Ron Edwards Vs Tobias Wrigstad at InterNosCon 2010!

edited August 2010 in Stuff to Watch
At InternNosCon 2010. May 7-9, 2010, in Lido di Classe, Ravenna (Italy) the Official International Guests were Ron Edwards and Tobias Wrigstad of Vi åker jeep. A meeting/conference/question&answer session with the public was organized and filmed, and now, at last, the work of putting it all online is finished!

The conference is in English, with Claudia Cangini of Narrattiva translating from and to Italian for the not-english speaking public.

It's almost two hours of two very different rpg worlds colliding! See the clash of titans!

The links:
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 01 di 13 8' 33"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 02 di 13 9' 58"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 03 di 13 9' 43"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 04 di 13 7' 35"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 05 di 13 9' 01"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 06 di 13 8' 45"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 07 di 13 9' 39"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 08 di 13 9' 25" (this one at the beginning show "9 su 10" instead di "8 su 13", it's an error)
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 09 di 13 9' 30"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 10 di 13 8' 37"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 11 di 13 9' 57"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 12 di 13 8' 52"
InterNosCon 2010 - Ron Edwards (USA) & Tobias Wrigstad (Sweden), 13 di 13 6' 16"

For a total od 115' 51" (almost two hours!)

Comments

  • Started watching this; very interesting! Thanks for this, Moreno!
  • TL;DW

    Bill, flag the good parts!
  • Here's my summary of the first three parts:

    Part 1. Ron begins by asserting that the history of role-playing that you'd get just from looking at the games on the shelves in the stores misrepresents the true history of RPGs, which is one of ongoing constant independent game design efforts taking place at the tables of individual groups; they may say, “Oh yes, we play Dungeons & Dragons,” but if you look at what they’re doing, you’ll see they’ve invented a whole new game -- perhaps without even being aware of it. So Gygax and Arneson didn’t invent role-playing; it was just one of several concurrent efforts in that direction, represented by multiple publications. Tobias interjects that the current state of games today makes that process much harder, because D&D and its ilk were profoundly broken, and players had to come up with ways of dealing with what was missing. “Today we make games that are really small and tight” and there is thus less need for individuals at the table to fix them. “So we’re moving away from what Ron is talking about.” Ron agrees in principle, but the larger historical point is that the creative ferment we saw in the late 1970s was silenced (even though it continued albeit voicelessly) by the publishing practices and “certain ideals” of the hobby, and only the advent of the Internet and the independent publishing movement at the beginning of the 21st century allowed it to be heard once more. He wants to hear Tobias as saying that the resulting dialogue produces more coherent games.

    Part 2. Tobias thinks Ron hasn’t exactly captured what he was saying. He is not so much concerned with “the dialogue” as with the process of creating games. His point is that the games of old wanted to completely model the physical world whereas “today we make a game about catching mice and that’s all there is to it, and [thus] there’s no incentive for players to extend the game as much as there was before.” The dissemination of communication and printing technologies and practices has indeed made it easier for individuals to become creators, Tobias goes on, but “the culture of patching and extending games is dying.” Ron muses that the change may be a shift from “desperation to inspiration” on the part of creators. He tells the story of a “crazy guy” who in 1999, 2000, was writing little one-page gamelets and posting them on the Internet. He wouldn’t ever create a complete game, this fellow thought, because there was no audience for his work, but posting them on the Internet felt a little better than just squirreling them away in his notebook. “The name of one of those games,” Ron says, “was Inspectres.” Ron was inspired by this effort, which gave him a new perspective on the act of designing games: it didn’t have to be about creating the perfect all-encompassing game that could do everything. “What I hear you saying is that we are lowering the bar on what is considered a game,” Tobias replies, “and I agree.” A game that’s about everything is about nothing. Ron calls for questions; a woman asks about a game like Solar System, “where you have to create specific rules for your own setting”; is this a good thing (because you’re designing rules to suit your setting) or a bad thing (because you’re not designing your own game). Ron ducks the question. “I’m not sure we need to classify games as good or bad on this kind of variable,” he says. The real question, he says, is whatever it does, does it do it well? The danger of the question about good or bad is that it may lead to identity politics. “Does that answer your question?” To a degree, the woman responds, but the question was less about good or bad than about the underlying creative impulse. Tobias interjects a parable. “I live in a solar system, and I make games; this is exactly the situation in the world today.” The premise of the question, he wonders, is that nothing exists in the game from the start; one has to create it for oneself. Correct, yes? Just so; so it is with Tobias himself. The difference is that the solar system that he lives in is a pervasive game, and it inspires him to make certain games, games that are about certain things. The woman’s game may allow her to fill the universe with rules, but those rules aren’t necessarily about anything.

    Part 3. Another question, prompted by the discussion of Solar System, seems to be from an audience member who is trying to use it for White Wolf’s Werewolf setting. Ron says that Solar System is unlike previous games that said, “This is the game, this is all the game you will ever need.” Unlike GURPS or FUDGE, for example, Solar System is not generic, not “neutral”; it has properties: the Key is the heart of the game. Tobias catches on that “Solar System” is the name of a game. He disses White Wolf, and Ron agrees. “But!” Ron goes on, imagine that there are people who are genuinely inspired by the World of Darkness, and find something powerful or resonant within it, as well as something useful about Solar System’s Key-centered game mechanics. In those circumstances, it is no longer necessary to worry about whether you and your group are “playing it right”; you can just play. It is no longer a painful, year-by-year, session-by-session process of figuring out how to game should be played. Summing up the discussion thus far, Ron says that “Our first claim . . . is that the current design culture has recovered and celebrates the origins of the role-playing” without requiring the desperate isolation that had hitherto characterized RPG design. Ron says “Now we have the theory.” Not so, Tobias says. He says that RPG designers have no clue about theory. What they have to do in order to make a contribution to game design--and this is different from previous circumstances in that once game designers could make a contribution by making an incremental improvement to an existing, obviously broken design--is create a coherent package of their own essentially from scratch. This is harder.
  • Thanks, Bill!

    NOW YOU MUST KEEP GOING
  • Thanks to pointing to this.

    Bill's comprehensive recap is much (MUCH) more palatable than the jarring microphone war between the interpreter and participants. At about episode 10, Ron declares it a non-debate in that he bares no ill-will against LARPers. Curiously, the microphone and formal enviroment gave setting to Ron's didactic nature.

    I had trouble loading a few of the videos. Maybe it's the time of night.
  • Bill, thanks so much! I've tried to watch these videos, but ghod, all the interruptions and the translation (yes, I know it had to be there, and the translator did a great job, but watching it on video is an anti-flow experience).

    So pretty please, keep going with the recaps!
  • I agree that what Bill's doing is precious.
  • Translating has to be the one career where being beautiful gets you fired. Good lord, how could anyone pay attention to Ron and Tobias?

    Paul
  • edited August 2010
    Tobias is the hottest! It's all relative :-)
  • Tobias said, “Today we make games that are really small and tight” and there is thus less need for individuals at the table to fix them. “So we’re moving away from what Ron is talking about.”

