We know so little of our hobby

edited October 2014 in Story Games
We got a lot to learn from theater, video games, board- and card games, LARP, stand-up comedy, movies, novels, improv, martial arts, sports, flow, architecture and conversations. They may seem different, but they got a lot in common. They may use different tools to achieve what they want, but it's important to see why and what they strive for. This thread is going to be an ongoing progress where I will take shards of these categories and, from time to time, present them and by doing that, hopefully to give a thoughtful moment. To give a perspective of our hobby.

Table of Content

PAGE 1

Creative Drama: basic foundations for a good roleplaying session
Building Group Dynamic: make everyone feel comfortable.
Icebreakers: a way of creating a consensus within the group.
A System: the participants, the game mechanics and the fiction are all part of one big system.
Emergent Behavior: the uncertain result that occurs when components in a system interacts.
Everything Comes With Structures: the basic building blocks for structures. Spoken and unspken structures. There are no such thing as improvisation!
Pools and Procedures: a follow up to structures.
Triggers: a third block aside with pools and procedures.
Communication Follows Unspoken Structures: what roleplaying games need is to convey these unspoken structures.
Framing Scenes: the essential bits.
The Game Master as a Colleague: a list of questions for the game master to help the players perform.
Rewards are a Subcategory to Feedback: respond with the right kind of reward.
Roleplaying Games Are Written in the Wrong Way: They focus on WHAT instead of WHY.
WHY are We Playing?: player types and different reasons to play.
WHAT Are We Playing With?: basic components in a game.
Flow in Roleplaying Games: three conditions to be met to achieve flow.

PAGE 2

Conversations Mutates: and so should the interaction in roleplaying games do too.
(video) The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us: autonomy and when mechanical rewards are useful.
Uncertainty Creates Curiosity/Suspense: why uncertainty is required and how to create different kinds of uncertainty.
Participation Takes Effort: what the designer wants is people to participate. Without participation, nothing will happen.
Interactivity is Decision-making: some dos and don'ts in creating something meaningful.
Different Kinds of Investments: either setting stakes early or having investment growing over time.
Planning, Gamble, Struggle: how investment affects HOWs.
Dice Rolls are Too Influental: different examples of effort, uncertainty and decision.
WHY, HOW, WHAT: the game emerges from combining these.
Creation of Work in Six Steps: Reading Understanding Comics and compares it to the game building model Mechanical, Dynamics, Aesthetics.
Yes, and/but: the difference of use of these in roleplaying games and improv.
Yes, but..., and the Czege principle: the weird usage of Yes, but in roleplaying games.
Fun Is An Emotional Response To Learning: ... and we activate ourself to fight boredom.
Destruction: a fifth WHY.
Immersion is Created Through Loops: ... and also comes in more forms than character immersion (bleed).
Flow State and Skill Atoms: two models of looping interactivity to create immersion.

PAGE 3

Immersion is the Reward For Playing: It's not a playstyle and it consist of a combination of HOW and WHAT.
Different WHYs in the Same Game Creates Confusion: Robin D Laws player types and dysfunctional playstyles.
Investment Is All About Emotions: five ways to incorporate that.
SUMMARY: explaining the purpose of this thread and what I've got from all this so far.
WHY, HOW, WHAT: how to use these when designing your game.
Feedback Loops Creates Immersion: immersion is what we're after. Feedback is a step in learning, and what is the emotional response to learning?
Focused Play = Total Fun: focus on 1-2 WHY in your design.
Reading Impro, and How the Book is Beneficial for Roleplaying Games: introduction.
Status: how we play with social hierarchy both outside and inside fiction.
Spontaneity, part one: how we need to unlearn blocking ourselves.
Spontaneity, part one: Using accepting, offering, and blocking as effective techniques.
Narrating With Theater, part one: self-censoring and reincorporation.
Narrating With Theater, part two: breaking routines and passing four stages of personal development.
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Comments

  • edited April 2015

    Table of Content

    PAGE 4

    (video) What is Positive Psychology?: five pillars to reach fulfillment as a person.
    (video) Intrinsic Motivation: structures to control behavior through rewards are lazy design.
    (video) Autotelic Tasks and Operant Conditioning: are you doing something for the fun of doing the activity or for the mechanical reward?
    Flow, Leadership and Joy in Work: The task to create flow. Flow is one way to reach happiness.
    Happiness in Action, part one: eight points to create flow.
    Happiness in Action, part two: loss of your own persona and why people want that.
    Flow and Development: development within the group, and now it's a natural progress.
    Why Flow Wont Appear at Work: finding the purpose of the activity.
    To Build Flow in an Organization: provide clear goals and be aware of the others.
    Changes Keeps Up the Interest
    Drama is About Change: using the wisdom of screenwriters for roleplaying games.
    Plan For Change: ... by starting in the end.
    The Importance of HOW: each HOW should land somewhere between control and surprise.
    Processes contra Sequential Thinking - the dangers of the last one and how design-through-rewards is a result of sequential thinking.
    The Major Dramatic Curve - found out patterns in Greek and Shakespearian drama.
    Flow and the Constant Cycle of Emotions - ... and how it relates to the dramatic curve and the monomyth.
    The Dramatic Curve in Game States - using chess as an example.
    The Heuristic Spiral - The feedback loop is a constant learning spiral.
    About Producing Stories - how fiction-descriptive mechanics can hinder player narration.
    (video) The Divided Brain - the result of the society's focus on one hemisphere over another.
    (video) What is an Emotion? - Paul Ekman talks about how emotions are reactions to our environment.
    Start With Why - our emotions steer our perspective of the world and therefor our decision-making. It's therefor important how you convey your message.
    (video) How Great Leaders Inspire Action - Simon Sinek talks about why WHY attracts more than WHAT.
    Emotions Steer our Perception - and they escalate, through a circular process, but only in the magic circle.
    System - a definition that will understanding the very core of a game.
    The Designer's Goal Should Be Part of the Participants' Interaction - the opposite of design-through-rewards.
    The Pitch is an Important Part of Your Game - it attracts and forms the right kind of players.

    ---

    I'm reading a book called Skapande dramatik (loosely translated, Creative Dramatics), and I came upon the following in the foreword (my translation):

    Eleanor Chase York says in Children's Theatre and Creative Dramatics that children [exposed to creative drama] becomes more
    • creative, by suppressing the school's one-sided reinforcement of the intellectual capacity, which makes the creativity suffer.
    • sensible, by teaching the children to react in a more aware and natural way on the things they perceive. /.../
    • flexible, by training the ability to adopt to changed situations (to suppress a rigid state of mind).
    • original, by believing in their ideas and have the courage to tell them.
    • emotional stable, by an constructive outlet of feelings and tensions.
    • co-operable and group orientated.
    When reading these points, I knew that I would gain a lot from reading this book. All these points are crucial for roleplaying game too. When reading the first point, I remember what the improv guru Keith Johnstone wrote about how the school system destroyed the imagination by it's rigid structure. Not that the school is the only thing to blame - we also learn to self-censor ourself as part of becoming an adult - but the school plays a major part.

    I'm not saying that we should play roleplaying games to become these points, as Eleanor Chase above, but roleplaying games are about these points. We must learn to break free from our self-censoring and become original. Play Unsafe (which took it from Impro) tells us that our ideas may seem unoriginal to us, but that doesn't mean that they are for the others. Your ideas will feel unique for me. And those ideas should be celebrated as much as you should be recognized as an original human being.

    We need, during a session, to work as a group - to form a communication in how to play. To think as a group. To feel as a group. To co-operate in creating a story - or a sense of feeling - together.
  • edited August 2013
    I thought it was from Jeepform that I came upon the following, but I couldn't find it so I assume it was some kind of manifesto instead. One point in that manifesto told me that you should forget what you had learned and used and start from the beginning with each new project.

    That's stupid.

    If you learned something, then you should reuse it. Why reinvent the wheel? It was a stupid point in that manifesto ... or so I thought. I was reading a four page roleplaying game an hour ago and there was nothing that told me how to create a positive group feeling, nothing about how to describe the environment. All that "basic stuff" was taken for granted. If I do my own interpretation of the point in that manifesto: throwing away what you learned is a way to stop taking things for granted. Sure, you invented the wheel for the fourth time, but you haven't forgotten to tell the others to add the wheels to their vehicle.

