Personal insight concerning player goals and the blame of 'playing it wrong'

edited May 2018 in Forum Discussion
I think it's a pretty well know fact here that traditional RPGs usually don't have stated and properly expressed player goals or win conditions. This is why they are considered by many to be not 'games' but 'toys'.

Since Forge we are getting better at this, so RPGs and Story Games could be more 'gamey' now. They are more 'complete', less 'flexible' than D&D. Examples: http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/805

When someone tells us that (s)he didnt enjoy a particular well known favourite RPG, the standard accusation of 'you were playing it wrong!' is common and usually wrong because it blames only the player.

What is just realized is that if you are new to D&D and try to learn it, even if you don't really know how to do it, it's possible that you will have (some kind of weird) fun. Do you remember your old days playing a muchkin as a kid trying to understand the rulebook? Also, if you already mastered D&D, you can play it in a lot of different ways, and it's still fun. It's because of it's 'toyness'.

But when you play Fiasco the first time, and you are an experienced roleplayer, you have to use very different skills (improv attitudes and techniques), and also, if you try to play the game different than the rules and guidlines imply, there's a bigger change that it's gonna suck. Games are more 'rigid' so to speak than toys, so they break easier.

So maybe 'playing it wrong' is a real danger considering a small part of RPGs.

It's just an argument and maybe I'm not right but I feel that I'm into somethings. What do you think?
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Comments

  • Maybe I'm old and cranky, but you can totally "play it wrong." Any given RPG -- even "broad" old ones like D&D -- is going to have things that it does well, and things that it does poorly, and if you take a game and try to do a thing that it does poorly with it (Try to run Game of Thrones style intrigue in D&D, try to do anything in Shadowrun, etc.) (This is a joke. To some extent), you are "playing it wrong".

    Though to be fair, I don't usually say "You are playing it wrong" -- at least, not for a GM'd game. For GM'd games, I tend to (rightly or wrongly) lay the blame for it at the feet of the GM. And if the person complaining IS the GM, then I tend to say something like "It sounds like you made some errors."
  • In D&D, the object is to do things, that earn your character experience points, so he´s able to gain levels. You might not be able to do them, though, because success or failure depend on dice.

    (I´m sure I missed something, so, please, tell me why experience points are no "stated and properly expressed player goals".)
  • There's no DM in Fiasco. The difference may be in the distribution of responsibility, rather than in the rules regime.
  • chiarina said:

    In D&D, the object is to do things, that earn your character experience points, so he´s able to gain levels. You might not be able to do them, though, because success or failure depend on dice.

    (I´m sure I missed something, so, please, tell me why experience points are no "stated and properly expressed player goals".)

    I think it's an implicit goal but yes, it's strong. Lot of people felt is and it was put upfront by the OSR movement and other, more gamist approaches. Still a lot of D&D groups played and plays the game without giving much attention to XP. Just remember the 'You level up when I say that' type of GM where the party automatically levels up at a point in the story and it's given, it's nothing to struggle for.
    Airk said:

    Maybe I'm old and cranky, but you can totally "play it wrong." Any given RPG -- even "broad" old ones like D&D -- is going to have things that it does well, and things that it does poorly, and if you take a game and try to do a thing that it does poorly with it (Try to run Game of Thrones style intrigue in D&D, try to do anything in Shadowrun, etc.) (This is a joke. To some extent), you are "playing it wrong".

    I agree and disagree. Even if D&D rules dont support GoT style (they don't), the rules only consider a small portion of reality (fight, skill checks, etc), so you can easily inject guidlines and principles which help intrigue gaming. It would not be perfect (or good enough for me), but this is what was done historically, and some people had fun, other's got frustrated (me).
    I dont think that games like Fiasco, Annalise etc. are more complete, more structured and more rigid than D&D. They have principles and preferred playstyle baked inside them.
    DeReel said:

    There's no DM in Fiasco. The difference may be in the distribution of responsibility, rather than in the rules regime.

    Yes. You could make a game (and I guess there are some games like that) which uses collaborative techniques but no stated playstyle. You still need to know how to improv but they are more flexible than Fiasco. They are just like D&D with a different type of basic skillset.
  • edited May 2018
    I've never understood the argument about "focused games" being stricter and more rigid than D&D. I think people have a variety of experiences with D&D out of necessity - most of us played it at some point as "the only game we have", and therefore try to experiment - but I think that most "focused" games have the same possibility for flexibility. Perhaps they are better at presenting the goals of play, but the rules and structures themselves are no more restrictive or prohibitive.

    Those people who say that "D&D can do anything" often rave about having sessions of play where no one referenced a character sheet or rolled any dice.

    Well, I see absolutely no reason I couldn't do that just as easily in Dogs in the Vineyard [or insert your own favourite "focused" game here].
  • All the hacks of a given storygame, where mechanics are more or less preserved, form a family of games. That family of games really isn't different than how D&D, as a broad phenomenon, presents. (In other words, we can think of D&D as actually encompassing a range of more substantive games, based in playstyle and agenda and principles and local factors and so forth.)

    People play D&D in a bunch of different ways, and call it the same game; people play a bunch of closely related storygame hacks and call them different games. Not so different in the broader view, though. D&D is just allowed to encompass a broader range of actual games. That's partially baked into the texts--a lot of storygames do a better job defining or priming a particular play experience--but it's not intrinsic to D&D itself.
  • Paul_T said:

    I think that most "focused" games have the same possibility for flexibility.

    Absent ignoring the rules (i.e. never referencing them or rolling dice, as you say) I don't see this.

    D&D's six ability scores alone provide a broad simulationist chassis which can be used to (superficially) run just about anything.

    I can imagine using D&D to run the minions' rebellion in My Life with Master but I cannot imagine using MLwM to run a dungeon crawl.

    But I'll concede that this is probably just me, stuck in my ways. So, seriously, what might a MLwM dungeon crawl look like (i.e. what are the characters afraid of that empowers them etc.)?
  • Paul_T said:


    Well, I see absolutely no reason I couldn't do that just as easily in Dogs in the Vineyard [or insert your own favourite "focused" game here].

    I think the resolution in DitV is fairly general so yes, I agree. The setting and intended playstyle is not baked into the mechanics. But I was thinking about games like MLwM as @Johann said and not every story game.

    I like @Stephen P argument. Maybe the whole thing is about the culture. As someone said it in another thread, a big set of gamers consider the rules to be a fallback option. I think that it's the consequence of toyness. Others (like me) favor 'complete' games where sticking to the rules is the main thing.
  • edited May 2018
    My Life with Master is, admittedly, a fairly extreme case.

    Nevertheless, I still think that there is some D&D blindness going on here. MLwM characters are creatures like a young girl who can only speak to children and can hear the reality of any lie when in the moonlight.

    I'd love to see you create her as a character in, say, D&D4th or 5th. It won't exactly be smooth sailing!

    At the very least, you'll have to change the XP rules dramatically, since she won't be killing dragons anytime soon.