    I would argue that D&D was always "small and tight" but that people tried using it for more than it was designed for (a game about a party of adventurers going into dungeons and finding loot) and found that unsatisfactory and blamed D&D for not adhering to their goals for roleplaying. We now have enough variety of games to address those goals and they seem "small and tight" compared to D&D only because of all the ways we attempted to use D&D.

    Maybe I'm wrong.
  • This is really good stuff. I think it's interesting how the encounter between the two men is less a confrontation than a juxtaposition of two different trajectories through the recent history of role-playing. Ron advances a vision of an increasingly pluralistic role-playing meta-culture in which silenced voices are once more unfettered, lost tribes are brought into the fold, and an on-going conversation permits experimentation and mature judgment. Isn't this ultimately what the Forge is supposed to be all about? Similarly, Tobias talks about a movement toward designs that are compact, narrowly focused, and thematically resonant. If that's not a description of jeepform, I don't know what it is.

    Part 4. “Let us consider however that we now have a medium for discussion of playing,” Ron says. Imagine the group that “we’re identifying with and pitying at the same time” (i.e., Vampire players) and hope that they can enter into an honest intellectual discussion about role-playing online, and reach resolutions that hitherto would only come about through design. “They would have had to design a game; now they can talk to other people,” Ron says. “Whether this is good or bad I don’t know.” Tobias responds, “What you’re saying is that we don’t have a huge respect for truth in role-playing rules anymore.” Ron considers this and nods his head. “Yes,” he says. Because designers don’t have to be concerned with coming up with an all-encompassing One True rules set, he concludes, “There’s less psychological therapy in the act of design and more true dialogue.”

    Tobias asks, “Is that because we’re growing old, and we’re growing old enough to say, ‘Fuck this game; I don’t believe that this is the proper damage for a two-handed sword’” He wonders if the “the newbies of today” are caught in the same things that he was at their age. Are they part of the conversation, or are they participating in the identity seeking, committing themselves to D&D 3.5 because 4.0 is obviously so terrible. “Well, let’s look at the younger generation,” Ron replies. He has two things to say. First, “There is a person who wrote a role-playing game predicated on the idea that the two-handed sword damage was all wrong.” That game was called The Riddle of Steel. Second, where [in the old days] did people learn what counted as a good game? “They learned it in the store.” The retailer was the insider, and they knew everything about role-playing, and they knew how to do it right, and they would inform the 10-year-old game buyer what was what. “I think this was a toxic environment,” Ron says. But there’s been a transformation of stores and more importantly, all of these 15-year-olds are on-line now, and can discount what an uninformed retailer might tell them.

    One thing that’s getting lost, Tobias says, is “How large a percentage of kids today or people today that are roleplayers are involved in the making and designing games, and how many are actively engaged in this debate and discussion on the Internet. I would expect that it’s a really really small percentage, and [so] we’re looking at this from inside a bubble that we’re a part of.” Ron agrees; the situation is improved, but not a complete transformation of role-playing.
    Posted By: Michael Pfaffobias said,“Today we make games that are really small and tight” and there is thus less need for individuals at the table to fix them. “So we’re moving away from what Ron is talking about.”

    I would argue that D&D was always "small and tight" but that people tried using it for more than it was designed for (a game about a party of adventurers going into dungeons and finding loot) and found that unsatisfactory and blamed D&D for not adhering to their goals for roleplaying. We now have enough variety of games to address those goals and they seem "small and tight" compared to D&D only because of all the ways we attempted to use D&D.
    I'm not sure about this claim. Didn't AD&D have rules for henchmen and hirelings that you'd want when you built your castle in the wilderness once you got to high enough level? Are you saying that those rules were there because people were "using it for more than it was designed for"? Or what? I suspect that "what it was designed for" with respect to D&D is actually a big can of worms.
  • Let's also not forget that D&D was designed by many people for many different commercial and artistic reasons over any year you care to mention.
  • Yeah, I just don't think you'd need to fix much about D&D (original D&D) if you were using it for the dungeon crawl experience. *shrug* You only need to "fix" things when you try using it for something else. Maybe that's just me.

    I can see clearly that the design of D&D over the years has gone from a tighter experience (OD&D), to a wider "generic fantasy" system (2E/3E) and back to a tighter focus on dungeon crawling (4E). I think you can look at that and see how the trends in RPGs have evolved over the years.
  • Posted By: Michael PfaffYeah, I just don't think you'd need to fix much about D&D (original D&D) if you were using it for the dungeon crawl experience. *shrug* You only need to "fix" things when you try using it for something else. Maybe that's just me.

    I can see clearly that the design of D&D over the years has gone from a tighter experience (OD&D), to a wider "generic fantasy" system (2E/3E) and back to a tighter focus on dungeon crawling (4E). I think you can look at that and see how the trends in RPGs have evolved over the years.
    Oh, okay. I don't think that's controversial, although it's certainly the case that the interpretive eye that you bring to the game text will color your perception of what it's for. If you think that the point of the written rules is to get certain things out of the way so that you can concentrate on the role-playing, then your understanding of how those rules serve you will be different than if you believe that the game text is supposed to give you procedures for everything that's important. In this regard, Jason's point that there were lots of different D&Ds is well-taken: who designed what now? (In this, he's supported by Ron, who says that Gygax and Arneson didn't invent (didn't design!) D&D, at least not in the way that many people assume. You can't just read the box set rulebooks and understand what D&D was to that first generation of players; there was an oral tradition involved, and a lot of "cargo-cult" game design going on as well.)

    This gets into the "ought" part: what ought a game do or be? This is the point upon which Ron and Tobias seem to agree: if you believe that your game rules are supposed to let you simulate any in-game eventuality that might occur, then you will search for the One True Rules and since no rules set can possibly be completely faithful to every aspect of reality, RPG discussion turns into identity politics. But if you think your game rules should be focused on doing the particular thing you want this specific game that you're interested in playing right now to do, then RPG discussion can move to a dialogue about how to achieve the play objectives you're interested in achieving. This is the point that Ron is mainly interested in advancing, it seems to me.
  • Posted By: Bill_WhiteThis is really good stuff. I think it's interesting how the encounter between the two men is less a confrontation than a juxtaposition of two different trajectories through the recent history of role-playing. Ron advances a vision of an increasingly pluralistic role-playing meta-culture in which silenced voices are once more unfettered, lost tribes are brought into the fold, and an on-going conversation permits experimentation and mature judgment. Isn't this ultimately what the Forge is supposed to be all about? Similarly, Tobias talks about a movement toward designs that are compact, narrowly focused, and thematically resonant. If that's not a description of jeepform, I don't know what it is.
    So what you're saying is, here we have to white guys (i. e. privileged dominant males from western societies), telling us that history so far has naturally and inevitably led us to the pinnacle of gaming evolution, which they represent? ;) All we need now is for one of them to say that we now know everything there is to know.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: MatthijsSo what you're saying is, here we have to white guys (i. e. privileged dominant males from western societies), telling us that history so far has naturally and inevitably led us to the pinnacle of gaming evolution, which they represent? ;) All we need now is for one of them to say that we now know everything there is to know.
    No, we have someone who comment on something that he could have seen before commenting, but he didn't bother to...