    My feeling is that a lot is left out in todays roleplaying games in terms of explaining how to play - yes, even "indie games" - and I can totally understand the feeling of the OSR movement. OSR is not my game style, but I feel that I can learn from going back to basics. To reconsider why we are including some elements of roleplaying games - I'm not only talking about certain game mechanics (ex. combat) - and to not forget to tell others the elements we normally take for granted. Somewhere along the line we lost to explain how to become flexible, sensible, original, and group-orientated.
  • Nothing to add, but watching with interest for now.
  • I was reading some of Ben Robbin's Ars Ludi blog archive today when I realised that we know so little. Those articles were great but they're like little rickety planks of wood bridging into an expansive darkness. I'm a fan of us making fewer assumptions, especially when we don't know we're doing it.
  • edited October 2013
    When talking to (Nordic) LARPers, I've come to understand that workshops can be a part of the preparation before an LARP event. They help you get into character, forming relations with others (group dynamic), communicating the vision of the game, and much more. The drama teacher Viola Spolin was the first to introduce improv exercises as part of putting up a play. One exercise could be about one player (yes, she defines the participant as a "player") closing the eyes and feel the others on the stage. This increases the awareness of the other, which can create more relaxed and natural responses. It makes the player more sensible. Imagine this being used in team sports, where the players can feel the presence of the others on the court without actually seeing them. Group dynamic is something that becomes more and more popular, even in individual sports.

    Keith Johnstone has an exercise to increase the awareness. Look around and notice the environment. Look at the people around you. Walk around and point at things but say something else. You can point at a chair and say "elephant" or at the wall and say "despair". Whatever comes into mind, say it. Don't hesitate. Do this for a while and then look around again. How are the colors? Are they brighter? More clear? How have the people changed around you? Your perception have increased. Research in human psychology have also shown that if you search for something while saying it out loud, you will spot the object quicker. According to Johnstone's experience, the opposite works too but for a more general awareness.

    Doing exercises like this, in the beginning of a session, can be used to make the roleplaying group more aware of each other. Perhaps you start to notice how one person wants to cut in or how you get thrilled by the others' excitement. Perhaps you start to read and feel the other people, and sometimes predict what they are about to do, so you can adapt to it and and therefor create a steady flow as you all take part in a shared imagination.
  • Exactly Rickard, we're taking too much for granted when it comes to explaining things. Like Techniques.

    I think we should also explore a lot more about practical social psychology, so we can make more inclusive games for grouping different kind of people instead of asking players to only share the game with like-minded players. The best games manage to erase a lot of differences among people, as a designer I don't feel that drawing them again is a good policy.

  • @TotallyGuy: Yes, me playing different kinds of narrative games over the last ten years has opened my definition of what roleplaying games are, and made me question why more games couldn't be classified as that as well. People has a tendency to classify from how something is executed, instead of what the purpose is of that execution. One example is movie and roleplaying games. To create chaos, movies make fast cuts and overflow us with information. If we were about to do the same thing verbally, it would take time and more be like slow motion. Instead, to create a chaotic feel in roleplaying games, you should leave out most of the visual descriptions. The same purpose, two different executions.

    @WarriorMonk: I like those ideas, and I'm following your thread with interest. :)
  • This has been a recurring subject among our gaming group. We often described rpg to non gamers as "karaoke theater".

    [Note : I'm not quite certain of the type of input you expect for this thread]

    This reminds of André Bazin : one of the first film maker to come up with a "film theory". His books are unreadable (cinema seemed so complicated) !!! Because he all starts from nothing ... as if cinema had nothing to do with theater.

    One of the problem here is that no "non film maker" would want to build a theory around cinema at that time. So, Bazin, a film maker was building the theory from the ground up. But he was not the guy to do any theory : he should have been doing films instead.
  • Leoard Balsera said that these days when people talking about roleplaying they maybe referring to vastly different experiences. Is that core of our hobby really already lost?

    I still think we could benefit from a scholarly terminology to advance understanding of our hobby.one not based on heartbreak, strawmen and manifestos like the one of "the forge" (which I would compare to Plato, or for that matter the Andre Bazin of "rpg theory"). what we have now was made to advocate certain styles over others.

    I could write lots more, the title @Rickard gave to this thread engages me very much, but before I again prove to be the odd duck i'll shut up.

    @WarriorMonk, are you planning to make the discussions in to documents or collections of techniques, or are they to stay at the level of forum discussions? Because such documents could considerably lessen what we do not know.
  • edited August 2013
    Leoard Balsera said that these days when people talking about roleplaying they maybe referring to vastly different experiences. Is that core of our hobby really already lost?
    With chance to misinterpret you, I think it's great that we can produce different kinds of experiences, just like LARP and TTRPG does. That can help us taking roleplaying games in new directions instead of following the same old tracks. It's nothing wrong with the tracks but we can discover a lot more, and benefit from those discoveries. Finding new ways of play, new techniques, new sensations, and more.
    I could write lots more, the title @Rickard gave to this thread engages me very much,
    I would love hearing all kinds of thoughts, positive and negative, that this thread gives. Don't mind if it doesn't seem to belong in the thread - which is pretty vague, but the general idea is to lift forth common things in different mediums. If a subject doesn't belong to the thread, I will just tell that person to start a new thread about it. :)

    But don't mind the title. It was mostly something I threw together because I didn't know what to call this thread. :)

    [EDIT] This thread then takes an unwanted and incredibly uninteresting turn. Read WarriorMonk's and Pell's posts down below and then skip everything to my post that begins with I don't know why, but I discovered myself reading on Wikipedia.
  • Yes Semiomant, I'm still building up the Techniques list with everything I can find. It's surprising how for example, I recall using LARP techniques like monologues and more on TTRPGs without having played a LARP in my life. There are an awful ton of things that as some point we make up or reinvent to use at the table and forget the next session. I agree that Techniques in general are easy to improvise withouth much preparation, most of them come out from different sources like movies, theather, television, books, comics, videogames, etc. But we don't consume the same things, so a technique, house rule or reference not may be familiar or "intuitive" for some people.

    The techniques list is still growing, but once it's stable I'll make a comic to explain them, like this one David Berg used for his game Delve hopefully it will be clearer than APs for explaining how to play an RPG.

    About people experiencing different things from roleplaying, it's copletely true. I was amazed at how some people play cooperative story games or even trad games where players have heavy influence on scene framing or correcting the GM. Three years ago I thought old school was some sort of Paranoia-like TPKfest until I readed more about the style of play and talked with veteran old school players. You see, rulebooks today can give you everything you need to play but they still can't convey how players should behave to have fun nor why. AW is the one closer to that end, but it still doesn't reach it's full potential. It's derivates are even closer though.

    However there's still something missing, for all I've tried I can't completely understand how AW is supposed to be GMed and I'm afraid that messing my own experience with it won't work. It might even ruin the intended game experience for the players. I get the principles, I've used them a lot before and it's quite useful to have them listed in front of you to remember that as a GM you've always many more options than it looks. Also, the principles will inspire you and the players to use a wider array of Techniques, which also has a quite interesting impact on the game experience. Moves do the same, they are a wonderful tool to add color to the game, personalize characters and bring unexpected twists to the action, instead of just letting the dice say yes or no.

    Now, does this all means the hobby has lost it's core? No. It means it's core is bigger than we all thought. It's certainly bigger than our tables, our group and our experiences; it's amazingly diverse, has an incredible amount of hidden potential, and it's still getting lost between disputes, bigotry, an industry still too attached to routine (not even to it's traditions) and designers that insist of following that path instead of thinking how to open up the hobby for newcomers.

    So please, write more about everything, everybody. We've got a lot to learn yet.
  • A couple of things just out of my head ...

    telling a story : it might be oldest activity of humans since they learned how to communicate
    playing together with roles : every child has played cowboys/indians or cops/rubbers ... without much need of actual explanations
    play in character : lots of people have either "played improvisation" or acted in an amateur group of theater ... and then again, without knowing any theory
    use of a storyboard : even dancing is using this simple "technique/artifact" to organize and give "meaning" to the "piece of art"
    About people experiencing different things from roleplaying, it's copletely true.
    It is also true of most art : movies, theater ... even painting and dancing. Rpg are no different. Habermas did have a lot to say about this, in very big books.
    Now, does this all means the hobby has lost it's core? No. It means it's core is bigger than we all thought. It's certainly bigger than our tables, our group and our experiences; it's amazingly diverse, has an incredible amount of hidden potential, and it's still getting lost between disputes, bigotry, an industry still too attached to routine (not even to it's traditions) and designers that insist of following that path instead of thinking how to open up the hobby for newcomers.
    Yes, indeed. And this might even "scare" new comers. We're in fact in a very simple, intuitive hobby that just look so complicated for new comers. But they are out there, and I believe they want to play. Everyone, everyone loves good stories. And this is our hobby : telling stories together.
    So please, write more about everything, everybody. We've got a lot to learn yet.
    Recently, I have discovered that I can learn more about rpg from people outside the hobby. They can explain me, very intuitively, what they like about the activity, using simple terms coming from other type of art/medium.