    The rules of D&D constrain the types of characters you can play so fundamentally (race, class, level, and expected progression) that most types of narratives are simply impossible without some serious hacking.

    Do you want to make a list of last year's major films or tv shows and see what proportion seem like they could be easily recreated in D&D's framework? :)

    In contrast, changing the genre of MLwM is almost effortless. Reason and Fear and Love and similar things are fundamental elements of being human, broadly applicable to almost any story.

    "More than human and less than human" could be used to describe a variety of protagonists ("Dorothy from Kansas, who has more heart than anyone around her").

    Bonus dice from Intimacy and Desperation are far more broadly applicable than "you deal double damage if you have an advantage bonus from flanking", and so forth.

    In the same way that we might throw out the XP system, I can see redifining what the MLwM endgame means. Perhaps it's Neo and the rebels fighting against their robot overlords, for example?

    Or the endgame determines whether two lovers can overcome their Self-Loathing enough to finally be together, with the Master being a metaphor for a past dysfunctional relationship?

    Ultimately, though, of course, it's about culture and presentation.

    I'm exaggerating a tiny bit here in my post, to make the point, but I don't think I'm totally off the mark. :)

    D&D marketed itself as "you can do anything!" and people tried to do so.

    Modern "story games" encourage you to use them for specific goals and then to pick up another game for different types of fun.

    But MLwM is a game about minions trying to forge human connections overcome their horrible Master, and D&D is a game about a very specific type of fantasy heroes fighting monsters and collecting treasure. They're both highly "focused" compared to something like GURPS or The Pool or Archipelago. But it's not those games people hold up as exemplars of "you can do abything!" - it's D&D. I'd argue that can only be due to history.
  • Johann said:


    Absent ignoring the rules (i.e. never referencing them or rolling dice, as you say) I don't see this.

    As soon as you start doing anything that's not about combat and somehow still getting XP, you're ignoring the D&D rules too. And if you're doing stuff that's not about combat and not getting XP, you're barely using the D&D rules, so...
    Johann said:


    D&D's six ability scores alone provide a broad simulationist chassis which can be used to (superficially) run just about anything.

    I think Paul has aptly pointed out the difficulties of this statement.
  • A lack of ‘properly expressed player goals’ is a feature of classic RPGs, not a flaw. I think if that isn’t well understood, any analysis that treats an absence of forge theory in traditional RPGs as design flaw will continue to fall flat and miss the point.
  • Isn't the ability to "make D&D do whatever you want" more of a point in favor of the people doing so than the game itself? I mean hasn't that been historically how it was often presented? "With a good enough GM" or "with the right group"? Like Paul says, the fact that this is primarily attributed to D&D has more to do with history, its outsize position in the gamer consciousness, etc... than any mechanical aspect of the game. For better or (usually) for worse, broad pronouncements about RPGs in general are often just about D&D, with the expectation that they will apply universally, to the point that some people's definitions of what are and are not RPGs might as well be based on how well those broad pronouncements can apply to them.

    Whether or not you can run MLwM as an erotically charged sexventure (okay, likely actually easier than a challenge-based dungeon crawl, but I love that line and will use it whenever I get the chance) probably has as much to do with the people who are interested in the game in the first place (people who like focused Forgist design, people who don't want to do the fiddly work of modifying games to do something else, and cetera) as it does with whether there's anything inherent in the game itself that makes that an easy or difficult task. I don't think it's hard to imagine people doing that in a world where for whatever reason MLwM is their only exposure to the idea of roleplaying games.
  • Okay I think Paul made a convincing point there. The time we invested in tweaking D&D to meet our vision could be done to any RPG.

    But maybe my original question is still unanswered: does playing MLwM or Fiasco or Swords Without Master still fun if you are playing it wrong? I have memories about Fiasco breaking down when we first ran it without understanding 'play to loose' principles. Also we had badwrongfun with trad games a few times. Why and how could be that possible? Is this subjective?
  • A lack of ‘properly expressed player goals’ is a feature of classic RPGs, not a flaw. I think if that isn’t well understood, any analysis that treats an absence of forge theory in traditional RPGs as design flaw will continue to fall flat and miss the point.

    Respectfully, I disagree, and I cite the OSR as exhibit A; They took rules that were, frankly, languishing and derided, and added nothing except properly expressed goals and now they are a tremendously successful style of play. This would have been impossible without properly expressed goals.
  • Airk said:

    A lack of ‘properly expressed player goals’ is a feature of classic RPGs, not a flaw. I think if that isn’t well understood, any analysis that treats an absence of forge theory in traditional RPGs as design flaw will continue to fall flat and miss the point.

    Respectfully, I disagree, and I cite the OSR as exhibit A; They took rules that were, frankly, languishing and derided, and added nothing except properly expressed goals and now they are a tremendously successful style of play. This would have been impossible without properly expressed goals.

    With the OSR, everyone's experience is pretty different. I ended up going back to the original stuff and taking what worked for me (just in terms of adventure structure and playstyle) because I was tired of things like Encounter Levels and adventures that felt too railroady. I don't represent the OSR though, so you'll have to ask prominent people in the movement what they think lead to its success. I think your assessment is off though (or at least I think it pivots on my point about 'properly expressed player goals' somewhat disingenuously. So many people arrived at that place independently, simply by going back and playing and reading the old game books again. I don't think it was clear player goals that made the OSR successful. The OSR means so many different things depending on who you ask. I think what made it successful was an approach that demanded stuff that actually worked at the table (not just in theory), an emphasis on rulings over rules, and a 'don't throw the baby out with the bath water' approach to the original books. It was also partly a realization that you could customize stuff to taste.
  • edited May 2018
    I find the contention that a lack of expressed player goals is a feature of "classic RPG" play/design pretty interesting.

    Most notably, it seems to omit D&D itself, which generally has a very clear sense of player goals (unless groups adopt an Illusionist playstyle, of course, in which case things get much more muddled).

    I'd agree that's true for other games, however.

    (I like your list of OSR culture "features", that makes a ton of sense. Will ponder!)
  • Airk said:

    Respectfully, I disagree, and I cite the OSR as exhibit A; They took rules that were, frankly, languishing and derided, and added nothing except properly expressed goals and now they are a tremendously successful style of play. This would have been impossible without properly expressed goals.

    Just because "lack of properly expressed goals" is a feature of one game/playstyle doesn't mean that "clearly expressed goals" can't be a feature of another.
  • I'd recommend everyone to notice that you all are thinking more in the game in your heads instead of the game as written.

    The game in your head is a perfectly polished gem of versatility optimized to do whatever you want it to do, which suits both you and your group expectations.

    Let's say the game in your head is D&D, any edition. Then I'm pretty sure you will be able to make it do anything using the core resolution system and the attributes. XP will be absent or more related to whatever your group feels is the appropiate goal for the genre. There's no way to "play wrong" the game in your head, so the question there becomes absurd.

