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Author Topic: Pistols at dawn.  (Read 64018 times)

Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #30 on: April 21, 2006, 07:09:01 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
But to me, its the case of the "one sour apple spoils the bunch" scenario.  When you're using a system that doesn't make this MANDATORY, then the characters who do use descriptiveness in combat don't ruin it for the rest of the group.
But when it is MANDATORY, then the players who have no interest in this will end up either doing it half-heartedly or will do it as an excuse for munchkin behaviour (always using the most "Powerful" description they can to get the best advantage), and this WILL ruin the game for everyone.


So you don't play such a game unless everyone is in for it.  Simple.

Quote from: RPGPundit
See, the point is that if you have a group of people, some of whom like to smoke and others don't, then its pretty fucking shitheaded to forbid smoking in this group and screw the people that like to smoke; I get that, obviously.

But its FAR more shitheaded to REQUIRE the non-smokers to start smoking just because the smokers really like it.
Wouldn't you agree the ideal would be a situation where the smokers can smoke and the non-smokers can choose not to?


Certainly.  But there are plenty of non-smokers that don't want to be around smoke, and I want to smoke all game long.  So I built a smoking lounge.

Quote from: RPGPundit
There isn't a game alive that doesn't push players toward the "Optimal choice": If finding away to depict your Love of Bagels as a characteristic into an attack will give you a +5 bonus, then you can bet that a player who wants to be "Optimal" will find a way to "roleplay" (used with high sarcasm) their love of Bagels. Not because they want to be better roleplayers, but because they want their +5.  Just as surely as if Kicks do 1d8 and punches do 1d6, you'll get certain players using nothing but kicks, and sense and roleplaying be damned.

You are talking, really, about two different situations. One is encouraging Roleplaying, the other is making sure players aren't just powergaming/minmaxing their tactical choices rather than doing what makes the most sense for their character.

The former can't be encouraged by rules. That is my position. There is no such thing as a system that "encourages roleplaying": There may be a system that "encourages fake descriptiveness and pretense of roleplay"; but ironically in my experience these systems tend to hamstring real roleplaying (because then the characters are faced with a choice between "real" roleplaying with no reward in the system or "pretense of roleplay" with a reward, and they'll choose the pretense instead of the real immersion).

The latter has to be dealt with by the rules, but it doesn't fundamentally have to do with trying to convince the character that he "really ought to roleplay instead of just always doing kicks because they do a d8", it has to do with finding ways to make those D8 kicks less appealing.


My experience flatly differs.  Could you give me an example of "faking it"  occurring?

Description and characterisation can be blocked by rules; there are character concepts in D&D that the rules simply don't support.  If I'm a Bard, I can't really threaten to destroy your reputation and have it mean a damn thing; so if I have the concept of a Satirist in those rules, it wouldn't work.  

But removing all the rules that can get in the way and finding replacements for them to keep mechanical balance can lead to very strange sets of rules.  I'm willing to pay money for those sets of rules.  Others are willing to write them.  Sounds good to me.

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I have run campaigns of Amber where the characters are literally godlings, and campaigns of Call of Cthulhu where the characters were essentially totally normal, and both have been cool.

But my point is you can't just be "given" cool. Its like: you can premake a character to 10th level in D&D, or you can make a 1st level character and roleplay him up to 10th. The pre-made 10th level character will NEVER seem like the character that's been roleplayed up to 10th. Why? because he will be created from scratch; he won't have any of the wierd advantages or disadvantages the other char might have amassed over weeks of play; he won't have the less than optimal advancement choices that a character might have been forced to make (taking a feat at lv 3 that's really good for lv.3 but close to useless at level 10); he'll always be ideal because he's sprung from the forehead of the player with no prior history. Likewise, the character that has been played through will be much deeper and much more profound.
Now, they both might start as Merchant Princes. But the premade one will be a kind of Jerry Bruckheimer Merchant Prince, created by commitee to fit the unidimensional stereotype of cool; while the one that has been played up to 10th level will be cool in ways the "jerry" character could never possibly be, because I as a DM will have made the player sweat blood from his testicles to get that character to being a Merchant Prince.


You’re talking about character depth as a main measurement of coolness, then.  And, yes, character depth is, indeed, good stuff.

I’d say that players can’t simply grant their character depth at creation – I’ve seen some attempts, with long backstories, highly detailed equipment, art, and many other media.  They all fall flat for me.  A character has depth the moment they enter a struggle that is hard for them and start making tough decisions.

Which means that a player can never “grab the +5 sword” and have it make them interesting.  Their power level is not related to their depth of character, to me, excepting that both contribute to the coolness of the character.

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You keep saying that but everything I've seen about game theory tells me the opposite. If they really had these views, then I wouldn't have such issues with them.


From Ron Edwards, a character in Sorcerer often starts play with what is called “a Kicker”, which is a player-created situation that must be addressed, involves struggle, and which nobody at the table knows how it will be resolved including the person that came up with it.  When the kicker is resolved, the character is done unless a new one is introduced.

From Vincent Baker, a character in Dogs in the Vineyard faces the basic struggle of asking “what do you think is right, and how far are you willing to go to enforce it?” – the question is rarely if the character can win, but how much of who and what they are they are willing, and will neeed, to put on the line in order to do so.

So, uh, what?  It’s always about the struggle, even if it isn’t about physical conflict.

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I agree that the struggle or struggles usually should be defined early in any campaign; but I still don't feel that they have to come from the characters themselves. It can come from the GM and where he wants to take the campaign, assuming the characters choose to go with it. If they don't, then they can find other struggles.

Also, there's nothing wrong at all with pastiche, no matter how much theorists hate "simulationism"; some of the best games have no inherent struggle as a theme but rather the "struggle" of wanderlust, travelling through a world to discover it and grow and learn.


A struggle, a conflict, that is actually about the same things that the character is about, that taps into who that character is…   that’s stronger stuff than one that they don’t care about.  If I’m playing Dungeons and Dragons, old-school style, then the character I build at the start of the game will be someone I’ve deliberately built to say “I want to become powerful and rich, or die trying.” – because then, the game and my character fit each other just right.

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My players, at least, wouldn't care for that sort of thing.  Why give them great power for nothing only to take it away? Why not start them without power and give them the much more entertaining struggle to obtain it, and then let them use it with the knowledge and satisfaction that they worked hard to get it?


Because it’s interesting.  It’s a challenge.  It’s evocative of things that most games I play aren’t, and that makes it worth trying.

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I don't believe that every game should have to appeal to all kinds of gamers equally. I do believe that the most successful games are those that will have appeal to the largest varieties of gamers. Not many gamers are going to be drawn to Gay Cowboys Eating Pudding, and to suggest that we must change the industry to focus on those kinds of games is irresponsible.


In industry terms, we need at least one truly strong and well-supported game that acts as an entry point and supports the most common playstyles.  We have it.  It’s D&D.  It’s also good to have other games, branching off in all directions and doing all sorts of different things; the ones ‘closest’ to D&D that are solid, but clearly different, are the biggest, the real weird stuff is the smallest.  And we have all of those, too.  That’s awesome – it’s something to I’m pleased by, not something I dislike.

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Bully for you. But you must admit that it is something that is endemic in Gaming Theory. The vast majority of gaming theorists believe their style of roleplay is superior because of how much time they spend inventing made-up terms for it. They convince the stupid, young, and innocent that they too must use stupid made-up terms and try to "optimize their group" and "discuss narrative" in order to have the "superior" gaming experience, and in so doing fuck up these poor kids for life.


One True Ways are endemic to gaming, funny jargon or not.  And as far as fucking people’s games up goes, the worst I’ve seen is people that get stuck in the jargon, but seem to play perfectly fine games.  I saw much worse in the 90’s, on all sides.

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From what I've seen of how the rest of the Forge slowly orbits around Ron Edward's rectum, I would have to say he is "the Leader".


Hyperbole and terms aside, Clinton R. Nixon and Vincent Baker come to mind.

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But its also "my shitty gaming experiences must be solved by my intellectual diarrhea and the same is what will help others; I am so smart"!


*Snerk*

Okay, that was pretty funny.  

A lot of theorists are academics.  It spills over.  I’m not in favor of the intellectualization of thinking about games either, so I can’t raise a defense on that score.

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With all due respect, Bullshit. GNS wasn't created as one guy's solution to his own little problems, It was created, marketed and promoted as "the solution to all Gaming's problems", and what would supposedly be used to create (at different times and based on different twisted interpretations of same) the best gamers, the best gaming groups and the best games EVAR.  And all gaming theory, thanks to the pressure and omnipresence of the forge, will sooner or later be FORCED to be interpreted through GNS, whether the original theorist wants it to or not, because of the Cult of Ron.
They created their Forge games on the basis that these are "better designed" games than normal RPGs, which are supposedly sub-optimal by virtue of not knowing which category they are supposed to be in and thus having "confused goals". Of course, the fact that not a single Forge game has ever outsold D&D or even made anything more of a splash than a 5 year old's roadside tinkle in the industry as a whole pretty much proves that their theories are all a crock of shit; though of course they will choose to blame the evils of the capitalist system and the "ignorance" of the common gamer and blather about how their games are meant for the elite anyways.


GNS was developed on a private mailing list of people discussing their own gaming.  It sprang in many ways from G/D/S, which was developed on rec.games.frp.advocacy; I wasn’t on the mailing list, but I was on Advocacy.

This was my original, and fairly crummy, response to early G/D/S, currently stored on RPGnet, but written more than two years before the Forge even existed: http://www.rpg.net/realm/critique/7rpgtypes.html

Neither I nor anyone else back then was looking to change everyone else’s gaming.  If you’d like me to prove my presence in the history beyond that point, I can do so easily.  I don’t claim to be some kind of “ur-theorist”, though; in those days, John H. Kim was my god (and he’s still pretty high on my respect list).  If you don’t know who John Kim,  Mary Kuhner, and the Ennead are, and what they said then, you simply don’t know enough about the origins and background of RPG theory to talk that particular line of shit.

As to the sale of the games, they’re niche products. The majority of the writers simply understand that they’re niche games.

The one point of agreement I have with you here is that those few that pretend that Indie games aren’t a niche product, really, and that “they’ll revolutionize the mainstream of gaming any day now” - and yes, I’ve seen that one - are either bullshitting or right off their nut.  I don’t know which.

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There may be many people who use gaming theory for nothing more than the utterly misguided goal of trying to improve their own individual groups through theorizing; but the culture as a whole is one of elitism and a desire to force change in the industry that would move it away from broadly popular GAMES into pretentious microgames that appeal to a tiny group of fake intellectuals.


Tell me then, exactly what are they doing in order to force this change?  Give me some examples of actions they’ve taken to accomplish this.

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You were drowned out by the vast chorus of Forgeites literally posting "YOU'RE RIGHT RON; IM BRAIN DAMAGED!"


I’m not saying I was impressed by the general response.  I wasn’t.

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Jesus Christ on a stick why don't you skewer me with a butter knife while you're at it. You couldn't think of any other character to compare me to from an even slightly better movie? You bastard.


