From games to RPG

edited November 2017 in Story Games
Hello, after Paul_T made me reread the 3 GNS agendas, I realized how RPG designers often focus on their present work and situation in their field in a way that is not always helpful. GNS was the sign of a big step forward, but I can't find a basic analysis of RPGs there, it's the tip of an iceberg that was the state of affairs 20 years ago. But now all these terms are just more confusing than they were then. We can pile up examples of that but I don't intend to make this thread a junkyard.
Refreshing the basics is always nice, and sometimes necessary. So here is a more general source on games I found useful :


  • edited December 2017
    Do you want me to drop tons of links? :) Here is a collection of my most valued game design resources. All of them are good in their own way.

    I also got my own game design theory that you can read on this forum, and down below are elements I think are crucial in developing a roleplaying game.

    • The Importance of Conveying ONE Playstyle
    • Know Your Ways of Creating Uncertainty and What Comes Along With It
    • The Game Should Help Build a Group Sense to Bring Comfort
    • Design Interaction Models
    • Feedback Loops Makes People More and More Invested
    • Create Activities that are Fun to do By Themselves
    • Make the Readers Understand the Whole Process
  • Thx
    Have read.
  • edited December 2017
    I can't find a basic analysis of RPGs there...
    My take is that you really can’t find a super useful analysis of RPGs generally...they work so differently from ones another and demand such different things depending on the design space your working in and your design goals that unless you narrow things down to a specific design space it’s not going to be very helpful. So the design resources that are going to be useful are going to depend on what your looking to do...ultimately playing and reading different games is one of the most effective and essential things I’ve found useful...also listening and reading the writings of the best designers in that space...basically, looking deeply into the praxis and designs in that particular design space.

  • As Jeff took that up, I'll have to ask: did either of you examine the so-called Big Model, or are you just looking at GNS articles? GNS not offering a basic analysis of what RPGs are isn't that surprising, considering that it's not about that at all. Ron's thinking on what RPGs are in general, as a medium, is in the Big Model theory, if that's what you're interested in. It's both very general and very applicable, if you ask me.

    I initially didn't understand this to be the thread topic, though, so no need to feel like you have to address that, DeReel. Rehashing Forgite orthodoxy in every single rpg theory thread ever isn't my idea of a good time [grin].
  • edited December 2017
    As Jeff took that up, I'll have to ask: did either of you examine the so-called Big Model, or are you just looking at GNS articles? GNS not offering a basic analysis of what RPGs are isn't that surprising, considering that it's not about that at all.
    Yes, I’ve read it Eero and I’m aware that it is about play preferences/approachs and not design per se; although, of course, it can apply to design, if you want to design towards a certain playstyle, etc. I’m not nearly as versed in it as you are of course, and I never hung out on the Forge. I feel it’s the best complete picture of RPGs generally that we have, but my point is simply that if your trying to do something in a specific design space you really have to dig, play, and read to educate yourself enough about it to be super aware of what you are doing when you design, and even what the options are and where the space can’s a practice and it takes time and is not purely an intellectual pursuit, and you’ve gotta get down in the trenches and get dirty...I personally think that GNS is insightful but I can see how it can be frustrating for some because there has been a lot of drift in definitions...I personally think that people can be way too critical and dismissive of Ron’s ideas...I also found that sometimes people will just apply his ideas to the limited types of RPGs they are familiar with and think they understand what he’s talking about when they don’t; they don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t have the background and context needed to appreciate many indie ideas and innovations—although, to be clear, I’m not saying that this is the case with DeReel. That said, I have ran into this a lot when I’ve tried to demonstrate the value of these ideas to people whose exposure, background, and understanding of RPG’s is basically confined to the mainstream stuff. Anyway, I hope I answered your question, if not let me know and I’ll give it another shot. Thanks.

  • It was a simple question, no hidden implications - I was just wondering if the "basic analysis of RPGs" that DeReel mentioned might be lurking in the Big Model, or if he (and you) had already looked into that and decided that it's no better than the GNS articles.

    The question interests me because I've personally found the conceptual framework of the Big Model powerful in precisely a way that I would describe as "basic analysis of RPGs" myself. The bit that I have especially gotten a lot of mileage from is to truly understand the nature and purpose of the "Shared Imagined Space"; once I understand how that actually works and what special considerations it brings to roleplaying, I basically have a firm handle on what truly distinguishes the form from other things like board games, theater, literature and other things. That's been of great help in figuring out what roleplaying actually can do, and how.

    Again, not trying to push Forgite theory on anybody here. It just struck me that you both only referred to the GNS theory here despite it being somewhat ancillary when it comes to fundamental dynamic-system descriptive modeling of roleplaying.
  • edited December 2017
    Hmm...I’m not sure I’ve read 100% of the Big Model stuff. This conversation is making me want to reread it, in case I missed something interesting. I think this is pretty much what I read a while back:
    Anything else that would be relevant?
  • Anything else that would be relevant?
    There were good summary articles by other people. I remember one by Emily Care Boss... I have those on paper, though - I'm not sure what's online.

