RISS official, canonical theory!!

edited May 2017 in Story Games
Edit: RISS has moved! For older, historical, once-official entries into the RISS canon, read on. This is still the place for discussion of RISS!




This is version 1.3 of what used to be called GDNS official, canonical theory and is now renamed RISS official, canonical theory.

Because getting on the same page about which techniques are kosher and which are iffy is SUPER IMPORTANT to us humans! It's the outside-in approach to finding common value ground!

Now what is RISS? It stands for Rails, Impro, Sandbox and Spike!

In Rails, one or more of the participants is a super talented story writer in the attic and pre-writes a very interesting story that the group can then bring to life and experience in full color at the gaming table! This could be a GM writing "First the players are gonna do X, then they're gonna do Y, then they're gonna do Z" style notes before play, this could be a player writing ten pages of backstory for their character which is going to be recounted closely during play!

In Impro, one or more of the participants is a hippie! They want to encounter choices that would be meaningful diegetically, such as "Should the hard-working cop abandon her family in order to protect them?". The most important life dream of a Impro hippie is that a very unexpected story is created during play that can then be retold to your hippie friends at the next con!

In Spike, one or more of the participants is a power-hungry munchkin! They want to encounter choices that would be meaningful mechanically, such as "Should the hard-working cop equip a +1 one beastmaster sword or a x3 mod lightning round gun in order to best protect her family?". The most important life dream of a Spike munchkin is to test their own might! To face challenges and bravely stare them down with their lifelong journey of system mastery!

In Sandbox, one or more of the participants is a curious individual! They want to examine the clockwork of the system, how will the little ants in the sandhill move around and what will happen when they collide! The most important life dream of a curious and imaginative Sandbox daydreamer is to see their doll's house come to life and see the dolls do What They Would've Done Really. If they were alive. But with spaceships.

Wait, there's more!
These four corners of the RISS quartet may sound like mortal enemies. But that's not the case, they are the best of friends!
Here is the official poster for the RISS kumbaya of FRIENDSHIP:
image

But not everything is a paradise in the RISS land!
Here is the official diagram of the official RISS Hatred Parade of Eternal Enmity:

image

Any questions?
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Comments

  • List of techniques!

    Game design techniques:
    Sandbox
    • Tools to make random tables
    • Quantification (not necessarily slow-handling)
    Spike
    • Comprehensive mechanics
    • Playtesting
    • Flexible mechanics that can work together in different ways
    • Encounter generators
    • "Overlord" rules
    • Character advancement (added 2016-06-13)
    Impro
    • Restrictive character/setting generation
    • Character change (added 2016-06-13)
    Rails
    • Compelling settings
    • Epic stories
    • Strong villains
    • Simple monster math (Numenera-style)
    • Hidden monster math
    • Plot generators
    • Character backstory (renamed and moved 2016-06-13)
    Play to find out
    • Randomness, chance
    • Easy to adjudicate, consistent mechanics
    • Impartial refeereing (added 2016-06-13)
    Stories are interesting
    • Intra-party-bonds/relationships
    Players interact with the DM's prep
    • Secrets to be uncovered (added 2016-06-13)
    • Other prep tools
    • Sources for maps
    • Easy rules for making NPCs


    DM/facilitator/group techniques:
    Sandbox
    • Random tables
    • Prepping
    Spike
    • Interesting tactics
    Impro
    • Bangs
    • Loaded questions
    • Unique character traits
    • Decisions with high diegetic costs
    Rails
    • Hidden rolls
    • False choices
    • Balanced combats
    • Curated experience
    • Selective fudging
    • Strong questgivers
    • Bones thrown at other "player types"
    Play to find out
    • Open rolls
    • Ruthlessness
    • Everway "Karma" (added 2016-06-13)
    • Everway "Fortune" (added 2016-06-13)
    Stories are interesting
    • Scenario setups
    • Everway "Drama" (added 2016-06-13)
    Players interact with the DM's prep
    • Other prep tools
    • Sources for maps
    • Maps
    • NPCs

  • The "Spike" name for that corner is already chafing because I think both Jenny and Spike psychographic profiles fit there. "Spike" is the corner for "gaming" rather than "playing". But I don't want to too clearly recall "gamism" even though that's of course the origins of this corner. BTW, my names aren't meant to obfuscate the historical connection to jhkim's work but to avoid misrepresenting it.
  • Do you mind if I ask why the Rails-Impro overlap doesn't play nice with either Spike or Sandbox? Since I'm not sure that I have a lot of experience with that play style, I'm having a hard time coming up with examples of my own on why they might chafe.