    The matter then becomes a statistical one: how many people have managed to make a good enough version of D&D in their minds so they can do the same as you? Given the amount of heartbreakers and story games derived from D&D since the forge days, I'd say that not enough to call it a perfectly clear game, nor a versatile enough toy.

    There's the matter of betrayed expectations too. Like, those who played 2e or 3-3.5e thinking the game was the perfect engine to "immerse in worlds of adventure", when actually those worlds of adventure were mostly limited to dungeons and railroaded adventures... which happen mostly whenever a GM lacks the skills to make the game sing.
    But if your expectations about "worlds of adventure" were exactly dungeon crawling, killing monsters and railroaded adventures, you'd say the the game meet your expectations, that it made your dreams come true.

    So, going back to the blame: it will depend more on peoples perceptions, tastes and expectatives and less in strong, logic and objective reasons. Some would blame the book for not being clear enough, some will blame the GM or the players for misreading and playing it wrong and they will be right from their experience and wrong according to other people's experience.

    Not to say that an RPG can't be played wrong. If you didn't have any fun and others did, that says something. Not that an RPG can't be poorly explained. If somebody explained it to you and the second run felt more like a fun game, that should be the reason. Can it be a poor design? If you hacked it a bit and you felt like it got fixed, of course that the problem was the design. It could even be the wrong expectations. My personal experience with the OSR made me understand that I was expecting a power fantasy in D&D where our DM was pushing for a more lethal playstyle. You can have both in D&D depending on how the DM handles the game, but if you expect one and are given the other without explanations, you will probably blame the DM or the game as I did.

    Of course, it remains a personal reccomendation: step back a bit and try to realize that arguments here are all subjective, dependant on personal experiences. There's still a good discussion here but it runs the risk of falling prey of getting heated for misunderstandings.

    Sorry for the wall of text.

  • hamnacb said:

    Okay I think Paul made a convincing point there. The time we invested in tweaking D&D to meet our vision could be done to any RPG.

    But maybe my original question is still unanswered: does playing MLwM or Fiasco or Swords Without Master still fun if you are playing it wrong? I have memories about Fiasco breaking down when we first ran it without understanding 'play to loose' principles. Also we had badwrongfun with trad games a few times. Why and how could be that possible? Is this subjective?

    I think the idea of "badwrongfun" is a mischaracterization of a broad and nuanced range of criticisms, advice, and games designed in reaction to perceived problematic practices and designs.

    I also suspect this question is asked somewhat in bad faith: "does playing MLwM or Fiasco or Swords Without Master still fun if you are playing it wrong?" Maybe there's a language barrier issue here, but it seems very obvious to me that you can break the rules of a game and still have fun with it, so this seems like a leading question.
    To be clear: fun is about personal tastes rather than necessarily being a product of apparently ethical play.

    It might also be worth addressing the idea that the overriding point of play is fun. It can be and often is, but I'd suggest the point of play is whatever experience the game is designed to create. The fact that you find one or more of those experiences fun or that people consistently design games to create experiences that are commonly found to be fun is more of a cultural thing. Games can also (by design) create confrontation, cause unpleasantness, teach, train, generate catharsis, or have other therapeutic effects.

    I only go into that to make it very clear that playing something the "right" or "wrong" way doesn't necessarily hinge on fun. And, in my experience, it's very rare for someone to say you're playing something "wrong" apropos of nothing. Especially in the context of a forum like this, "wrong" play is almost always discussed in reaction to openly declared play problems or experiences that seem to stray from or violate the known range of experiences for a given game. It's not about judging a game, class of games, player, group, or anything like that; but, rather, about troubleshooting.

    You can have a lot of fun but still encounter trouble and examine that. And because of the nature of rpgs/story games as a creative activity, there's usually plenty of room for creative differences and rule-agnostic practices that uniquely shape experiences as well as troubles.
    I think I'm with @Paul_T in that I'm not sure that D&D actually has more room for those creative differences and practices than any other game or your average "indie" game. But it makes sense to say that the traditions of D&D have heavily focused on that space. However, it's entirely possible that's due to many things that aren't related to the rules in the first place.
  • Nicely put, Paul.

    I'd also advise to avoid discussion of what is "wrong" or "bad". That tends towards emotional statements instead of reasoned discussion.
  • I think the counterarguments are good so I try to restate my insight more moderately:

    RPGs (D&D historically, FATE Core, etc.) which go for universal acclaim usually try to advertize themselves as multifunctional toys what can be used in a lot of different way. They usually achieve it with universal resolution systems, setting neutrality and opaque player goals/win conditions. RPGs with strong color and 'completeness' often try to create an image of uniqueness and nicheness with opposite tools.

    The truth seems to be that both category of RPGs could be easily hacked into something else, but that doesn't meant that everything is equally good for everything!

    When you play a trad game where player goals, agendas and the object of game is not clear and pre-stated/agreed, the problems and conflicts often materalize like this: 'you are a jerk!' / 'you are playing to wrong!' Actually the only thing that happened is that someone radically (and often blindly) diverged from the unsaid resulant of the other's expectations which they have brought to the table.

    When you play a shiny structured game where the object of it is much more transparent (sometimes it's shoved into your face!), the divergence is more often seen as a transgression of the game itself. But maybe that's a false dichotomy, it's still about the clashes of different expectations which stem from the individual internalization of the game's vision.
  • edited May 2018
    Agreed that clash between participants is largely about the expectations they took in.

    I think a game like Fiasco, which does one thing and pitches that one thing, has pretty good odds of getting everyone on the same page. Not perfect odds, though! Some players might slavishly emulate Coen Brothers films, others might not have seen them at all, and some might take "this is an RPG" to mean very different things (e.g. in terms of third-person description vs character acting). The hope, I'd say, is that with a narrow enough range of expectations, the likelihood of fun-ruining clash, as opposed to other sorts of differences, is reasonably small. You can describe your scenes and I can act out mine and we can still play together. We may even adapt to each other's play styles somewhat, as long as we're all reasonably assured of getting the whole "powerful ambition, poor impulse control" thing that we signed up for.

    Of course, if one person owns the Fiasco book and has their take on the game, and they introduce it to the other players, then that group is going to get that person's take.

    I think D&D is similar in that last respect. If the DM takes a vision about what D&D is to their table, and communicates that, and all of the players opt in, then cool, we should all be able to play together just fine. Or, even if the DM doesn't pitch and communicate everything up front, the players can still look to the DM and learn through play what kind of game this is.

    I think the biggest problems arise when the players bring in conflicting expectations and when the DM fails to establish consistent expectations. That's when you can get everyone pulling in vastly different directions.

    Some roleplayers would blame the DM for that, others would blame the whole group, and others would blame the D&D book itself, for not better facilitating expectation-setting.

    Personally, I wish almost all RPGs provided better "get everyone on the same page" tools. (Though I do think it's least necessary in games that very obviously occupy very specific niches.)