Okay, it was a bad movie.  But I liked that character.  Specifically, in your case, the line which I’m probably misquoting: “I just want to bury him up to his neck in shit, and leave him there to think happy-happy thoughts all day.” Comes to mind.

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Ah yes, the circles of him not giving a shit what anyone thinks about his theory. I guess that makes sense.


More the circles “Nobody can connect half of these fucking discussions to what actually happens at a game table.  We need to focus on actual play.” – and that disconnect is one of the real traps of theory I’ve seen people fall into; neat ideas that have nothing to do with actual play.

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His response would be interesting to me.


Me, too.

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But Mr.Edwards has destroyed any possibility of Gaming Theory ever doing anything productive ever. It is co-opted beyond salvation by the Intellectualoids, who are more interested with showing off their own fashion sense and alleged cleverness than actually doing anything productive.


I refer you to Ben Lehman’s posts on these very boards.  He’s also on my to-challenge list, but he’s pretty cool.

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« Reply #31 on: April 22, 2006, 02:34:31 AM »
Warning; I am drunk while I write this. Unlike you, I will dive right in while heavily intoxicated to do my work, and my worst. No waiting till the hangover for me.
As for WHY I'm drunk, there'll be some details about that in tomorrow's blog.

Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
So you don't play such a game unless everyone is in for it.  Simple.

But this does even more to limit the usefulness of these games. If you need every player to be only of a very particular mindset to run a game, then that game is going to be very difficult to get a group together for. Micro-design is not a practical form of design.

I'm not saying that these things shouldn't exist at all, mind you, but I do think its more practical to design a game for a broad band of groups and then create options through which a system can be played in different ways to suit individual groups.

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My experience flatly differs.  Could you give me an example of "faking it"  occurring?

The simplest example I can think of is from a game that more or less bases itself on the "descriptive action" principle, and that I'll note is a game I love with a passion: Over the Edge.

I've seen gamers try to create OtE characters where they pick a trait that is so broad it can apply to everything ("I have 4D in martial arts master/acrobat/strategist"), or take supposedly narrow traits and try to make them fit any situation ("I can use my 5D Football Champ trait to attack the thugs, right? Using my football training... oh, AND i can use my 5D football champ trait to beat the Chessmaster, because football has strategy that can also apply to chess").

To me, this is "Faking it". It creates situations where, by trying to encourage "roleplay" by giving positive bonuses to those who use their descriptors, it encourages people to try to stretch those descriptors to ridiculous limits.

Ditto with games that give bonuses for "descriptive stunting"; at that point every fucking action turns into a descriptive stunt ("I do a double backflip before sitting on the toilet to give me a +2D to taking a dump"; "I make an exaggerated courtsey when I meet Unimportant NPC x in case I have to get a bonus to my diplomacy check").

That's why Feng Shui has got it going on: there, you are ALLOWED to do any normal attack/action as a stunt, in a cool way and without penalty, as long as the end result not have a greater positive result than if you did it the normal way. For ex, instead of just saying "I run toward the guy and shoot him" you can say "I run three steps, jump onto the table sliding down off it shooting at the guy". Since the end result mechanically is the same ("Ok, roll to hit") there's no penalty for doing it acrobatically. Its "encouragement" in the sense of not fucking you over for giving your character a personal touch; rather than giving you a bonus for thinking up ways of dragging your personality into every little act.

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You’re talking about character depth as a main measurement of coolness, then.  And, yes, character depth is, indeed, good stuff.
I’d say that players can’t simply grant their character depth at creation – I’ve seen some attempts, with long backstories, highly detailed equipment, art, and many other media.  They all fall flat for me.  A character has depth the moment they enter a struggle that is hard for them and start making tough decisions.
Which means that a player can never “grab the +5 sword” and have it make them interesting.  Their power level is not related to their depth of character, to me, excepting that both contribute to the coolness of the character.

I agree, that's pretty much what I've been saying.

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From Ron Edwards, a character in Sorcerer often starts play with what is called “a Kicker”, which is a player-created situation that must be addressed, involves struggle, and which nobody at the table knows how it will be resolved including the person that came up with it.  When the kicker is resolved, the character is done unless a new one is introduced.

Lame. Why create an onus for characters to be purely unidimensional? Why do characters have to have a set starting point and set ending point, other than a foolish attempt to try to force "story" to happen?

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From Vincent Baker, a character in Dogs in the Vineyard faces the basic struggle of asking “what do you think is right, and how far are you willing to go to enforce it?” – the question is rarely if the character can win, but how much of who and what they are they are willing, and will neeed, to put on the line in order to do so.

Even lamer. Its like Edward's idea except that you don't even get to pick the conflict.

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A struggle, a conflict, that is actually about the same things that the character is about, that taps into who that character is…   that’s stronger stuff than one that they don’t care about.  If I’m playing Dungeons and Dragons, old-school style, then the character I build at the start of the game will be someone I’ve deliberately built to say “I want to become powerful and rich, or die trying.” – because then, the game and my character fit each other just right.

I've played a lot of D&D campaigns where the gaining of power and wealth were purely incidental to the goals of the campaign. The fact that D&D as a game has it built in that your characters will become incrementally more powerful as time goes by doesn't mean that this is ALL the game has to be about.

And you skipped my comment about Pastiche.

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One True Ways are endemic to gaming, funny jargon or not.  And as far as fucking people’s games up goes, the worst I’ve seen is people that get stuck in the jargon, but seem to play perfectly fine games.  I saw much worse in the 90’s, on all sides.

I think you know by now that I'll agree things were far worse in the 90's, but I think this is only because now D20 has secured a solid victory for the side of reason, if you will. I think that if the Swine (be they the WW swine or their opposing Forge Swine) had more influence in the industry today they'd still be trying to pull the same subversive shit that almost destroyed the hobby in the mid-late 90s. Thats the whole basis for my forceful opposition to these ideologies; I really don't think they've learnt their lesson or "Know their place"; they really belive that games like DiTV SHOULD be the main games produced and marketed to the hobby base, and would gladly destroy the hobby with their theories if they are once again given the chance to.

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Hyperbole and terms aside, Clinton R. Nixon and Vincent Baker come to mind.

The latter I see as worse alternative to Edwards, the former is a better choice but neither of them have the central influence Edwards still has.

Its like, shit, I think the mainstream industry would be better off if they respected Jonathan Tweet and Erick Wujcik more than Monte Cook, but they don't. My wishing won't make it so.

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*Snerk*
Okay, that was pretty funny.  
A lot of theorists are academics.  It spills over.  I’m not in favor of the intellectualization of thinking about games either, so I can’t raise a defense on that score.

Thank you. And I think the correct statement would be "a lot of theorists want to pretend they're academics". What I like to call "intellectualoids"; they are to real intellectuals what D&D "humanoids" are to real humans.  Real academics wouldn't waste their time dedicating their academia to RPGs. Fuck, what you and I are doing here is closer to REAL academia than the intellectualoid circle-jerks that go on in "gaming theory" threads.

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Neither I nor anyone else back then was looking to change everyone else’s gaming.  If you’d like me to prove my presence in the history beyond that point, I can do so easily.  

I'll take your word for it. I still think that many of the people involved, and especially Ron Edwards, believed that their theories were meant to be applied to a global scale and would revolutionize how gaming was done.

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I don’t claim to be some kind of “ur-theorist”, though; in those days, John H. Kim was my god (and he’s still pretty high on my respect list).  If you don’t know who John Kim,  Mary Kuhner, and the Ennead are, and what they said then, you simply don’t know enough about the origins and background of RPG theory to talk that particular line of shit.

I'm more or less familiar with these people. I think if John Kim had been seen as the model to follow rather than Edwards things will have turned out better for gaming theory.

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As to the sale of the games, they’re niche products. The majority of the writers simply understand that they’re niche games.

The ones that do only seem to do so in the context of the belief that their games are meant to be a "niche" for the special elite that are truly above the common masses of D&D players.

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The one point of agreement I have with you here is that those few that pretend that Indie games aren’t a niche product, really, and that “they’ll revolutionize the mainstream of gaming any day now” - and yes, I’ve seen that one - are either bullshitting or right off their nut.  I don’t know which.

There are two types of people that are involved in gaming theory that make me despise gaming theory as a whole: the ones who think that the theory needs to become the mainstream of gaming, and the ones who think that the theory puts them above the mainstream of gaming.

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Tell me then, exactly what are they doing in order to force this change?  Give me some examples of actions they’ve taken to accomplish this.

Fortunately, they aren't in a position to be able to do very much; but intellectually subverting the largest independent gaming website on the internet and generally creating the delusion that games like DiTV are not just superior but are the truly innovative and "hot" games out there; people on RPG.net talking about Weapons of the Gods as though anyone in the real world is actually playing it, or people on the GoO forum trying to convince the GoO staff to make Amber 2nd edition run on Nobilis because its "clearly superior" to the Amber system, these are all things that have personally affected me, and have affected (or in the case of Amber have the potential to affect) the entire gaming hobby negatively.

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I’m not saying I was impressed by the general response.  I wasn’t.

Fair enough.

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More the circles “Nobody can connect half of these fucking discussions to what actually happens at a game table.  We need to focus on actual play.” – and that disconnect is one of the real traps of theory I’ve seen people fall into; neat ideas that have nothing to do with actual play.

I agree that Gaming Theory could have actually been useful had the focus been on actual play at the start. Not "theoretical actual play" which is what it was based on. It wasn't based on improving actual play, it was based on changing actual play to fit the delusionary pet theories of guys like Ron Edwards.

I know that some of you guys keep trying to shift the focus back to "how to improve actual play" and that's a step toward the right direction, but I fear that this ship has already sailed, since any thread where you attempt to do this tends to be subverted by the GNS crowd by the second or third post.

I think the only way to do this effectively is to create an "anti-theory" movement; one that is based on intelligently examining how to improve gaming and game play (and yes, even game design) while intentionally and aggresively positioning one's self against the terminology and mentality of what has gone before, rather than trying to reform it.

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I refer you to Ben Lehman’s posts on these very boards.  He’s also on my to-challenge list, but he’s pretty cool.

What exactly has Mr.Lehman said on these boards or elsewhere that would be of interest in this conversation? I ask sincerely because I wouldn't know where to begin to look. Also, as I believe I hinted at in the beginning of this thread, I'm pretty fucked up on a combination of cigars, pipes, beer, Teacher's Scottish Cream Whiskey, and heavy-duty Grappa.

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Levi Kornelsen

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Pistols at dawn.
« Reply #32 on: April 22, 2006, 03:22:20 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Warning; I am drunk while I write this. Unlike you, I will dive right in while heavily intoxicated to do my work, and my worst. No waiting till the hangover for me.
As for WHY I'm drunk, there'll be some details about that in tomorrow's blog.


I hope that it's celebratory.  If not, well, crappy.

Quote from: RPGPundit
But this does even more to limit the usefulness of these games. If you need every player to be only of a very particular mindset to run a game, then that game is going to be very difficult to get a group together for. Micro-design is not a practical form of design.

