Why STG's Suck, Gamer Manifesto.

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Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
Why STG's Suck, Gamer Manifesto.

In a word, Immersion, or to put it more bluntly, storytelling games suck because they kill immersion in the role of the character that most if not all RPG players enjoy. “Why” is a much bigger question that’s harder to answer but I will attempt to do so in a little bit…

Preface: before we get into the gritty bits, I want to mention I work as a Night Auditor at a hotel, I have roughly 5+ hrs a night to sit behind a computer and do whatever I want (like write massive wall of text crits like this).

After battling the forum lurkers over at D&D Next for a long time, critiquing the hell out of what I saw as absolutely terrible design decisions, I was often hit with “well if your so right and so damn sure of your position Mr. Know-it-all, why don’t you go and design your own game and we’ll put it through the same ultra critical analysis your hitting our new favorite game with!!!”

It took a long time but eventually I decided they were right, I hate pathfinder, hate D&D 3, 3.5, 4, and Next, and really haven’t found a fantasy RPG I prefer since 2.0 and that needed massive house rules and a semi-merger with HGS/fantasy hero to be acceptable to me. So for the last three months or so, I’ve been laboring to create the fantasy system I want to run/play.

Its been a LOT harder than I expected, but its coming along. I noticed early on I am taking about ¾ of my design influences from storytelling games with nifty and elegant mechanics. I am keeping similar mechanics in my game, but cutting out all the narrative “crap” I think detracts from a really good RPG.

Though I haven’t played a storytelling game or system since larping vamps with Goths in the 1990s, I have recently read Dogs in the Vinyard, Spellbound Kingdoms, Don’t Rest Your Head, and about five other indi storyteller games recently. Most of my critiques will have to do with one or generalities about all of them.

On with the show…
First I would recommend anyone interested in engaging in this thread reading this blog on the difference between RPGs and STGs so we do not get hung up on terminology or the actual noted differences between the two types of games.

http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/6517/roleplaying-games/roleplaying-games-vs-storytelling-games

To very quickly summarize the blog, a Role Playing Game simulates the actions of the characters and NPCs with mechanics that are associated with the abilities of the character or NPC, these are called “Associated Mechanics”.

Where as in a pure Story-Telling Game, the actual abilities of the characters and NPCs are rarely associated with direct actions and the mechanics instead focus on narrative control of the scene or event. These are called “Disassociated Mechanics”

For example, in an RPG a PC and a NPC sit down to play a game of chess, skills, talents, and attributes are considered and a role is made to determine which of the two won the chess game. Alternatively there may be many rolls or mechanics used at different stages of the chess game, but all will be directly influenced by the representative scores of the PCs and NPCs.

In a STG the player (or often the GM) may spend “destiny points” or trade dice from a control pool to take control over the scene and describe what happens and who wins the chess game regardless of the competing character’s abilities.. Often the player/GM will be forced to take some kind of fallout or inability to narrate future scenes because of the decision to control this scene.

And in short that’s why STGs suck. The mechanics of STDs make the scenes predictable, since disassociated mechanics have little to do with the characters themselves, it’s almost impossible to become immersed in the story or game play and conflicts come down to who has the most dice or most destiny points. Suspense is cut short, life and death conflicts have more to do with consensus than realistic physics or in-game risk, and the amount of “fun” available to the players who want to control the actions of their characters is drastically reduced.

I’ll go a step farther as well and throw some bigger insults…

STGs are essentially for lazy and stupid gamers and designers. Don’t get me wrong, even I in my supreme genius enjoy a night of lazy and stupid from time to time, but that’s the exception not the rule.

Take the award winning “Dogs in the Vineyard”. Around 100 pages, maybe 30 pages of fluff, a few pages on development, items, and magic, and the rest of the book is one singular mechanic and many many repetitive examples of how it would be used to resolve every scene or action. Does it work… mmm sort of, but only with the most general and grossly open to wild interpretation details.

Also, there’s essentially nothing to learn, characters have a minimal set of stats or abilities, character development is just as limited, the item list is pitifully short and most items are represented by identical mechanics (+1 die for anything, +2 dice if the anything is big etc)

If I take a well written big crunchy RPG and want to run it, I’m going to spend a month learning every nook and cranny of that system, if I’m playing maybe a day or two just to learn the rules being a beginning player requires. But once I got it down, it should run smooth, and be greatly descriptive purely by the rules as written.

