from simple foolhardiness or for more malignant reasons of personal aggrandizement, but the point is that trying to force RPGs to be about story-creation is a counterproductive activity.


Why is it "foolhardy" for other to do something that they enjoy and you don't?

Quote
It wasn't meant to be a rebuttal, I'm establishing my own points here.


Fair enough.

Quote
The traditional structures of the RPG: The GM establishes and controls the world, and adjudicates the actions of the players. The players control their own character and his actions in the world. The rules detail how to create characters, how to act in the world, how to settle conflict, and advance over time as well, usually. The adventures are conceived of by the GM, with a fixed starting point but an unfixed middle and ending.
There are tons of others as well, traditions and conventions (like: the GM is supposed to treat all players equally, the die rolls, etc etc.).


Is Ars Magica thus not an RPG when the GM position is "rotating or open"?

Is Amber not an RPG when it fails to use dice?

The only way to define a roleplaying game that makes any sense at all to me is to say that it is a kind of activity that combines both roleplaying and gamelike elements, in a fashion that dominates but does not exclude other elements.

Quote
I would suggest that market value does directly connect to quality of design. This isn't Fast Food we're talking about here, this is a game; no one would buy a game just because its popular, if it wasn't also good.  That's been the constant error of the gaming theorists, claiming that D&D's popularity couldn't possibly mean its well-designed, and in fact means it couldn't possibly be well designed. Its a fundamentally elitist way of thinking, and one that mostly rationalizes their constant defeats ("clearly the reason people didn't buy my game about transvestite leprechauns was because the IGNORANT MASSES are fooled by that crap D&D system").


Really?  Nobody would buy a game based solely on popularity rather than quality?

Well, then, you can rest easy.  Clearly, nobody is ever going to buy the games you've called crap in any quantity at all, and all the so-called attempted influence in the world is doomed to fail - which makes me wonder why you worry or argue against such influence at all.

Either popularity and peer influence matter, or they don't.  Pick one.

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The Swine. The story based crowd and the Forge crowd alike. They want Gaming to be something mature and sophisticated, something that only especially artistic or intelligent people could possibly understand (with the rationale that they are the special elite few who "get it") and having the "unwashed masses" as I've heard them called by Swine being interested in RPGs would only be counter to that image they want to create. To them, there is no worse news than hearing of games having popular demand.


Oh, really?  

Tell me then, why does Ron Edwards, the person you seem to despise so very much, consistently state that what gamers do is neither freakish nor something to be ashamed of, and that we should stop because it's hurting us as a hobby?  Because he does.  For all that I disagree with him on so very many points, the man you point to as the leader of "a cult of personality" has a vested, personal, and financial interest in introducing new people to gaming.

Why would people that create these independent games want to break into new markets and hold discussions concerning teaching people that have never played before how to do so?  Because they do.

And, hey, why would White Wolf try so hard to break into the book trade market?  They have.

You can think that they want to "subvert" the industry all you like.  But if you think they want to make it small and elite, you're standing alone in left field.  Say all you like about how you're going to catch the ball out there, nobody is hitting anything your way.

My personal suspicion is that you got at least a few of these ideas by arguing with a fellow by the name of Jack Spencer.  Here's a news flash for you: Jack quit gaming.  And I think that's a good thing; the man wasn't having any fun with the rest of us, even if he did have a few good ideas.

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Hell, the very assertions people on RPG.net have made (the infamous "McDonald's argument",sometimes the "britney spears argument") is so clearly evidence of that pompous pretentious attitude that any game that has popular appeal is automatically seen by them as being of inferior stock.


It's a bad argument, made by people that dislike a specific game.  That doesn't mean they hate gaming.

People can hate your favorite game and still love gaming, you know.

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« Reply #58 on: April 27, 2006, 04:47:05 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Proportions can, and do, differ wildly.  Or are you saying that the old school dungeon-bashers "aren't roleplaying" and the people that dig on what theory tends to call immersion "aren't gaming"?