    But let's be optimistic. For instance, comics and anime had only been respected for their respective form of art only about two decade ago ...
    Can rpg be a form of art ?
  • Here we are again, already with the theatrical metaphors.

    How would you describe role-playing if it was the first medium of story telling?
  • Here we are again, already with the theatrical metaphors.

    How would you describe role-playing if it was the first medium of story telling?

    Here we are again, already with the "story telling" metaphors.

    The point of my snark being that everything has referents and context, and it's natural (and probably advantageous) to compare a new thing to old things when trying to explain what the new thing is. In fact, "role-playing" is a term borrowed from the psychological therapy field. That's not even "ours."

    Still, it's interesting and wise to ALSO approach this from Ben's POV. I don't think there's anything wrong with comparing role-playing with existing media, though.
  • Here we are again, already with the theatrical metaphors.
    Excuse me, Ben, I'm at little confused here ... Could you be more explicit ?
    And I know you won't like it : when I say rpg are theater, it is not as a metaphor, but as a fact (at least, for me). They do differ at some points, but they are way more alike.
    How would you describe role-playing if it was the first medium of story telling?
    Then again Ben, I'm not quite sure I understand ... Why would I do that? How can I even do that? What's the benefits of trying to do that ? Would it help bring new comers to the hobby?
    Do you talk about the role playing medium or the activity?
    A question : is World of Warcraft (MMO) a story-telling medium? Is it a rpg?
  • edited August 2013
    First thing I learned on Art Theory in college is that there isn't a clear definition of Art, but a lot of what isn't. Looking at all the things that are called art today, you'll see this tag has done nothing good for any media. People who call themselves "artists" and use it as an excuse to make more money out of a form of expression, from the pockets of status-consumers, have really ruined the profession for all the creative people who just wanted to play, comunicate emotions/ concepts and feel free to feel.

    So, right from the start, fuck the "Art" tag. Let other people call it "Art" if they feel inclined. As a game designer all I want to do is create something (bizarre, epic, humorous, dramatic, etc), have fun and share it with others. I've been illustrating for years, I'm good at what I do, but I don't consider myself as an "Artist". Your ego starts to ruin your work when you get to think of yourself as that.

    Pells has a point: all the things on that list are intuitive. But then again, not all the things that fill the gaps and connect the things on that list are intuitive, otherwise that list by itself would be a game. We veterans can perfectly see how all those are part of the core of the game and make sense putting them together, but I'd bet my whole collection of RPG books that a newcomer wouldn't be able to put up a game that resembles exactly what we do, just from using all the things mentioned in that list.

    Twenty years ago I readed an article in a local newspaper about roleplaying games. It explained some of the basics and showd an AP, it picked my curiosity. I heard about D&D and watched the cartoon on tv, but in the end I couldn't make heads nor tails of what the game was supposed to be like, though I understand all the thing that are on the list were used together somehow.
  • Role-playing games are no more theatre than they are novels, movies, paintings, textbooks, sculptures, ethos, critical essays, TV serials, or mathematical theories.

    As in, one can draw lines between role-playing and any of those activities, but they are definitively and entirely _not the same thing_.

    It's really common in the early days of a given medium that the critical analysis work will all make borrowed analysis using theories of more established media: i.e. when movies were getting their start, most of the theoretical work was done using theatre as a framework, with the idea that a movie camera is just a way of reproducing a theatrical performance easily.

    But, of course, it's not. And when filmmakers started to realize this -- when they began to realize that there was more to their medium of choice than "more static theatre--" movies really began to flower artistically and critically and commercially. Doing this is hard -- the critical vocabulary must be made from scratch, and generally must be made by the artists involved, who have better things to do. But it's the only way to move forward creatively.

    Why is that? Because when you adopt your critical language and frameworks form a different medium, you also adopt the aesthetic ethos of that medium. Ultimately, if you use theories that explain role-playing as a form of improv theater, you will end up at the conclusion that the highest form of role-playing is actually improv theatre. If you use theories that explain role-playing as a form of novel, you will end up at the conclusion that the highest form of role-playing is actually a novel. And so on and so forth, with all the things I mentioned above.

    Such work can be useful, of course, but I would really love to have an aesthetics that centers role-playing games, rather than some other more established medium. I think we'll be stuck chasing our tail until we have that.

    Because the highest form of role-playing is role-playing.
  • edited August 2013
    Can we all take this "What is roleplaying games" or "Is roleplaying games theater?" in another thread? Definitions, and also discussions like that, is something I want to avoid.
  • telling a story : it might be oldest activity of humans since they learned how to communicate
    playing together with roles : every child has played cowboys/indians or cops/rubbers ... without much need of actual explanations
    play in character : lots of people have either "played improvisation" or acted in an amateur group of theater ... and then again, without knowing any theory
    use of a storyboard : even dancing is using this simple "technique/artifact" to organize and give "meaning" to the "piece of art"
    Excellent list!
  • edited August 2013
    Ben is totally right. Role-playing games are role-playing games, and nothing else (though of course we can see things in them that relate to other media we are familiar with).

    I think formulations like Vincent's "It's a conversation" in Apocalypse World is a part of this kind of aesthetics. There are also things that happen in roleplaying that happen nowhere else: There's this dance between personal imagination and partial expression of that imagination to give a social and imagined (as in functionally imagined, not as in "not real") weight to what's happening in my head. Weird stuff.
  • We would need a completely different term then; perhaps something in another language that could convey more meanings than "roleplaying". This new word should be able to englobe at least "role-playing" and "making stories"
  • I dunno; I don't think the Term For The Activity matters all that much; I think it's probably more important to embrace history and take what we've got in "role-playing games" rather than reverse-engineer a term that is a definition in itself. I mean, "Film." That's just the physical medium that images are imprinted on. It doesn't take into account the process of directing, acting, editing, sound, etc. It's just a word for the medium that of course has nebulous boundaries.
  • Recently, I have discovered that I can learn more about rpg from people outside the hobby. They can explain me, very intuitively, what they like about the activity, using simple terms coming from other type of art/medium.
    I would like to highlight this, as something that continues on what I said about game designers leaving some basic stuff out when explaining their games. Getting feedback from non-gamers is gold worth, and to see how they learn to play roleplaying games. Things we take for granted comes up in a new light.
  • Interesting. So on my home I composed a reply to @Rickard, encouraged to say my thoughts about "knowing little and learing more", but discussion overtook me. Still it seems somewhat relevant, so i will still include here and then reframe it to what I believe is closer to Rickards intentions:
    Looking at different tracks is fine, for example many books today have used techiniques deveopled for cinema. But it might be useful to stress the differences, too. Writing a play or a book maybe both writing, but technique and performance can be quite different.

    In the same vein larps and trpgs may share roleplaying, but characters and attributes and fiction are present in movies, too? So acting == roleplaying?
    Along the same line, Vincent Baker has always insisted that his games belong in the same category as D&D. And as writer who wants to do different things I can understand why he wants this, in not to limit what he can do or is perceived to be able to do. OTOH, this might really hamper analysis, finding specific differences. And insofar reflection on differences in material and its attributes suffers, the development of craft and skill is hampered, too. Advances depend on luck and raw talent.

    In other fields we have film studies, theater studies, and literary criticism with several subfields. (there is even a book on anime studies, a whole book can be fruitfully written on the differences between disney and japanasese animation) As a creator you might care to much for this, but it might prove just as fruitful for roleplaying to look at differences between "traditional roleplaying" and "storygaming" as this has proven to be for modern novel writers and anime creators.

    So i am all for the different tracks, but we should be allowed to analytically divide the tracks. To give us tools and patterns that lessen what is not known about out hobby.

    Maybe it's just what *i* need to do.
    I think what Rickard is looking for here is "tracks" of inspiration to learn from. For me that includes theory, too. Its why I feels somewhat justified posting the above.

    Really, definitions and theories are not the enemies of creativity. For some, yes, but others like me it fuels a sense of possibility. For conservative thinkers like Habermas a theory might be the be-all-and-end-all of thought, but more recent philosophers recast theory as opening up tracks to explore.

    Even when a designer decides to go against a theory, which is always possible, something he perceived as staid became the foil for new creativity. John Harper designed a microgame to prove a point.