    All as usual in RPGForumland. Nothing new here...
  • Posted By: Moreno R.No, we have someone who comment on something that he could have seen before commenting, but he didn't bother to...

    All as usual in RPGForumland. Nothing new here...
    Moreno, I'm just poking a bit of fun. I've seen some of the videos, and I've definitely heard both Tobias and Ron talk before - and read what they're about. They're good guys, and they're doing great things for role-playing.
  • Posted By: MatthijsMoreno, I'm just poking a bit of fun
    This is the kind of "fun" that in this forum NEVER end well.
  • On Story Games? It always ends well. We're the most peaceful, friendly, diplomatic forum in the hood.

    Anyway, this is good stuff, even if pretty much everything Ron is saying I've heard (read) him say before in (not) so many words. But discussion is always awesome.

    And massive kudos to Bill for doing these wrap-up/transcripts. You're a legend.
  • Posted By: Moreno R.Posted By: MatthijsMoreno, I'm just poking a bit of fun
    This is the kind of "fun" that in this forum NEVER end well.

    (sounds of thunder are heard in the distance)

    (lightning flashes)

    (ill-boding music starts playing)

    (the four horsemen of the apocalypse tremble in their tattered clothes)
  • Posted By: MatthijsSo what you're saying is, here we have to white guys (i. e. privileged dominant males from western societies), telling us that history so far has naturally and inevitably led us to the pinnacle of gaming evolution, which they represent? ;) All we need now is for one of them to say that we now know everything there is to know.
    Ehi, look! An original Nørwegian Troll! Scary!
  • edited August 2010
    Ok, Ron apologists, we get it, no one should dare point out that his being a white male (an extreme version from what I can tell) colours his opinions and how he presents them (like by presenting them as facts instead of, you know, opinions).

    Don't you have some White Wolfers you can get sectioned or something?

    I'm with Matthijs (whether or not Matthijs is actually where I'm placing him). Ron does say things of value, but a lot of times his opinions are coloured strongly by the fact that he's a straight white male (as are his games and theories for that matter). Basically, his words should be taken with a grain of salt, and pointing that out isn't trolling.
  • Posted By: chearns
    I'm with Matthijs (whether or not Matthijs is actually where I'm placing him). Ron does say things of value, but a lot of times his opinions are coloured strongly by the fact that he's a straight white male (as are his games and theories for that matter). Basically, his words should be taken with a grain of salt, and pointing that out isn't trolling.
    His opinions should totally be taken with a grain of salt. Not because of the racial/cultural context from which they come but because he's human and this whole big thing is a dialog.
  • edited August 2010
    Jesus christ you people, Matthijs was just making a joke. If you want to argue racial politics and Hegelian eurocentrism, start another thread.
  • Posted By: JuddHis opinions should totally be taken with a grain of salt. Not because of the racial/cultural context from which they come but because he's human and this whole big thing is a dialog.
    Very much this. But then, this whole idea of "dialogue" is a white male invention anyway, so you're just perpetuating the incidious cycle of western rationalism by suggesting that nobody is exempt from critical challenge. Next you'll say something about ideas being separate from the people who present them, and I'll be forced to agree with you because I'm white and objective debate is our trick for enforcing our racio-cultural viewpoint on the world.
    Posted By: TeataineIf you want to argue racial politics and Hegelian eurocentrism, start another thread.
    I'm there with bells on. I'm also joking, but see if anybody notices that.
  • I donno, I think the discussion format is such that it's pretty clear that it's only his (completely wrong in every possible way) opinion that he's offering. Similarly with forum posts, every post is someone's opinion just by virtue of the format.
  • And that's a fact!
  • I should post more rubbish on SG. Look at the attention I get!

    Seriously, though, Moreno, sorry for derailing the thread - and Bill, I do hope you want to give us more recaps.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: MatthijsPosted By: Bill_WhiteThis is really good stuff. I think it's interesting how the encounter between the two men is less a confrontation than a juxtaposition of two different trajectories through the recent history of role-playing. Ron advances a vision of an increasingly pluralistic role-playing meta-culture in which silenced voices are once more unfettered, lost tribes are brought into the fold, and an on-going conversation permits experimentation and mature judgment. Isn't this ultimately what the Forge is supposed to be all about? Similarly, Tobias talks about a movement toward designs that are compact, narrowly focused, and thematically resonant. If that's not a description of jeepform, I don't know what it is.
    So what you're saying is, here we have two white guys (i. e. privileged dominant males from western societies), telling us that history so far has naturally and inevitably led us to the pinnacle of gaming evolution, which they represent? ;) All we need now is for one of them to say that we now know everything there is to know.

    My point may be subtler than that, actually. Of the two, Tobias seems more prone to a Whig reading of the history of gaming (i.e., a narrative of continuous progress), but I think there's actually very little sense of "le etat du jeu, c'est moi," in what they're saying. I mean, sure, up to a point, they seem to be unaware of the extent to which their reading of the history of role-playing is conditioned by their own (different!) experiences, but then Tobias says, "Hey, maybe we're kind of in this bubble."

    But what I think is interesting is how the two are trying to negotiate their understanding of role-playing, to reach some kind of mutuality that goes beyond their idiosyncratic experience and parochial perspectives. In that regard, it's especially interesting when they disagree:

    Part 5. A question about CRPGs: Today 15-year-olds think role-playing is something you do on a computer. This seems like a problem; how do we deal with it?

    Tobias responds. He says, “Computer games are hijacking the term ‘role-playing’” in a somewhat demeaning way, in the sense that the term comes to refer to a relatively shallow or inconsequential activity. Computers have been replacing the GM, which is great in a way, since it frees the GM to do more interesting things than make sure you’ve deducted the right amount of damage from your hit point total. But it’s when we connect as people, face-to-face, that role-playing provides its greatest value, and computers are destroying that by putting people in different rooms or isolating them altogether.

    Ron has a different angle. “If there are people who would be much happier playing World of Warcraft than playing Sorceror . . . then I don’t want them playing Sorceror.” Roleplaying used to be stuffed with people who Ron didn’t enjoy playing with, and who would have been much happier playing wargames. But by 1992, wargaming had pretty much gone by the boards. Then Magic: The Gathering came along, and all of a sudden you had this pretty clever pocket wargame and all of those folks were gone from Ron’s table, and everyone else’s. Oh, the panic! Oh, role-playing is dying! “Save role-playing; shoot a Magic player” was the catchphrase. But that’s nonsense, says Ron. Those people weren’t enjoying the same thing Ron was enjoying, and both he and they are happier now that they’re not playing together. He adds that the term “role-playing” is a legacy term with almost no definition throughout the history of the hobby anyway. If the term gets hijacked for computer games, fine. There’s no particular benefit to the hobby from its use.