Both of those are playing roleplaying games. That's my point. Those proportions are not so varied as to make a difference in the nature of play. And as soon as you get two groups doing something so radically different from one another that they aren't recognizeable to each other, one of those two is no longer playing a Roleplaying Game.

So for example, someone who is playing RISK is not playing a Roleplaying Game. Neither is someone who is doing some cyber-sex chat roleplaying online.

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As to the chess analogy - In chess, you don't move from speaking in-character to rolling dice and moving miniatures, or anything remotely anagolous.  Find me a game where you do make jumps of perspective that large that isn't an RPG, if you can.

How would that make a difference? You're arguing that RPGS are a "fusion" of two or more different kinds of games or play. I'm saying that they're a single kind of game that you cannot alter the composition of without making it a different game. If you remove what you consider to be the "checker like moves" from Chess, then you no longer have Chess.

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Why?  Because the GM is incapable of retaining their authority in the face of things he didn't create?  Bull.  Either the GM leads, or he fails.  He can do that with or without full creative control of the game content.

By that logic, you should also shoot him in the kneecap. Hell, if he can't DM with a 9mm bullet lodged in his kneecap, he's no REAL DM anyways!

I mean really, what the fuck are you talking about? You're saying that removing the tools by which a GM functions to maintain the structure of the game is meant to "build character"? That's a bullshit excuse for creating some kind of quasi-socialist "shared storytelling game".

The only respect in which your argument makes any sense is that a GOOD GM will never let his players or a gang of pseudo-intellectual artistes try to convince him to play one of those games where he has no authority in the first place, or try to con him into thinking he has to let all his players have as much say as he does about the setting "or else it isn't democratic". Fuck that, we're playing an RPG here, not doing a goddamned nanny state grade 3 science fair where "everyone's a winner" and Nose-Picking Jeb will get the same ribbon as Nerdy McNerd, just because some pansy-assed Arts majors feel upset with hierarchies cause Daddy made them go to church and didn't let them grow their hair long.
But I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant.

Anyways, my point is: why the fuck are you people so terrified of hierarchy?

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Sorry, tradition doesn't get to define how I build "rules for the entertainment of myself and others", and isn't interested in trying.  It can and does determine a significant degree of the market value, but market value doesn't make a single game session at my table one whit better than it is.

I think the question is whether we're talking about "Levi's gaming table" or the gaming hobby at large. You keep saying stuff like; "well this doesn't apply at my games", "I don't need that in my group". And that's fine and good, but really, I could give a flying fuck if your group plays D&D in pink tutus or LARPS  the rape of the sabines. That's your business.

But is it something that is right to base Gaming Theory off of?
To me, if we talk about something we want to call "Gaming Theory", then it can't be based off of what you play in your group, or what Ron Edwards imagines while he's on the crapper, or what John Kim notices while he's fighting Nazis in a parallel universe.
It has to be about the gaming hobby as a whole, and it has to base itself on the precepts and practices of the majority of gamers.  So Tradition very well must apply. Otherwise your talk is either just stuff that's only relevant to your tiny group (and that you should therefore keep to yourself, because applied on a universal scale it will actually be counterproductive), or stuff that is pure mental wankery that applies absolutely nowhere but in some gaming theorist's head.

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Here's mine:
Game: An activity defined by rules, for the purpose of entertaining a group, typified by both strategic thinking and a system or attitude of competition or one-upmanship.

How is that definition inconsistent with the original statement about RPGs being games?

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I've given methods by which creation of story can be play, rather than work, and part of what the majority of gamers would consider a roleplaying game.  Do you deny that?

Well, basically yes. The creation of story, if you mean "the actual construction of a story with a beginning, middle and ending that resembles the standards of modern stories we are accustomed to reading" as an RPG will not under any circumstances be entertaining, except to people who don't actually want to play an RPG in the first place. Because to create this kind of story you MUST take away Player (and often GM) choice.

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Why is it "foolhardy" for other to do something that they enjoy and you don't?

I might really enjoy trying to turn a toaster into a microwave oven, but it'd still be foolhardy. It would be wiser on my part to try to construct a microwave oven from scratch.