  • The techniques list is still growing, but once it's stable I'll make a comic to explain them, like this one David Berg used for his game Delve hopefully it will be clearer than APs for explaining how to play an RPG.
    Very nice. Looking forward to it.

    I hope i understand you right, in that your approach implies that there is skill and craft involved in roleplaying. There is this line of thought, where when you introduce people to roleplaying and after 10 min they should understand it in total if you only do it right. While there are certainly talented newbs, experience and knowledge play a large role.
  • edited August 2013
    I would like to highlight this, as something that continues on what I said about game designers leaving some basic stuff out when explaining their games. Getting feedback from non-gamers is gold worth, and to see how they learn to play roleplaying games. Things we take for granted comes up in a new light.
    Here's some guidelines/feedback we've got recently :
    - The game should be simple : they should be up and running in half an hour
    - @semiomant : If there could be no explanation at all (getting the information on the way, as with some board games), all the better
    - the fun is really the story, the adventure, the stakes (I'm not sure they see the difference) ... but mostly being part of it.
    - see that 400 pages rules book? Get it off the table.
    - If at one point you stop and look at the rules, for a point of detail, for a long time : that's a killer
    - they do not understand why they do throw dices for a long time and mainly only for physical combat
    - they want to be in control : don't talk to them about rules preventing them to play a female space marine
    - they don't want to play with the trolls
    - we're selling them Agot, Lord of the ring, the matrix ... and all they get is that fucking dungeon, rolling dices to kill monsters ... or seeing someone get thrilled by having a hand full of dices.
    - and, somehow, they seem afraid to tell the other players ...

    At some point, we're thinking "let's sell to girls who want to play and will come back to their boyfriends, telling them : I'm willing to play, but this game are my terms".
    Can we all take this "What is roleplaying games" or "Is roleplaying games theater?" in another thread? Definitions and also discussions like that is something I want to avoid.
    I've started this thread as a a split. I think we're aiming at the same result, not using the same way ... anyway, it's stuff I've written, I hope it could be of some use, knowing that I'm willing to go into some serious shit.

    [Edit]About those guidelines ... they should be "novice", "mid level" and "advanced"[/end Edit]
  • edited August 2013
    I don't know why, but I discovered myself reading on Wikipedia about chemistry which lead me to the article about systems. Wikipedia writes the following about systems:
    A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole /.../
    • A system has structure, it contains parts (or components) that are directly or indirectly related to each other;
    • A system has behavior, it contains processes that transform inputs into outputs (material, energy or data);
    • A system has interconnectivity: the parts and processes are connected by structural and/or behavioral relationships.
    • A system's structure and behavior may be decomposed via subsystems and sub-processes to elementary parts and process steps.
    When we talk about a system in roleplaying games, it's often a system of game mechanics that comes into mind. If I say "D&D" you will think of attributes, feats, hit dice and similar. But a system is more than that. Wikipedia follows up on that: "The term system may also refer to a set of rules that governs structure and/or behavior." You also got a system within the group, sometimes called "social contract", but it's more than that. Five people around a table in a room creates a closed system. Each person in the room is a component in the system and each person has a relation to another. In other words, the system has interconnectivity. One thing I think is interesting in designing games is to take the group's system into mind, and make each participant become one component in the game's system. Because basically, that is what a roleplaying game system is. Nothing will ever happen before a participant adds input to the system.
  • edited August 2013
    What I think is most important is the third point above: how the different components in the system interacts. When making a game, you want the game to create some sort of sensation or motivation. Perhaps you want the players to explore the world or compete against each other by using the game mechanics. If I told you to make a game where the players explore the world while competing against each other - you probably have an idea of how to make the game based on your experience with other roleplaying games. I think that's the wrong approach.

    What you need is components in a system that interact and, from that interaction, a sensation will emerge. You will design for emergence. The philosopher G.H. Lewes said about emergence "Every resultant is either a sum or a difference of the co-operant forces; their sum, when their directions are the same -- their difference, when their directions are contrary." It doesn't matter if you are aiming for a tactical game or a game where you improvise a story together; you should still design for emergence. This is the hard part. How do you know what components that you should add to your game? How should you know what kind of relations the components should have with each other, so that the interaction is creating the emergence that you are seeking for?

    I don't have an answer for that. Like Lewes also said: "The emergent is unlike its components insofar as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference.", and that's why it's so hard to explain it. It's like describing how you can take any thought and then tell which experiences that lead up to that thought. It's impossible. We got The Big Model that only works for a certain kind of roleplaying. We got Marc LeBlanc's Mechanics/Dynamics/Aesthetics, where he found a couple of very general gaming components that can interact with each other. We got LARP theory where (can't remember the name) tells us that to reach immersion, we need character, setting and situation to relieve each other in a continuous loop. We got Theory of Fun, that says that learning the system is why we play. Learning how all the components in the system interacts, and what kind of input results in what kind of output. Note, the participants are also components and learning them is learning to predict the outcome in the whole gaming experience. We also got Nicole Lazzaro's hard fun, easy fun, serious fun, people fun - that mostly are feelings we get from the emergence that appear.

    To design a game is to design for emergence, and by doing that you have to create a system where the participants are one part of the components in that system. Add to this what I've written earlier: "We need, during a session, to work as a group - to form a communication in how to play. To think as a group. To feel as a group. To co-operate in creating a story - or a sense of feeling - together."
  • I really like the system analogy, and I believe it represents well our hobby.
    I'd like to stress out something you have already mentioned : role playing games, unlike traditional games (boardgames, for instance) are very complex system.
    And the rules are only a small fraction of the "equation" : for how long have the players been playing together? Are there new players at the table? What kind of stories are they playing? What is the dynamic of the group? The relation between players (even : are there kids around)? What type of characters are they playing? What substance are they consuming while playing?
    Those elements all seem important to me, as much as the rules ... thus, shouldn't we always consider role playing games [as a system] to be incomplete? I think yes. And it's Okay.

    We're not the only ones with such complex systems : in theater, you have the script and the direction (and costume, and music, and stage set). In a classroom, you have the book, the teacher, the students (and the board, and the school, and computers, and parents).

    Are role playing games such a complex systems that we should always provide unfinished product, such as very open rules and storyboard, knowing that we can't know all the elements of the "equation" of any game session?
    To do so, we need to be aware of this complexity (and not suppose that rules can resolve alone the "equation").

    Well, maybe I'm wrong, but Rickard, I believe you're really into something with this line of thought ...
  • edited September 2014
    What kind of stories are they playing? What is the dynamic of the group? The relation between players (even : are there kids around)? What type of characters are they playing? What substance are they consuming while playing?
    Those elements all seem important to me, as much as the rules ... thus, shouldn't we always consider role playing games [as a system] to be incomplete? I think yes. And it's Okay.
    I will now turn on my philosophical voice. :)

    I don't talk about game mechanics anymore.

    During the 90s, Swedish roleplayers were divided into two camps: rule players and freeformers. I didn't get freeform at the time - or "system-less", like it was also called. From this thread, we know now that there is no such thing as "system-less" because the group is forming a system of it's own. I didn't get freeform at all. No rules? How can you play with no rules? Roger Caillois attempted to categorize all games, and put his categories on a scale where paidia was at one end and ludus at the other. paidia is free imagining - doing whatever at the moment - while ludus is hard-coded rules. Raph Koster tells us in Theory of Fun: 10 Years Later that we always draw from our experience to form a structure, and that paidia is nothing more than unspoken rules. So in the end: both ludus and paidia are rules: spoken or unspoken.

    [edit 2] End statement: there is no such thing as improvisation. It only takes different structures than planning ahead.

    During this last decade, I discovered structured freeform but what I realized is that it's just a collection of techniques put into structures for how to play the game, just as rules are. I later understood that freeform during the 90s is nothing more than structured freeform. I also realized that game mechanics are nothing more than structures for how to play.

    There are two types of structures (possibly more): procedures and pools. Procedures are lists where you execute everything in order, and procedures can loop into themselves or release each other. Pools are instead lists of options that you can choose from, with a provided instruction of how to use the pool. Apocalypse World uses both, where you have a procedure to activate moves but you also have a pool of moves to choose from. If we were going to play something from a paidia point of view, it could be thought of as improvisation, but what you do is instead to draw from your pool of experience. There is no improvisation. There are only structures of play.

    That's why I don't talk about game mechanics. It's just one tiny bit of the whole game.