    Tobias makes a plug for talented young Finnish researcher Markus Montola, whose dissertation now in progress includes a section on the history of role-playing that helps clarify some of these issues.

    But, someone wants to know, is the “misconception” of the term preventing a WoW player from “leveling up” to Sorceror?
  • I don't know about other countries, but I've been living in China for most of the past 10 years, and when I say "roleplaying games" here, people immediately think of computer games. When I bring up Dungeons and Dragons and ask if people have heard of it, they say they have, a bit, but look at as if they don't understand why anyone would want to play a computer game without the computer.

    If you talk about "roleplaying" in the sense of a sort of improv-acting ability to be used in English class, though, then that's something they're relatively comfortable with. I can easily point to two students and say "okay you're a doctor and you're a patient. Go," or, more interestingly, "you're a girl traveling abroad and your purse was just stolen with your passport and all your money in it; and you're the policeman she's trying to get help from." They react well to the sorts of charged social situations which many indie roleplaying games are trying to foster in their mechanics.

    I sometimes feel as though, if I had another word to describe roleplaying games to them, it might work better. I've used "Story games" before, with some success, but they react to it just like any other new word they're unfamiliar with (which may be the best I can expect, I suppose).

    The word you use to talk about something really sets the context of a person's expectations about it, and as the meaning of words shifts over time, often times those expectations are incorrect.
  • edited September 2010
    Part 6. Ron says that the resentment of roleplayers toward computer gaming resembles the resentment of wargamers toward roleplayers in the 1970s and 1980s. “Role-playing has destroyed wargaming!”

    A question for the panel: “Which is more important to you: to create games or to play games.” Tobias replies that he thinks of himself as a pretty good gamewright but a pretty lousy player. Sometimes the game has its own message or stands as a work of art in its own right, but sometimes the experience of play is what matters, and the game is intended as the catalyst for that experience. “If I stopped writing games, I would probably vanish from the role-playing scene.”

    Ron says, “The activity of role-playing is something I enjoy greatly . . . Game design is a character flaw.” He quotes Vincent Baker: “‘They come into my head and torment me, and I write them down to get them out.’”

    Ron wants to follow up on something. “We are dealing with a medium that whatever its techniques, or whatever labels we use, is one of personal connection with each other. This is in many ways contradictory or divergent from seeking escape and spectacle. . . . I am suggesting that we in using imaginative devices . . . [are using them as] a means to social connection” unlike CRPGs and many forms of digital media. So whereas these digital media can achieve escape and spectacle better than our games, roleplaying’s ability to enable this sort of personal connection is its particular strength.
  • edited September 2010
    Posted By: Bill_White
    I'm not sure about this claim. Didn't AD&D have rules for henchmen and hirelings that you'd want when you built your castle in the wilderness once you got to high enough level? Are you saying that those rules were there because people were "using it for more than it was designed for"? Or what? I suspect that "what it was designed for" with respect to D&D is actually a big can of worms.

    What D&D was designed for was very well illustrated by the blurb on the five boxed sets making up the basic version of the game in the early 1980s:-

    - the red-boxed basic set for low-level characters exploring dungeons
    - the blue-boxed expert set for mid-level characters branching out into overland adventures
    - the turquoise companion set for high-level characters ruling kingdoms [in their spare time*]
    - the black master set for sillily-high-level characters questing for immortality
    - the gold immortals set for immortals ruling space and time

    I'm not sure how many people actually played the immortals game. It was full of abstractions and wierdnesses.

    But basically it seems to me that there were five separate games within the one game:- the dungeon crawl; the overland adventure (basically a dungeon crawl with a bit more freedom of movement); kingdoms and conquests [really as a spare-time activity alongside the other two]; questing for immortality [via a combination of the preceding three]; being an immortal [did anyone actually do this?].

    The rules worked perfectly well for dungeon crawls and overlands and the rules for kingdoms and conquests had a separate sub-system all of their own which I admired as a child but never actually used in play.

    AD&D blurred the boundaries between the first three sub-games, had very little to do with the fourth and had nothing at all to do with the fifth. 4th edition seems to me to be inevitably stepping back towards something a bit like the old five-phase game set-up because of its more structured nature with heroic tier adventures (now 1st to 10th), then legendary (11th to 20th) then epic (21st plus) IF I recall the proper names for them which I probably don't. And I think it's a good thing - to encourage people to change the sorts of game they're playing with their characters as they get higher level, to try out new and different sorts of game. Although I don't know whether 4th ed does it well or badly as I've never actually played it.

    On the cliche of 2nd and 3rd edition broadening out into generic fantasy roleplaying - I think that D&D always had the potential for use for generic fantasy roleplaying, and was always used for that too. Even basic D&D, with its emphasis on dungeon crawls, that was just a question of emphasis - and maybe a majority tendency, even vast majority, but people were using D&D for more general roleplaying from very early on, I would say from its inception, but I wasn't there at its inception, but I was there pretty early on and even as a child DMing basic D&D at age 7, there was more to it than killing things and taking their stuff, even if not always as much more as I might have liked.
  • edited September 2010
    We played immortals for a while, it was actually pretty great. And of course people did this, didn't you ever hear of the practice of suddenly and mysteriously finding enough XP to level up to the next book when it came out?
  • All you needed was to find one dragon's treasure haul unguarded... ;-)
  • Part 7. Tobias adds, “I’ve seen recently . . . people who are actively working on video games that don’t use a screen.” If you Google Dark Room Sex Game by Doug Wilson, you’ll see what he means [it’s a game where players use a Wii to simulate sex; it is according to its creator a kind of “abusive design” intended deliberately to make players uncomfortable—Bill]. There are uses of the computer in gaming that are more up Tobias’s alley, and they don’t resemble Baldur’s Gate. The advent of small specialized electronic devices for specific games will hopefully be adaptable to the sort of interactive play that roleplaying does well.

    Shall we shift to our own work? asks Ron. Or our background and perspectives, at least, Tobias demurs.

    “My background is in Swedish freeform [which can be thought of as ] the missing link between larp and tabletop,” Tobias explains. Roleplayers were a good recruiting group for larping, and so there were a lot of people who were exposed to both. Freeform roleplayers were the ones who refused to swear allegiance to only one, despite pressure to do so from advocates of the One True Way to roleplay on either side. Freeformers adopted movement and acting techniques from larp, without sacrificing the logistical benefits of tabletop. At the same time, there was dissatisfaction with some of the expectations of traditional play, and a desire to get rid of five specific things in order to make play more satisfying.

    (1) Rules (rules in trad games are just in the way—they don’t help tell the story. And while the Forge has done some good stuff though in creating rules sets that enable specific kinds of stories to be told, this is not where they were at in Sweden).
    (2) Dice (they’re wrong because they’re random; not good for conflict resolution. They lead to GMs cheating in order to make things come out right)
    (3) Tables (talking about both: the ones you sit around and the ones you look things up in. They both disrupt one’s ability to engage with the game).