    Also I hope that this doesn't sound too flippant, but I find this way easier to understand with the new terms than the old ones, even though I think I totally understand where you were coming from with your concerns there (although the fact that I find the terminology change so much more understandable means I should probably go re-read it all again, just to make sure I'm not making the very mistakes that you didn't want people to make).
  • I like this a lot.
  • I dig it, but I agree with yukamichi's question - if I can have Spike/Sandbox/Improv, why can't I have Spike/Rails/Improv?

    Also, "Spike" seems like a weird name.
  • This is a really interesting essay. Thank you for writing this!

    I'd be interested to see if there's any solutions or resolutions or techniques you have for dealing with the friction points of the Hatred Parade of Eternal Enmity, and if so for them to be included somewhere in here.
  • Re all eleven possible overlaps: coming later. The three named and shown it the official poster for the RISS kumbaya of FRIENDSHIP are selected for being relatively well-known and discussed play idioms, play goals, and play technique selections in their own rights.

    Re problems with the name 'Spike' -- I know. Working on it

    Re resolving the enmity: unpossible because the contrasts define the corners. Hence eternal. Practical solution: identify enmity conflicts and make choices. In a combo of Spike and Impro, for example, identify the issue of flashlight droppers and decide a group policy on that behavior.
  • I want to write twelve texts:
    • Tension between Rails and Impro
    • Tension between Rails and Sandbox
    • Tension between Rails and Spike
    • Tension between Impro and Sandbox
    • Tension between Impro and Spike
    • Tension between Sandbox and Spike
    • Overlap between Rails and Impro
    • Overlap between Rails and Sandbox
    • Overlap between Rails and Spike
    • Overlap between Impro and Sandbox
    • Overlap between Impro and Spike
    • Overlap between Sandbox and Spike

    Obv I don't promise my up-period and writing mania will last long enough to make all of these. But one is done in another language, will translate and post later
  • I was gonna say "That sounds like a lot of work"

    I look forward to seeing whatever you do get done though!
  • Sandra,

    Nicely presented, and the new "names" are catchy and instantly make sense. Much easier to follow!

    How about "Combo", instead of "Spike"? Or some other term from games which encourage character builds, synergy bonuses, and similar stuff? "DPS"? (I'm not super familiar with the lingo of the field...)

    What kind of feedback, if any, are you looking for here? Questions? Points to clarify? Criticism? Theoretical discussion? Counter-examples/stress-testing?

    Cheers!


  • edited April 2017
    Are these categories just groupings of techniques that play well together (or do so traditionally), or do they say something deeper about game design, personalities, psychology, tradition, group dynamics, or anything else?

    (I'm asking in part because I wonder what a phrase like "overlap between X and Y" means. Does that mean we're effectively designing a game which satisfies players interested in both? Or a game which takes elements from both, but creates its own dynamics (as a third, in-between sub-category or hybrid? Or does it mean "this is how a group containing players trying to do X and Y might play nicely together"? These are all quite different implications.)
  • For me those three overlaps are historical. Indications of various movements and manifestoes of times past.
  • Could be read as derogatory, but instead of Spike how about Munchkin?
  • edited April 2017
    I as about to suggest Muchkin too. Derogatory for an individual player, less so for a play style IMO. Other idea: Mastery. Other other idea, perhaps in keeping with your sense of humor about each style: Advanced.
  • edited April 2017
    (Yeah, I thought about Munchkin, too, but discarded it because people will get pissed off. I really like Advanced! That's a great name.)

    Or maybe Prestige, as another D&D pun?

    Alternatively, Feat.
  • The word is going to be Skill-testing
  • Aren't the "spike" group what at one time were known as mini-maxers?
  • Minmaxers are a very small subset of that group but that's definitely the group where they are wholly encompassed.
  • Dave's "Mastery" is really good, as an alternative to a funny or cute name.

    One thing I find interesting about RISS is that it seems to be almost entirely (maybe even entirely!) about Techniques, in Big Model terms. I don't know if this means it's limited in some fundamental way (it may be), but, on the other hand, it makes it very practical for gamers.
  • The name is going to be Skill-testing.