I'm not saying that these things shouldn't exist at all, mind you, but I do think its more practical to design a game for a broad band of groups and then create options through which a system can be played in different ways to suit individual groups.


In practical terms of sales, you're correct.

In terms of "writing what you love and what you want to play", that's not necessarily so.

Quote from: RPGPundit
The simplest example I can think of is from a game that more or less bases itself on the "descriptive action" principle, and that I'll note is a game I love with a passion: Over the Edge.

I've seen gamers try to create OtE characters where they pick a trait that is so broad it can apply to everything ("I have 4D in martial arts master/acrobat/strategist"), or take supposedly narrow traits and try to make them fit any situation ("I can use my 5D Football Champ trait to attack the thugs, right? Using my football training... oh, AND i can use my 5D football champ trait to beat the Chessmaster, because football has strategy that can also apply to chess").

To me, this is "Faking it". It creates situations where, by trying to encourage "roleplay" by giving positive bonuses to those who use their descriptors, it encourages people to try to stretch those descriptors to ridiculous limits.


Ah.  Okay, I see it.

Yech.

Now, form my perspective, this kind of thing comes from two possible places.  Either the player doesn't really want to play that kind of game, or the player wants to be Uber.  To me, both problems are player issues; I wouldn't try to fix them through the game, but through actually talking with the real people at my table.  

The solution might well be "let's play a different kind of RPG, one that doesn't focus on this." - or it might not be.  Depends on the player.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Ditto with games that give bonuses for "descriptive stunting"; at that point every fucking action turns into a descriptive stunt ("I do a double backflip before sitting on the toilet to give me a +2D to taking a dump"; "I make an exaggerated courtsey when I meet Unimportant NPC x in case I have to get a bonus to my diplomacy check").

That's why Feng Shui has got it going on: there, you are ALLOWED to do any normal attack/action as a stunt, in a cool way and without penalty, as long as the end result not have a greater positive result than if you did it the normal way. For ex, instead of just saying "I run toward the guy and shoot him" you can say "I run three steps, jump onto the table sliding down off it shooting at the guy". Since the end result mechanically is the same ("Ok, roll to hit") there's no penalty for doing it acrobatically. Its "encouragement" in the sense of not fucking you over for giving your character a personal touch; rather than giving you a bonus for thinking up ways of dragging your personality into every little act.


Hmm.  I'm going to think on that one a bit.  You've certainly scored a hit with that example, though.

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Lame. Why create an onus for characters to be purely unidimensional? Why do characters have to have a set starting point and set ending point, other than a foolish attempt to try to force "story" to happen?

Even lamer. Its like Edward's idea except that you don't even get to pick the conflict.


They are about the struggle, though - clearly focused in that direction.

Here's another one you might actually like: Experience Keys, by Clinton R. Nixon

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I've played a lot of D&D campaigns where the gaining of power and wealth were purely incidental to the goals of the campaign. The fact that D&D as a game has it built in that your characters will become incrementally more powerful as time goes by doesn't mean that this is ALL the game has to be about.


But the game is always going to be at least partly about it.  And because that part is so very, very dependable under those rules, it's the optimum thing to play to.

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And you skipped my comment about Pastiche.


Whoop.  Yes; journey-of-wonder stuff can be *cool*.

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I think you know by now that I'll agree things were far worse in the 90's, but I think this is only because now D20 has secured a solid victory for the side of reason, if you will. I think that if the Swine (be they the WW swine or their opposing Forge Swine) had more influence in the industry today they'd still be trying to pull the same subversive shit that almost destroyed the hobby in the mid-late 90s. Thats the whole basis for my forceful opposition to these ideologies; I really don't think they've learnt their lesson or "Know their place"; they really belive that games like DiTV SHOULD be the main games produced and marketed to the hobby base, and would gladly destroy the hobby with their theories if they are once again given the chance to.


Hm.  While I generally don't agree, there's very little in the way of evidence to point to for either of us.  I doubt we can make progress on it.

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Thank you. And I think the correct statement would be "a lot of theorists want to pretend they're academics". What I like to call "intellectualoids"; they are to real intellectuals what D&D "humanoids" are to real humans.  Real academics wouldn't waste their time dedicating their academia to RPGs. Fuck, what you and I are doing here is closer to REAL academia than the intellectualoid circle-jerks that go on in "gaming theory" threads.


At least a couple of them are university professors.  That is real academia. But I do agree that RPGs should always avoid intellectual elitism, in both theory and practice, and that it's shown up in theory in a few really public places.

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I'll take your word for it. I still think that many of the people involved, and especially Ron Edwards, believed that their theories were meant to be applied to a global scale and would revolutionize how gaming was done.


I can't speak to his specific motives; I wasn't there for the start of his bit, though I do know the format it happened in.  But I doubt it.

As for most of the others, well, many of them didn't even really think anyone was listening.  I do remember jokes about how maybe what was being talked about might make it into an nice obscure textbook someday, and that was about it.

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I'm more or less familiar with these people. I think if John Kim had been seen as the model to follow rather than Edwards things will have turned out better for gaming theory.


...Well, we'd know where all the free games were, for one (John Kim maintains a huge list of link to such stuff these days, among other things).

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The ones that do only seem to do so in the context of the belief that their games are meant to be a "niche" for the special elite that are truly above the common masses of D&D players.


I again point you to Ben Lehman.  If you told him that, I suspect he'd ask you what planet you were from.  He was the guy that wrote Polaris, the game I called "just outside being an RPG" - and he later asked me if I'd ever noted that the game actually never calls itself an RPG; I think he's pretty sure it's near a boundary state of some kind, as well.

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There are two types of people that are involved in gaming theory that make me despise gaming theory as a whole: the ones who think that the theory needs to become the mainstream of gaming, and the ones who think that the theory puts them above the mainstream of gaming.


Well, I can't say that neither kind exists.  Both do.  But as for numbers, I can only say that talking to them outside of the specific culture of the Forge has been a hell of an eye-opener for me; they aren't anything near as common as I once thought.

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Fortunately, they aren't in a position to be able to do very much; but intellectually subverting the largest independent gaming website on the internet and generally creating the delusion that games like DiTV are not just superior but are the truly innovative and "hot" games out there; people on RPG.net talking about Weapons of the Gods as though anyone in the real world is actually playing it, or people on the GoO forum trying to convince the GoO staff to make Amber 2nd edition run on Nobilis because its "clearly superior" to the Amber system, these are all things that have personally affected me, and have affected (or in the case of Amber have the potential to affect) the entire gaming hobby negatively.


*Blink, blink*

Amber run on Nobilis?  That's incredibly silly.  Nobilis has maybe one or two little points worth stealing for Amber.  And that's being generous.  Active Exploits, from Politically Incorrect Games, has far more stuff that might be of use to improving that system - AE being a diceless sytem that's almost purely about resource management.

As for the rest, people talk about what they love, what they hate, and what gave them a whole new take on things.  They rarely talk about the basic stuff that they've been doing for years, and will continue to do for many more.  Again, that's just the nature of the beast; I don't see any deliberate subversion there.

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I agree that Gaming Theory could have actually been useful had the focus been on actual play at the start. Not "theoretical actual play" which is what it was based on. It wasn't based on improving actual play, it was based on changing actual play to fit the delusionary pet theories of guys like Ron Edwards.

I know that some of you guys keep trying to shift the focus back to "how to improve actual play" and that's a step toward the right direction, but I fear that this ship has already sailed, since any thread where you attempt to do this tends to be subverted by the GNS crowd by the second or third post.

I think the only way to do this effectively is to create an "anti-theory" movement; one that is based on intelligently examining how to improve gaming and game play (and yes, even game design) while intentionally and aggresively positioning one's self against the terminology and mentality of what has gone before, rather than trying to reform it.


That sounds hostile.  But some of those things (the ones that aren't basically giving the finger to other theorists) are ones I've actually done, and intend to continue doing.

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What exactly has Mr.Lehman said on these boards or elsewhere that would be of interest in this conversation? I ask sincerely because I wouldn't know where to begin to look. Also, as I believe I hinted at in the beginning of this thread, I'm pretty fucked up on a combination of cigars, pipes, beer, Teacher's Scottish Cream Whiskey, and heavy-duty Grappa.


No specific points, just his general attitude.  He's a theory-head that's solidly among the many that anyone can talk to, knows the Forge, and happens to be right here.  He also started a thread on the swine side about "THEORY!", in fairly good humor.

And now I want some Grappa.

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« Reply #33 on: April 22, 2006, 03:59:40 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
I hope that it's celebratory.  If not, well, crappy.

It was celebratory.

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In practical terms of sales, you're correct.
In terms of "writing what you love and what you want to play", that's not necessarily so.

Yes, which is why I said that I wasn't implying such games couldn't be made. Just that it makes far more sense to start with a broad brush and create lots of options for narrowing down the game to fit the group.
The Game-Theory/Forgeite obsession with "microsettings" is deeply disturbing and counter-productive.

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Now, form my perspective, this kind of thing comes from two possible places.  Either the player doesn't really want to play that kind of game, or the player wants to be Uber.  To me, both problems are player issues; I wouldn't try to fix them through the game, but through actually talking with the real people at my table.  
The solution might well be "let's play a different kind of RPG, one that doesn't focus on this." - or it might not be.  Depends on the player.

Now grok this: to me, ALL Roleplaying issues are "player issues".  You cannot create better roleplaying through system. You can create (sometimes) better or worse emulation of genre through system, you can create easier or harder play through system, but Roleplaying depends on the players and the group, tinkering with system to try to force roleplaying out of it won't get you squat.

Good roleplayers will roleplay well with any system, "Bad" roleplayers will roleplay poorly with any system.

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Hmm.  I'm going to think on that one a bit.  You've certainly scored a hit with that example, though.

Feng Shui follows the way of the Tao, grasshopper.

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They are about the struggle, though - clearly focused in that direction.

Here's another one you might actually like: Experience Keys, by Clinton R. Nixon

Dear god. I didn't like it.  Generally the WORST way to encourage "roleplaying" (or "character development") is to try to force character advancement to go along with it. That's the equivalent to roleplaying of what the old "wheelbarrow full of weapons" syndrome in Runequest was to combat ability.

I agreed with the premise, though. Tying XP to killing monsters in D&D was not the brightest thing to do in the bigger context of what they wanted to do with D20 (Im guessing it was a very early part of 3.x's development that then somehow slipped through the cracks, or was allowed to because it fits in with the tactical model, even though in this case its at the cost of diversity).  True20 does levelling nicely in my book.
I'll add a couple of personal notes: in my own "Forward... To Adventure!", XP is based on a simple model of "adventures completed": Complete x number of adventures, you go up in level. That's it. I don't really think that it should be based on monster-killing (wherein the loot should be its own reward) or on roleplay (ditto).  The DM does have leeway, though, to lengthen or shorten his definition of what completes an "adventure" (as in, it doesn't automatically equal one session of play).

The other thing I do regarding roleplay is that at the end of each session I award a bonus (xp in D20, Conviction/Adventure/sanity points in other games as fits) given to the player the whole group felt did the best roleplaying of the session. Each player has a vote, the DM has two votes, you can't vote for yourself. The discussion that ensues as each player gives his vote and his reasons for why he feels that player deserves it has helped greatly to encourage the group as a whole to work on developing their characters and creating a joint conception of what is considered group play in any given party.