    Ron wants to clarify: Tobias is talking about the state of thought that defined “middlebrow” (Ron’s term) Swedish freeform movement in the late 90s or so—the starting point of jeep—not current thought, right? No, these assumptions still generally hold true for himself, Tobias says; he's not interested in going back to the past.

    Still to come: Why “Dragons” and “New York” make the list.
  • edited September 2017
    It’s seven years later, and I am writing a book about the Forge. I’ve rediscovered this old Story-Games thread--I’d forgotten even watching these videos and having this conversation. The links that Moreno Roncucci posted, both on the Forge and in Story-Games, are no longer working, but a little bit of digging brings up the Narrativa channel on YouTube, where the videos still live, and I feel obligated to finish the task of summarizing parts 8 through 13, moved a little bit by duty and a little more by curiosity.

    Part 8
    Tobias says, “And then dragons...why? Why do we need these big villains? We don’t need to fight something large in order for a game to be interesting. Why does there need to be this big boss at the end of the adventure? It’s belittling to us to believe that there has to be such a thing. Saving the world is extremely less interesting than saving the relationship. You can relate to the second, you can’t relate to the first.”

    He goes on, “And then New York. And of course I don’t mean New York specifically. We had this problem that people...just as they had this feeling that they need to put dragons in the games to make them exciting, they also had to make them take place in space”--a gesture up toward the sky--“and games that were taking place in the real world, they were taking place some place that had been made officially cool by a Hollywood movie. And so again we can’t relate to these places. Why are there so few vampires in Ravenna? There is where it’s at, that’s the place we can relate to, vampires in space less so.”

    Ron jokes, “If we put zombies in, that would fix it.” Tobias picks up on the joke. “What Ron is trying to say is that everything can be solved if we add more zombies, and that’s still true, I think.”

    But Tobias still has the floor. “So the Swedish freeform movement in a sense can be described as a reaction to those kinds of things, and adding the larp elements to it. This happened at the conventions, and you can’t ask people to bring a crap-ton of costumes because you don’t know exactly where the game will be taking place. And then we realized that costumes were bad, because they’re in the way. May I break this expensive prop, yes or no? That’s a question I don’t want to ask myself while I’m role-playing. So all this, not having a costume, not having, I mean using my pen as a sword, just makes things easier and facilitates staying in the moment. It’s good for immersion.”

    “I completely agree,” Ron says, “with the effects you are talking about, which is that if we have these gorgeous costumes and big swords, again, that is focusing on spectacle rather than paying attention to one another.”

    “I mean, the game happens in here anyway,” Tobias goes on, tapping his temple. “If you put on nice costumes, maybe you’re helping me with zero point five percent, but the other ninety-nine point five percent still happens in here. For example, with a nice costume, you’re still not an elf. I’m the one making you an elf.”

    Ron says, “And if I’m making you an elf anyway--” and shrugs.

    “Yes, exactly,” Tobias says. “Adding the costume is the easy bit.”

    Now Tobias is ready to “launch into jeep,” as Ron puts it.

    “This was kind of the movement,” Tobias says, “that started this whole idea of freeform role-playing. Rules-light games: Let’s move around in the room; let’s create stories that are close to us, that we can relate to, that are on the smaller scale rather than on this grander scale. And this was investigated a lot at Swedish conventions. And we had essentially the same movement in Denmark at the same time, even though these two scenes were not talking at all with each other. But what happened in the Swedish scene was essentially that the freeform gamewrights became set in their ways and so all these rules-light games became very similar. For example the game is played as ten scenes following each other, linear time, one player per character, and it’s kind of a crescendo and it ends. I’ve now described quite a few of these games, and that was very frustrating to the people who eventually became the jeepform, that wanted to say, ‘No, what does freeform mean?’ Freeform does not mean the absence of rules, freeform means the freedom to create a new ruleset for every possible story.”

    “System. Does. Matter,” Ron interjects.

    “I don’t agree, I don’t agree,” Tobias cries. “I don’t agree. This is not system. This is not system. Don’t hijack this now.” A ripple of laughter from the audience. Ron indicates that he’s not trying to derail the discourse, so Tobias drives on.

    “Why are we using that freedom more? You want to start with a question. You know what you’re going to do. You have some premise for a game. You want to say this is a game about what is a relationship, what is infidelity. This is the theme. And then you ask a question: Is this going to be a role-playing game? And the answer might be no. And then you go from there. You have a blank sheet of paper and you are trying to figure out how can we support this theme or this premise as much as possible, how can you facilitate the interaction of these people to make this theme important? And moving into that more serious style of games, as opposed to teddy bears solving crimes--”

    The translator, Claudia Cangini, is nonplussed for the first time; “teddy bears” apparently doesn’t translate easily into Italian. “Elves solving crime,” Ron says, trying to help. “Zombies fighting crime.” Tobias jokes, “Now, zombies fighting crime might actually work,” and everyone laughs.

    “We realized that a really really big part of what a game is, is what’s happening between the players as opposed to what’s happening between the characters, and that’s a great thing to understand because then you start making games that are trying to reach the players through the characters. And maybe the big point of the game is not to pretend to be elves for a couple of hours, but it’s the effect of pretending to be an elf. So maybe the game is about the prejudice or preconceptions we have about elves. And then we can map that to something else that actually exists in our culture.”
  • Part 9

    “So, essentially, in our model of role-playing,” Tobias says, “we have three things.” He lists them. “We have the actual play, which is what happens between the characters. We have the metaplay, which is what happens between the players. And then we have the inner play, which is what goes on in the character’s mind.” The translator stops to make sure that Tobias does in fact mean “character” and not “player,” which he assures her he does. “Our emphasis is that what happens in the metaplay is as important as what happens in the actual play.”

    Tobias considers saying more, but decides to stop. It’s now Ron’s turn.

    “Let’s begin with exactly where you began,” Ron says, “which is the early Nineteen Nineties. In many ways, I’m going to be repeating a bit. Let’s imagine a hobby dialogue or discourse or subculture that has become a parody of itself. It is claimed and widely written and widely taught, that we have at one end what is called in English ‘roll-playing’ with two ells, to ‘roll the dice’, and it was associated with dungeons, associated with a certain emotional brutality at the table, associated with characters dying or living, and had accumulated an almost intolerable level of specific imagery, so that unless you were using this specific imagery you weren’t doing it. And the images involved were either dungeons and dragons, or dungeons and dragons in a city called Shadowrun. And that was it, that’s that kind of role-playing. And then people would say, ‘I don’t do that, I’m a role-player,’ in English spelled ar oh ell ee, and we reject those, we reject all of that.