    RISS isn't Big Model. I focus on technique but as you can see in my 'four mirrors two groups' post, it's ultimately about ideals and goals.
  • My hunch is that your model groups together traditions, without (necessarily) looking into the "ideals and goals" behind those traditions.

    For example, you list a lengthy character backstory under "Rails" as a common technique. That's certainly true; on the other hand, in my experience, that's very, very rarely actually a technique which in any supports or augments Rails play. It seems more likely to me that it's just... historically or traditionally associated with that kind of play, as opposed to being a useful contributing component.
  • Skill testing is good, but "Skill" seems as good and shorter? :)
  • The poster and the diagram will have just the word Skill, yes. We're on the same wavelength there, Airk. But for the text I wanted Skill-testing
  • Paul, 'Gnusto' is about pre-writing, it's about "story before" as opposed to the "story now" of the "Play to find out" overlap.
    This is why I wanted abstract names… :/
    But the text will need an overhaul, I just did a search and replace and it does look weird.
  • I'm not really buying that! First of all, "Rails" play isn't necessarily about "story before" - what if the GM was improvising a plot, but the players didn't get a say in it?

    Second, prepared character backstories are a major part of a lot of Impro play.

    In short, I don't see the relevance of some of these techniques to the groupings you've described, other than tradition. (Which is fine! It's not a bad way to describe four particular types of play you've observed.)
  • The GM improvising a non-prewritten plot without building enough on the other players' input -- which was the way my own play was dysfunctional in many years -- is Nitfol rather than Gnusto. The new names are confusing things :( and my little text blurbs are also confusing things.

    It's "railroading" but it's Nitfolian railroading rather than Gnustic railroading :( :( :(

    If you add illusionism into the mix, which isn't necessary for the definition, the illusionism serves opposite purposes. Let's for the purposes of this post say I'm meaning illusionism that goes against the social contract. Adding counter-social-contractial illusionism to Gnustic ("Rails") railroading fools the players that there isn't a plot, that they aren't in (a dysfunctional version of) the "Rails" corner. Adding c-s-c:ial illusionism to Nitfolian ("Impro") railroading fools the players that there is a plot, that they aren't in (a dysfunctional version of) the "Impro" corner. Both dysfunctional but describing them as same goes against the purpose of the corners.

    Similarly, c-s-c:ial messing around with die rolls and HP fools players that they're closer to the ”Skill-testing/Sandbox" edge than they are.
  • Huh. You seem to be arguing that it's eminently possible to engage in illusionism no matter the underlying / ostensible creative (or technical, whatever) goal of a game? That's interesting. I guess I never thought of it like that before. But I'm inclined to agree!
  • I also agree!

    However, if so, then I'm not sure what exactly defines or distinguished "Rails" from other types of play. If the techniques involved can be made to work (however functionally) in other modes, then what makes it Rails?
  • @Deliverator That wasn't my insight, that [i.e. illusionism can fake no-plot in a pre-plotted game, or fake plot in a no-plotted game] came straight out of an older Forge thread I re-read the other day and now can't find again.
    @Paul_T
    At the core of each corner in RISS there is one technique.

    • Pre-write story
    • Swerve to create story
    • Stick to the truth
    • Make it difficult and possible

    When these clash, that's when we get the tensions in the official diagram of the official RISS Hatred Parade of Eternal Enmity.
    When these enhance each other, that's when we get the overlaps in the official poster for the RISS kumbaya of FRIENDSHIP.
    I've struggled and keep struggling with the names of these corners.
  • If the swerving in an Impro game feels forced and lacks buy-in (or, more common when I was doing this dysfunctionally, lacks offers for agency and input beyond just surface flavor), it can feel like lower-case r "railroading". If the sticking to the truth about a Sandbox's traps, monster stats, location of a treasure etc brings about a feeling of helplessness and lack of agency, it can feel like lower-case r "railroading". If the difficult but possible challenges of a Skill-testing game feel like the solution is obvious but grindy, it can feel like lower-case r "railroading"..

    If the pre-written story and events in a Rails game also goes counter to the players expectations of how they would solve the situation, that also feels like railroading.