    As far as "playing wrong", to me that means violating the expectations that you agreed to. Or refusing to agree and playing anyway. If no one at the table knows what the expectations are, then I guess no one is playing wrong... or everyone is. :)

    Re: trad vs Forgite, let me just mention that I don't think expectations need to be identical from player to player. For instance, a DM can establish the expectation that this game cares about clever problem-solving, but allow one player to tackle that through convincing roleplay acting, another player through in-fiction physics tricks, another through rules mastery, etc. I just think that if a DM is only going to allow one of those approaches to work (whether per their own preferences or per their understanding of the game rules), they'd better make that clear. Personally, I don't enjoy play as much when everyone's looking for separate enjoyment by doing unrelated things, but I've certainly been in groups where that was the best solution. So I certainly wouldn't advocate the sort of "everyone must be on the same page about everything" mandate that Forge theory implies to some. I do like it when it's feasible, though.
  • We hashed this over and over on the Forge years ago, no? (This is not a reply to anyone in particular.)

    The only real "wrong" or "bad" is when the group isn't having a good time. As long as everyone is having fun, it's fine. You do you.

    When we start to analyze RAW/text, now we're talking about the ability of the game-as-written to reliably produce fun experiences for player groups. If you ignore a giant chunk of the rules, or if you have to kit-bash the rules to make them work for you, then arguably you are not playing that game. You are playing your version of that game, which is also fine, but that game didn't produce fun without you doing that work. (Now, if that work is literally encoded into the rules as part of the game, we're in muddy territory, as we all know.)

    The main thing that the Forge did was get people to think about games as more than just a conflict resolution system. Now game texts include tools for getting everyone on the same page and keeping them there. Now game texts explicitly count setting as part of the rules. And situation, thank god. Now game texts include clear procedures to tell the participants how to use the game, what to do when you're playing, to glue the whole experience together.

    And anyone who thinks they can play literally anything with D&D rules hasn't thought it through. They're thinking of D&D as a simple task resolution chassis, but so much more is required to actually play a game. If you reduce (modern) D&D to "roll a d20 and add a stat bonus and compare to a target number," you could be describing almost any game. Frankly, at that point, there are other games that do that thing better. (Savage Worlds, Fate, The Pool...)
  • edited May 2018
    Yeah, situation is IMO the biggest determinant of how well the rules fit.

    An example is how you can change the rules for Dogs in the Vineyard almost trivially to suit other settings as long as you keep the basic situation of lawgivers coming into fraught communities and creating order.

    Note that if you understand this and have players who are on board, you can get some interesting effects by creating a mismatch between the system and the setting. For example, one of my friends on RPG.Net is running a dungeon crawl using the Delta Green rules.

    Now, Delta Green has no levels, no feats, and is mainly focused around investigation, short bloody combats, and getting PTSD. So it's a lot of fun to watch these characters deal with D&D tropes in somewhat realistic manner psychologically.

    I suppose you could do the same thing in reverse by having D&D characters investigate a Mythos cult, but the D&D tropes are really strong and it would be probably just come out as Mythos-flavored D&D.
  • I guess my point was most traditional games and traditional play styles, players are quite able to set their own goals. I am not saying the system doesn't reward things. But even something like XP varies immensely over editions, has all kinds of options for rewarding things like RP in certain editions, and gets tweaked constantly to reflect the desires of the table (and dealing with how people level is a pretty simple matter). But when I start a campaign in a traditional RPG, I don't necessarily know what the player goals are going to be. They could decide to spend all their time dungeon crawling. Could also decide to open a shop in town, explore a trade route, involve themselves in local politics, or start a goblin hunting business. And if you are speaking even more generally about player goals (focus on RP, focus on combat, focus on investigations, etc), traditional games tend to be even more open. I think that is what they discovered when they launched 4E: it was too focused on a narrow band of player goals and people rebelled. That is why 5E tried so hard to woo people back by broadening the scope of the game (because for ages people were playing these games in all kinds of different ways---often with mixes of different 'player goals' at a given table). I would still maintain, that a game's ability to flexibly handle that is a strength. In the case of D&D it kind of has the best of both worlds. It has a strong core concept, but you can easily stray from that and the game itself is so easy for maintaining long term campaigns with a wide variety of goals in mind. Yes, you are always going to potentially run into the 'Cthulhu with D&D' thing, but if the 'tropes' are strong, it is because they work. Again, I wasn't thinking specifically about D&D even. I was just thinking in terms of traditional RPGs, and the OSR approach to play in general.
  • Re: trad vs Forgite, let me just mention that I don't think expectations need to be identical from player to player. For instance, a DM can establish the expectation that this game cares about clever problem-solving, but allow one player to tackle that through convincing roleplay acting, another player through in-fiction physics tricks, another through rules mastery, etc. I just think that if a DM is only going to allow one of those approaches to work (whether per their own preferences or per their understanding of the game rules), they'd better make that clear. Personally, I don't enjoy play as much when everyone's looking for separate enjoyment by doing unrelated things, but I've certainly been in groups where that was the best solution. So I certainly wouldn't advocate the sort of "everyone must be on the same page about everything" mandate that Forge theory implies to some. I do like it when it's feasible, though.

    I agree!

    When I was into OSR stuff (2008-2012) I tended to think that compatible expectations are enough. That way we dont have clashing agendas, and everybody can do their own 'kink'.

    But I soon realized that I was longing for mutual understanding as a DM, I wanted someone who shared my vision so we could 'build' something together. That's so much better than having a polite audience. The more we played the more some players became integrated and we tuned at each other. Also others slowly became alienated. Usually they drop out at some point but not always. I think this is the typical way how RPG groups tend to regulate themselves.
  • edited May 2018
    @Bedrockbrendan I completely agree re: 4E and 5E. And also about the appeal of the open-ended campaign! I like flexible/emergent goals re: what the characters will get up to. I'm just wary of flexible/emergent goals about "what is roleplaying" and why we're showing up to do it.

    I guess a lot of Forge folks did achieve coherence on the latter by pre-designing the former, but I don't see any reason why that has to be the case. :)
  • hamnacb said:

    I was longing for mutual understanding as a DM, I wanted someone who shared my vision so we could 'build' something together.

    I think this is a great way to put it!

    I've never been in a long campaign that had none of that, but I've certainly played in some where it would come and go with way too long stretches of absence.
  • edited May 2018

    I'm just wary of flexible/emergent goals about "what is roleplaying" and why we're showing up to do it.