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But the game is always going to be at least partly about it.  And because that part is so very, very dependable under those rules, it's the optimum thing to play to.

I don't really agree. In many of my games the power rise has been something that has simply reflected the characters growing in experience (who'd figure?) and personal ability/fame as they face greater challenges. In my Star Wars campaign, for example, the lust for power was not a very central theme (except for a few guys who fell to the dark side). Likewise in my Midnight campaign, the growth in power of the characters was more a reflection of their improved ability over time to survive in a truly harsh world where everything was against them.
In my Traveller game the characters already start with a few levels behind their belt due to prior history, and in that game it really makes very little difference whether you're level 4 or level 12; it makes a hell of a lot more difference whether the party as a whole can correctly estimate the resale value of Senator Tanzel's Commemorative Plates on Gantros.

Its been pretty rare that I've had a D&D/D20 game where the POINT of the game is the rise in power itself. The only one in recent memory I can think of is my RC D&D campaign, where the set goal from the beginning was to try to advance the players from 1st to 36th level and complete the immortality quests for each of them.

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Whoop.  Yes; journey-of-wonder stuff can be *cool*.

And yet, so many in gaming theory have a serious hate-on for pastiche. Any comments on that?

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Hm.  While I generally don't agree, there's very little in the way of evidence to point to for either of us.  I doubt we can make progress on it.

Fair enough.

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At least a couple of them are university professors.  That is real academia.

Professors of what, though? And where? A lot of so-called academia these days is really pseudo-academia, sadly.

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But I do agree that RPGs should always avoid intellectual elitism, in both theory and practice, and that it's shown up in theory in a few really public places.

Yup, and always to the detriment of Theory. They're your very own personal lawncrappers.

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...Well, we'd know where all the free games were, for one (John Kim maintains a huge list of link to such stuff these days, among other things).

Indeed he does. That was my first experience of him, in fact.

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I again point you to Ben Lehman.  If you told him that, I suspect he'd ask you what planet you were from.  He was the guy that wrote Polaris, the game I called "just outside being an RPG" - and he later asked me if I'd ever noted that the game actually never calls itself an RPG; I think he's pretty sure it's near a boundary state of some kind, as well.

Well, that's nice.

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Well, I can't say that neither kind exists.  Both do.  But as for numbers, I can only say that talking to them outside of the specific culture of the Forge has been a hell of an eye-opener for me; they aren't anything near as common as I once thought.

Care to explain?


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*Blink, blink*
Amber run on Nobilis?  That's incredibly silly.  Nobilis has maybe one or two little points worth stealing for Amber.  And that's being generous.  Active Exploits, from Politically Incorrect Games, has far more stuff that might be of use to improving that system - AE being a diceless sytem that's almost purely about resource management.

And yet I fought a months-long battle on the GoO boards against a group of these guys who were hell-bent on Nobilis (or more accurately, Nobilis-derived rules) replacing Amber's own rules for the Amber game. The main argument being that Nobilis is diceless like Amber is, but its more "hip" because the self-styled intelligentsia claim it to be, even though its in reality a steaming pile of dog excrement with an unbearably vile beancounter system.

Personally, my argument is that the very best system for Amber is Amber, which has not only been hugely successful over the years, but actually follows through with all the stuff that other more pretentious games only claim to do, namely have a truly original and brilliantly innovative system.

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As for the rest, people talk about what they love, what they hate, and what gave them a whole new take on things.  They rarely talk about the basic stuff that they've been doing for years, and will continue to do for many more.  Again, that's just the nature of the beast; I don't see any deliberate subversion there.

Whereas I do; I remember what RPG.net was like before first the WW crowd and later the Forge crowd got control of the moderation there.
That's deliberate subversion.

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That sounds hostile.  But some of those things (the ones that aren't basically giving the finger to other theorists) are ones I've actually done, and intend to continue doing.

Sometimes its good to be hostile, if it helps the flowers to grow.

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No specific points, just his general attitude.  He's a theory-head that's solidly among the many that anyone can talk to, knows the Forge, and happens to be right here.  He also started a thread on the swine side about "THEORY!", in fairly good humor.

Well, he seems to be trying to be helpful in clearing up definitions, while still presuming that people must accept and work within those Forge definitions. I am curious to see how he would respond to the criticism about GNS (namely that the definitions of G, N, and S seem to be completely up to the what the person doing the defining wants them to mean at the time, mixed in with appeals to authority, in some twisted version of medieval church theology only replacing the Vulgate of St.Jerome with the Holy Writings of Ron). I'd be curious to see how you'd defend it, but then I'm not entirely sure you accept GNS theory, and if you (wisely) don't I wouldn't want you to bother trying to take the defence of it.

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And now I want some Grappa.

It certainly seems to clear the mind so that words flow with greater ease.

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #34 on: April 22, 2006, 02:34:44 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Yes, which is why I said that I wasn't implying such games couldn't be made. Just that it makes far more sense to start with a broad brush and create lots of options for narrowing down the game to fit the group.
The Game-Theory/Forgeite obsession with "microsettings" is deeply disturbing and counter-productive.


Concerning "microsettings"; creating them makes perfect sense given the ideals of leaving the setting to player and GM creativity to fill in, focusing on a set range of issues and themes, and building a "focused" game.  The practice fulfills it's intended purpose, but it's intended purpose is limited to a specific playstyle.

Quote
Now grok this: to me, ALL Roleplaying issues are "player issues".  You cannot create better roleplaying through system. You can create (sometimes) better or worse emulation of genre through system, you can create easier or harder play through system, but Roleplaying depends on the players and the group, tinkering with system to try to force roleplaying out of it won't get you squat.

Good roleplayers will roleplay well with any system, "Bad" roleplayers will roleplay poorly with any system.


I spent a lot of time thinking on your point here, and have come to a much simpler conclusion than my previous one.  In the games and things I've been considering, and used as my first examples (Castle Falkenstein, Heroquest, the Power Attack, and so on), when things are rolling, the rules don't create the roleplaying.

They just don't get in the way.

So how's this:

Rules can interfere with roleplay.  They may not be able to create it, but they can block it.  Rules that are good for roleplaying are ones that, first, provide plenty of raw material for that roleplaying, and, second, get out of the way.  

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Dear god. I didn't like it.  Generally the WORST way to encourage "roleplaying" (or "character development") is to try to force character advancement to go along with it. That's the equivalent to roleplaying of what the old "wheelbarrow full of weapons" syndrome in Runequest was to combat ability.

I agreed with the premise, though. Tying XP to killing monsters in D&D was not the brightest thing to do in the bigger context of what they wanted to do with D20 (Im guessing it was a very early part of 3.x's development that then somehow slipped through the cracks, or was allowed to because it fits in with the tactical model, even though in this case its at the cost of diversity).  True20 does levelling nicely in my book.
I'll add a couple of personal notes: in my own "Forward... To Adventure!", XP is based on a simple model of "adventures completed": Complete x number of adventures, you go up in level. That's it. I don't really think that it should be based on monster-killing (wherein the loot should be its own reward) or on roleplay (ditto).  The DM does have leeway, though, to lengthen or shorten his definition of what completes an "adventure" (as in, it doesn't automatically equal one session of play).


Hm.  Well, you liked the premise, so that's progress.  Here's the part I think you object to.

Among a large number of theorists (most of them Forge-influenced), the idea is to structure the game so that the "reward cycle", whatever that is in the game, is based on playing the game either the way it was meant to be or in some way that you have set as best for your character.  D&D rewards you for killing monsters, and therefore killing monster would be what the game is all about if it was built by that theory - except, of course, D&D isn't.

This theory looks dead sexy on paper, and may actually be very close to being true.  Actual forms of execution range from the really neat to the bizarre to the fairly ham-handed, in my experience; nobody has got it right, yet.

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The other thing I do regarding roleplay is that at the end of each session I award a bonus (xp in D20, Conviction/Adventure/sanity points in other games as fits) given to the player the whole group felt did the best roleplaying of the session. Each player has a vote, the DM has two votes, you can't vote for yourself. The discussion that ensues as each player gives his vote and his reasons for why he feels that player deserves it has helped greatly to encourage the group as a whole to work on developing their characters and creating a joint conception of what is considered group play in any given party.


Oddly, this sounds a great deal like what I do in LARP games I run; the last ten minutes of the game, everyone "circles up", and XP is handed out player to player - with everyone watching and generally pretty solid reasons given.  It works.

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I don't really agree. In many of my games the power rise has been something that has simply reflected the characters growing in experience (who'd figure?) and personal ability/fame as they face greater challenges. In my Star Wars campaign, for example, the lust for power was not a very central theme (except for a few guys who fell to the dark side). Likewise in my Midnight campaign, the growth in power of the characters was more a reflection of their improved ability over time to survive in a truly harsh world where everything was against them.
In my Traveller game the characters already start with a few levels behind their belt due to prior history, and in that game it really makes very little difference whether you're level 4 or level 12; it makes a hell of a lot more difference whether the party as a whole can correctly estimate the resale value of Senator Tanzel's Commemorative Plates on Gantros.

Its been pretty rare that I've had a D&D/D20 game where the POINT of the game is the rise in power itself. The only one in recent memory I can think of is my RC D&D campaign, where the set goal from the beginning was to try to advance the players from 1st to 36th level and complete the immortality quests for each of them.


See my comments on reward cycles.  As I said, I think that idea is close to being true.

Actually, given that we're a fair ways in, and that's likely to be an interesting topic, would you like me to state a full position on that one?

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And yet, so many in gaming theory have a serious hate-on for pastiche. Any comments on that?


Please understand, this is pure speculation.

As I've said, struggle is at the heart of the kinds of games that many theorist want to play.  Maybe not expressed in a way you'd like, but struggle.  And, it's important to their vision of struggle that the characters be key figures in their part of the struggle - they don't need to be the biggest kids on the block, but if the other kids are way, way, bigger, better to focus just on their house for now and get to the rest of the block later.

When I said that the kind of play that comes out of theory involves putting specific things foremost in the experiece, I really meant it.  If you're focused on the ongoing conflict of these characters, the scenery is ultimately no more than loose bits of background to be played with and bring into the game in ways that serve that conflict, ramp it up, broaden the scope of it, give it color - but the setting serves the situation, and the situation serves the greater conflict.

Now, there are a lot of benefits to recasting things in this way, and actually playing to those strengths all the way.  But there are some struggles, some conflicts, that just don't fly.

As an example of this, a character that is coming of age, whose struggle is the attempt to find a place in the world where they can belong, and to find a way to accept that the world is the way it is and he needs to fit to it just as much as mold a corner of it to fit him - it doesn't work right.  That particular struggle is one that a player actually could short-circuit given even a tiny amount of narrative power. And yet that conflict, "finding my place in the world" is the center of so many coming-of-age stories that I can't even begin to count them.  And journey-of-wonder and coming-of-age have a lot of ties, though they aren't quite the same deal.