  • Ben Lehman wrote some, as did Bankuei, at least. The usefulness of this sort of introductory stuff is somewhat questionable, though, as it tends towards being a big bowl of conceptual salad as the author takes a course through the concepts, which is rpg theory at its lamest. A sure sign of a mediocre mind is to actually find labels endlessly fascinating [grin].

    Then again, I don't really know what to recommend for practical Big Model application, aside from following designers and theorists who use it to create and analyze gaming. Those are getting a bit thin on the ground, too, nowadays, so either one has to grok the theory and use it for oneself, or get into an exercise of virtual archeology to see theory in action.
  • edited December 2017
    The usefulness of this sort of introductory stuff is somewhat questionable, though, as it tends towards being a big bowl of conceptual salad...
    ...and, suddenly I’ve lost my interest again. I’m not into theory for the sake of theory; and, I’m definitely not into obfuscated word jargon. I’m into praxis and design; and I already understand TBM in general sense. Thanks for the info, Eero. Very much appreciated :)
  • Thank you. I knew about Big Model.
  • I think that looking only at the Forgist models misses the point, somewhat. I mean, there was a theoretical scene before the GNS and the Big Model, and the scene continues, albeit in a different form, to this day. Just to name a particular example, we have Markus Montola, who argues that roleplaying is a state of mind, and not something lying in the ludic aspects of the game. In this manner, the game is made in order to create the right psychical state, with the system playing a lesser role. In other words, and this is what I'm trying to say, there are other models, which are useful not less useful. The thing is, though, that there is a need to read them, if you want to see what they have to offer. Most of them don't span as many words as Edwards' articles, but they do last an hour's read (and who knows how much of implementation) for the one. While it does sound discouraging, I do think that it is worth it, and I will gladly suggest articles, if you'll be so kind as to suggest a what you are exactly looking for in such a model. :-)
  • edited December 2017
    Thank you. Note that I am not asking for anything.
    But as you ask : I am looking for a corpus I can read, in the light of which I can analyze my game and see if there is anything lacking in it, or if some things I knew by way of intuition have already been identified as concepts, first for the simplification of my game, second for its improvement. I have found things like that in articles (Rickard's, rgrassi's, the "fun now manifesto", GNS - Big Model). I even found some things in TV Tropes, but really the place is a mess.
    Have now read Montola's invisible rules and some more. Found mainly confirmation, which is nice, notably the distinction between game and play, and some assertions about creativity.

  • Oh, sorry about that, my mistake.
    I must confess that your criterion is quite wide, for me: it's like answering to the question "why do you walk" with the answer "because I want to get from place to place". It's a perfect answer, of course, although it doesn't answer the implied question of why do you walk and not take a car.
    Saying that, I find the Process Model of Roleplaying fascinating, as a nice little intro. It basically argues that the game is made of processes, and those processes interact with each other and create many a thing. The main question, consequently, is how those interactions influence the game, and how do they create the right experience.
    Another nice model, for starters, is the channel theory, which, although not completed, tries to typify and to identify styles of roleplaying to a degree that I've never seen anyone else trying to achieve. While the writer's name eludes me, right now, what he basically does is to argue that games are made of different channels, that can be switched on and off, and that include the parts that make the game, from system and meta-elements to action and in-game elements.
    A favourite of mine, although not a model per se, is the collection of works of the Jeepform movement. What is truly fascinating, in addition to the manifesto and techniques list of a completely different gaming culture, is that one can find on their site complete games that show those ideas in action. Doubt, for once, and Robin's Friends, for the other, are great starting points.
    All of these suggestions changed the way I game, so I'm pretty sure that it does have some merit and does suggest some curious aspects.
  • Will read. Thank you so much !
  • edited December 2017
    Have read.
    Wow, all of it, including the links? Because that's a lot of reading.

    There are a few things I would like to highlight in the links:

    Game Design Concepts - a great introduction to different game theories, as well as food for thought (design processes, a game break down, etc.).

    Defining a system - me repeating words of others.

    We Know So Little of Our Hobby - similarities between other games and roleplaying games

    Also, but I don't like this book myself because I don't think there is anything to learn from rehashing old stuff, especially from older roleplaying games. Here is a collection of common designs in roleplaying games:

    Design Patterns of Successful Role-Playing Games (pdf)
  • edited December 2017
    I had to look up the resources @Thai mentioned so I will share the links here so others doesn't have to Google them.

    Where I found all the links: (I can see links to well-known game theorists, like Costikyan and Lazarro, as well as links to Turku och Knutepunkt theories [Nordic freeform - Jesper Juul's stuff is normally worth reading].)


    The Process Model of Role-Playing

    Channel Theory of Role-playing by Larry Hols (had to use Waybackmachine because the site ceased to exist 2013)

    Jeepform - I especially like, and agree with, the Jeep Truths.
  • edited December 2017
    I have my very own definition of "reading", which ismore like skimming.
  • Throwing this out here again:

    Best basic treatment of playing styles I've ever read, which is super helpful in game design and at table play.

  • Spot on !
    It is like reading Levity. Like practicing scales.
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