    I am not 100% sure what you mean by this, but one thing I've noted with the issue of 'what is roleplaying' at the table, is a huge gulf between the theorizing you see all around online, and what typical players want. In any given group you might have 1-2 players more keyed into that stuff, but by and large, the settlements floating around the internet on 'what is RP' and 'why are we at the table' don't seem to hold when I get a group together. So I do think a fair amount of flexibility here is also useful. At the end of the day, it is a group activity, and if you have 4 people showing up who game for 4 different reasons, you either find a middle ground/mix and match or you keep kicking people out until you have a homogenous game group. I generally RP to play a character in a setting where I can explore and interact with a world that feels real. But if someone shows up to my table and has no interest in that, and want to focus on something else, I adapt as a GM. I tend to prefer games that don't get in the way of that kind of flexibility.
  • edited May 2018
    hamnacb said:


    But I soon realized that I was longing for mutual understanding as a DM, I wanted someone who shared my vision so we could 'build' something together. That's so much better than having a polite audience. The more we played the more some players became integrated and we tuned at each other. Also others slowly became alienated. Usually they drop out at some point but not always. I think this is the typical way how RPG groups tend to regulate themselves.

    Is it possible you are being overly rigid here. I mean it is great when people are on the same page, at the same time, when I am a player, I don't insist that my approach be catered to. If the GM wants to do something more story driven or even a railroad, I'll play along. I am not there to disrupt peoples' fun, even if my ideal of fun isn't the same as everyone at the table. One benefit of this approach is I still end up having fun in the end anyways because it isn't like not having the game 100% match my preferred style cripples my enjoyment. Having fun is also something of a choice you make.
  • There's an area where a group might or might not be having fun, but has done what I think of as breaking the warranty. This isn't bad play, you understand, but it does mean , presuming the rules are sufficiently clear, that if things go wrong, the fault does not lie with the rules.

    Fr'ex, if you ignore the town creation rules in Dogs in the Vineyard, you've broken the warranty. We did that with a play by email game about a high school for supernatural and ordinary students, and things got very weird. The entire experience system is build solidly atop the foundation of the town creation rules.

    Some folks from the same group tried a more traditional DitV hack, using the Firefly setting. This can totally work -- but, in my opinion, it didn't quite because another pillar of DitV was set aside: the PCs are the highest secular and spiritual authority in the game world. This wasn't the case here.

    (There were other issues in both games, such as the difficulty of timing an online game for folks in time zones five hours apart, but those are outside the scope of this thread.)

    Similarly, we're breaking the warranty on Night's Black Agents.

    Player: Sure, I could play Mrs. Pat again.

    Me: Well, if no one minds. I mean, it will make Ken Hite cry because if it were up to him --

    All of us: No one would ever play the good vampire!

    Player: But that's all right -- Mrs. Pat is NOT a good vampire!

    We've not yet had the first session of this part of the campaign, so I've no idea how well it will work. But, if it crashes and burns? That's on us, not on NBA.
  • edited May 2018
    My group and I just took the route of kicking people out until we got a homogenous group, tbh, because we found that trying to cater to interests not in-tune with ours was making our play worse and making us all unhappy.
    (We as in my fiancee and our girlfriend and I, who are my current group, and who are all on the same page 100% about how play should go.)
    The three of us are super super focused and singular in our interests, so then if someone isn't into the stuff we're doing, we feel like we have to devote time to trying to do the stuff the other person wants, and then we end up just slogging through their scenes unhappily waiting for the point where we got to get back to the stuff that interests us, and then the other person would sit around bored while we did the stuff that interested us. It was just all around a disaster, and led to big chunks of the session time being totally wasted for us by doing boring stuff we weren't interested in, when the time could have been better spent doing the stuff we cared about, if it wasn't for the people who weren't contributing to what we wanted to do.
    Our play improved by leaps and bounds when we decided to kick people who weren't on the same page as us as far as what they want out of play, and we generally started having so so so much more fun.
  • edited May 2018

    At the end of the day, it is a group activity, and if you have 4 people showing up who game for 4 different reasons, you either find a middle ground/mix and match or you keep kicking people out until you have a homogenous game group.

    I think if either of those processes (find middle/mix or kick people out) were usually quick, easy, and painless, then there'd be no volumes of online ranting! Unfortunately, those processes can be slow and arduous, which is why I think some groups prefer to (a) start with a clear mission statement, or (b) have some techniques on hand for finding that middle ground quickly and effectively.

    Separately, the blockquotes got messed up in your reply to @hamnacb , making it look like he's replying to me instead of you replying to him. Fixed now.
  • edited May 2018

    At the end of the day, it is a group activity, and if you have 4 people showing up who game for 4 different reasons, you either find a middle ground/mix and match or you keep kicking people out until you have a homogenous game group.

    I think if either of those processes (find middle/mix or kick people out) were usually quick, easy, and painless, then there'd be no volumes of online ranting! Unfortunately, those processes can be slow and arduous, which is why I think some groups prefer to (a) start with a clear mission statement, or (b) have some techniques on hand for finding that middle ground quickly and effectively.

    Separately, the blockquotes got messed up in your reply to @hamnacb , making it look like he's replying to me instead of you replying to him.
    Starting out with a mission statement is fine. The problem is when it becomes this binding decree that you can never escape from. Anytime I start a campaign I hash out with the players what they want and expect. But again, I do come back to the idea of give and take and deciding to have fun. I see way too many people convince themselves that if they don't reach this platonic ideal of play they have in their head, that they won't enjoy themselves, and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. This is just elf games after all. I am not saying the problem is never the group or the approach, but I think often times the problem has more to do with people convincing themselves they'll only have fun if they achieve an incredibly narrow preconception of play they've picked up off the internet (or from a game manual). In my experience, 9 times out of 10, if you decide to have have fun, you will. Because it is just a game.
  • edited May 2018
    Superb comments! I think I just realized something else.

    Do you know the Thomas-Kilmann conflict style inventory? Every style has it's merits and flaws.
    https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/151503974944890927/?lp=true

    How roleplayers try to get a good playing group together?

    Accommodate: it speaks for itself I think
    Compromising: find middle/mix
    Compete: try to kick out the divergents
    Avoid: leave the party if you diverge too much
    Collaborating: find common ground*

    If you are committed to the group and also have strong preferences, collaboration is your best option. I think this is why I love Microscope's Palette. Compromising is easier and quicker than collaborating but suboptimal for long term gaming because nobody really gets what (s)he wants.

    It's easier to kick out near-strangers / leave group if politeness is less important to you than to get your fix from your preferred playstyle :) Remember the 'spicy roll' guy?

    And of course, accomodate if you just want to play! ;)
  • Adam_Dray said:

    And anyone who thinks they can play literally anything with D&D rules hasn't thought it through. They're thinking of D&D as a simple task resolution chassis, but so much more is required to actually play a game. If you reduce (modern) D&D to "roll a d20 and add a stat bonus and compare to a target number," you could be describing almost any game. Frankly, at that point, there are other games that do that thing better. (Savage Worlds, Fate, The Pool...)

    I agree 100% and I am happy that you've brought this up because I felt misunderstood upthread. The simple task resolution chassis can be used to, as I wrote, superficially run just about anything. A minion in MLwM makes an overture to a connection? Roll Charisma. Try to resist the Master? Make a Will save. Etc. Do you get the same experience as when actually playing MLwM? Hell, no! The particular dynamics, the focus, the endgame etc. embedded in MLwM would be lost, to the great detriment of the game.