    [edit] More talk about pools and procedures.
    We're not the only ones with such complex systems :
    Yes, and this is one reason why I'm writing in this thread: to learn from other medias. :)
    And the rules are only a small fraction of the "equation" : for how long have the players been playing together? Are there new players at the table?
    I said earlier that I want roleplaying games to build a relation, but I actually never thought about how these games assume that the group already has a healthy relation. It would be nice with rules that started with "The newest member in the group...", and then give that person a little extra status.
    Are role playing games such a complex systems that we should always provide unfinished product, such as very open rules and storyboard, knowing that we can't know all the elements of the "equation" of any game session?
    I've heard writers say that when their books reaches the reader, it's not their creation anymore, because the reader will interpret the words. Roleplaying games are no exceptions, but I've found only one - Hammarn och Trollspöt (Eng. The Hammer and the Wand) - that actually uses that to it's advantage. The description of the world and how to play the game differs widely depending on who's reading it. The writer have talked about it on a forum, but I noticed it myself when I read the adventure chapter. Depending on my own taken standpoint when reading, I could interpret three different adventure types (railroad, sandbox, and fish tank) from the same text.

    But you're right, we should probably provide open products. We are already doing it today, but it seems like many aren't aware of this.
  • edited August 2013
    Nothing much to comment at this point for a contribution, i just wanted to say that this stuff is great. It ties in with a lot of the thoughts I've been having over recent years and tying them together in new patterns.

    (EDIT: note that I did call the whole thing a 'roleplaying system' a couple of days ago in that branched thread...so this is definitely running along my current wavelength)
  • @Rickard: You might want to check out a book by Peter Brook called The Empty Space. It's been a while since I've read it and I admit to being too lazy right now to go look it up, take extensive notes, and then summarize for you (so take what I'm about to write with a grain of salt) BUT: Brook talks about different kinds of theater and there are three that I can remember.

    The first is Deadly Theater. It is spectacle. That's it. Maybe there was an attempt at substance, but really it's just pretty costumes and pyrotechnics. It is theater that is just trying to impress.

    The second is Holy Theater. This is theater that MEANS something. It conveys a message to those watching, something that we can latch on to.

    The third is Theater in the Rough. This is theater that eschews the spectacle of the Deadly; it's not about the props, it's about the story.

    There are a lot of parallels here to role playing. How easy is it to fall into the trap of the Deadly - "hey, here's a scary monster ... wooooOOOoooo!" - I never like it when I do it. And I never like it when other GMs do it. It doesn't mean anything.

    I love it when the game takes on a deeper meaning, when players need to make decisions that they care about. I do think there is something to be said about focusing on character, though. While I appreciate personal investment, it is still a game. I want my character to be invested, tied to the game. If that's what keeps me coming back, great.

    The Theater in the Rough seems especially relevant to this thread, specifically to your interests. I remember Brook talking about alternative venues, about spontaneity. About cutting away the clutter to lay bare some other part of the story. When you talk about the mechanics being only a small part of role playing for you, that's what comes to mind.
  • Here are some observations I have made:
    1) RPGs let you be creative. They allow you to add to a creative space.
    2) RPGs let you be experience the fun while playing. Few other media offer the simultaneous joy of participating and spectating.
    3) RPGs let you enjoy a fun game.
    4) RPGs let you enjoy the game while watching others enjoy the game.
    5) RPGs let you enjoy what it is like to be in the shoes of an interesting character.
    6) RPGs let you solve interesting problems.
    7) RPGs are not Toys, Toys are play that have no structure, RPGs have a structure
    8) RPGs are a game, there is no winner, but that is not a requirement for something to be a game.
    9) RPGs do not always make a story about the PCs. They can, but there is no guarantee.
    10) RPGs map to parts of Theatre, Movies and novels in that there are characters, scenes, locations, conflicts and creativity
    11) RPGs do not map to Theatre, Movies and novels because they are dynamic. Large swaths of RPGs cannot be planned. If there is a GM, they can plan NPCs, Locations and even some NPC dialogue. But then unexpected things happen.
    12) Parts of RPGs map to improv, they both have spontaneous reactions to creative situations.
    13) Parts of RPGs do not map to because parts are pre-planned and/or decided by randomizers as opposed to the participants.
    14) There are parts of RPGs that map across all games.
    I feel like designers know a lot about RPGs, but we do not share terminology to discuss that knowledge in a non-contentious manner.
    Dave M
  • edited August 2013
    @JoshDemers: Yeah, meaning is one category of components that can be used in a game. I will look into Theater in the Rough.

    [edit] I thought I recognized the name. I've read his book There Are No Secrets. It wasn't much that I could use, but I tagged a page that said the following.
    ...if two people move across the [empty] space and one says to the other, "Hello! Mr. Livingstone, I presume", these words ar sufficient to conjure up Africa, palm trees, and so on. If, on the other hand, he had said "Hello ... where is the Metro?" the spectator would be a street in Paris.

    /.../

    If all you do is place two people side by side in an empty space, each detail comes into focus.
    I thought this was interesting, because I'm tired of framing scenes by describing the environment first. I rather describe it last or through a dialogue. Scene framing should instead be about WHAT you want from the scene. What kind of situation you want to happen, but not how it's going to be played out. Framing a scene could sound like this:

    "I think it would be interesting if Ms Parker and her husband were to meet, after that incident with the husband and the servant. What do you think? [taking in opinions] OK, lets play it out." After that, the dialogue starts. If one player think it's important with where the scene takes place, that person can say "Doesn't the roses smell beautiful" or just leave the place to later, if it needs to be established at all.

    We know:
    1. Who are present.
    2. What the intention is of the scene.
    We don't need to know more than that to play out a scene. Viola Spolin says something similar [edit] I was wrong. It's Jurij Alschitz, a guy who teaches the ideas of Konstantin Stanislavskij. (Some interesting ideas that I will perhaps come to later.)

    You could play out a whole conversation without knowing the place, and sometimes it's refreshing to establish the location as a finishing touch. Ending with "Good night! *I turn off the bed light"" will create something entirely different than "Enough of this chatter. I think we dug deep enough. Lets dump these bodies and get out of here".
  • edited September 2013
    Talking about Viola Spolin. I flickered through the pages of Theater Games for Rehearsal. I really like reading her stuff, because she calls the exercises for "games" and the actors for "players".
    The direction helps actors keep the focus which sets the game in motion, and all become fellow players as they attend to the same problem from different points of view.
    Her technique to rehearsal, and she was to my knowledge the first one to do it, was to do improv exercises and step in as a sidecoach to direct the players. Here is an example of how it can sound (but less humoristic).

    It feels like Jeepform has taken a lot from her, because they are using techniques to sidecoach the players. Bird in the Ear is a technique where the game master whispers new information to one player - "She hates you", "You know the truth" or "Is this really the garden?" - to change the player's behaviors. This seems like classic sidecoaching - a game style that could be used a lot more to help the players to increase their spontaneity, creativity and communication. Spolin writes a list of things that the director should be thinking of during these exercises, and I believe it's something a game master should consider during a session.
    1. Am I giving enough energy?
    2. Am I staying overlong on mechanics?
    3. Which players need individual attention?
    4. Do they need more workshops?
    5. Are rehearsals to drawn out?
    6. Am I nagging the players?
    7. Am I attacking them?
    8. Are the actors working at odds with me?
    9. Is the problem physical or psychological?
    10. Am I just being a traffic manager?
    11. Is it necessary to stimulate more spontaneity?
    12. Am I overanxious?
    13. Am I asking them for more than they can give me at this time?
    14. Am I reaching the intuitive?
    I can recognize myself asking the first three in my game mastering today, but the fourth is something I want to include more. I'm already doing exercises today, at the beginning of the session, to show how I and the rest of the players should communicate when I'm the game master, but I would like to reflect during the coarse of the game if I need to hit the brakes and do exercises to relieve spontaneity and creativity even more. Nagging and attacking is something I've seen on conventions, where people who are fired up are attacking a shy or undetermined player with directed questions. I always aim to build a creative environment where everybody feels safe enough to contribute to "the story" or "the experience" of the game. To do that, you need to be compassionate and calm, but still feed the group with energy. Don't force yourself upon the others, but cherish what they do - either by telling them how good they are or by building on their ideas.
  • edited November 2014
    If you turn a switch, a lamp will be lit. That's feedback - a positive reinforcement. We can control the players' behaviors by any kind of reinforcements. In video games, there are a lot of talk about rewards. Chris Bateman lists heaps of them over at his blog, and the interested can go over there to read. The reason why I don't list them here is because rewards are just a part of positive reinforcements, and rewards have a tendency to create a thinking pattern in the game designer's head that the only reinforcements are mechanical ones. That kind of thinking can harm your game.
    "Whenever you're in combat, gain 1 XP".
    "If you follow your belief, gain 1 artha."
    "If you make someone laugh, gain 1 die."
    What I'm partly talking about is the overjustifaction effect, where studies has shown that rewards only works if the task is boring in the first place, if the reinforcement is verbal, or if you're competing and beating other players. If the participants wants to do a task, and mechanical reward is given, then a reward for doing it will have either no effect or, in worst case scenario, decrease the fun of doing the task. A game should reinforce fun ways of playing the game, because frankly: who wants to do boring tasks in a game?