Now, I could easily be wrong; that's just my supposition.  Tony Lower-Basch is working on a high-school drama game that flies directly in the face of this idea; I'm watching it to see how it comes out.

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Professors of what, though? And where? A lot of so-called academia these days is really pseudo-academia, sadly.


I'd have to look it up.  The nature of academia itself is something I'd prefer to generally leave to the side; I'd say that some fields seem to act oddly from my perspective, but I really don't know enough to debate it with any real fervor.

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Yup, and always to the detriment of Theory. They're your very own personal lawncrappers.


God, I hate that term.  And yet, point taken.

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Care to explain?


Sure.  Recently, I've been spending a fairish amount of time hanging around at http://www.story-games.com, and a lot of them swing by there to "put their feet up", so to speak.  Reading the conversations there has revised my opinions of a great many people a long ways upward - which was good, for me, since the number of them that turned out to dissent on the "Brain Damage" thing had given me a pretty severe downturn of opinion.

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And yet I fought a months-long battle on the GoO boards against a group of these guys who were hell-bent on Nobilis (or more accurately, Nobilis-derived rules) replacing Amber's own rules for the Amber game. The main argument being that Nobilis is diceless like Amber is, but its more "hip" because the self-styled intelligentsia claim it to be, even though its in reality a steaming pile of dog excrement with an unbearably vile beancounter system.

Personally, my argument is that the very best system for Amber is Amber, which has not only been hugely successful over the years, but actually follows through with all the stuff that other more pretentious games only claim to do, namely have a truly original and brilliantly innovative system.


*Shrug*

To me, Nobilis is very evocative in terms of tone and feel.  But it's not an astonishing system.  

As to Amber's system, I generally agree.  I'd like to see Amber gone over with a fine-tooth comb, and a touch more resource management added in on few the rough spots (hence my suggested 'place to steal'), but the core of it is solid.

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Whereas I do; I remember what RPG.net was like before first the WW crowd and later the Forge crowd got control of the moderation there.
That's deliberate subversion.


I'm on the staff there, as you know.  I can say that there's never been any discussion among moderators there that spoke towards favoring WW or the Forge; the closest that was ever seen was discussion on how to stop theory threads from turning into flamewars.  I am, of course, biased, and strictly limited from sharing details, so I can't really justify my position.

I mean, I'm writing a game with Tony Lower-Basch and Robert Earley-Clark(both common readers of theory), Stephen Lea Sheppard (who has freelanced for White Wolf), and Dmitri whose-last-name-I-always-spell wrong (who typically thinks theory is a serious waste of time).  

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Well, he seems to be trying to be helpful in clearing up definitions, while still presuming that people must accept and work within those Forge definitions. I am curious to see how he would respond to the criticism about GNS (namely that the definitions of G, N, and S seem to be completely up to the what the person doing the defining wants them to mean at the time, mixed in with appeals to authority, in some twisted version of medieval church theology only replacing the Vulgate of St.Jerome with the Holy Writings of Ron). I'd be curious to see how you'd defend it, but then I'm not entirely sure you accept GNS theory, and if you (wisely) don't I wouldn't want you to bother trying to take the defence of it.


I don't accept GNS as it stands.  I do accept the outline of the Big Model, but believe that the wording is poor, and the place where that model places Creative Agendas, something much less clean and simple is going on; I'd be happy to show you my version of the model, and defend it, if you like.  The glossary thread I started shows the terms I use, for instance.

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« Reply #35 on: April 22, 2006, 05:10:58 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Concerning "microsettings"; creating them makes perfect sense given the ideals of leaving the setting to player and GM creativity to fill in, focusing on a set range of issues and themes, and building a "focused" game.  The practice fulfills it's intended purpose, but it's intended purpose is limited to a specific playstyle.


They're a fad. They annoy the hell out of me. The Forge seems to go out of its way to create microgames that are unbelievably specific and couldn't possibly be entertaining for very long.

Quote

I spent a lot of time thinking on your point here, and have come to a much simpler conclusion than my previous one.  In the games and things I've been considering, and used as my first examples (Castle Falkenstein, Heroquest, the Power Attack, and so on), when things are rolling, the rules don't create the roleplaying.
They just don't get in the way.
So how's this:
Rules can interfere with roleplay.  They may not be able to create it, but they can block it.  Rules that are good for roleplaying are ones that, first, provide plenty of raw material for that roleplaying, and, second, get out of the way.  


Let me see if I have your point straight: are you saying that games like D&D, where you have a vested interest in getting certain feats like Power attack or cleave or whatever and then using them, is in some way a force that stifles Roleplay?  To me the choice of certain feats in the beginning would be a question of roleplay, they would reflect the kind of combat (or specialties of other kind) that it makes sense for your character to have.

Of course, you have to have various options, and make it that no one set of special feats or what have you would be so essential that people would choose them in spite of their character's mojo; but then that becomes a question of good rules design, rather than roleplay.

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Hm.  Well, you liked the premise, so that's progress.  Here's the part I think you object to.
Among a large number of theorists (most of them Forge-influenced), the idea is to structure the game so that the "reward cycle", whatever that is in the game, is based on playing the game either the way it was meant to be or in some way that you have set as best for your character.  D&D rewards you for killing monsters, and therefore killing monster would be what the game is all about if it was built by that theory - except, of course, D&D isn't.
This theory looks dead sexy on paper, and may actually be very close to being true.  Actual forms of execution range from the really neat to the bizarre to the fairly ham-handed, in my experience; nobody has got it right, yet.


Yup, that's exactly what I object to. Essentially in-system bribery to encourage "roleplay".  This differs from my own "roleplay award" in that this award is at the end of the session and for overall play, rather than encouraging specific instances of doing a specific kind of roleplay, which is where players will tend to try to force play into artificial pretzels of convoluted fabrication in order to get their points.

Quote


See my comments on reward cycles.  As I said, I think that idea is close to being true.

Actually, given that we're a fair ways in, and that's likely to be an interesting topic, would you like me to state a full position on that one?


On "reward cycles"? Sure.

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Please understand, this is pure speculation.

As I've said, struggle is at the heart of the kinds of games that many theorist want to play.  Maybe not expressed in a way you'd like, but struggle.  And, it's important to their vision of struggle that the characters be key figures in their part of the struggle - they don't need to be the biggest kids on the block, but if the other kids are way, way, bigger, better to focus just on their house for now and get to the rest of the block later.

When I said that the kind of play that comes out of theory involves putting specific things foremost in the experiece, I really meant it.  If you're focused on the ongoing conflict of these characters, the scenery is ultimately no more than loose bits of background to be played with and bring into the game in ways that serve that conflict, ramp it up, broaden the scope of it, give it color - but the setting serves the situation, and the situation serves the greater conflict.


Yup, but it seems to mean that they have a one-track-mind as to what kind of games they want to play, a very narrow view of there they get their rocks off with gaming, and this is what leads to the bizzare little microgames. Its practically a case where the chance that someone else would sincerely like the game that came out of this kind of fevered mindset is pretty minimal; and most of the people who are playing are doing so either because its "what's so hot right now" on the Forge or because they are changing it around in some pretty radical ways (or, more often than not, both).

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As an example of this, a character that is coming of age, whose struggle is the attempt to find a place in the world where they can belong, and to find a way to accept that the world is the way it is and he needs to fit to it just as much as mold a corner of it to fit him - it doesn't work right.  That particular struggle is one that a player actually could short-circuit given even a tiny amount of narrative power. And yet that conflict, "finding my place in the world" is the center of so many coming-of-age stories that I can't even begin to count them.  And journey-of-wonder and coming-of-age have a lot of ties, though they aren't quite the same deal.


Which to me is part of the failing of Theorist mentality: this idea that every game must have a big overarching theme.  At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with a bunch of little themes, or historical or panoramic pastiche. This is only viewed as "wrong" by Theorists because they can't create their "GRAND UNIFIED THEORY OF How Smart I Am".

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To me, Nobilis is very evocative in terms of tone and feel.  But it's not an astonishing system.  
As to Amber's system, I generally agree.  I'd like to see Amber gone over with a fine-tooth comb, and a touch more resource management added in on few the rough spots (hence my suggested 'place to steal'), but the core of it is solid.


It needs some work done in a couple of areas, but otherwise it is a superior and more successful system than Nobilis, WoTG, or any of the other various games I've heard being touted as so "innovative" and brilliant.  The Gaming Theorists, if they really cared about gaming theory and not just seeming smart, should be licking Erick Wujcik's balls. In all these years of the Forge they have yet to produce a game that comes even close to Amber's level.

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I'm on the staff there, as you know.  I can say that there's never been any discussion among moderators there that spoke towards favoring WW or the Forge; the closest that was ever seen was discussion on how to stop theory threads from turning into flamewars.  I am, of course, biased, and strictly limited from sharing details, so I can't really justify my position.


Here's how I get misinterpeted as a "conspiracy nut". There doesn't have to be a conspiracy to have deliberate subversion.

I mean, of COURSE you guys aren't sitting around back there twirling your black mustacchios and cackling with glee at the thought of how you've taken over RPG.net and have managed to subvert it into a place where open discussion, and therefore the challenge of your theories and delusions about the industry, can no longer take place.

But it doesn't change the fact that this is exactly what happened. I doubt any of you (well, maybe one or two) went into it thinking you were going to be all for the totalitarian censorship and the favoritism of certain RPGs over others, but you (well, not really you, you're too new as a mod, but the other mods) went into their jobs with certain twisted concepts of what's "important" in RPGs, what's "good" and "bad" in RPGs, what games are cooler than other, which people are cooler than other, and how Gaming Fandom "ought to be". And then the mods went on to create that imaginary kingdom right there on RPG.net, complete with placing a higher value on "tolerance" rather than "freedom" in speach, to make sure that the views of the governing majority could not be challenged. You top it all off with some pretty words about "respect" to hide a level of lawless mod-totalitarianism that would make the King Gyanendra's reign seem constitutional and populist by comparison.

It doesn't take conspiracy, all it takes is intent and opportunity. Hell, most of you weren't conspiratorial about it in the least; Curt was very open about what he wanted, for example, which is why they had to keep him at arms length until freedom of posting had been reduced to such a low that his ideas went from seeming like a total fascist asshole's (which is how they would have been viewed in the old RPG.net), to extreme (middle RPG.net), to understandable and valid (late RPG.net), to mainstream and clearly true (current RPG.net). And at that point, lo even Curt could be a mod.

The Swine have systematically destroyed any value RPG.net had; just like they subverted and destroyed (much earlier on) the value that gaming theory could have had.  Just like they'd destroy the industry if they could. Not because they're mustache-twirling evil, just because they are so utterly self-absorbed and determined to be the dictators of what is artistic, intelligent, permitted, and good. That's why they're so dangerous.

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I don't accept GNS as it stands. I do accept the outline of the Big Model, but believe that the wording is poor, and the place where that model places Creative Agendas, something much less clean and simple is going on; I'd be happy to show you my version of the model, and defend it, if you like. The glossary thread I started shows the terms I use, for instance.


Please do, show me your model.