    Perhaps a MLwM veteran can conceive of running a dungeon crawl with similar ease. The Master? Metaphorical Greed. Etc. I lack the experience to do this, though, but I do suspect that MLwM is more rigid - i.e. requires more creativity, more hacking etc. - to make this even superficially viable. But feel free to correct me!
  • edited May 2018

    Anytime I start a campaign I hash out with the players what they want and expect.

    Then I think we pretty much agree. :)

    I do think, though, that people who find the hash-out obvious or natural can underestimate how many groups don't do that.

    I also don't think there's much agreement on how well different game books assist in that process.

    But again, I do come back to the idea of give and take and deciding to have fun.

    Agreed that communication and good attitudes can make any social event a winner.

    I absolutely believe that roleplaying can be an inherently fun activity, regardless of whatever you do with it, if everyone comes in psyched to simply play pretend.

    That said, I do think it's nice to have the option to pursue more specific goals. But I don't think we disagree on that.

    I think often times the problem has more to do with people convincing themselves they'll only have fun if they achieve an incredibly narrow preconception of play they've picked up off the internet (or from a game manual).

    I take it you've seen that a bunch. I haven't, myself, but I'm not shocked that it's out there. I've definitely seen people come to the table with very narrow goals or very specific demands -- but it's almost always been from prior play, not from reading stuff. Usually it's either been "I played in an awesome game before and I want this one to be exactly like it" or "I played in a horrible game where I got to do one fun thing so now I seek that specific thing and tune out the rest".

  • I am not 100% sure what you mean by this, but one thing I've noted with the issue of 'what is roleplaying' at the table, is a huge gulf between the theorizing you see all around online, and what typical players want.

    You may have whiffed the intent here, which, I suspect, was a comment on the people who think that there is "one way to roleplay" -- not out of some sort of one-true-way-ism, because they don't even really examine it enough to grasp that there ARE other ways. This is extremely common in people who've got a lot of roleplaying years under their belt, but have done almost all of it with the same group and generally in very trad systems. Usually they think everything drops down to a sort of task resolution system where the GM wallpapers over any issues, and generally there's more to it, but the rest varies more depending on the playstyle of whatever the original group was.

    Or maybe I'm wrong and that wasn't what was being referred to at all, but I think it's a very relevant thing to think about either way.

    So I do think a fair amount of flexibility here is also useful. At the end of the day, it is a group activity, and if you have 4 people showing up who game for 4 different reasons, you either find a middle ground/mix and match or you keep kicking people out until you have a homogenous game group.

    How is this "being flexible" exactly?


    I generally RP to play a character in a setting where I can explore and interact with a world that feels real. But if someone shows up to my table and has no interest in that, and want to focus on something else, I adapt as a GM. I tend to prefer games that don't get in the way of that kind of flexibility.

    And you've never found that this produces unsatisfying games? Because generally that has been my result with this approach. If someone shows up to my soccer game and says "Y'know, maybe we could use our hands, so it'd be more like football?" then being flexible doesn't improve my soccer game, even if I'm NOT wedded to some sort of "platonic ideal of soccer that only exists in my head." Honestly, I find it a little bit trying that you keep insisting that people are almost imagining the kind of game they want.
  • I've been having arguments with my partner lately.

    She uses a chef's knife for slicing bread. When I ask her why she isn't using a serrated bread knife, her response is that "it doesn't really matter and this is the way I've always done it." My point of view is that it makes more sense to use a tool for it's intended purpose, rather than using a tool with a different purpose to achieve the same goal—even if you can make it work all right.

    To me, traditional games have an clear player goal in mind, albeit implicit. But since it's not stated, many players have used the system in other ways than it's originally meant to be used, or have modified the tool to fit their own purposes.

    You can use a chef's knife to slice bread. You could even make a chef's knife serrated. But that doesn't mean that the chef's knife is particularly flexible. It just means that you're creative and/or stubborn.
  • Airk said:




    I generally RP to play a character in a setting where I can explore and interact with a world that feels real. But if someone shows up to my table and has no interest in that, and want to focus on something else, I adapt as a GM. I tend to prefer games that don't get in the way of that kind of flexibility.

    And you've never found that this produces unsatisfying games? Because generally that has been my result with this approach. If someone shows up to my soccer game and says "Y'know, maybe we could use our hands, so it'd be more like football?" then being flexible doesn't improve my soccer game, even if I'm NOT wedded to some sort of "platonic ideal of soccer that only exists in my head." Honestly, I find it a little bit trying that you keep insisting that people are almost imagining the kind of game they want.
    Like I said before, this isn't, in my view, at all like someone showing up to a soccer game and asking to use their hands. If someone showed up to a session of D&D and insisted on making a GURPS character, that would be an issue. But what I'm talking about is simply player goals, not system. If I am interested in running standard dungeon crawls or something, and a player wants more RP or story, I am happy to try to provide a game that gives that player something fun for them to do. As I said, I have my views on what I prefer, but I think people get way too ideological about these things and ultimately all that matters is whether people at the table are enjoying themselves and want to come back for another session.

    I'm not saying people are imagining the game they want. I have a 'perfect session' in my head as well. And I do think there are breaking points in a group (places where people clearly want different things and a decision needs to be made about whether they should continue to game together or try to compromise). My only point is you can, and people frequently do, take that ideal too far. There is a lot to be said for lightening up and deciding to have fun, even if what is being offered isn't the thing you normally strive for. I tend to prefer sandbox style, traditional campaigns. But if one of my friends wants to run something like Dungeon World, Fate, Gumshoe, Hillfolk, or something even more far afield from my usual tastes, I'll happily participate and not wreck it for people. It is still a game and can still be fun. And because my friends are not jerks when we game, I can be fairly certain they are going to mix in things they think I'll enjoy.




  • You can use a chef's knife to slice bread. You could even make a chef's knife serrated. But that doesn't mean that the chef's knife is particularly flexible. It just means that you're creative and/or stubborn.

    I think we are running the risk of getting lost in analogies here, but all that matters is how good the sandwich tastes. However, I'd add, when it comes to RPGs and such, I think what constitutes a 'good tool' is a lot more subjective than cooking or something. That is part of why these conversations tend to go off the rails. Instead of people just being honest and saying "I like this better", it tends to be expressed more like "this is good design" or "this is real roleplaying and this isn't" (or "these traditional games are 'toys'---by implication other games are more serious).
  • Airk said:


    I am not 100% sure what you mean by this, but one thing I've noted with the issue of 'what is roleplaying' at the table, is a huge gulf between the theorizing you see all around online, and what typical players want.