    “But of course since they were using arguably the same basic systems, they effectively--in the older terms--cheated, and in my opinion most commonly came up with solutions that were themselves not very functional. And although they were supposed to be about stories, were really about posturing and one ‘storyteller’ telling the story. And of course this also became a weirder situation with the game authors being the storytellers and this person being their mouthpiece, and everybody else being their recipients, and this was good, because you got a story, somehow, such as it was. Then the next development was--and this was complicated--it was also thought and taught that sooner or later you would lose all of those rules, and put costumes on, and move around the room with lots of people, even further cementing the scripted nature of the activity. So the progression as perceived and as taught was thought of as a progression, that once you put away childish things, you would move to the adolescence of real role-playing, and then you’d grow up--you’d grow up and get a clue and become an artist and become a larper.

    “This was the hobby as I encountered it, as I saw it in the early Nineties, exemplified by the entire White Wolf approach in every way. My reaction to much of this was that the entire structure of this narrative was--” he frowns, shakes his head, “--I could not agree with any of this viewpoint.”

    From Ron’s perspective, the American indie scene and the Scandinavian one are long-lost cousins. “So I and others came to certain similar conclusions as the Swedish freeform group, but the techniques that we chose as the medium for rebellion were different. So instead of rejecting the dice, we said, ‘What can you do with these that is different?’ So in many ways, for the Swedish freeformers and jeep designers, to communicate with what we have been doing, we had to say, ‘Oh, you’re getting up and moving around, you must be those larp assholes.’ And then we had to realize no they are not, they rebelled from that false view, that false progression as well, just taking a different set of the available techniques--”

    Ron thinks that Tobias wants to add something here, but “No no no--,” Tobias wants him to go on.

    “--and we rebelled from that same paradigm using a different set of extracted techniques, but the rebellions were very very similar, because--I’m going to quote or paraphrase, I hope, what you are saying accurately, which is that as we are driving primarily from the connections among us as people, those power the fictional consequences in play, with whatever techniques, and that produces thematic content in the fiction, genuine theme, and also producing the genuine theme, not emulating the theme or repeating the theme, that that becomes relevant to us as people. That chain, connections among the people, consequences in the fiction, relevance, that is synonymous. And so I have become far less interested in precisely which techniques were extracted to do this, so I don’t want to identify these views and rebellions and subcultures with any particular set of techniques. I’m interested in whether that progression that I’ve mentioned is preserved and valued.”

    Ron is ready to wrap up. “So as far as I’m concerned, I completely agree about the dragons and New York. These are crutches, they are habits. Should they be utilized, then they may well be utilized in the service of a productive process, but for their own sake, no. For their own sake there is nothing there.”
  • edited September 2017
    Part 10

    Ron is reaching a conclusion. “So the tables [i.e., one of the five things that jeepform rejected] are simply part of the techniques that are retained here and rejected there, which to me is very productive, because that gives different takes on the available techniques.”

    “I just need to butt in and comment here,” Tobias says. “One big thing here, that since we were trying hard to incorporate these larping elements--if you are moving around, if you are using your entire body for playing and creating these interactions, where do you put your character sheet, and where do you go to roll the dice? These are big reasons as well for removing them since they are very hard to do logistically.”

    “No technique is neutral in its consequences for the rest of the game,” Ron replies, “and that’s great. That means instead of being a slave to a set of techniques that we identify with the activity, we open the door to all kinds of different, much richer versions of the activity.”

    Ron is ready to move on. “So the next issue--and I think this is terminological--concerns ‘rules’ and ‘system’. I will try to paraphrase something you said, which is that freeform does not lack rules, it uses rules that help us do what we want.”

    “And a fixed set of such rules,” Tobias says.

    “I think that is synonymous with my famous claim, that ‘System does matter,’” Ron says. “Now perhaps the use of the word ‘system’ has its own legacies in different places that makes it difficult to use. I am not wedded to the term, I only use it in that construction because I am rebelling against the idea that the techniques do not matter because the GM is just going to give you the story anyway. And that was repeated over and over and over again in the States, and in the rules, and in the books I mean, and in the teaching of the hobby, which was never mind the rules, if you have a good gamemaster, the ‘Good Gamemaster,’ then all you need to do is receive the Good Gamemaster, which to me is an infantilizing situation. It makes infants of everybody else playing. So in saying that system does matter, what I’m really saying is let us seek rules that help us do what we want, irrespective of what rules we thought that we needed. And again a diversity of possibilities and a rather shocking just leaving the idea well I like d20, I like d6--what is this? This is just subcultural identity politics. What am I enjoying now is that we are avoiding a similar identity politics problem with jeep versus tabletop. We don’t need to call one the advanced way and one the retrograde way.”

    Tobias says, “And we can do that because we know you are intelligent people.”

    “To continue,” Ron goes on. “As long as one is functionally producing the sequence of connections among us, fictional consequences, fictional themes that are relevant to us as people, so that we have begun, we have conducted the activity, and completed the activity, all in the medium of social connection, then the rebellion, the renaissance is a fact. And I am so happy that people have done this, all from these starting points, so that in the tradition of my design and play, we are still sitting at the table and that’s not a crime, but we don’t say we are pure because we still sit at the table. And you don’t have to limit yourself. You can just go out and play. That’s why I’m not really interested in debating, because I see us already agreeing.”

    “I think it’s really important that we focus on our differences,” Tobias says. “Those differences contain so much information for us to latch onto. The debating or the fighting that we’ve been doing--let’s call them show fights--are great because they force us to evaluate evaluate our approaches. So, why am I in this camp? Why am I into that camp?”

    “Certainly reflection is absolutely crucial,” Ron concedes.

    “So I have just a comment on your ‘System Does Matter’,” Tobias says. “Our catchphrase that we have that is the most important is our belief that the way you play the story is as important as the story itself.”

    “That’s absolutely synonymous,” Ron says.

    “The way that you make people interact with the story is really the key to the experience of role-playing activity,” Tobias says.

    Ron agrees. “The story matters, the unknown matters at any moment, the--for lack of a better word--the who speaks about what, all of those things matter. We know this experientially.”
  • Part 11

    Ron continues, “So I also wanted to follow up in characterizing what I have tried to do over the past ten to fifteen years, which is to say, ‘How does this work? How does this activity work?’ There’s a causal principle, and it struck me that when we sit down to do this thing, there have been extremely different preferences, and I’m not talking about for which kind of dice, or GM or no GM, or fantasy or science fiction, or anything like that. I am talking about why we are there at all. And to take an analogy, if we are talking about all of the different kinds of sports games there are, and there are many, with vastly different techniques but if you have come to play this game across all the sports, there is a basic priority of effort of what you should be paying attention to and seeking to do with your teammates. And if you are doing this and somebody you are playing with--including your opponent, so it doesn’t have to be just your teammates, it could be shared between opponents--if they are not trying to win, this is irritating. So sports have the advantage of all of them sharing this basic priority. It could be--I don’t care what kind of emotion is involved, it could just be this light, cheerful, fun thing or it could be very passionate, full of nationalism or even hatred.” Having laid this background, Ron can allude to GNS.