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Is Ars Magica thus not an RPG when the GM position is "rotating or open"?

Is Amber not an RPG when it fails to use dice?

Dice is more a convention than a tradition. And having a rotating GM, while highly unorthodox, does not actually change the nature of play anymore than having rotating players. At the moment of play, you're still playing an RPG. But a game that tries to have everyone be the GM at once, that would be outside of the definition of an RPG.

Your positions on these things pushes me toward defending orthodoxy more than I probably do in real life. I am a fan of games that are cutting edge, and my definition of what DOES constitute an RPG is pretty broad. I'm just not a fan of games that try to use RPGs for some other end or claim to be RPGs but clearly aren't.

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The only way to define a roleplaying game that makes any sense at all to me is to say that it is a kind of activity that combines both roleplaying and gamelike elements, in a fashion that dominates but does not exclude other elements.

Whereas to me, a Roleplaying game is defined as: A GAME (not a type of activity) that where a group of varying size (at least 2, more commonly 3 or more) engage in the roleplaying and simulation of a character in a world designed and controlled by one of the players (termed variously, but most commonly "game master"), participating in adventures where the goal is to overcome challenges of different kinds put upon the player's characters by the Game Master (challenges can be physical, mental, social, emotional, or even spiritual), and to overcome these challenges in ways that are consistent with the personality of the character being portrayed by the players (ie. roleplaying). A set of mechanics (system) is used to resolve elements of the simulation that are not easily resolved by the players themselves (ie. combat, physical activities) and to assist in delineating the abilities and limitations of the character being played.  These mechanics almost always include a random element.


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Really?  Nobody would buy a game based solely on popularity rather than quality?

Not what I'm arguing. I'm arguing that the question of popularity and quality are interconnected.  People will of course buy crap because its been advertised in Dragon magazine or in RPG.net, only to regret it afterwards. But this doesn't mean that there is no connection with the sales of a product and the quality of said product in addressing the mainstream needs.

To consistently ignore or deny that, or to give faint praise about "marketing" and essentially dismiss D&D, is a recipe for disaster for any game company, or for any gaming theory.  And what a lot of people call "niche products" after the fact are really just games that failed because they chose to ignore the lessons of D20.

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Oh, really?  
Tell me then, why does Ron Edwards, the person you seem to despise so very much, consistently state that what gamers do is neither freakish nor something to be ashamed of, and that we should stop because it's hurting us as a hobby?  Because he does.  For all that I disagree with him on so very many points, the man you point to as the leader of "a cult of personality" has a vested, personal, and financial interest in introducing new people to gaming.

No, only certain people. Only people who would buy his games. And those people are people who would not want to be associated with the "Unwashed masses".

Quote
Why would people that create these independent games want to break into new markets and hold discussions concerning teaching people that have never played before how to do so?  Because they do.

Why do they think its more important to try to reach the "Black middle-aged lesbian" demographic while downplaying as "outdated" and "fruitless" the efforts to reacquire the "white teenaged male" demographic?  They must know that the latter is far more likely to succeed in any sense than the former (well, I don't know of anyone arguing THAT former in particular, but there are a lot of Swine arguing that we "HAVE TO" try to get more women/older people/soccer moms/racial minorities into gaming).

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And, hey, why would White Wolf try so hard to break into the book trade market?  They have.  

And yet they're the ones who write that WW gamers should take pity on poor deluded D&D players and try to show them the error of their "roll playing" ways.

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You can think that they want to "subvert" the industry all you like.  But if you think they want to make it small and elite, you're standing alone in left field.  Say all you like about how you're going to catch the ball out there, nobody is hitting anything your way.
My personal suspicion is that you got at least a few of these ideas by arguing with a fellow by the name of Jack Spencer.  Here's a news flash for you: Jack quit gaming.  And I think that's a good thing; the man wasn't having any fun with the rest of us, even if he did have a few good ideas.

I mean, if a group wants gaming to be about "artistry" or to require a level of chatter about "paradigms" and "narrative" that puts it on par with 300-level undergraduate discussions about Chinua Achebe's writings, then they're pretty well being elitist.
These people really can't be stupid enough to believe that everyone is going to want to start doing those things, can they?