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« Reply #36 on: April 22, 2006, 06:44:48 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
They're a fad. They annoy the hell out of me. The Forge seems to go out of its way to create microgames that are unbelievably specific and couldn't possibly be entertaining for very long.


My impression of the narrowness of these games is pretty neatly summed up in the model stuff below.

Quote
Let me see if I have your point straight: are you saying that games like D&D, where you have a vested interest in getting certain feats like Power attack or cleave or whatever and then using them, is in some way a force that stifles Roleplay?  To me the choice of certain feats in the beginning would be a question of roleplay, they would reflect the kind of combat (or specialties of other kind) that it makes sense for your character to have.

Of course, you have to have various options, and make it that no one set of special feats or what have you would be so essential that people would choose them in spite of their character's mojo; but then that becomes a question of good rules design, rather than roleplay.


I agree with your points - and that actually wasn't what I was saying.

When rules block roleplaying, they tend to do so by their very mass.  Let me see if I can give an example.  You're at the D&D table.  Your GM is playing straight out of the book, all rules active.  And everything that you do is filtered therough the letter of the rules, even in places where it's a bad idea.  As such, you keep hitting places where the game world doesn't operate in accord with your play.

Yes, a more experienced and flexible GM can bend or ignore rules around situations to allow for all those little cases where the rules don't quite mesh.  In fact, they're advised to do so by the book.

My point is, even though it's a common GM skill to work around the rules in situations like this, they shouldn't have to.  Because their impression of when they should do that and mine will never quite match, meaning one of us will be irritated all the damn time.

Quote
Yup, that's exactly what I object to. Essentially in-system bribery to encourage "roleplay".  This differs from my own "roleplay award" in that this award is at the end of the session and for overall play, rather than encouraging specific instances of doing a specific kind of roleplay, which is where players will tend to try to force play into artificial pretzels of convoluted fabrication in order to get their points.

On "reward cycles"? Sure.


I'll put it together for my next post.  This time out, I'm just trying to get my stuff together.

Quote
Yup, but it seems to mean that they have a one-track-mind as to what kind of games they want to play, a very narrow view of there they get their rocks off with gaming, and this is what leads to the bizzare little microgames. Its practically a case where the chance that someone else would sincerely like the game that came out of this kind of fevered mindset is pretty minimal; and most of the people who are playing are doing so either because its "what's so hot right now" on the Forge or because they are changing it around in some pretty radical ways (or, more often than not, both).


Again, my impression of this is pretty neatly summed up in the model stuff below.

Quote
Which to me is part of the failing of Theorist mentality: this idea that every game must have a big overarching theme.  At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with a bunch of little themes, or historical or panoramic pastiche. This is only viewed as "wrong" by Theorists because they can't create their "GRAND UNIFIED THEORY OF How Smart I Am".


Every game?  Nope.  Every game I personally want to play?  Nope.  Most of the ones I talk about most often, because they're new to me?

You bet.

Quote
*Snip Amber stuff*


While I disagree with your statements about theorists there, we're already arguing that one on other fronts.  I do agree with the innovative nature of Amber.

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*Snip RPGnet Stuff*


You've gone into details to a degree that I cannot argue your statements without stepping away from the basic rules that my position there requires.  As such, I note my disagreement, and will leave it at that.

Quote
Please do, show me your model.


Okay.  This is going to be kind of long; that's part of why I gave fairly short answers to some of your statements above.  

It consists of a few basic assertions, and misuses exactly one word, as far as I can tell (and yes, I'm looking for a better one); then there's some explanation of the assertions.

First Assertion: Boxes inside each other
A game has three basic things that can be easily examined and tooled around with, each contained within one of the others.  The first thing is the consensus of the group.  Consensus contains the rules.  The rules contain the mechanics.  To define those terms clearly:

   Consensus: The Consensus is the whole mass of stuff that people bring to the table that they can agree on, whether they actually talk about it or not.  When a group goes over group stuff, they're usually either just clearing up how their consensus works, or adding more stuff to it.  

Rules: Every clearly stated part of the consensus is a rule.  That includes if we roll dice, what dice we roll, and if we re-roll dice that go onto the floor, as well as who buys the pizza, whose house we play at, and so on.  This is the one term I may be misusing; I've considered calling it "agreements' instead, but that's a bit uppity-sounding.

Mechanics: Mechanics are a specific kind of rule.  A mechanic is a rule that governs and works with numbers, ratings, and such.  A rule that says "a gun does 2d6 damage" is a mechanic.  A rule that says "reroll dice that hit the floor" isn't.

Second Assertion: The Playstyle Wedge
My group plays the game in a way that's different from yours.  We have different goals, want different kinds of satisfaction or fun, use different "stances" at different times, and so on.  Different people have varying levels of authority.  

However, if I'm providing my group with a style of play that they can buy into and enjoy, and so are you, then both of us are doing things right.  Our playstyles are one solid piece, internally consistent in and of themselves, but they are different styles despite that.

I show this as a wedge on the pictures below, but the triangular shape is only important insofar in order to make my third point; it is not meant to mean that there's "more playstyle in consensus" or something dumb like that.

So here's the first picture - and yes, it looks a lot like the Big Model from the Forge:




Third Assertion: The Shape of the Game
Different games contain different "stuff".  D&D supports different a slightly different group of playstyles than GURPS, and a far different one from Amber, which is different again from Dogs in the Vineyard.

Now, one of the ways they differ, and possibly one of the most imortant ways, is how many different playstyles they support, and how clear the intent of the designer is as to the style or style it was build for.

GURPS 'looks' like the first picture.
There's plenty of room for different styles; you can play the game any number of ways.  However, the game doesn't 'show' the group a single clear way to play; they need to sort that out on their own.

Here's what Dogs in the Vineyard looks like:


The whole "wedge" is there - a complete, viable playstyle.  But there's no extra space around it.  This means two things.  First, the playstyle of the game is obvious, focused, and clear; reading the book, you can see the style of play it's intended for instantly, and everyone can get on that same page, if they're interested in playing at all, very quickly.  Second, the style the game was built for is the only one it supports.  If the style of the group wanders very far from the book, then you're on your own.

And here's what Amber looks like:


Again, there's the wedge, and the space around it.  There's some room to move around in terms of playstyle - but not as much as, say, GURPS.  And you can tell looking at the game what the general shape of the playstyle is going to be, but still need to fine-tune it to your group.

...

Okay, so, that's the shape of my model.  There's a whole lot of other stuff that goes with it - like ideas on how to get an solid playstyle that fits your group and the game, blah, blah, blah.  But that's the basic shape of it.

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« Reply #37 on: April 23, 2006, 02:08:00 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen

I agree with your points - and that actually wasn't what I was saying.

When rules block roleplaying, they tend to do so by their very mass.  Let me see if I can give an example.  You're at the D&D table.  Your GM is playing straight out of the book, all rules active.  And everything that you do is filtered therough the letter of the rules, even in places where it's a bad idea.  As such, you keep hitting places where the game world doesn't operate in accord with your play.

Yes, a more experienced and flexible GM can bend or ignore rules around situations to allow for all those little cases where the rules don't quite mesh.  In fact, they're advised to do so by the book.

My point is, even though it's a common GM skill to work around the rules in situations like this, they shouldn't have to.  Because their impression of when they should do that and mine will never quite match, meaning one of us will be irritated all the damn time.


Ok, I can grasp that. I still see it as more a problem of rules than of roleplay.


Quote

You've gone into details to a degree that I cannot argue your statements without stepping away from the basic rules that my position there requires.  As such, I note my disagreement, and will leave it at that.


Pity.

Quote

Okay.  This is going to be kind of long; that's part of why I gave fairly short answers to some of your statements above.  

It consists of a few basic assertions, and misuses exactly one word, as far as I can tell (and yes, I'm looking for a better one); then there's some explanation of the assertions.

First Assertion: Boxes inside each other

Second Assertion: The Playstyle Wedge

Third Assertion: The Shape of the Game

Okay, so, that's the shape of my model.  There's a whole lot of other stuff that goes with it - like ideas on how to get an solid playstyle that fits your group and the game, blah, blah, blah.  But that's the basic shape of it.


Ok, so how exactly is this useful for anything at all?

I mean, I can see in principle that it appears to be intended to find the best little diagram to fit your group's gaming interest, as though games are made only for certain groups based on the "kind of play" they address... is that it?

Only, I don't think about games in that way when I choose what games I want to run or not. And trying to organize them along the lines of "consensus" or "playstyle"; well, I don't know.
I think if you really want to figure out some kind of system to help you know whether you want to run a game or not, I would say the questions would be whether that game is orthodox or unorthodox, whether it encourages railroading, how sound the system is.

I just would really have no use for this kind of "unified theory". I mean that in he most literal sense, I'm not being mean, I simply can't fathom exactly how its intended to help in the real world. Which is really the problem I run into with virtually all theory I've seen thus far.

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« Reply #38 on: April 23, 2006, 03:52:44 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Ok, I can grasp that. I still see it as more a problem of rules than of roleplay.


It means that rules can be refined in ways that make roleplaying easier - though I will concede, now, that it's not by "creating" roleplay, but by not stopping it.  The difficulty, of course, is that going "whole hog" and pushing as far as possible to try and make it so the rules don't need little adjustments like this is hard; most games that try to go that full distance end up looking pretty strange, and the people working their hardest to do it try to do a lot of other things at the same time.

Quote
Ok, so how exactly is this useful for anything at all?


*Grin*

Every model has one and only one point of utility - when you put a problem in terms of that model, sometimes you see things you wouldn't have noticed otherwise; that's the benefit.  Every model also offers up a trap; if you get to used to thinking in the terms of the model, you get dismissive of things that don't fit - and if the terms of the model are a fair distance from "speaking plainly"...  well.

Having a clear glossary of all the different parts used to make a playstyle is helpful to me, because it lets my players tell me they want "more of this, less of that" - and some players are well-known for wanting something different, but not being able to express what the hell it is, so the terms sometimes spark them to being able to tell me what it is they want.

The advice I have on finding a group playstyle, that's also useful in and of itself.  But so far as I can tell, even though it grew out of me having this mental "picture" of games, I don't present the advice with the model because the advice now stands on it's own.

And, for now, that's it.  I have a few other things that I've been thinking over in these terms that might become something of real utility in the future, but we'll see.  As always, I'm just tossing darts at the board, and seeing what hits.

...moving on...

Reward Cycles
In play, people do all sorts of things, and want all kinds of different things from the game.  One way that groups have been staying "on the same page" since the very beginning is by rewarding specific behaviours.  If you do a specific thing, and do it in the "right way", you get a reward.  In D&D, the right thing is to overcome challenges, the right way to do it is so that they will not need to be faced again, and the reward is Xp, which translates into getting better at overcoming challenges.

And if that sounds a bit circular, that's exactly right.  The reward for having your fun in the way that the game supports is almost always more resources to use in order to do more things of exactly the same sort.