  • edited April 2017
    The reason I'm calling it "swerving" is because it's what's really distinguishes that sort of impro from just improvising. I.e. if there are some apples on the altar, in two game groups' SIS. In the impro group, they were just made up on the spot, in the sandbox group, the dungeon key might say "four apples in a white onyx bowl [bowl worth 280gp, weighs 1lb]". And in both groups the players ask: I grab one apple, what color is it? And in both groups the facilitator or DM (respectively) says, even though the prep in the Sandbox group doesn't have the color listed, even though the apple in the Impro group was just made up, says without shame, without batting an eyelash, without breaking poker face: "It's red, what do you do?" That's not swerving. That's "be boring", that's building platform, that's saying the obvious thing. Swerving is when that apple suddenly contains a diamond. Which is awesome in an impro group, untruthful in a sandbox group. (Unless the gloracle placed that diamond there.)
  • Aside from the theoretical discussion, I very much welcome the techniques overview for various approaches.
  • This is all super interesting!

    What's tripping me slightly is that you don't seem to make a very clear distinction between Players and Game Masters in categorising general 'participants.' These two roles are mechanically different, so wouldn't their embodiment of these categories change too?

    Rails, for example, describes a behaviour of GMs but I struggle to imagine a Player I could describe as 'Rails.' Unless we have a game where the player has worked out the plot beforehand with the GM and is working through the motions in play to get to the known outcome? I've played in that game. But even so, isn't that describing a method of play rather than characterising the player?

    Mebbe I'm missing something... Is this a model of player types or types of play?
  • I've seen players who had a particular pre-written thing they wanted to happen, absolutely. That was part of the major dysfunction in the Vampire larps I played. It was more like… the rest of us had nothing to do but stand around and look cool, while the "big movers and shakers" had pre-written scenes they acted out. It was more like a play than a game. :(

    But a player isn't a sandbox or a GM isn't an impro. It's about the core of a technique, not the core of a player. You can play a successful impro game the one day and a successful sandbox game the other. If everyone's on board.
  • edited April 2017
    Second, prepared character backstories are a major part of a lot of Impro play.
    On re-reading the official text of the canonical 1.3 release of RISS official, canonical theory, I see "backstory for their character which is going to be recounted closely during play!"
    That stands contrary to the "hold ideas lightly", swerve-ready ideal of the capital-i Impro corner.

  • But a player isn't a sandbox or a GM isn't an impro. It's about the core of a technique, not the core of a player. You can play a successful impro game the one day and a successful sandbox game the other. If everyone's on board.
    Sure, everyone being agreeable tends to make for successful games.

    OK: If you're describing a technique, why are you drawing up charts of player compatibility?

    I guess it's interesting to examine closely why someone into competitive play will clash with someone into improvised story-telling, but isn't it a given that players with different aesthetic interests are going come away with different judgements of their experience of play and other players? What's the end goal here?

    I realise I'm coming to this all a bit late and you've probably explained the project elsewhere.

    (I'm less interested in categorising techniques and much more interested in helping players motivated by different aesthetics play harmoniously, so maybe this thread isn't for me.)
  • edited April 2017
    The diagram and the poster are about technique compatibility.
    If you check out the enmity arrow in the official diagram of the official RISS Hatred Parade of Eternal Enmity, you can see one example way that impro-based story-creation play can clash with skill-testing play "Flashlight droppers endanger the party".
    Addressing the issue (by choosing one of the corners to have priority in clashing situations) can allow the group to play harmoniously.

    Are people really player type? Or is it more about expectations on the game? If I sit down to Dixit expecting Chess I might be disappointed. But even Kasparov might have fun with Dixit given the right circumstances.

    Clarity brings harmony.

    I'm into all four things but when I sit down to play an RPG I have to make some choices for that particular session or for that particular campaign or group. Do I want a novel, a blank page, a petri dish or a chess set?
  • Second, prepared character backstories are a major part of a lot of Impro play.
    On re-reading the official text of the canonical 1.3 release of RISS official, canonical theory, I see "backstory for their character which is going to be recounted closely during play!"
    That stands contrary to the "hold ideas lightly", swerve-ready ideal of the capital-i Impro corner.
    Oh, I hear you...

    ...but I've never actually seen any group do this. Is this a real behaviour, or just some hypothetical?

    In any case, it would seem (to me) to clash pretty strongly with the whole concept of Rails (unless there is, again, some clever and novel set of techniques which we haven't seen yet where "GM brings plot" and "we play through player backstories" coexist nicely - I think it's possible, but it's hardly a set of constraints which belongs to a recognizable RPG tradition).

