What do you design against ?

edited December 2018 in Game Design Help
I am not talking ideology, just plain game play. I am not asking how you do it, just trying to change perspective to see if some insights begin to show.
For instance, I designed against numerical complexity, invoking bad faith not to lose, arguing about setting knowledge, locally murked situation, shying away from contributing, and handing too much decisions to one person. And against Forge games that did all this at the cost of an extremely narrow theme.

(Then I realized that fear of losing is not that important, provided the table is generous to newcomers.)

Comments

  • Lately, my primary goal is to avoid BOTH blank page and infodump for players.

  • One game I made because someone on the internet said that you couldn't make a functional medical drama RPG. So I did, and it was pretty good.

    But usually I'm not designing against things, but toward broad, general goals.
  • I'm designing (bricolaging?) an anachronistic AD&D retroclon which tries to be radically anti-progressive and out of date. Not sure what Im revolting against though :)
    Lately, my primary goal is to avoid BOTH blank page and infodump for players.
    That!!! :thumbsup:

  • I am not talking ideology, just plain game play. I am not asking how you do it, just trying to change perspective to see if some insights begin to show.
    For instance, I designed against numerical complexity, invoking bad faith not to lose, arguing about setting knowledge, locally murked situation, shying away from contributing, and handing too much decisions to one person. And against Forge games that did all this at the cost of an extremely narrow theme.

    (Then I realized that fear of losing is not that important, provided the table is generous to newcomers.)

    I'm not sure what some of this terminology means: "invoking bad faith not not lose" and "locally murkeds situation." Could you clarify those?

    For me, what I'm designing against would have to do with the specific type of game I am after (and also what I perceived as the goal of that game). There are types of games that I enjoy playing and an even narrower set of games that I enjoy designing, but I'm someone who needs to have a sense of genre, purpose, theme, etc. before pinpointing what I would design against. I guess I'm with Nick Wedig. Once I'm rolling with a game design, I do start to consider ways that players might "break" the game, and playtesting also gives me an idea of where I need to modify design to avoid undesirable outcomes in the gameplay. But the goal of the game is the starting point.
  • edited December 2018
    Exactly that : where do you think the players will break the game ? And it's not even them (see murk below)
    Bad faith : pretending you dodged this bullet.
    Murk : "Oh, she was between me and the windows ? Had I known this I wouldn't have done that."
  • "Floating" bonuses. You know how in a lot of games, we roll a die, and then add some magical number to it, and then compare it to a target number? I try to avoid that in my designs, as I admire designs that avoid this, and find them easier to teach to less numerically minded players. Even something as complex as Burning Wheel, no one ever gets confused about how many successes they rolled.

    So for example in PbtA (I got this idea from @Paul_T ), you can replace a -1 with d6+d4, +1 with d6+d8, etc.
  • I design against task resolution and rule creep. I prefer fortune-in-the-middle conflict resolution and elegant (i.e. simple, concise, uncluttered) rules. My favourite game is one sheet. All my other favourites are under 15 pages.
  • edited December 2018
    I try to design against mechanics or metagame intruding into in-fiction causality. But then it's really hard to wind up with a game. Not impossible, though, I think!

    I also design against long handling times. I really strive to put "how to play" conveniently at the players' fingertips at all times. I think mastery should require a learning curve, but what do we do? should not.

  • Ah, but, more importantly:

    WHO do you design against?
  • Gary Gygax. Mark Rein-Hagen. Weis & Hickman.

    Also, it's "whom." ;-)
  • (Matt, believe it or not, I deliberated for several moments about whether it would be better to use proper grammar or colloquial before posting that!)

    (I felt like a true Deliberator...)
  • I kinda-sorta try to design against gamism, at least the in-fiction kind.

    I figure that everyone else has that covered already.
  • When I design (not too often nowadays, tbh), I often do it against empowerment. I like games that put players in situations of vulnerability, powerlessness. I also like to design against the notion that a player has full control of it's character. And finally, I design against dead times and players doing nothing whole somebody else is playing.
  • "Downtime" in board games. Yes, this is a good one ! Making the audience active !

    @komradebob What do you mean by "gamism in fiction" ? Characters bullying each other ? A player coldly estimating their risk before throwing the character into danger ?
  • I mean that I don't design, generally, such that the game is about players using their characters to "win" something.

    I occasionally design for players to win, however, although that too is rare.