These are a subculture. They want gaming to be a subculture. A pretty fucking obscure one at that.
I mean, a hardcore German Goth band doesn't honestly release an album thinking that its going to appeal to every middle-american 12 year old girl, do they? Of course not. They think they're going to appeal to the self-segregated minority of black-lipstick-wearing bad-poetry-writing goth teens.
And fuck, if Marilyn Manson makes an album that becomes a huge commercial hit; what happens? The goth culture drops him like a rock, because he's a "fucking sell-out".

I can guarantee you that if tomorrow Sorcerer or Dogs In the Vinyard sold as much as D&D does, you'd have people all over RPG.net trashing it for being a "stupid lowest-common-denominator system". You'd have the swine dropping it like flies, accusing it of being broken, claiming that its only for people who are too ignorant to realize there are "better games out there". Why? Because these fuckers want to be an obscure minority. They don't want to be part of what the mainstream likes or plays.

I mean shit, that's basically what drives the Forge to criticize White Wolf games; the Forgeites have to position themselves as being more "alternative" than the "alternative". They have to say that the WW crowd, who consider themselves the elite, are really the sub-elite and they are the true elite.

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It's a bad argument, made by people that dislike a specific game.  That doesn't mean they hate gaming.

People can hate your favorite game and still love gaming, you know.

Not if that "favorite game" is the game that the VAST majority of gamers play, and the only one that keeps the gaming industry running. At that point, wishing it ill is basically wishing all of Gaming ill, for one's own selfish interests.

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #59 on: April 27, 2006, 05:55:00 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Both of those are playing roleplaying games. That's my point. Those proportions are not so varied as to make a difference in the nature of play. And as soon as you get two groups doing something so radically different from one another that they aren't recognizeable to each other, one of those two is no longer playing a Roleplaying Game.

So for example, someone who is playing RISK is not playing a Roleplaying Game. Neither is someone who is doing some cyber-sex chat roleplaying online.


How about LARP?

Quote
How would that make a difference? You're arguing that RPGS are a "fusion" of two or more different kinds of games or play. I'm saying that they're a single kind of game that you cannot alter the composition of without making it a different game. If you remove what you consider to be the "checker like moves" from Chess, then you no longer have Chess.


Here you say you can't alter the composition.  In the last paragraph, you stated that the proportions could be varied.  Could you clarify that?  I read this as a contradiction, and I'm sure you didn't intend one.  Might just be the word use.

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By that logic, you should also shoot him in the kneecap. Hell, if he can't DM with a 9mm bullet lodged in his kneecap, he's no REAL DM anyways!

I mean really, what the fuck are you talking about? You're saying that removing the tools by which a GM functions to maintain the structure of the game is meant to "build character"? That's a bullshit excuse for creating some kind of quasi-socialist "shared storytelling game".

The only respect in which your argument makes any sense is that a GOOD GM will never let his players or a gang of pseudo-intellectual artistes try to convince him to play one of those games where he has no authority in the first place, or try to con him into thinking he has to let all his players have as much say as he does about the setting "or else it isn't democratic". Fuck that, we're playing an RPG here, not doing a goddamned nanny state grade 3 science fair where "everyone's a winner" and Nose-Picking Jeb will get the same ribbon as Nerdy McNerd, just because some pansy-assed Arts majors feel upset with hierarchies cause Daddy made them go to church and didn't let them grow their hair long.
But I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant.


You realize you've just said that absolute control over the contents of the setting is the full set of tools the GM uses to maintain the structure of the game, right?

Did you actually mean that?

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Anyways, my point is: why the fuck are you people so terrified of hierarchy?


Why are you so intent on connecting "control over setting content" with hierarchy?

Quote
I think the question is whether we're talking about "Levi's gaming table" or the gaming hobby at large. You keep saying stuff like; "well this doesn't apply at my games", "I don't need that in my group". And that's fine and good, but really, I could give a flying fuck if your group plays D&D in pink tutus or LARPS  the rape of the sabines. That's your business.