    My point, however, was the converse:

    There are many, many games I can think which I believe would fall into your "Impro" corner, but make heavy use of prepared character backstories or forward-stories.

    For example, Archipelago is based on character Destinies, which we all agree to head towards - they tell us how the story *ends*, and we improvise our way forward to that ending.

    It's a fairly common improv tool to predefine backstory (e.g. Sorcerer) or future outcomes (e.g. Archipelago) as a creative constraint for improvised story.
  • edited April 2017
    It doesn't always appear as pages of backstory they want to read. In “players interact with the DM's prep” (Rails Spike Sandbox) play the Spike part is used as a framework for this Rails technique on the player side, and you tell the group about your character by creating “builds” and pre-planning your selection of feats and prestige classes etc. Some games really encourage players to think this stuff all through with the expectation that they will get to reveal it in play.
  • ...but I've never actually seen any group do this. Is [player-side recounting past events and playing through events they've pre-scripted] a real behaviour, or just some hypothetical?
    Yes. It was very common in several of my older play groups.
    In any case, it would seem (to me) to clash pretty strongly with the whole concept of Rails (unless there is, again, some clever and novel set of techniques which we haven't seen yet where "GM brings plot" and "we play through player backstories" coexist nicely - I think it's possible, but it's hardly a set of constraints which belongs to a recognizable RPG tradition).
    It's something I've seen many many times.
    backstory (e.g. Sorcerer) or
    I'm not stating that backstories that only inform future decisions (as opposed to existing as play in and of itself) are "Rails"/Gnusto. E.g. the Spirit of the Century collaboratively created "where did you folx meet and how did you find your aspects", that phase of the game isn't "Rails"/Gnusto.
    For example, Archipelago is based on character Destinies, which we all agree to head towards - they tell us how the story *ends*, and we improvise our way forward to that ending.

    It's a fairly common improv tool to predefine [...] future outcomes (e.g. Archipelago) as a creative constraint for improvised story.
    I'd differ between playing towards such a destiny vs playing through such a destiny beat for beat. The former isn't "Rails", the latter might seem foreign to you and I haven't found it described on the Forge or here on S-G but I have seen it here, enough that my subconscious mind used it when she wrote the official, canonical theory.

    It can take three forms:

    • (non-improvised) flashbacks
    • playing through pre-scripted events (also see my reply to Potemkin above, for an example from LARPS), or "playing through a destiny" beat for beat.
    • and, perhaps most commonly, revealing a pre-written (non-improvised) backstory or side story piecemeal through play. E.g. at first acting all fucked up and then gradually revealing/recounting the tragic truth why they became that way (yes this can be pretty ablist). I.e. first room in the dungeon they talk about "When I got to school one day", second room of dungeon they talk about "Everyone was silent. No one said a word. I said hi, but just got glances", third room of dungeon they say "When I opened the set of frosted glass doors to the cafeteria, I realized why." Fourth room of dungeon they.. you get the picture.

    Wait, I guess that third form is flashbacks. But by flashbacks I meant playing through (railroading through) flashbacks and by the third form I mean recounting/revealing the past, or a story-in-the-story, as mimetic diegesis (my apologies for that phrase) while the SIS is somewhere else.
  • edited April 2017
    It doesn't always appear as pages of backstory they want to read. In “players interact with the DM's prep” (Rails Spike Sandbox) play the Spike part is used as a framework for this Rails technique on the player side, and you tell the group about your character by creating “builds” and pre-planning your selection of feats and prestige classes etc. Some games really encourage players to think this stuff all through with the expectation that they will get to reveal it in play.
    That's a great point. "And at level 13 I'll start worshipping Sarenrae and pick up some cleric levels..." Agree completely, Adam.
    some clever and novel set of techniques which we haven't seen yet where "GM brings plot" and "we play through player backstories" coexist nicely
    "Nicely" is generous. But a cornerstone of long-term sustainable Rails play is throwing the other playstyles a bone, or imagined "player types" like "Method Actor".

    "Lay rails, leave blanks". Here's an example of 90:s play:
    Mamie likes to explore the angst of her character, a young woman traumatized by the fact that an ancient goddess sometimes possesses her body. We add an element to the tomb exploration that allows her to further her personal soap opera. She finds a mirror in the tomb that allows her mortal self to communicate with her goddess side. To motivate her to keep up with the [railroad tracks (2097's clarifying edit)], we'll try to have the bandits take it from her. If we arrange this, we'll see to it that she can recover it in the sphinx's lair.
    Yeah, I'm still sore about that "personal soap opera" dig...
  • Is this a real behaviour, or just some hypothetical?
    I'm pretty sure it's the bread and butter of a lot of online freeform, and to a lesser degree can show up in other games with a strong "lonely fun" component.