But lets go on… STGs are notorious for the elimination of actual risk to the characters, usually with a PC death being something that the player must agree to. Take away risk, you also take away challenge, and take away suspense. Then essentially you’ve taken away most of the purpose and reward of playing. The only point in playing then becomes telling a whimsical story, if I want story time I can watch a movie or start writing a book, but there’s little point in playing a game without challenge, suspense, or risk to me, even board games have more of this than most STGs…

And STGs typically make any action the player wants the character to take acceptable regardless of how impossible it is… want your character to fall into the lake, swim to the bottom, and make an hour long phone call using nothing but a fast food wrapper in a world without magic? No problem, just be prepared not to be allowed to narrate any scenes in the rest of the night’s game… great… and again… whats the point of this? Wish fulfillment?

Now look at DitV’s polar opposite… Hero Game System’s 6th edition… three books, 600+ pages and 24 pounds of pure unapologetic crunch and very little fluff.

The easy start rules can get you playing or running in under two hours, at its base level HGS has extremely simple realistic or cinematic mechanics system wide, BUT want more detail, want examples of absolutely everything from detonation of nuclear bombs complete with radiation fallout, sickness, weather changes, mutations, emp disruption, etc. to fireball spells, pulp spaceships, and steelpunk zeppelins? There’s an example or pure simulationist/realistic rules for literally anything you can imagine. Learning absolutely every nook and cranny of that system is essentially impossible because anything is possible, but for really good system mastery… years at least.

It’s a system that’s easy to pick up but takes hard work and study to truly master. It’s a work of complex mathematical construction and creative thinking that has taken almost 30 years of constant improvement by guys with long lists of science and math degrees who play every weekend in a basement of Cal-Tech.

Is it worth it? Well if you and your players have all put in the time… hell yes. No other system has ever come close to comparison in providing rules for creating exactly what you want with such extremely detailed results.

Lastly in regards specifically to fate… haven’t read it, don’t plan to instead I’ll just assume this guy is right in his assumptions…

http://whitehall-paraindustries.blogspot.com/2010/04/judging-fate.html

From the Fate website… “focuses on telling stories and balancing characters based on story significance, rather than points and cool powers. It's the system of choice for GMs who are looking for rules that get out of the way of the story, but still provide enough structure to get the job done."

I'd phrase that differently: FATE is a terrible game system, only useful to add a degree of randomness to whatever story you or your players happen to be railroading.

And as a side note, I think you could replace “FATE” with the name of just about any of the popular STGs right now.

And to finish off this three hour tirade… I am choosing to adopt that bloggers gamer manifesto, and hope the rest of the discerning RPG players out there choose to do the same…

A Gamer's Manifesto

I reject the fallacy that holding to a “One True Way” in gaming is an evil. Not all methods are equal, and we should strive not for the mediocrity that ‘everything is just taste’- but instead reach for and only accept the best.

I reject that assertion that all game designs are broken. They may not be a perfect one, but it's not difficult to get close enough for practical purposes

I reject the assertion that realism and simulation is impossible in game design. Again, it’s not difficult to get close enough to meet one’s needs.

I reject the assertion that the GM owes the players anything other than an impartial campaign that offers mysteries and excitement. Success and Failure is dependent entirely upon their skill in play, or its lack.

I reject the idea that GMs or RPG Design should seek to tell stories, they are games and should in themselves be fun and exciting enough that stories naturally result from play.

I reject rules that make decisions for the characters. Players should make decisions for their characters.

I reject the idea that RPGs cannot be played completely by the rules (or at worse the rules plus a reasonable amount of house rules) as written.

I reject the idea that playing by the Rules as Written is not role-playing. Rules are physics, Role-playing is decisions and expressions.

I reject the idea that GM judgment is the equal or superior of objective resolution in key areas such as combat and skill resolution.

The GM powers are restricted to creating the world, and ends both at the mind of the player character and the boundary of the physics engines presented by rules.

I reject the concept of play without the equal of a map and miniatures together with solid rules covering the elements of range, line of sight, and terrain. Any other style of play is lazy and nothing more than dependence upon GM handouts.

I reject the concept of 'rules getting out of the way'. RPGs are games, and the rules should engage and interest the players.

Story telling games…. Yup, they suck.