A reward cycle and how it is applied emphasizes a playstyle.  Because the most commonly rated challenges in D&D are monsters, the playstyle emphasized is basically one of fighting monsters.  If challenge ratings were attached to really different stuff, like "Talk down the hostage taker without making any rolls" - then two things would happen.  First, it would create a whole different playstyle.  Second, the system would start to feel really strange, because the reward that you'd be getting for negotiation is "getting more resources to use for action adventuring"; they wouldn't match up.

Now, rewards can be given at any point in the game - but the more that figuring and calculating are involved in using them, the more problems result in doing that.  Imagine having the fighter drop a foe, level up, and then continue that same swing with their brand new Cleave feat.  That's crazy talk, is what that is.

So, some groups want to have rewards flying around the table all the time, even given by other players.   It's a way of smoothing out and speeding up that whole process of negotiating what is and isn't lame, and of encouraging your fellow players; those are pretty cool things.  But rewards given out this way can't be as complex to use as XP.  So they change it up, and have things like "plot points" - see Theatrix, Primetime adventures, and Toon, for three totally different ways of using these.  Or whatever.

Now, I suspect you don't have a problem with the basic concept here, but with specific applications of it.  If so, name a couple, and we can get down to business on them.

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« Reply #39 on: April 24, 2006, 01:36:06 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
It means that rules can be refined in ways that make roleplaying easier - though I will concede, now, that it's not by "creating" roleplay, but by not stopping it.  The difficulty, of course, is that going "whole hog" and pushing as far as possible to try and make it so the rules don't need little adjustments like this is hard; most games that try to go that full distance end up looking pretty strange, and the people working their hardest to do it try to do a lot of other things at the same time.


Yes. To a certain degree it can be useful to think about this in designing a game, but after a certain point it creates more problems than its worth.


Quote

Every model has one and only one point of utility - when you put a problem in terms of that model, sometimes you see things you wouldn't have noticed otherwise; that's the benefit.  Every model also offers up a trap; if you get to used to thinking in the terms of the model, you get dismissive of things that don't fit - and if the terms of the model are a fair distance from "speaking plainly"...  well.


In the end all models try to classify why gamers play certain games; most models fail catastrophically at even attempting to explain why D&D is the most consistently popular RPG in the world, usually preferring to view it as a question of general ignorance + marketing rather than the reality that D&D is the best model from which you can design a successful RPG.
And, fundamentally, you are likely to have as much or more luck in classifying games (and gamers) by the type of dice they use as you would by the way they "approach narrative" or their style of play.

Quote

Having a clear glossary of all the different parts used to make a playstyle is helpful to me, because it lets my players tell me they want "more of this, less of that" - and some players are well-known for wanting something different, but not being able to express what the hell it is, so the terms sometimes spark them to being able to tell me what it is they want.


I've never run into this. Usually I address games by saying to my group of players "I'm thinking of running X campaign" or sometimes "x system", and my players will be into it. It helps also, of course, to have a wide pool of players from which to choose from, which is a luxury I have here in Uruguay. But even back in Canada, it was really more of a question of "what setting would be cool" or "what system do we want to play" rather than "what playstyle do my players want"?

Quote

Reward Cycles

Now, I suspect you don't have a problem with the basic concept here, but with specific applications of it.  If so, name a couple, and we can get down to business on them.


My main problem is how to handle these kinds of rewards (be they mechanical rewards for skill use or combat, or rewards for "roleplaying" or descriptions) in such a way that they don't warp the game themselves in a gratuitous fashion; where the players are pushed or could feel pushed to artificially replicate the situation that creates the reward just to get the reward.

The classic example of this in mechanics is in the classic Runequest, where you advanced in weapon skills only by using the weapon in question, and since you only advanced once it was more practical to carry a "wheelbarrow full of weapons" and alternate between each to get to earn an experience check with each.  Similar examples could be made of RPGs that gave rewards for "roleplaying" based on acting out certain character traits, flaws, or descriptions repeatedly.

The reward should be for organically natural play, not something that actually makes the players change their play JUST for the reward.

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« Reply #40 on: April 24, 2006, 03:19:27 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Yes. To a certain degree it can be useful to think about this in designing a game, but after a certain point it creates more problems than its worth.


I'm not so sure - I'd say that "after a certain point", the people chasing it are still, plainly, pretty new at it.  They've made some pretty impressive progress, and they've also made some pretty bad dud attempts.  And they're in a subculture that doesn't tolerate all that many duds.

Quote from: RPGPundit
In the end all models try to classify why gamers play certain games; most models fail catastrophically at even attempting to explain why D&D is the most consistently popular RPG in the world, usually preferring to view it as a question of general ignorance + marketing rather than the reality that D&D is the best model from which you can design a successful RPG.
And, fundamentally, you are likely to have as much or more luck in classifying games (and gamers) by the type of dice they use as you would by the way they "approach narrative" or their style of play.


Models are pretty consistently about reasons for play and how they affect playstyle, is how I'd put it.

As for why D&D is the most popular game, bar none, some reasons:

1. The game speaks directly to the reasons why the majority of players come to the table; they go to escape, vent steam, to imagine grand adventures and real heroes, and "be there" to a certain extent, doing the big stuff.

2. Material for it is written by people that are paid real money to do so, and who like their jobs (on the whole).  They thus provide consistently quality material (again, on the whole).

3. Name Recognition and market placement.

4. Production values.  Art, layout, color.

5. Networking; you know that you can probably find a group.

Personally, I dig on #2.  Items 3, 4, and 5 mean less to me than most gamers, and I like to change up the stuff in #1.  So it's a good game among many, to me.  But I'm not blind to the reality of it.

Also, I like d12's, and would love to read a thesis where someone tried to peg my preferences by that.

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I've never run into this. Usually I address games by saying to my group of players "I'm thinking of running X campaign" or sometimes "x system", and my players will be into it. It helps also, of course, to have a wide pool of players from which to choose from, which is a luxury I have here in Uruguay. But even back in Canada, it was really more of a question of "what setting would be cool" or "what system do we want to play" rather than "what playstyle do my players want"?


For me, with my extended group, I can pretty much find a play group before my hat hits the floor, for whatever I like.  After that, it's all about how we want to play it.

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My main problem is how to handle these kinds of rewards (be they mechanical rewards for skill use or combat, or rewards for "roleplaying" or descriptions) in such a way that they don't warp the game themselves in a gratuitous fashion; where the players are pushed or could feel pushed to artificially replicate the situation that creates the reward just to get the reward.

The classic example of this in mechanics is in the classic Runequest, where you advanced in weapon skills only by using the weapon in question, and since you only advanced once it was more practical to carry a "wheelbarrow full of weapons" and alternate between each to get to earn an experience check with each.  Similar examples could be made of RPGs that gave rewards for "roleplaying" based on acting out certain character traits, flaws, or descriptions repeatedly.

The reward should be for organically natural play, not something that actually makes the players change their play JUST for the reward.


Yes and no - I think the rewards should flow naturally with the style of play that the game itself encourages, whatever that is.  In may ways, a reward system is the way to "encourage" whatever it is the game is built for.  But whenever the reward system doesn't actually match up with that playstyle just right, there will be problems.  Sometimes bizzare ones, like the "wheelbarrow of weapons", sometimes huge ones, like the group of D&D players that are there to be diplomats with a GM that can't figure out how to hack the system.

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« Reply #41 on: April 24, 2006, 04:02:32 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen

Models are pretty consistently about reasons for play and how they affect playstyle, is how I'd put it.


Right, the "who" and "why" rather than the "what". But I think that if they don't address the "what" first, then they don't really get accurately at the other two, and if they do address the "what", the "who" and "why" become pretty self evident.

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As for why D&D is the most popular game, bar none, some reasons:


Your reasons are all basically true statements, but "network externalities" aside, I think that the number one reason why D&D is the most popular game is because the game is focused on play, on being a game, and yet has nothing inherent to it that prevents sophisticated and profound games. It need NOT be just escapist steam-venting monster-bashing; it is designed to accomodate using the rules for tactical monster-bashing AND sophisticated roleplay without having to add anything to the rules.
A good RPG is one that can do both of those things, the way D&D does.

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Also, I like d12's, and would love to read a thesis where someone tried to peg my preferences by that.


Here is my game theory:

RPGPundit's Dice-Derived Game Theory

People do not choose RPGs based on their narrative needs or story needs. Most people do not really have any of those kinds of needs; they haven't thought about them, wouldn't feel strongly about them even if they did think about them, and would probably just make shit up if asked about it from fear of not looking intellectual enough.
Most people would also not have a clue which games would fit which "playstyles",  given that no one can seem to agree on how to categorize playstyles in the first place.

Instead, people will usually gravitate to differing RPGs for entirely shallow reasons, purely aesthetic elements that reflect more about their extrovert personality than their introverted "needs". You can identify types of gamers and the kind of games they enjoy more from the kind of dice that they favour than from any subjective set of jargon about "playstyles".

Gamers that like D20s are mostly interested in rapid, fun play. They like a good solid ruleset, want games to be coherent without being too completist, and  will in no way be picky or selective about the games they play as long as its fun to play. They are by a VAST majority the most common kind of gamer.

Gamers that like D6s don't care about how a game looks, they care about how it works. What kind of dice a game use doesn't matter, a simple D6 is enough, its more important that the rules BE there.  They are technical perfectionists, wanting games that function with detail and consistency. They don't fear big rulebooks. They want games that demand a serious level of commitment; and are seeking out a kind of perfect game system, a set of rules so thurough and complete that they cover everything.

Gamers that like percentile dice (not D10s, but rolling 2D10s as percentiles) are a cross between D20 and D6 people. They want something solid and dependable, but simple to understand. So simple you can express it in percentiles.  Getting to the game is very importance, but the mechanics have to be there.

Gamers that like D10s, on the other hand, prefer play that's mostly style over substance. D10s are the only dice that aren't Platonic Solids. This clearly means that D10 lovers are clearly degenerates (unless they're percentage lovers, who aren't really dice lovers at all).  They actually care more about a game looking and acting cool and being thought of as "hip" than actually working. Ease of play and fun aren't as important as the "fulfillment" of seeming to do something important.

Gamers that like D12s or D8s are the ones who enjoy wierd for wierd's sake. They aren't as purely solipsistic as the D10-lovers, they enjoy mechanics, but they want mechanics that aren't orthodox. They want mechanics that are generally counter-intuitive; and generally don't want complexity as much as they want originality. They aren't looking for the perfect game system, they're looking for a new game system every week.

Gamers who like D4s are sadomasochistic sexual deviants who enjoy being molested by lizards.

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For me, with my extended group, I can pretty much find a play group before my hat hits the floor, for whatever I like.  After that, it's all about how we want to play it.


I don't get this though; with very particular and rare exceptions, this is something that I've never had to TALK THROUGH with any group of mine ever. In most cases, its pretty self-evident: "we want to play it like an RPG".

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Yes and no - I think the rewards should flow naturally with the style of play that the game itself encourages, whatever that is.  In may ways, a reward system is the way to "encourage" whatever it is the game is built for.  But whenever the reward system doesn't actually match up with that playstyle just right, there will be problems.  Sometimes bizzare ones, like the "wheelbarrow of weapons", sometimes huge ones, like the group of D&D players that are there to be diplomats with a GM that can't figure out how to hack the system.