    “Some of you may associate me with controversy on the Internet for one or another supposedly heinous thing I have said or written at one time or another--everyone suddenly put on their neutral faces. Everyone suddenly went, ‘Oh, no, I would never think that about you, Ron.’ I see you. I don’t care because when I proposed that in role-playing as a hobby we actually see profound differences in priority, astonishingly profound differences in priority that made all the diversity of sports just one thing, and that the presence of these different priorities at the table--or excuse me I should say, the presence of the different priorities among the group--is an extraordinary source of incoherence and dysfunction, the reaction to that I got ten years ago was astonishing. I was the devil. The devil. This was the worst thing anyone in roleplaying had ever heard. I was divisive. I hated the hobby, obviously. I was breaking up not only groups but my group, this person would say. ‘You--my group! You are trying to break it up! How can you do this? You’re evil!’ This was terrible.”

    Ron identifies jeepform as a narrativist enterprise. “What interests me about the jeep movement is that its creative agenda, the creative agenda that feeds into these designs, is precisely the same as one of these that I think we uncovered in the discussion, which is exactly what I described before, which is that we are going to uncover theme at the table and it is going to matter to us.”

    But asserting that different creative agenda exist is not a value judgment, Ron implies. “Now there are other priorities possible in role-playing as well. Part of my effort was to discover and celebrate them for their own sake. But to sit down and say anybody and everybody, any game any time, let’s just do it, we all know what good role-playing is, we’re all gamers together so we must want to do it all for the same reasons--it is a legacy of the subculture. It is rooted in geek subculture, that to identify personal differences in why we want to do this, and to group up for a particular game with a particular group of people because we agree on one way to do it, on one particular priority--geek subculture says that is rejecting and bullying other people. Rejecting them, you must hate them, you must not want to play with them. So a great deal of what has happened with Forge discussion, and I suspect has been happening in jeep, is to reject the sense of victimization, the sense of certain social fallacies which characterize geek subculture. And I speak as a member of that subculture. There are many things to love about geek subculture, but we should put aside this belief that unless we pretend we agree about everything all the time, we must be hating each other. And that’s a common reaction. I don’t know if any of you have experienced this.”

    “I completely agree,” Tobias says, “and that’s exactly what I mean when I say this game--” briefly lifting up a thin sheaf of papers on the table in front of him, “--is not a role-playing game.”

    “That’s actually why I said Spione is not a role-playing game either,” Ron replies. “In fact I made a little--I scribbled a little thing.” He consults some notes he’s made in front of him. “‘We could be talking about designing and playing better role-playing games. We could be talking about breaking that and making a different thing, rather than absolutely defining the distinction between those two ideas.’ I’d rather not do that. I think that there is a productive dynamic between saying I am making a better role-playing game and saying, no, I am making something different. Rather than knowing which one you are doing, perhaps it is better to recognize that there may be a difference between the two but--but it is a dynamic relationship over time with many different games. Someone could have been trying to make a better role-playing game, and what they did opens up the door to something completely different, or someone could have said, ‘Oh, no, I am completely different, I am not making a role-playing game,’ and what they do inspires someone to make a better role-playing game. We don’t know. We don’t know. Just let that be dynamic. Let that--relax about that.”

    He turns reflexive. “I had a marketing and perhaps content based reason for saying that Spione is not a role-playing game; you had the same for jeep. But those are specific to those games. I don’t know whether It Was a Mutual Decision is a role-playing game or not. I was told that Sorcerer is obviously not a role-playing game.”

    Tobias interjects, “I was told that if you remove fighting from a role-playing game it’s not role-playing anymore.”

    “At that level of definition of the term, we are obviously dealing with a child-like idiot,” Ron comments. “There’s no point.”

    “I think the most important thing, and I think what Ron is saying, is that you make a stand, and you don’t be ashamed about saying, this is role-playing, this is not role-playing, and trust in other people to be adult enough in their own minds to form their own opinions.”
  • Time warp!

    But, seriously, thank you for doing this.
  • Bill, you are incredible.

    As for the rest:

    It's nice to see my memories of how Story Games used to roll in the 'golden age' aren't entirely false. There was a lot of discussion like this, and I miss it.

    It could occasionally err on the side of pretension or get overly theoretical, sure, but there was much to be learned and a lot of intellectual curiosity about both the history and the future of the hobby.
  • Awesome series of posts. Thank you!
  • Wow.
    I WAS THERE... but I had totally forgot about it. Thank you Bill for the recaps and the trip down memory lane :D
  • Wow.
    I WAS THERE... but I had totally forgot about it. Thank you Bill for the recaps and the trip down memory lane :D
    Really? You were there? That's awesome! Do you remember anything about your reaction or the reactions of others who were there? What did people make of the whole thing, even just in the most general terms?

  • edited September 2017
    Part 12

    [There appears to be a gap in the recording, perhaps from a break in the proceedings, or from a question in the audience that has been edited out.]

    “To continue where we left off,” Tobias begins. “I find it provoking that you need to add this ‘for me,’ bit, which Ron was providing in my sentence, because when I say ‘This was not a good movie,’ no one adds this ‘for you’ because everyone knows this is my opinion, and I don’t see what is so special and unique for role-playing games that that has to be explicitly provided. If I say, ‘This isn’t art,’ no one says, ‘Says you,’ or forces you to fill that in yourself, it’s just implicitly there, and that’s perhaps a maturity we haven’t reached yet, but we should reach that. That’s just a comment.”

    He’s ready to make his point. “So when I say, after I’ve played--getting back to your question--a Forge game of some sort, and I say, ‘This is fun,’ or ‘This isn’t role-playing’, of course this is just my reaction, and it shouldn’t be taken more seriously than anything else; it’s more of a story of where I come from than anything else.”

    Ron replies, “Now all of that makes perfectly good sense were we sitting around in these very same chairs--if Tobias and I were sitting around in these same chairs with no particular arrangement among the chairs, and we were all talking together, then I don’t think me interjecting, ‘For you’, would be necessary at all. But the fact remains that you and I--but the fact remains that we are sitting up here at a special table, the camera is trained upon the fronts of our heads and the backs of your heads--the extent to which this is somewhat artificial I think we in the room understand, but it is that particular arrangement and the other--and this backed by economics: I did not pay to come here, you did--these features create imbalances that can affect the perceptions of authoritative talk. So it is my sensitivity to that issue, and it may be an oversensitivity, that leads me to want to focus on that story where I come from aspect of what we’ve said. So this has all been a footnote to the previous discussion.” He looks down at his notes and then over to Tobias and says, “If it is okay for me to bring up--” Tobias signals that he should proceed.