    You may have whiffed the intent here, which, I suspect, was a comment on the people who think that there is "one way to roleplay" -- not out of some sort of one-true-way-ism, because they don't even really examine it enough to grasp that there ARE other ways. This is extremely common in people who've got a lot of roleplaying years under their belt, but have done almost all of it with the same group and generally in very trad systems. Usually they think everything drops down to a sort of task resolution system where the GM wallpapers over any issues, and generally there's more to it, but the rest varies more depending on the playstyle of whatever the original group was.
    .
    Sure, I may have missed his point (which is why I said I wasn't 100% sure what he meant (if he wants to weigh in on whether I did miss it or not, that would be great, because I was genuinely unsure of his meaning). All I was talking about here was how people theorizing about what constitutes roleplaying in online communities, almost never matches the reality of what I see with people playing at the table. I think with theory in general, whatever theory it happens to be (traditional ideas or ideas related to things like the forge), I think they often have a very negative effect on live table. I've experienced this first hand when I've fallen in love with a concept or argument and taken it too much to heart. But over time you notice if something just doesn't work in play. A lot of stuff sounds good on paper, sounds good in the context of an online argument (often because people can be very skilled at making arguments but still be wrong about things), and doesn't land at the table at all. I didn't have a specific mindset or theory in mind though. I was speaking very broadly here. When people get overly rigid about 'what is roleplaying', to me that is often a red flag. This is a hobby where people have developed different sensibilities around 'what is and why' independently and there is usually going to be some difference among people in any group. One way to solve that, is to balkanize, form four different groups out of those four different approaches. I prefer to take a more balanced approach and be flexible. I am not there to defend an abstract idea of play in my head. I am there to game and have fun.

    I am not saying, don't try to make a game that does X. I am just saying, if 4 people show up at your table and they don't want to do X, you might want to shift gears. If the group is quite mixed, you probably need to find some kind of middle ground. This is where a rulings over rules approach can be very handy.

  • edited May 2018

    "these traditional games are 'toys'---by implication other games are more serious).

    I was definitely not trying to imply that traditional RPGs are less serious then Forgite RPGs. If that was your impression I'm very sorry. What I meant is that game design usually distinguishes toys from games.

    Traditional RPGs by game standards are not considered full games but rather game-engines or toys. Is the term 'game-engine' more neutral to you? Because we can stick to it, but to me 'toy' tells more then 'engine': these RPGs are more multifunctional than 'complete' RPGs. They have implicit player goals and win conditions like toys!

    Of course as someone said every RPG is on the spectrum between 'only' a toy and being a 'complete' game, but I think that classic D&D (2E-3.5E) is more 'toyish' than MLwM or Fiasco. It's about presentation and of course it's about game culture (mainstrem vs indie to exaggerate...)

  • I think often times the problem has more to do with people convincing themselves they'll only have fun if they achieve an incredibly narrow preconception of play they've picked up off the internet (or from a game manual).

    I take it you've seen that a bunch. I haven't, myself, but I'm not shocked that it's out there. I've definitely seen people come to the table with very narrow goals or very specific demands -- but it's almost always been from prior play, not from reading stuff. Usually it's either been "I played in an awesome game before and I want this one to be exactly like it" or "I played in a horrible game where I got to do one fun thing so now I seek that specific thing and tune out the rest".
    I've been gaming since the mid-80s, so I've seem plenty of functional and dysfunctional groups. At this point in my life, 'functional' is a lot more important than something like what style or approach we happen to be taking. Where I've seen this problem is both at the table and online. And discovered the problem through conversation. I've also experienced it directly myself, when I've held too tightly to a concept or idea about gaming. It is very easy to be swayed by an argument about what a good game should be, then not see you are disrupting your own game by chasing it and not paying attention to what is going on at the table itself. This is just something I've learned from a lifetime of gaming. By focusing on the practical "what is working at this table with these people" I've had way more enjoyment and success.

    I've encountered what you describe as well. Again, people can set whatever bar they want. I have met people with an unrealistically high bar, who clearly get in the way of their own enjoyment of the game. Like I said before, this is just a game. And having fun is largely a choice you make when you sit down. If you'r focused on the fact that the GM isn't as astounding as some guy or girl you played with 10 years ago, and that gets in the way of you having a good time, much of that is on you. By the same token if the GM is pining for players they had 10 years ago, that is a bit of a disservice to the players present ready to game now. Which isn't to say, the GM should be terrible, or players should be awful. Just that mindset has a lot to do with the experience you end up having. I.E. I often appreciate really well thought out cultural details in games. However, one of the greatest GMs I ever played with could have cared less about that stuff. If I focused on this, and if I nitpicked rather than letting go, I'd never have enjoyed myself. But I consciously chose not to care about these details, and it turned out it was one of the best campaigns I played in. I've often seen people say stuff like this is a deal breaker for them online, and I find myself wondering if they are missing out.



  • I think we are running the risk of getting lost in analogies here, but all that matters is how good the sandwich tastes. However, I'd add, when it comes to RPGs and such, I think what constitutes a 'good tool' is a lot more subjective than cooking or something. That is part of why these conversations tend to go off the rails. Instead of people just being honest and saying "I like this better", it tends to be expressed more like "this is good design" or "this is real roleplaying and this isn't" (or "these traditional games are 'toys'---by implication other games are more serious).

    I absolutely agree. Fun is fun and if you can make something work, you can make something work. Telling others how to enjoy themselves is usually very bad taste.

    To be able to discuss specific systems, though, I think we have to be able to agree somewhat on what a specific system essentially is or does.

    Diving further into the analogy here: If I say "I like sandwiches—they're so sparkly and thirst quenching", you might start to question wether it's really sandwiches that I like, since we seem to have such a different idea of what a sandwich is.

    If my idea of a sandwich is removing everything except cucumber, then adding it to sparkling water—could that reasonably still be considered a sandwich?

  • edited May 2018


    I think we are running the risk of getting lost in analogies here, but all that matters is how good the sandwich tastes. However, I'd add, when it comes to RPGs and such, I think what constitutes a 'good tool' is a lot more subjective than cooking or something. That is part of why these conversations tend to go off the rails. Instead of people just being honest and saying "I like this better", it tends to be expressed more like "this is good design" or "this is real roleplaying and this isn't" (or "these traditional games are 'toys'---by implication other games are more serious).

    I absolutely agree. Fun is fun and if you can make something work, you can make something work. Telling others how to enjoy themselves is usually very bad taste.

    To be able to discuss specific systems, though, I think we have to be able to agree somewhat on what a specific system essentially is or does.

    Diving further into the analogy here: If I say "I like sandwiches—they're so sparkly and thirst quenching", you might start to question wether it's really sandwiches that I like, since we seem to have such a different idea of what a sandwich is.

    If my idea of a sandwich is removing everything except cucumber, then adding it to sparkling water—could that reasonably still be considered a sandwich?

    I think we are moving pretty far from the original point I was responding to though. The OP said something about Traditional Games not having clearly stated player goals. My response was this is both a feature and of the big things that make traditional games broadly successful. I am not saying there are not other approaches.