    I think there's probably overlap with Spike/Skill/Whatver-it's-called-now where, when you have games with a lot of front-loaded player choices (usually in the form of complex character builds), if a character is made to do a specific thing, then the play experience should contain that thing so the player/character can show off.

    If I'm not wrong that kind of character concept actualization is sort of the basis of Fate, isn't it? Character aspects work as a kind of Chekhov's gun that should inevitably come into play. I know that in a recent thread here about Fate, someone went as far to say that a sort of "failure-redemption" story is all but built into the system.

    While it's not something I'm fond of, I sometimes come across the attitude that the players' choices and desires are sacrosanct (particularly when it comes to what kind of character they want to play), and the GM shouldn't be able to veto a character idea. Taken to even greater extremes, this turns into GMing-as-a-service and paid GMing.
  • I'm pretty sure it's the bread and butter of a lot of online freeform, and to a lesser degree can show up in other games with a strong "lonely fun" component.
    Oh, yeah, the whole "let's pretend we're Glee characters only that Punk!Quinn is a boy" or "let's pretend that we're horses" thing which is… maybe the most common form of RPG?

    Those games are usually heavily arbitrated (instead of using a rules system, it's a runner's or moderator's word that's law, usually based on adherence to their intepretation of canon or tone) and usually don't focus on narrative plot either, they look pretty aimless the ones I've read. But with plenty of angst and emotion in the writing.

    Not sure where on RISS I'd put it. It's improvised but not based on swerving so not Impro. It's Rails from the player side just as yukamichi says, that's true… I think it's pretty zilchy from what I've seen. Being the character and writing IC and reading responses from other characters IC are kicks enough.
  • If I'm not wrong that kind of character concept actualization is sort of the basis of Fate, isn't it? Character aspects work as a kind of Chekhov's gun that should inevitably come into play. I know that in a recent thread here about Fate, someone went as far to say that a sort of "failure-redemption" story is all but built into the system.
    That's very interesting, I missed that. To that theory, I'll say "maybe" rather than "definitely" but it's a possibility for sure.
  • edited April 2017
    2097 where are zilch, gloracle, gnusto, dixit, ... coming from? (Are these the terms you use in the original version of this stuff, a manifesto in some Nordic language you're translating into English here?) I see you say these words and I kiiiiiinda can figure out what you mean maybe? I get the sense that you defined them somewhere but I can not locate the definitions. Nobody else asks you what you mean so I guess I've missed something!
  • edited April 2017
    Thanks Jeph!
    Jeph and James:

    Dixit is a board game, a French card game from 2008. The name is Latin for "said", as in "nice day, she said". But the meaning of the name is not related to what I was talking about, I was talking about a particular game.

    Gnusto is, as you guessed, a name from an earlier version -- I've changed names for the corners two times and for a while I deliberately wanted really alien names, to prevent what's already been going on here, people having formed connotations to words like "Rails" and "Impro". The names from that version came from an eighties video game's fictional magican language. I happened to be wearing a t-shirt that day that said Gnusto&Nitfol&Blorb&Frotz. But, Gnusto does mean to write, or copy by writing, in that game (Enchanter is the one from the series that I played [about halfway], Zork is the first game in the series.)

    Zilch… I broke the rules when talking about zilch and zilch play, and I broke them in a couple of ways 1. because it's a term coined on The Forge forum, and S-G:s rule is to always state what we mean when we use Forge words, 2. I was being a bit passive aggressive towards WM and I was being a bit shibbolethy towards those that I thought would understand my frustration, 3. I was using a concept I'm not sure I fully understand and that's never a good idea. Anyway, 'zilch' and 'zilchplay' originates from an American slang word for zero or nothing. I used it a bit out of it's ordinary usage I guess. I guess it means the sort of play where you have your friends and your chips and that's good but you're not engaging with the game itself.