    Ron pauses, thinking, and then begins. “To what extent is disturbing content a design goal, a feature of play, a productive portion of play? What do we gain from, from either--it could be graphic content, or perhaps visually it is not graphic or disturbing at all but the content of the fiction and the events either is or could be in any way shocking or jarring? In the long-term tradition of the hobby, for a number of reasons, there has been a tendency to want to move that out of the books, and I even suggest to go back to White Wolf, which made a certain point of being ‘edgy’ or ‘dangerous’, but only did so in the confines of a particular already established subculture, so in and of itself rebelled against nothing, or was shocking for no one. So my claim is that for the most part, only in the lost origins of role-playing, and only in recent designs, are we seeing an artistic ambition, toward the disturbing, toward the genuinely challenging. What are your experiences with this?”

    An audience member responds.

    “My idea is that, yes, when we played Vampire, it looked like we were playing with disturbing themes. Actually, when I tried the Upgrade, it was much more disturbing, because I was myself, and it was much more difficult to see ourselves in a mirror, without being dressed as a vampire.”

    “Mm hm, mm hm,” Ron replies. “‘Oh, my costume is so scary and disturbing.’”

    Another audience member contributes. “In my experience, I never managed to play a game really disturbing until I tried jeepform by Andrea Castellani which is called the Truth will make you free, and it actually shocked me. I always wanted to play a disturbing game, but nobody in my group wanted to follow me in this."

    “You were ‘that guy’,” Ron says.

    “Yes, I was that guy,” the audience member responds. “And just proposing these games got some very negative reactions.”

    *****
    One more to go, and it's only six minutes long!
  • Part 13--the end of the session

    “I think there was a moment--” someone in the audience says, “I think there was a period in the hobby when everyone was trying to insert disturbing themes. The most obvious examples are the third edition with a book about sex, a book about--”

    “--the most boring book about sex I’ve ever seen in my entire life--” Ron interjects, to laughter.

    “--vile darkness, necrophilia, these kinds of elements, apparently extreme, but actually they were put in a context where it was actually fun to insert those. I have no experiences of more recent games but it is actually really hard involving other peoples in these kind of game, in a serious kind of game.”

    “What do you mean, other people?” Tobias asks. “Other people from the community, or people that you want to introduce to the community?”

    “No, even people already playing.”

    “Oh, okay,” Tobia replies. “And so if you go up to someone and say, ‘Hey, do you want to play a game about necrophiles?’ they will say no--is that...?”

    “If it is indie, it is amusing, of course--”

    “Right, but to really play--” Ron says over to Tobias.

    The guy in the audience is still talking. “--but if you try something more profound, it’s ‘mmm.’” The translator makes a frown.

    “My experience with bringing things that deal with hard stuff,” Tobias says, “in the US for example, has been that people say, like, if we play orcs raping elves, it’s okay--which I think is fucked up, because it’s not whether we are green or have pointed ears, that it’s the matter, it’s the actions, whether it’s rape, or whether it’s war. We are using these things to distance ourselves from our actions, and we shouldn’t.”

    “In this kind of context,” an audience member comments, “nothing can be disturbing, you have distanced yourself.”

    “My thinking on this is in deep agreement,” Ron says. “It has led me to try to design toward less fantastic situations, but on the other hand to consider how fantastic content can bring their themes forward rather than pushing them away. It’s very difficult because the attempts to do that can backfire. You can make your fantasy too much fun. So for example, in my game, It Was a Mutual Decision, which is a game about a romantic break-up, it is also the case that one of the people, possibly both, is a wererat. Otherwise a very naturalistic game, but with this element of a horror movie. My solution was to permit the degree of the possibility of this thing to actually be a feature of play itself, the decisions in play itself actually make that content more or less real. But arguably, I could have simply left it out.”

    “So you mean you gave a choice to people how much to distance from theme?” someone from the audience asks.

    “I gave them a choice of how much fantastic content they wanted,” Ron clarifies. “One is to increase the fantastic for purposes of increasing the horror and the pain, to increase it to distance, and then the other two opposites. Yeah, I didn’t know the group could do it, which way would work better--”

    At this point, the panel is interrupted because time has run out. The audience gives a little groan of disappointment, Ron says thank you to the audience, and Tobias begins the applause. The video ends.

    ****

    Okay, mission accomplished.
  • Okay, mission accomplished.
    Thank you! You made a piece of video (well, 13 pieces actually) into something useful to people like me who wouldn't watch it.

    Now, just like @Hasimir I too was in that same building on that day, but I genuinely can't remember whether I was sitting in the audience to this one panel or I was in another room, playing games. I've heard similar talks from - or had similar conversations with - the two men several times, so that when a sentence or concept from your transcript rings familiar I still can't be sure whether I heard it there or elsewhere. I do remember catching up with Ron sometime that weekend about a talk I'd missed, but what we ended up talking about was Naked Went the Gamer and the history of US politics, so it could have been some other talk.
  • Wow.
    I WAS THERE... but I had totally forgot about it. Thank you Bill for the recaps and the trip down memory lane :D
    Really? You were there? That's awesome! Do you remember anything about your reaction or the reactions of others who were there? What did people make of the whole thing, even just in the most general terms?

    Gosh, it's been 7 years. I can't even remember what I had for lunch yesterday XD
    But some flashes still stick.
    Let's see...

    I remember everyone being pretty happy :)
    It was the second edition of that CON (the only CON of its kind in Italy, at that time, I believe GnoccoCON and the others came in later years?) and the people attending it were still mostly in the "refugee" category ... dissatisfied Traditionalists and Story-curious gamers that finally found a place were they were not "that guy".

    I remember Ron being happy for similar reasons... at some point he made a comment about having not often the occasion of talking game design with a broader audience (out of forums, that is) as usually the conversation stopped at the very introduction, trying to explain and get past basic concepts, or the ever misunderstood "Creative Agendas" ... and instead at that convention everyone was more or less up to speed on such basics and the conversations that happened throughout the event were finally about more concrete and interesting stuff. About actual games and design ideas.

    More specifically about this talk I remember thinking that Tobias was not getting at all what "System Does Matter" meant. He left me this impression of trying to keep _his thing_ separate from what Ron was describing, and that at some point he just stopped arguing and let the ball keep rolling past this point.
    This stuck in my head, as I remember feeling a bit of shock about it ... in my head Jeep games were basically the "System Does Matter" of LARPing ... and instead I saw then how different they were, as in doing what to me seemed obviously the same exact thing (coherent and focused design, with a thing for the emotional stuff) but coming from a different background for different reasons.

    Reading this transcript I see now that eventually he got around it with his own "the way you play the story is as important as the story itself” ... but it happened pretty late in the talk, at the end of segment 11 ... so that might explain why the lingering memory was different XD

    I remember that the audience was very interested. And participant. For me it felt, at the time, a bit unreal to actually be talking about game design in such an open way. And I felt the same energy around me.
    Everyone had an opinion, and we listened to Tobias' and Ron's opinions, and for once the differences were interesting instead of disruptive.
    And I liked a lot the convivial mood. The talk happened after a couple of days of playing stuff together, it wasn't something dropped from above by some distant VIPs ... I mean, by the end THEY were asking questions to the audience! It felt more like a chat between two friends that eventually spread to include the other people in the room, than your usual "speech panel".
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