I do not accept your presumption, in this statement, that RPGs can only be "built for" one thing at a time, or only one "playstyle". I have no problem running D&D/D20 as a diplomatic/political campaign. None in the least. Its built for that just as much as its built for combat, or exploration/pastiche, or character interation. It can do all of those things.
So while in certain cases you could be right that the "rewards" system would run into trouble if it didn't match the game's goals, in many games this would not be the case. It would be more common a problem that the "rewards" system is just badly designed, or unnecessary in the first place.
In the case of the "wheelbarrow of weapons", for example, the problem isn't that Runequest isn't made for weapon use. Its clearly made for combat/weapons use. Its just that the mechanic is badly made; it fails to take player greed into account and allows players to create artificial situations where they engage in metagaming: doing things not because it fits your character but because it is mechanically encouraged.

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« Reply #42 on: April 24, 2006, 12:48:31 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Right, the "who" and "why" rather than the "what". But I think that if they don't address the "what" first, then they don't really get accurately at the other two, and if they do address the "what", the "who" and "why" become pretty self evident.


Not if the "what" isn't satisfying to the players.  

Quote from: RPGPundit
Your reasons are all basically true statements, but "network externalities" aside, I think that the number one reason why D&D is the most popular game is because the game is focused on play, on being a game, and yet has nothing inherent to it that prevents sophisticated and profound games. It need NOT be just escapist steam-venting monster-bashing; it is designed to accomodate using the rules for tactical monster-bashing AND sophisticated roleplay without having to add anything to the rules.
A good RPG is one that can do both of those things, the way D&D does.


Add anything?  Nope.  Take things away?  Yep, sometimes.  Like, say, you don't use a Diplomacy check *every* time your character tries to convince an NPC of something, do you?

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RPGPundit's Dice-Derived Game Theory


Damn, that's fun.

Some stuff...

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People do not choose RPGs based on their narrative needs or story needs. Most people do not really have any of those kinds of needs; they haven't thought about them, wouldn't feel strongly about them even if they did think about them, and would probably just make shit up if asked about it from fear of not looking intellectual enough.
Most people would also not have a clue which games would fit which "playstyles",  given that no one can seem to agree on how to categorize playstyles in the first place.


Most people do not have story "needs".  Sure, true.  But many people like stories in RPGs.

I actually try not to categorize whole playstyles, anymore.  Instead, I mostly just try to categorize pieces that make up playstyles.  It's less of a fiction, that way around, and more likely to produce something useful to the majority at some point, since they tend to have styles that are really, really closely related.

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I don't get this though; with very particular and rare exceptions, this is something that I've never had to TALK THROUGH with any group of mine ever. In most cases, its pretty self-evident: "we want to play it like an RPG".


Do you play all games the same way?  

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I do not accept your presumption, in this statement, that RPGs can only be "built for" one thing at a time, or only one "playstyle". I have no problem running D&D/D20 as a diplomatic/political campaign. None in the least. Its built for that just as much as its built for combat, or exploration/pastiche, or character interation. It can do all of those things.
So while in certain cases you could be right that the "rewards" system would run into trouble if it didn't match the game's goals, in many games this would not be the case. It would be more common a problem that the "rewards" system is just badly designed, or unnecessary in the first place.
In the case of the "wheelbarrow of weapons", for example, the problem isn't that Runequest isn't made for weapon use. Its clearly made for combat/weapons use. Its just that the mechanic is badly made; it fails to take player greed into account and allows players to create artificial situations where they engage in metagaming: doing things not because it fits your character but because it is mechanically encouraged.


Oh, a game can be built for more than one playstyle.  

D&D isn't that game.

Open your PHB, version 3.5, to page 4.  Ignore the "Why a Revision?" bar at the bottom.  Read the rest.  That's a playstyle, and every single line of text from that point onward backs up that style in every way.

That syle includes negotiation, roleplaying, pastiche, and character interaction.

It does not make room for "a battle of verbal wits" in any rules-governed meaningful sense.  Nor does it concern itself with matters of moral judgement in anything but the most basic senses.  It doesn't do these things because these things are far enough outside the clearly-laid-down playstyle of the game that including them would do nothing but confuse the design of the game.

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« Reply #43 on: April 24, 2006, 04:52:38 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Not if the "what" isn't satisfying to the players.  


The "what" in question is "what kind of game do they want to play" (as opposed to "who is playing x type of game" or "why does x person game", which are the two more typical theorist questions).  If you answer the "what" for each person, you answer the other two automatically.

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Add anything?  Nope.  Take things away?  Yep, sometimes.  Like, say, you don't use a Diplomacy check *every* time your character tries to convince an NPC of something, do you?


Usually, yes. Of course, the diplomacy check is done in combination with the roleplaying the player does.
But wait, are you saying you disapprove of social mechanics?

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Damn, that's fun.

Some stuff...

Most people do not have story "needs".  Sure, true.  But many people like stories in RPGs.


Sure, but I'm saying that's not the best way to figure out what kind of game is for what kind of player.

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I actually try not to categorize whole playstyles, anymore.  Instead, I mostly just try to categorize pieces that make up playstyles.  It's less of a fiction, that way around, and more likely to produce something useful to the majority at some point, since they tend to have styles that are really, really closely related.


I'll grant that makes more sense than categorizing whole playstyles. One of the biggest failings of GNS is that gamers can be "gamists" "narrativists" and "simulationists" all in one fell swoop. Usually they're combinations of at least two, and more often all three "types": and likewise, all of the most succesful games in Roleplaying are games that allow for the application of ALL three types of play, something that is directly counter the assertion of GNS theory, where a "better" game is one which only handles one type of play specifically.

If GNS were true, Sorceror or My Life With Master would be the most successful RPGs of all time. Even taking market realities into account, they would at least be vastly more successful than they are. But they're not. So they're wrong.

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Do you play all games the same way?  


All RPGs, basically yes. Some are played with different conventions to fit emulation of genre, but all are played "like RPGs". As in, with the GM, the players, the fixed roles, the character sheets, the dice (except Amber), etc etc.
There's never been a need to discuss with my group "how" we want to play, say, the Traveller campaign, because that is clearly outlined from the start.

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Oh, a game can be built for more than one playstyle.  

D&D isn't that game.

Open your PHB, version 3.5, to page 4.  Ignore the "Why a Revision?" bar at the bottom.  Read the rest.  That's a playstyle, and every single line of text from that point onward backs up that style in every way.

That syle includes negotiation, roleplaying, pastiche, and character interaction.


Um, unless you and I have very different definitions of "Playstyle", would not a game that can range from a group of 12 year olds doing a game of fighting orcs and getting a lot of treasure and casting magic missle, to a group doing a game of exploring the Eastern Shaar mapping new trade routes, to a group doing a game of politics and intrigue in the Roman senate during an election, all be very different playstyles? When I'm saying "playstyle" I mean say: "pure hack and slash", "pastiche travellogue", "political-social intrigue", "humour", "epic warfare", etc etc. Those are all different types of play.
Of course, I realize now you could be meaning "playstyles" here as in "shared storytelling" or "co-operative group exercises" or other such stuff. But I don't see how any of that would have anything to do with the problems and pitfalls of a Reward Cycle, which is what we were talking about here.

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It does not make room for "a battle of verbal wits" in any rules-governed meaningful sense.


But that's the point; in the omission of rules to regulate that sort of stuff, it allows actual roleplay to occur. D20 has rules for the stuff that needs to be regulated. You don't need rules to regulate "a battle of verbal wits", you just have to play it out.

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 Nor does it concern itself with matters of moral judgement in anything but the most basic senses.  


You can use D&D/D20 to handle that too, if you want to: There's no reason you couldn't do a D20 Dogs In the Vinyard, or even a D20 Dragonraid, horrifying as either of those prospects might be.

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It doesn't do these things because these things are far enough outside the clearly-laid-down playstyle of the game that including them would do nothing but confuse the design of the game.


I think including those types of things as RULES confuses the design of pretty  much any game.

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« Reply #44 on: April 24, 2006, 10:00:32 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
The "what" in question is "what kind of game do they want to play" (as opposed to "who is playing x type of game" or "why does x person game", which are the two more typical theorist questions).  If you answer the "what" for each person, you answer the other two automatically.


I don't find that you always do.

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Usually, yes. Of course, the diplomacy check is done in combination with the roleplaying the player does.
But wait, are you saying you disapprove of social mechanics?


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

And, no, I don't disaprove of social mechinics.  What I don't like is when I want to play a certain way, the mechanics don't go with that - D&D doesn't get in my way, usually, but we "skip rolls" as often as not.  Dogs in the Vineyard actually inspires me to new ideas in play.  But Exalted blocks the fuck out of me in "social combat".

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Sure, but I'm saying that's not the best way to figure out what kind of game is for what kind of player.


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?

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I'll grant that makes more sense than categorizing whole playstyles. One of the biggest failings of GNS is that gamers can be "gamists" "narrativists" and "simulationists" all in one fell swoop. Usually they're combinations of at least two, and more often all three "types": and likewise, all of the most succesful games in Roleplaying are games that allow for the application of ALL three types of play, something that is directly counter the assertion of GNS theory, where a "better" game is one which only handles one type of play specifically.

If GNS were true, Sorceror or My Life With Master would be the most successful RPGs of all time. Even taking market realities into account, they would at least be vastly more successful than they are. But they're not. So they're wrong.


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.

See what I mean?

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All RPGs, basically yes. Some are played with different conventions to fit emulation of genre, but all are played "like RPGs". As in, with the GM, the players, the fixed roles, the character sheets, the dice (except Amber), etc etc.
There's never been a need to discuss with my group "how" we want to play, say, the Traveller campaign, because that is clearly outlined from the start.


XXXXXXXXXX

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Um, unless you and I have very different definitions of "Playstyle", would not a game that can range from a group of 12 year olds doing a game of fighting orcs and getting a lot of treasure and casting magic missle, to a group doing a game of exploring the Eastern Shaar mapping new trade routes, to a group doing a game of politics and intrigue in the Roman senate during an election, all be very different playstyles? When I'm saying "playstyle" I mean say: "pure hack and slash", "pastiche travellogue", "political-social intrigue", "humour", "epic warfare", etc etc. Those are all different types of play.
Of course, I realize now you could be meaning "playstyles" here as in "shared storytelling" or "co-operative group exercises" or other such stuff. But I don't see how any of that would have anything to do with the problems and pitfalls of a Reward Cycle, which is what we were talking about here.


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.

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.

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But that's the point; in the omission of rules to regulate that sort of stuff, it allows actual roleplay to occur. D20 has rules for the stuff that needs to be regulated. You don't need rules to regulate "a battle of verbal wits", you just have to play it out.

You can use D&D/D20 to handle that too, if you want to: There's no reason you couldn't do a D20 Dogs In the Vinyard, or even a D20 Dragonraid, horrifying as either of those prospects might be.


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.

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.[/QUOTE]

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

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I think including those types of things as RULES confuses the design of pretty much any game.


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.