But is it something that is right to base Gaming Theory off of?
To me, if we talk about something we want to call "Gaming Theory", then it can't be based off of what you play in your group, or what Ron Edwards imagines while he's on the crapper, or what John Kim notices while he's fighting Nazis in a parallel universe.
It has to be about the gaming hobby as a whole, and it has to base itself on the precepts and practices of the majority of gamers.  So Tradition very well must apply. Otherwise your talk is either just stuff that's only relevant to your tiny group (and that you should therefore keep to yourself, because applied on a universal scale it will actually be counterproductive), or stuff that is pure mental wankery that applies absolutely nowhere but in some gaming theorist's head.


Not at all.  It has to be about my gaming compared to your gaming compared to that guy's gaming compared to some other guy, in person and in detail, until we find common items and exchanges.

Some guys need to get off their high horse of academia, and you need to get off your supposed moral high ground of "tradition and orthodoxy"; we need to throw all that shit away, and talk about games, without saying "my gaming is better, nyah, nyah, nyah!" - because that claim, no matter what it's based on, is always a big ole' pile of dogshit.

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How is that definition inconsistent with the original statement about RPGs being games?


Attitudes of competition and one-upmanship aren't a defining facet of RPGs.

Quote
Well, basically yes. The creation of story, if you mean "the actual construction of a story with a beginning, middle and ending that resembles the standards of modern stories we are accustomed to reading" as an RPG will not under any circumstances be entertaining, except to people who don't actually want to play an RPG in the first place. Because to create this kind of story you MUST take away Player (and often GM) choice.


So what I've given is, in your view, one of the following:

1) Not fun.  (Except that it is.)

2) Not an RPG.  (Which everyone I've ever played with agrees that it is.)

3) Not actually creating story.  (Which it does.)

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Dice is more a convention than a tradition. And having a rotating GM, while highly unorthodox, does not actually change the nature of play anymore than having rotating players. At the moment of play, you're still playing an RPG. But a game that tries to have everyone be the GM at once, that would be outside of the definition of an RPG.

Your positions on these things pushes me toward defending orthodoxy more than I probably do in real life. I am a fan of games that are cutting edge, and my definition of what DOES constitute an RPG is pretty broad. I'm just not a fan of games that try to use RPGs for some other end or claim to be RPGs but clearly aren't.


I'm aware that I'm pushing you to the wall, here.  But fair's fair - you did it to me pretty hard in the opening of the debate, and I refined my position quite a lot.  I suspect a few posts from not, it'll run dry when we hit the semantic level, you'll restate a few things in ways that aren't as pick-at-able, and we'll be back on the go-around again.

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Whereas to me, a Roleplaying game is defined as: A GAME (not a type of activity) that where a group of varying size (at least 2, more commonly 3 or more) engage in the roleplaying and simulation of a character in a world designed and controlled by one of the players (termed variously, but most commonly "game master"), participating in adventures where the goal is to overcome challenges of different kinds put upon the player's characters by the Game Master (challenges can be physical, mental, social, emotional, or even spiritual), and to overcome these challenges in ways that are consistent with the personality of the character being portrayed by the players (ie. roleplaying). A set of mechanics (system) is used to resolve elements of the simulation that are not easily resolved by the players themselves (ie. combat, physical activities) and to assist in delineating the abilities and limitations of the character being played.  These mechanics almost always include a random element.


That's actually a pretty narrow definition, by my standards.

Quote
Not what I'm arguing. I'm arguing that the question of popularity and quality are interconnected.  People will of course buy crap because its been advertised in Dragon magazine or in RPG.net, only to regret it afterwards. But this doesn't mean that there is no connection with the sales of a product and the quality of said product in addressing the mainstream needs.

To consistently ignore or deny that, or to give faint praise about "marketing" and essentially dismiss D&D, is a recipe for disaster for any game company, or for any gaming theory.  And what a lot of people call "niche products" after the fact are really just games that failed because they chose to ignore the lessons of D20.


You seem unable to see quality as anything other than "addressing mainstream needs".  