    I enjoy Gamism. I just don't enjoy designing for it.
  • I get it ! It means you already found your "fun games", and your designing is a sort of experimentation.
  • Lately, my primary goal is to avoid BOTH blank page and infodump for players.
    What does this mean, and how do you do that?
  • I'm designing to against games that ...

    ... takes up lots of pages. More than twenty, and it's a failure. (Honestly, more than five is a failure.)
    ... takes hours to prepare, including reading and learning the game.
    ... don't know what it wants, or tries to include all sorts of play styles.
    ... follows unchallenged roleplaying game conventions, like game master as a different player, dice as excitement and only source of uncertainty, mechanical improvement rules, and so on. Imagine is an example of that.
  • edited December 2018
    I think NuclearManatee means : players don't create the setting from nothing, but they are not given an encyclopedia of the world at the beginning either. This could be situation, setting and colour seeds dispersed between character stats and special mechanics.
  • I design against rules complexity, Infodump, Blank page syndrome, downtime, numerical complexity and a few more things already mentioned, but the strongest one I haven't seen here yet for me is against interiorized rules and techniques. There are a lot of tricks we use to run the games we design, but we have interiorized them so much they feel to us like "common sense" that we forget to explain them in the rulebook. Hence roleplaying is still better explained by playing it instead of by reading the rules.

    I think explaining the basics in comic book format may help a lot. Also, including the phrases and techniques you use to run it no matter how common they look. Yes, everyone has heard them before in normal conversation, but the timing, tone and gestures you use with those are making much more of a difference than you may think.
  • I design against non-genericness, against specific gaming materials, against ad-hoc rules/constants and, to a lesser extent, against placing too much responsibility in a single person.


    I don't like overly specific rules because I'm well aware that you can find situations that break any given rule set so, the less rules and the more generic/universal the better.

    For Example: My current default gaming system uses the generic oracular outcomes Yes / Yes But / No But / No to determine whether someone carries out an action/task successfully and to which degree (partial/total). These are quite universal and provide the right amount of granularity in the kind of games I use to play.


    I want to be able to improvise a gaming session with borrowed materials anywhere in the world at any given time so, the simplest, cheapest and more generic gaming materials the better.

    For Example: My current default gaming system uses 3 coins (any 3 coins will do as long as you can distinguish heads and tails). You can use binary 6-sided dice at home if you prefer or look for odd/even sides in any given trio of dice, of course, but you could always improvise a game with some pocket change.


    As a mathematician/programmer I'm always suspicious of unjustified constants/rules that "work just well". I want them all to have a clear origin, I want them all to justify themselves and I want them all to cover the whole range of situations. False granularity, like playing a D100 game that produces binary success/fail outcomes, should be avoided as much as possible.

    For Example: In my current default gaming system you either roll in an advantageous scenario, in a 50%-50% scenario or in a disadvantageous scenario. Period. There isn't a +2 bonus to a given action or a 3 hit points that you must mark in your character sheet.


    Finally, I am well aware of the difficulty of coming out with original outcomes for every single action and I know that putting the GM in the middle of every single argument might be stressful and counterproductive.

    For Example: My current default gaming system tries to mitigate the effort of coming out with specific instances of the oracular outcomes by distributing the narrative control between the GM and the players. More specifically, the GM narrates the No and the Yes but outcomes whereas the player narrates the Yes and the No But outcomes. Moreover, since they are all working towards building a shared imaginary story some of the decisions must be taken by consensus. More specifically: If the gaming group cannot agree whether a character has advantage or disadvantage in a given situation the roll falls back to the 50%-50% default scenario.
  • Nice! That's a well thought-out proposition, and supported by examples, no less.
  • edited December 2018
    I tried that system on bike. It was a moderate success because our randomizer was always behind. ^^
    Seriously the availability of game material is a big concern. Like : can you print it on 2 pages, stuff like that. It puts you in a position of proposing 10 games instead of none because you can't find the dice. And even a reluctant player will find one game on ten somewhat appealing.
  • I am no designer, but the games that I choose to play and run most often all attempt to resolve the underlying tension between playing your character with integrity and good game play. This is probably less of a problem for most people, but the drama geek, software engineer, and athlete inside of me tend to constantly be at war with each other when playing more traditional games.
  • edited December 2018
    @David_Berg "I try to design against mechanics or metagame intruding into in-fiction causality. But then it's really hard to wind up with a game. Not impossible, though, I think!"
    Wow, it's like "shutting down the real world", right ? Do you use rituals and light / music effects ? Or did I intentionally fail to understand when you really think the rules can simulate "mechanical causation" only ?
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