    What I'm also talking about is that the reinforcement should have something to do with what being reinforced. If I tell a joke, then my character shouldn't become better at swords. If I tell a joke, other participants should instead laugh. If I play out a seduction scene, I should see what consequences that will bring me. If I however roll to sneak pass the guards, then I should be rewarded XP (that affect game mechanics), because then I solve something by using the game mechanics. We should be better at communicating through reinforcements. Like I said in my previous post: "...cherish what they do - either by telling them how good they are or by building on their ideas." This is all part of the whole communication in a roleplaying game.

    Don't throw in (mechanical) rewards and think that will solve everything. Instead, think of how to reinforce each other through communication.
  • Summarizing a few ideas I found really interesting:

    -There's no such thing as a freeform, it's just that players are using procedures and pools from their experience instead of following a book.
    -Any RPG System actually includes:

    a) Procedures for creating and establishing the fiction, like prep, brainstorming, provoking questions, character creation, relationship trees, scene framing through description, through adding details in the players dialogue or by presenting visual material (drawings, maps and miniatures), roleplaying (as in Acting)

    b) Procedures to negotiate the fiction, like Techniques, mostly, though you could squeeze here rules and mechanics.

    c) Pools for both a & b

    -a, b & c synchro and feedback each other. when fiction is changed by the players, pools may increase, new things generate and even new techniques to deal with those elements may appear.

    -There hasn't been any game that includes and explains all these on their corebook. Players had to either import B from one game into another or made up their own from other sources like theather, movies, comics, novels, poetry, programming, etc. Also most players has houseruled a lot about A, B and C.

    -Until lately, you could only learn Techniques by watching other people play, reading APs or making up your own.

    No wonder the hobby can't spread faster. Gotta work on that.
  • edited August 2013
    Summarizing a few ideas I found really interesting: /.../ No wonder the hobby can't spread faster. Gotta work on that.
    I appreciate initiatives like this. :) And getting insight of the things we take for granted is why I started this thread in the beginning.
    -There hasn't been any game that includes and explains all these on their corebook. Players had to either import B from one game into another or made up their own from other sources like theather, movies, comics, novels, poetry, programming, etc. Also most players has houseruled a lot about A, B and C.
    The last sentence is important. People will either ignore or fill based on previous experiences. This is common. If I don't have, as an example, a combat system, people will start wonder where it is. If I start talking about when to roll dice, some readers will ignore it because they have been playing roleplaying games in ten years and surely knows how and when to roll dice. I blame this behavior on two things:
    1. People are used to do this.
    2. We are writing roleplaying games in the wrong way - a way that are feeding the first point.
    You can't change the first, but you can change the second one. We are to focused on HOW to do something instead of WHY we're doing it. I'm not sure that we should tell why either. Not in clear text, but instead the reader should realize this by reading the whole structure of the game. Perhaps we should focus more on WHAT the game wants from us. Boardgames makes this clear to us. Very clear²²². Most games today even put the end condition first in the manual, so we know why we are reading the rest of the book, and can make an understanding on WHY the rules exist while reading them.

    In roleplaying games, when we read about character generation and combat, the game assumes that we know why. Of course, because they are in every traditional roleplaying game. But we don't reflect on why we need them. We just assume that we do. You can probably come up with a reason to why we need them, but that's just assuming. If I told you that we don't need character generation, but instead can make characters while playing to show what that particular session is about, you would probably wonder what the game is about. We don't need a combat system - we just assume that this is one of the types on conflicts that roleplaying games can have. We assume that roleplaying games needs conflicts. That is wrong. What we need is uncertainty³³³, and conflicts are only but part of that.

    Thoughts like this is what I mean when I write that I want to go back to the roots. To see on WHAT we need, and HOW we can, describe WHY we should play that game.

    ²²² I said in a previous thread that "how to make a scenario" should be first in a roleplaying book, but I think the whole book should be formed as a structure of play. The first thing we need to be first is to be told what kind of experience the game will create. "What is the goal of this game?"
    ³³³ I listed a pool of uncertainties in a previous thread.
  • edited September 2013
    -a, b & c synchro and feedback each other. when fiction is changed by the players, pools may increase, new things generate and even new techniques to deal with those elements may appear.
    This is spot on. This is what I mean when I write "communication". I read The Game some years back, that controversial book that sees pulling as a game of manipulation. No matter what you think about that book, it brings up a good point. Verbal communication is nothing more than a pool of procedures. If you and me meet for the first time, we got a procedure for how to introduce ourselves. That procedure then reliefs another procedure that seeks, in a pool of topics, something to talk about. Worst case scenario, we will talk about the weather. The purpose of a conversation is to find topics that we both know and care about. I never ask someone what they do for a living because I care. I ask to find interesting things to talk about with that person.

    I always find it easy to hang out on gaming convention, because we already have a common interest: gaming. During parties, I noticed that people sooner or later starts talking about sex. Even if you're a virgin, you still got some sort of idea about sex. We got the same thing when playing roleplaying games. No, I'm not talking about sex, but at any time, when you grab a roleplaying book, we know how to communicate in that game. We know the game's structure, it's pool of procedures, and it's specific procedure for each specific situation. Because we learned it, just like we learned how to do a conversation.

    It's not that easy though. We also got people not knowing the game, we got a hierarchy within the group, either created socially from before or created by the game ("You're the game master"). These kinds of relations in the group can contradict each other, and plays an underlaying part in the communication. This is something I think roleplaying games should be better at building up. In Kagematsu, the game takes the typical minority in the roleplaying world - a woman - and places her in the game master seat. In LARP, we got mentors tutoring beginners so they don't have to feel footed. Theater exercises are playing and challenges different status to make the actors more aware of their existence.

    What I really like in the quote above, and that I never would have thought of saying, is: "...when fiction is changed by the players, pools may increase, new things generate and even new techniques to deal with those elements may appear." This happens in a conversation as well. Topics mutate into something. Most of the times, the topics aren't discussed to the end before they mutate, but that's good. That keeps up an interest! An uncertainty of what to come. I would like to see a roleplaying game that mutates like a conversation. What began with a love affair mutated into a duel and then sex ... or talking about the weather. This - these three procedures relieving each other - is something that should grow organically, and with the right procedures and pools, they can.
  • Exactly Rickard, that's another thing that makes RPGs so easy to learn: everyone used to the change of procedures and pools in conversations are already familiar with the flow of any game conversation. Also, everyone is accustomed to negotiate with people in the real world, so when you learn the equivalent tools the game uses for this (the techniques) you get confident in no time with them. Along with the understanding of roleplaying as a mix of play-pretend and theather, the learning curve ends up being surprisingly easier than you thought. Again, this makes me think that the techniques are still the only important barrier to learn how to play RPGs, and a key process that must see further development if we want to see the hobby evolve.
  • edited September 2014
    Mark Rosewater is a lead designer of Magic the Gathering, and one thing he contributed with was the player types Timmy, Johnny and Spike. These three, and some were added later on, were in the designer's head when developing cards. Timmy wanted big monsters, Spike wanted to win and Johnny wanted to express himself through the deck. When you design a game, you should tell the participant WHAT the game is about, but this doesn't have to do anything with why a each individual wants to play roleplaying games.

    Roger Caillois has his categories of games: (taken from Wikipedia)
    Agon, or competition. E.g. Chess
    Alea, or chance. E.g. Playing a slot machine
    Mimicry, or mimesis, or role playing. E.g. Playing a MMORPG
    Ilinx (Greek for "whirlpool"), or vertigo, in the sense of altering perception. E.g. taking hallucinogens, riding roller coasters, children spinning until they fall down.
    Nicole Lazzaro have her four ways of fun.
    Hard fun is competition or challenging yourself.
    Easy fun is discovering and sensation.
    Serious fun is finding a meaning that you care about.
    People fun is about sharing a moment with your friends.
    Marc LeBlanc lists eight kinds of fun (aesthetics): (taken from his homepage)
    Sensation: game as sense-pleasure
    Fantasy: game as make-believe
    Narrative: game as unfolding story
    Challenge: game as obstacle course
    Fellowship: game as social framework
    Discovery: game as uncharted territory
    Expression: game as soap box
    Submission: game as mindless pastime
    In computer games, people love to talk about Bartley's four player types:
    Killers: interfere with the functioning of the game world or the play experience of other players
    Achievers: accumulate status tokens by beating the rules-based challenges of the game world
    Explorers: discover the systems governing the operation of the game world
    Socializers: form relationships with other players by telling stories within the game world
    Bartley's list above is taken from Personality And Play Styles: A Unified Model by Bart Stewart, where he also includes the GNS. Check out the article, because he claims that GNS is missing one player type. What's interesting is that even if there are tons of categorization out there, they are pretty much saying the same thing but with different words. We can for example find a Spike in every categorization here above.

