Posts Tagged ‘The Forge’

Insert whiny excuse about life getting in the way of blogging here. Now let’s move on.

After much searching, I have found myself. Too pretentious? Yeah, I know. But in fact it’s actually been quite a relief. Hang on a second, I should probably give you some context…

I’ve been reading a load of articles about RPG design (see the last post for a selection), and one of the key concepts I’ve found useful was Ron Edwards’ three suggested Creative Agendas. (Agendae? I’m pretty sure Agenda is plural already, actually. Aaanyway.) The three agendas are the three (he suspects the only three) core reasons why people play a roleplaying game. They are as follows:

  • Gamism – “Social assessment of personal strategy and guts among the participants in the face of risk”;
  • Narrativism – “Commitment to Addressing (producing, heightening, and resolving) Premise through play itself”;
  • Simulationism – “Commitment to the imagined events of play, specifically their in-game causes and pre-established thematic elements”.

The definitions – from the Forge Provisional Glossary – are by necessity quite broad; I’d strongly suggest reading the articles to get a better idea of what they mean. I had to read and re-read before I got it –

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. What I want most from roleplaying games is:

  • a realistic experience of being a person in a different world or situation to my own
  • provided that situation is interesting and/or exciting.

This confused me, because of the following sections from the Forge articles. Firstly, this about Narrativism:

Narrativism is expressed by the creation, via role-playing, of a story with a recognizable theme.

… and this about Simulationism:

The players may be greatly concerned with the internal logic and experiential consistency of that Exploration.

What I read there was Simulationism is about presenting a realistic world (which fits perfectly with my first bullet), and that Narrativism is about producing a story. While a story should be interesting and/or exciting, and hence is related to my second bullet, to me it sounds like more than that – it sounds like a laborious and precise construction with three acts (maybe) and a conclusion and all that jazz. I’m not fussed about that – I just want my experience to be interesting.

Therefore I thought of myself as a Simulationist but a Simulationist who wants to simulate a world where the laws of drama apply, in order to keep things interesting. I was thrilled; I thought I’d discovered a new branch of Simulationism and was about to revolutionise RPG design. Unfortunately not. Something didn’t quite sit right with me – such as this example of “Simulationism overriding Narrativism”:

The time to traverse town with super-running is deemed insufficient to arrive at the scene, with reference to distance and actions at the scene, such that the villain’s bomb does blow up the city.

That seems totally wrong to me. So perhaps I wasn’t a Simulationist after all? I certainly think too much focus on realism can detract from the excitement. What to do?

Well, I read and I read and I read. I read about “El Dorado”, a term used to describe a game that (reliably) realistically simulates a situation but still produces a good story. And then I read this:

I think some people who claim to desire such a goal in play are simply looking for Narrativism with a very strong Explorative chassis, and that the goal is not elusive at all. Such “Vanilla Narrativism” is very easy and straightforward. The key to finding it is to stop reinforcing Simulationist approaches to play. Many role-players, identified by Jesse Burneko as “Simulationist-by-habit,” exhaust themselves by seeking El Dorado, racing ever faster and farther, when all they have to do is stop running, turn around, and find Vanilla Narrativism right in their grasp.

That’s me. Right there. Hi, I’m Blackrat, and I’m a Narrativist.

I hadn’t understood that “story” in the context of these articles was a much broader concept than I’d picked up initially. I’d guess that’s why Ron Edwards changed the definition to the one at the top of this post, about addressing premise (rather than story). “Addressing Premise” is equivalent to my “making things interesting / exciting”, but much better defined – my version is meaningless and given meaning only by the reader’s personal taste :-)

A long way round to a simple conclusion. One thing I realised along the way, though, is that I want my Narrativism to be focussed on consistent in-character experience and reactions, not on creating the story out-of-character and then justifying it in-character. And that’s useful.

The next thing to do is to work out how to apply these aims to the system I’m (slowly) designing. So, next time, ACTUAL GAME DESIGN at last :-) I hope your patience hasn’t worn out yet…

Gah! Alright, it’s been ages since I posted – I’m sorry. The problem is, in the last post I suggested that the next post would examine my goals for the system in RPG theory terms – and I still haven’t been able to fully work out how it fits.

In particular, I thought I had it mostly figured out, and then I read another article that turned my previous perspective on its head. Since then I’ve been trying to mostly-figure-it-out all over again.

Sadly I haven’t got enough material nor enough time to write a full post on it just yet – but perhaps I can at least recommend the articles I’ve been reading.

They’ve mostly come from The Forge – which won’t surprise anyone who’s been looking into RPG theory already, but may be new to people who haven’t. I strongly believe that good systems (RP and any other kind) only come about as the result of good design, which itself follows on from good theory – and that seems to be one of the central goals of The Forge community.

So here are the articles that really got me thinking about RPG theory and how to apply it to my own game design – in what I consider to be a sensible reading order. Perhaps it’d be useful for me to put these on their own page, but for now this post will do :-) Note that the summaries are my own – the original writers might not agree with them!

  • System Does Matter – an explanation of why it’s important to design your system to suit the play style you want.
  • GNS and Other Matters of Role-playing Theory – a more detailed examination of the ideas raised in “System Does Matter”, showing how to analyse a system to see what sorts of play it will encourage. In particular, formally sets out Ron Edwards’ GNS theory.
  • Simulationism: The Right to Dream – the first of three articles each examining one of GNS theory’s “core” play styles. This time, Simulationism – the desire to explore a shared fiction purely for the sake of exploration.
  • Gamism: Step On Up – the second such article. This one covers Gamism – the desire to play a roleplaying game in order to use the mechanics to overcome a challenge.
  • Narrativism: Story Now – the third such article. This time it covers Narrativism – the desire to address a premise through play, in order to produce a story as the primary goal of play.
  • Applied Theory – an article looking at how to apply all of the above theory in real mechanical terms.
  • 3 Resolution Systems – introduces some interesting points about the relationship between the game fiction and the game mechanics. With diagrams!

Alright, so they’re almost all from the Forge in fact. It’s not that I necessarily agree with everything in those articles – but I do think they’re an excellent way to prompt your own thoughts about RPG design & theory. Other non-Forge things can be found in the links in the sidebar – in particular for RPG design stuff I’d recommend anyway., Deeper in the Game, Some Space To Think and Transneptune Games‘ blog.

So with that, I’ll lazily sign off – and come back next time with something a bit more concrete.