Quote
No, only certain people. Only people who would buy his games. And those people are people who would not want to be associated with the "Unwashed masses".


Have you ever actually read his game stuff?

Quote
Why do they think its more important to try to reach the "Black middle-aged lesbian" demographic while downplaying as "outdated" and "fruitless" the efforts to reacquire the "white teenaged male" demographic?  They must know that the latter is far more likely to succeed in any sense than the former (well, I don't know of anyone arguing THAT former in particular, but there are a lot of Swine arguing that we "HAVE TO" try to get more women/older people/soccer moms/racial minorities into gaming).


Why reach out to those groups?  Because diversity is good, and you don't know who gaming will appeal to until you try.

Quote
And yet they're the ones who write that WW gamers should take pity on poor deluded D&D players and try to show them the error of their "roll playing" ways.


Book and page reference, or link, please.  Something within the last five years.

Quote
I mean, if a group wants gaming to be about "artistry" or to require a level of chatter about "paradigms" and "narrative" that puts it on par with 300-level undergraduate discussions about Chinua Achebe's writings, then they're pretty well being elitist.
These people really can't be stupid enough to believe that everyone is going to want to start doing those things, can they?


And yet Ben has come here on these very board and shown willing to explain anything you'd care to ask.  Tony Lower-Basch has gone out his way with his "simple things" on RPGnet, which can be found on the Wiki there.  Vincent Baker has jumped into the fray to explain Narrativism to people on those same boards, in simple language.

Their ideas are breaking out of that level of chatter, into plain language, at a pretty fair speed, and taking a beating, and getting better.  Theory has ceased to be a pursuit just for people that like to finagle big words.

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These are a subculture. They want gaming to be a subculture. A pretty fucking obscure one at that.
I mean, a hardcore German Goth band doesn't honestly release an album thinking that its going to appeal to every middle-american 12 year old girl, do they? Of course not. They think they're going to appeal to the self-segregated minority of black-lipstick-wearing bad-poetry-writing goth teens.
And fuck, if Marilyn Manson makes an album that becomes a huge commercial hit; what happens? The goth culture drops him like a rock, because he's a "fucking sell-out".

I can guarantee you that if tomorrow Sorcerer or Dogs In the Vinyard sold as much as D&D does, you'd have people all over RPG.net trashing it for being a "stupid lowest-common-denominator system". You'd have the swine dropping it like flies, accusing it of being broken, claiming that its only for people who are too ignorant to realize there are "better games out there". Why? Because these fuckers want to be an obscure minority. They don't want to be part of what the mainstream likes or plays.


Interesting.  I did a demo of Dogs in the Vineyard for 24 people in Edmonton, and they liked it.  I sold 10 copies of the book to regular folks that play tabletop games, and they loved it.  When the folks you're talking about heard about this, they thought it was awesome.

I've been sharing actual experiences and statements from people.  You haven't.  Notice that?

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I mean shit, that's basically what drives the Forge to criticize White Wolf games; the Forgeites have to position themselves as being more "alternative" than the "alternative". They have to say that the WW crowd, who consider themselves the elite, are really the sub-elite and they are the true elite.


No.  What drives Forgefolk to frothing aggravation with White Wolf games is that many WW games (mostly the older ones, but you can still see it in the new ones) try to sell "story" as "railroad", and dress it up pretty enough that many people don't catch on - with two results.  First, many people coming to RPGs for story burn out and become bitter, and often leave.  Second, people that would otherwise be okay with story in games come to the Forge people and launch attacks on White Wolf's techniques rather than the ones actually on the table - Much like you've done here a few times.

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Not if that "favorite game" is the game that the VAST majority of gamers play, and the only one that keeps the gaming industry running. At that point, wishing it ill is basically wishing all of Gaming ill, for one's own selfish interests.


"If you hate D&D, you're trying to destroy the hobby, whether you know it or not!"  - Gosh, that's an interesting viewpoint.  Because, you know, diversification is evil and constantly destroys industry...

...Oh wait, no.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Diversification makes industries stronger.