    From my own analyze of these categories, I can find "four" reasons to be engaged:
    Competition: to try to beat the game or the other participants in different aspects of the game.
    Exploration: to explore different aspects of the game.
    Expression: to express yourself in different ways through the game.
    Sensation: to experience something, to get an insight, to feel, to escape from reality.

    I've been talking about WHAT the game is about earlier, but that has nothing to do with WHY a participant engage in a game. You can design the game with this in mind, like in Magic and a lot of video games, but I wonder if you ever can control why people are playing. The only thing you can be aware of is why some people wont play your game while others will adore it. Another thing I wonder is if we doesn't have all these reasons of playing a game all the time, but in different grades depending on mood, company and what kind of game that are about to be played. The experience of the game is also important to consider, where sensation can be a lot stronger in the beginning.

    Some will perhaps wonder how I can narrow down LeBlanc's eight ways of fun into four reasons to be engaged, while I at the same time totally ignore Bartley's socializers and Lazzaro's people fun. Well, I will come to that.
  • edited September 2013
    I've talked earlier about how how you should design for emergence, and that you can do that by letting several components in a system interact with each other. The people in the group are one part of the system, but hat else do we have? I will draw inspiration from LeBlanc's MDA - Narrative, Fellowship - and Lazarro - serious fun is finding a meaning that you care about. We got the Big Models premise that's saying the same thing as serious fun. Drawing from my own experience of gaming, I can find the following five groups of components in a game.

    Meaning: philosophical, ethical, spiritual and social questions.
    Structures: pools and procedures. A way of communicating within the game.
    Group: the participants and their relations within the group.
    Fiction: the story being told.
    Setting: the place where the story is being told and the people occupying it.

    I'm not saying a game have to include all these things, but instead use a combination of these groups of components. Add the four reasons to be engaged to this, and you can see that you can explore the structure of the game (In Dogs in the Vineyard, the characters will become assholes). You can explore the meaning of a question (What love is worth in Kagematsu). You can get a sensation when doing that. You can compete in succeeding in the fiction ("my character's goal was a success"). You can express yourself through the group, or express yourself through the setting of the game (Controlling domains in Archipelago). Note that I'm talking about the emergence of the game here - the result of what the system produces. To express yourself through the setting of the game in Archipelago is actually controlled by a structure. Answering a meaning in Kagematsu is a combination of setting and structure. Mixing reasons to engage and components of the game is telling you WHY we should play the game. To achieve that, you have to make the components interact. Tell us then WHAT the game is about (winning condition or goal) and finally make us realize WHY to play the game through reading the game's structure.

    [edit] I'm worried that this above can be hard to understand. I felt myself that I lost what I was going to write about (components to create emergence) while writing the post.
  • edited September 2013
    I remember moments from when I was active in soccer. Games where it didn't matter what I did, I always succeeded. Sometimes even the whole team shared this state and we could turn games around from loosing to winning. I have found out that this feeling is called "flow". Flow is described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi as being fully immersed and focused on a task. While being in the flow, time and space will disappear and you will become one with the task. A rewarding spontaneous joy will emerge while doing it. The following is taken from Wikipedia:

    Flow theory postulates three conditions that have to be met to achieve a flow state:
    • One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
    • The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.
    • One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable to do the task at hand.

    If I were to translate this to roleplaying games:
    1. All participants around the table must be aware of what's going on. The game must be clear with delivering it's purpose - what the game is about. All players (not "characters") can have their own directions of where they want the game to go, but these must also be known by everybody. Every scene that's framed must be framed with an intention - a direction of where it should go. That doesn't mean people should know how the scene should go there. The purpose and the intention are something that the game's structure should provide.
    2. The game's structure should also provide constant reinforcements, either by the game itself or by the participants. Cheering for people, building on their ideas, offering new ideas, tying connections within the group, creating consequences, and mechanical rewards for solving things with game mechanics. We can do this by increasing each others' awareness for each other. To teach how to think to reinforce in a fruitful way.
    3. We must learn to break free from our self-censoring and become original. To become more relaxed in taking space. To be more sensible of others so we can provide more natural reactions. We must be sure of what structures to be used. If you find the structures to hard to understand, the flow will be broken. When everything seems to fix itself, you're instead taken by it. But you must also have some sort of challenge - something that creates some sort of uncertainty or effort. I have no trouble "improvising" a story (there is no such thing as improvising), so that will never put me in the flow, but if you and me were to create a story together, that challenge can create a flow state for both of us.
    To be in the flow in roleplaying games is so much more than just being immersed in your character. You can also immerse in the fiction, in the game's structures (for tactical games), in building relations within the group, loose yourself in the setting (which the character is a part of), or being taken by the meaning of the game. In a best case scenario, the whole group will be in the flow. That's when the best experiences happen.
  • About your "pools" and "procedures" : I'm a business architect as a living, and the two common terms we use are "process" and "procedures".
    When talking about a trade (I'm using this term on purpose), an architect with try to come up with a list of processes.

    For instance, in a bank you would have : "creating/editing a customer", "creating/editing an account", "putting money in the account", "withdrawing money from the account", "closing an account" ... and so forth. When "re designing" systems (I'm choosing this term on purpose), we list all the processes, map them relatively to each other (we also use a list of roles and indicate which role uses which process). A good architect is the one who can remove a process from the system (for various reasons, be it redundant with another process and because it is a process that has no value).
    Once this is done, the architect/analyst then describe each process into procedures (to see exactly how it is "executed").

    Now, can a map/list of processes for rpg (with the roles involved) can be done? I don't see why it couldn't ...
    That said, I think the use of "processes" and "procedures" might be easier than "pools" and "procedures" since they are less specific in their usage.

    ---

    Another thing that came to me while reading this [long] thread :
    I've mentioned earlier that I've met a dancer who used to play rpg a long ago and that she still uses "techniques" from rpg in her present line of work.
    What is she using? Scene framing.

    Now, the thing is, scene framing is present in rpg, but not only in rpg. Playing rpg is a great way to learn about it, see how it works (better than seeing a movie, for instance).
    This reminds me somehow, of Habermas and his notion that there is truth in art (as much as in science), but a very personal truth, different from one person to the other.

    I've seen "commercial", who played rpg and still uses skills related to "negotiating".
    I've done recently something used in marketing, called "persona", where you represent your customers as "character/archetype" using something that really, but really looks like a character sheet. I did find this activity very, very easy ...

    ---

    We could build a list of process that are present in rpg, and the realized that most of them are not restricted to our hobby, and can be used elsewhere. That there are skills to be developed in rpg. Things to be learn. Or even moral teaching hidden.
    That's a great strength of our hobby ...

    Note : "games" are "special" in the sense that when you "play" them, you also develop other skills (management, social, puzzle solving, for instance).
    It is said to be 1:10 (for ten hours of gameplay, a player would gain the equivalent of one hour in a adjacent skill).
  • edited September 2013
    I've mentioned earlier that I've met a dancer who used to play rpg a long ago and that she still uses "techniques" from rpg in her present line of work.
    What is she using? Scene framing.

    /.../

    About your "pools" and "procedures" : I'm a business architect as a living, and the two common terms we use are "process" and "procedures".
    When talking about a trade (I'm using this term on purpose), an architect with try to come up with a list of processes.