    Gloracle is a word minted here on S-G. "The glorious oracle of dice and prep"; part of the old school (or OSR) ethos is that once play has started, the DM should be a neutral referee and no longer a creator. If the text says "the statuette is in the third drawer from the top in the mahogany desk in the guest bedroom", that's where it is. No amount of searching in the kitchen can find the statuette. If the prep says that strangers have pocket contents from a particular random table, and the players pickpocket a stranger, well, that's what they get, a random roll from that table. It's about the DM no longer "inventing" or "changing" "reality".

    Shibboleth is a… bible story thing? In the story, those who were familiar with a particular phrase recognized each other. Judges 12 is the book but, the phrase has taken on a wider meaning for all sorts of "in-group passwords". Avoiding people being excluded by shibbolethy language is the primary reason for S-G's rule against weird terms. And it's a good rule and I try my best.

    Jeph, thanks again so much and let me know if there's more. We can't rely on people asking, I messed up, definitely, and I apologize. You went above and beyond and I appreciate it.

    James, for me who doesn't speak English, every word is like this. Even the word "word".
  • Thank you!

    And it's kinda impossible to not get shibboleth-y when discussing such a sprawling topic with such a big corpus. We rely on shared metaphors in the common ground to communicate whatever we do! I really appreciate you taking a page to catch everyone up :)
  • Sandra,

    Thanks for those clarifications. I'm starting to see the distinction you're drawing between Rails and Impro a little better, although I'm not sure I see it clearly enough to be able to identify one versus the other. It seems incredibly blurry to me!

    Perhaps what you're getting at is that, in Impro play, we're looking forward to being surprised by what happens, and play with the unexpected, whereas in Rails play, we're hoping to recreate or reveal an existing or familiar story, and celebrate it being familiar or fitting well with our expectations?

    Interesting to consider, in any case. I can imagine something like online roleplay swerving wildly from one to the other, and the players getting annoyed with each for "not getting it right".
  • I'm really really happy that people are having patience with me as I'm hashing this out. I haven't had time to post version 1.4 yet. The only difference will probably be the new name for Spike, "Skill-testing". I'm also fiiiinally gradually getting tired of the mild dig at big model of always attaching the "official, canonical theory" tagline to the name (but not yet). RISS is unique enough in a story games context.

    Paul, I can understand it being hard to distinguish between the two halfs of "Stories are interesting". When I started with this theory I started with the threefold but I split its dramatisms into Rails and Impro because I found that there were often clashes between those two.
    Perhaps what you're getting at is that, in Impro play, we're looking forward to being surprised by what happens, and play with the unexpected, whereas in Rails play, we're hoping to recreate or reveal an existing or familiar story, and celebrate it being familiar or fitting well with our expectations?
    That sounds about right about the typical usages of Rails and Impro.
    Interesting to consider, in any case. I can imagine something like online roleplay swerving wildly from one to the other, and the players getting annoyed with each for "not getting it right".
    Yeah, they would get banned pretty quick. Those forum based freefroms are pretty strict about OOC and IC hierarchy, knowing your place in the group etc. The moderator or runner rules supremely.
  • I'm not sure I see it clearly enough to be able to identify one versus the other. It seems incredibly blurry to me!

    Perhaps what you're getting at is that, in Impro play, we're looking forward to being surprised by what happens, and play with the unexpected, whereas in Rails play, we're hoping to recreate or reveal an existing or familiar story, and celebrate it being familiar or fitting well with our expectations?
    This is where this gets blurry for me too.

    In my mind both 'Rails' and 'Impro' play are about the enjoyment of being surprised to some degree - it's just that in Impro the GM also gets to enjoy being surprised too.

    Does this make sense? I can expand, but the point I'm labouring is that these categories radically change when considered through the player-experience and the GM-experience. What 'Impro' looks and feels like for a player is radically different for a GM and I'm not sure your taxonomy illustrates this. Addressing the duality at the core of the genre might help bring more clarity?

    ...when I sit down to play an RPG I have to make some choices for that particular session or for that particular campaign or group. Do I want a novel, a blank page, a petri dish or a chess set?
    But you wouldn't want an RPG?

    ***

    Ok, I'm going to recuse myself from this thread and sink back beneath the dark waters. In commenting, I must confess to being partly motivated by pique - these taxonomical threads with their focus on neologisms and devoid of An Actual Game give me strong Forge vibes, and that's not what I lurk in S-G for. But getting sniffy about taxonomies is not what I lurk for either..

    So, mea culpa! Each to their own. Good luck, Sandra!

    -Mike.
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