    In terms of what you are saying here, I think with RPGs, you can change something as minor as how you get XP and still be playing the game you are playing. And if we are talking about a game like D&D, that has many editions and options over many years, there are all kinds of things you can do to it and still be playing D&D. Again, this is something you see a lot in the OSR, where people routinely cobble together what they want from different editions, optional rules and home brew hacks (they'll even frequently throw in stuff from other games). At the end of the day though, it is still usually D&D, or at the very leasts, still a traditional RPG of some kind.

    But yes, you take out all the dice, replace the pencils with water guns, remove the dungeons and dragons, but leave in the beholders or something, sure you're probably not playing D&D anymore. I think though, what defines D&D is quite wide. I used to run Ravenloft a lot during 2E, and ran multiple campaigns with almost no dungeons, and a heavy focus on RP heavy investigative monster hunts. It didn't look anything like a typical D&D setting or campaign, but was still clearly D&D in our minds. I've played in D&D campaigns that were almost all city intrigue, with very little actual combat, yet it still was D&D at the end of the day. This is the flexibility of traditional games I am pointing to. It is pretty painless to run a game that veers away from what people might think of as the core conceit.
  • edited May 2018


    I think we are moving pretty far from the original point I was responding to though. The OP said something about Traditional Games not having clearly stated player goals. My response was this is both a feature and of the big things that make traditional games broadly successful. I am not saying there are not other approaches.

    In terms of what you are saying here, I think with RPGs, you can change something as minor as how you get XP and still be playing the game you are playing. And if we are talking about a game like D&D, that has many editions and options over many years, there are all kinds of things you can do to it and still be playing D&D. Again, this is something you see a lot in the OSR, where people routinely cobble together what they want from different editions, optional rules and home brew hacks (they'll even frequently throw in stuff from other games). At the end of the day though, it is still usually D&D, or at the very leasts, still a traditional RPG of some kind.

    But yes, you take out all the dice, replace the pencils with water guns, remove the dungeons and dragons, but leave in the beholders or something, sure you're probably not playing D&D anymore. I think though, what defines D&D is quite wide. I used to run Ravenloft a lot during 2E, and ran multiple campaigns with almost no dungeons, and a heavy focus on RP heavy investigative monster hunts. It didn't look anything like a typical D&D setting or campaign, but was still clearly D&D in our minds. I've played in D&D campaigns that were almost all city intrigue, with very little actual combat, yet it still was D&D at the end of the day. This is the flexibility of traditional games I am pointing to. It is pretty painless to run a game that veers away from what people might think of as the core conceit.

    Yeah, I might have been pulling the discussion somewhat off topic. Apologies.

    I think you make a very fair point. The thing we might disagree on is that where you see a feature — in not having clearly stated player goals — I see a bug. I still believe that most (all?) traditional games have a quite clear player goal, even though it's not explicitly stated. To me, it's more honest to say "This is a game where you should focus on X", as compared to saying "This is a game where you can do anything (but there are only rules for doing X)".

    Again, I'd like to point out that I'm not questioning your way of playing or the fun you're having. I'm just interested in hearing a different perspective on things. :)

  • hamnacb said:

    "these traditional games are 'toys'---by implication other games are more serious).

    I was definitely not trying to imply that traditional RPGs are less serious then Forgite RPGs. If that was your impression I'm very sorry. What I meant is that game design usually distinguishes toys from games.

    Traditional RPGs by game standards are not considered full games but rather game-engines or toys. Is the term 'game-engine' more neutral to you? Because we can stick to it, but to me 'toy' tells more then 'engine': these RPGs are more multifunctional than 'complete' RPGs. They have implicit player goals and win conditions like toys!

    Of course as someone said every RPG is on the spectrum between 'only' a toy and being a 'complete' game, but I think that classic D&D (2E-3.5E) is more 'toyish' than MLwM or Fiasco. It's about presentation and of course it's about game culture (mainstrem vs indie to exaggerate...)
    The only place I've seen the Toys V. Games distinction is here. I am sure it comes from somewhere, but we've had the discussion before about the issue with that model. I don't think we need to get deep into it here. But the reason saying traditional games are 'toys' isn't productive is two-fold and obvious: they are not toys (they are obviously games), adults don't want to play with toys. It is pretty clearly a form of analysis that places traditional games below other types of games, to make them less desirable. But like I said, we've had that discussion here before. If your description in your analysis of the kinds of games you don't play or don't like to play, is pejorative, it isn't a good faith effort to understand.
  • edited May 2018
    hamnacb said:

    "these traditional games are 'toys'---by implication other games are more serious).

    I was definitely not trying to imply that traditional RPGs are less serious then Forgite RPGs. If that was your impression I'm very sorry. What I meant is that game design usually distinguishes toys from games.

    Traditional RPGs by game standards are not considered full games but rather game-engines or toys. Is the term 'game-engine' more neutral to you? Because we can stick to it, but to me 'toy' tells more then 'engine': these RPGs are more multifunctional than 'complete' RPGs. They have implicit player goals and win conditions like toys!
    Maybe a useful word here is 'toolkit'? Just brainstorming. :)

    Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but I like 'toy' because of the open ended nature of play it implies.
  • edited May 2018




    I think you make a very fair point. The thing we might disagree on is that where you see a feature — in not having clearly stated player goals — I see a bug. I still believe that most (all?) traditional games have a quite clear player goal, even though it's not explicitly stated. To me, it's more honest to say "This is a game where you should focus on X", as compared to saying "This is a game where you can do anything (but there are only rules for doing X)".


    My point isn't that you should see it as a feature. But that if you don't understand that people who like traditional games see it as one, you won't understand why people play them.

    We'll just have to agree to disagree on implicit player goals in traditional RPGs. Just because there isn't a rule for RP, doesn't mean RP isn't part of the game, for example. To go back to Ravenloft, the only time I had trouble running the RP Investigative focused style was when we switched to 3E. I played that system for years, but I always noticed my Ravenloft games never quite felt the same. I figured we had just changed and it wasn't the game. Then I switched back to 2e for a bit and the feeling we had before was back. I realized the issue was the introduction of things like Bluff and Diplomacy. In 2E there is an etiquette NWP, but that is a knowledge skill, it doesn't replace RP. Obviously people use bluff and still role-play. But my experience was, these things were frequently being used like action buttons and when I took them out, things went back to how we played before. By the same token, having a skill like Perception, can lead to players interacting less directly with the environment you describe. So I do take your point about mechanics mattering, but I also think it is a mistake to assume just because there isn't a rule for a thing, that the game isn't about that thing. If you look at D&D it appears to be a game all about combat, but that is just because you need combat rules. You don't necessarily need RP rules to have great RP (and in fact RP rules can get in the way of good RP*).It is also fairly easy and painless to do something like remove Bluff from a game (or to approach it in a way that is less intrusive).

    *Not knocking these kinds of skills in games--I use them myself, but I can see the problems they sometimes introduce to play.
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