    For instance, in a bank you would have : "creating/editing a customer", "creating/editing an account", "putting money in the account", "withdrawing money from the account", "closing an account" ... and so forth.
    I like this, people giving suggestions from their own lives. It could be me not being a native speaker, but I do think processes and procedures sound like the same thing, which making the terms harder to understand. It's cool though to hear that others have thought in the same way. :)

    Can you clarify what you mean with »I think the use of "processes" and "procedures" might be easier than "pools" and "procedures" since they are less specific in their usage.«? In what way are they less specific and what do you gain in understanding by making the terms more general? I was aiming for describing them from how you execute a structure (pool/procedures are nothing more than two different kinds of lists).
    I've done recently something used in marketing, called "persona", where you represent your customers as "character/archetype" using something that really, but really looks like a character sheet. I did find this activity very, very easy ... /.../

    We could build a list of process that are present in rpg, and the realized that most of them are not restricted to our hobby, and can be used elsewhere.
    Yes, this is true, but what I'm looking at in this thread is the purpose of a certain procedure and what we can gain from it. Why are Keith Johnstone doing certain exercises? Why do we want to reach flow? Things like that. There are similarities on HOW to do stuff in other media, but that not what I'm looking for. Like I said in my first post: "They may use different tools to achieve what they want, but it's important to see why and what they strive for. "
    Note : "games" are "special" in the sense that when you "play" them, you also develop other skills (management, social, puzzle solving, for instance).
    It is said to be 1:10 (for ten hours of gameplay, a player would gain the equivalent of one hour in a adjacent skill).
    Like Raph Koster says in Theory of Fun: fun is the feeling you get from learning [the game]. :) The last sentence is interesting. Perhaps not for this thread, but for me.
  • Can you clarify what you mean with »I think the use of "processes" and "procedures" might be easier than "pools" and "procedures" since they are less specific in their usage.«? In what way are they less specific and what do you gain in understanding by making the terms more general? I was aiming for describing them from how you execute a structure (pool/procedures are nothing more than two different kinds of lists).
    I'm just saying, if I understand well what you are trying to do/define is that it already exists. That said, I'm just having a doubt about my understanding ...
    Well anyway, you'll tell me.
    Here's something I have found for you (the subject can become very quickly technical), and here you have a good graphic.

    We could list the processes which are involved in rpg, for instance :
    - creating a character
    - resolving a conflict
    - resolving a task
    - "character development/progression"
    - negotiating
    - ...
    And then, for a specific game, and a specific group, you can describe the exact procedures being used, knowing that some procedures might not exist for that specific group and game.

    It might not be exactly what you're looking for, but I hope this might help you ...
    Yes, this is true, but what I'm looking at in this thread is the purpose of a certain procedure and what we can gain from it. Why are Keith Johnstone doing certain exercises? Why do we want to reach flow? Things like that. There are similarities on HOW to do stuff in other media, but like I said in my first post: "They may use different tools to achieve what they want, but it's important to see why and what they strive for. "
    Well, purpose of persona : to help understand the motivation of [potential] customers, define their expected behavior and propose "stuff" that they want.
    In many rpgs, which uses "artifacts" such as "motivations/keys/..." (BW, TSOY ... but not d20), I do believe there is this underlying purpose : to state beforehand what kind of "adventures" is expected while playing those characters. I know I'm stretching a bit here ...
    Like Raph Koster says in Theory of Fun: fun is the feeling you get from learning [the game]. :)
    If you ever feel like it, there is this excellent video about "gamification". It has a nice take at "fun".
    Just be warned : it's an hour long.
  • edited December 2014
    Here's something I have found for you (the subject can become very quickly technical), and here you have a good graphic.
    Ah, thanks for the links. I love links. ^^ If I understand correctly, "processes" aren't what I mean with "pools". Processes are what is done and by whom, and procedures, according to one of the links, is HOW things are done.

    When I say "pool", I mean a collection of stuff to choose from. A pool could be something like this: "When you describe an environment, you must include one of the following words: bone, despair, naked, empty, rain, scent". A pool can also be a collection of procedures, just as a procedure can include different pools to be executed in order.

    Both are lists. A procedure is a list where everything is executed in order. A pool is a list of options that you can choose from, and an instruction of how to use the pool. Both provides a structure for the game. You can find procedures and pools at all levels in the game's structure. From an overall explanation of to play the game down to very specific circumstances while playing.

    [edit] Quite correctly, processes aren't procedures, but procedures are part of a process. When talking about pools and procedures, I was only half-right. What I should talk about is a process. (More information of my updated thoughts.)
    Well, purpose of persona : to help understand the motivation of [potential] customers, define their expected behavior and propose "stuff" that they want.
    In many rpgs, which uses "artifacts" such as "motivations/keys/..." (BW, TSOY ... but not d20), I do believe there is this underlying purpose : to state beforehand what kind of "adventures" is expected while playing those characters. I know I'm stretching a bit here ...
    Yes, and what you done in the quote above is what I'm doing with these posts. Why are "they" using it, and do we have the same purpose in roleplaying games? HOW to do something is not important, only WHY to do it and WHAT to expect.

    (This is also how I define roleplaying games. From a WHY perspective, and not from a HOW. LARP may differ in execution but if it got the same purpose [WHY] as tabletop roleplaying games, it's a roleplaying game. [a simplified and very short explanation])
    If you ever feel like it, there is this excellent video about "gamification". It has a nice take at "fun".
    Just be warned : it's an hour long.
    I will look at it when I'm not on a capped internet. :)
  • Processes are what is done and by whom, and procedures, according to one of the links, is HOW things are done.
    Processes is also WHY they are done. And this is very important (many analysts neglect that part). For a given system/trade, there is a list of processes. When a certain situation arises, an "actor" (in the sense of someone having a role in a given system) check the list of processes, choose the one that seems the more appropriate, and then might (or not), execute a procedure.
    There is that notion of "checking into the list" and picking the right process ...

    Speaking of WHY, when analyzing a "system", there is an exchange with the "actors", asking WHAT they do and WHY they do it.
    It's surprising, but there are really two common answers to this :
    - "because I've always done it"
    - "because I was instructed to do it"
    And those are tough situations with the actors, because they clearly have never questioned the purpose of what they were doing.
    Now, that is the first step of analyzing a system. The HOW (and WHO) comes late after.

    Another resemblance :
    - WHAT and WHY is strategic.
    - HOW and WHO is tactic.

    So, I guess you're really looking at the rpg from a strategic point of view.
    Or maybe, you're [also] doing a business analysis of rpg as a system (remember your earlier posts?). What would be the trade of your system, then?
    Yes, and what you done in the quote above is what I'm doing with these posts. Why are "they" using it, and do we have the same purpose in roleplaying games? HOW to do something is not important, only WHY to do it and WHAT to expect.
    Do you know this? It is called "start with why". The book is also very good. It is a 20 minutes video. I think you will like it.
  • edited September 2013
    Processes are what is done and by whom, and procedures, according to one of the links, is HOW things are done.
    Processes is also WHY they are done.
    Yes, but pools are HOW, just as my use of procedure. When talking about WHAT and WHY, I talk about the purpose whole [game] structure. In that structure, you can find HOW, because the structure consist of pools and procedures, but I only talk about it when it's related to roleplaying games. It wouldn't give any to this thread if I talked about how LARP executed things or how a sculptor creates art.

    I can see if it's confusing. I'm not used to using the WW&H terms so a mix up is bound to happen.
    So, I guess you're really looking at the rpg from a strategic point of view.
    Possibly. I haven't really thought about it. It seems like it from my interpretation of your explanation.
    Or maybe, you're [also] doing a business analysis of rpg as a system (remember your earlier posts?). What would be the trade of your system, then?
    I don't know what you mean with this. I'm looking at RPGs from a system point of view, whatever that means.

    But now I'm feeling that we're discussing what the discussion is about, and my pool of experience tells me that discussions like that means that the original topic (looking at purposes of other media) has mutated ... which I don't want just yet. So I wont continue this sidetrack. I will look into the video later though. :)
  • Something here and on other threads made me wonder how much of my personal experience I have thrown into GMing and I suddenly realized that for years I've been using my knowledge of advertising to make illusionism work! I still use this a lot even when I'm no longer railroading. How is advertising usefull at this? Well, I basically use different types of advertising appeals when I'm framing scenes, so they work in almost a subliminal way. Of course, probably most of us use this anyway, but if you're having trouble trying to give cues to your players to try something or if they keep paying attention to elements that distract them from the mood you're trying to convey or keep, perhaps you're not using them enough.

    For example I recall something as simple as describing how players come into another town and find there's a huge convention of heroes there... and they all see a big group of people all going all excited to the same place. This is part something called Bandwagon and part use of emotional words. What happened? Of course, players start to wonder about this and asked questions about it. Once this becomes the topic, it feels more like they are leading the way, instead of me plainly railroading.

    Boy, perhaps is due to techniques like these that there are players that defend railroading as a valid technique; my players have never complain when I've used this, and even found my GMing skills a bit lacking when I tried to go more for an open sandbox. Perhaps the last reaction was because they got used, more than because it's a really good practice, but there you have another explaining for this mystery.
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