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

Decivre Decivre's picture
Not sure if trolling, but I

Not sure if trolling, but I loves me a good argument... so I'll bite.

I'm somewhat torn about this presumption that storytelling games and roleplaying games must sit in direct opposition to one another, with no cross pollination in concept or ideology. There are plenty of games that have a foot in either pigeon hole, and often times blur the line in meaningful ways.

I mean, what about Nobilis? Here is a game where there is a defined narrator (the HG), the players play defined characters, but there are no random rolls or mechanics whatsoever. Is this a STG? Is it not an RPG? What about Amber Diceless? How about games like Ars Magicka or Mystic Empyrean, where the rules are fairly traditional but the role of GM is very fluid and spread across players? How about the Apocalypse/Dungeon World games?

I'm not saying that all STGs are roleplaying games. I think it's fair to say that Microscope is certainly no roleplaying game, if only because the players are not portraying roles during a majority of the gameplay (I've played games where no one EVER portrayed a role). But I think it intellectually dishonest to say that all STGs are not roleplaying games, simply by merit of their approach to game mechanics being tied directly to the narrative.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
well their different design goals

I think that article on RPGs vs STGs spells that out, if your game includes associative mechanics and elements of the game are played that simulate the characters (roles) abilities then it is in some fasion a role playing game. if there are no associative mechanics, it is pure STG. I think most STGs take some elements from RPGs, at least the more complex ones do anyways, and thats where the division between STG and RPG gets fuzzy. Ultimately though I think its the game designers themselves that drop the lable on their games. when billed as a STG I expect scene narration, when billed as an RPG I expect stats, and skill representations and no scene narration by players.

PS on the other thread you mentioned "apocalypse world" I've heard a lot of good about that game (many people love the ticking clock health system)... can you tell me more about it? why did you think it would be a good merger for EP? of course, it was designed by the same dude who designed "dungeon world" as a story telling game that mimics D&D for kids, and DitV. so I'm sort of interested in what a more adult themed game from him is like...

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

Decivre Decivre's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:I think that

Baalbamoth wrote:
I think that article on RPGs vs STGs spells that out, if your game includes associative mechanics and elements of the game are played that simulate the characters (roles) abilities then it is in some fasion a role playing game. if there are no associative mechanics, it is pure STG. I think most STGs take some elements from RPGs, at least the more complex ones do anyways, and thats where the division between STG and RPG gets fuzzy. Ultimately though I think its the game designers themselves that drop the lable on their games. when billed as a STG I expect scene narration, when billed as an RPG I expect stats, and skill representations and no scene narration by players.

But why the need for associative mechanics? The mechanics should be tied to what the players and narrator wish to draw out of the game, and if what they wish to draw is more story-oriented than setting-oriented, then narrative-focused mechanics should be used.

Personally, I think they should be boiled down to their fundamental aspects. A roleplaying game is about playing a role, and a storytelling game is about telling a story. If your game is focused around both telling a story and playing a role, I don't see why we can't use both labels for a single game.

Baalbamoth wrote:
PS on the other thread you mentioned "apocalypse world" I've heard a lot of good about that game (many people love the ticking clock health system)... can you tell me more about it? why did you think it would be a good merger for EP? of course, it was designed by the same dude who designed "dungeon world" as a story telling game that mimics D&D for kids, and DitV. so I'm sort of interested in what a more adult themed game from him is like...

Apocalypse World was a very interesting post-apocalyptic roleplaying game, with a narrativist lean and very inspired by games like Sorcerer, and settings like Mad Max. The game was very interesting for one core aspect; the mechanics themselves paint the setting. The game fundamentally segregates the actions of either player or MC (narrator) into units called "moves". An MC move is a narrated action that just happens... what the GM says goes. A player move, however, involves a dice roll, followed by a period of player-controlled narrative based on the degree of success that the roll shows.

The way that the mechanics paint the setting is that during this moment of control, the game mechanics often ask the players to declare things about the world, or at the very least ask questions which force the GM to define things that they might not have defined already. Here's an example move from the game:

Visions of death: when you go into battle, roll+weird. On a 10+, name one person who’ll die and one who’ll live. On a 7–9, name one person who’ll die OR one person who’ll live. Don’t name a player’s character; name NPCs only. The MC will make your vision come true, if it’s even remotely possible. On a miss, you foresee your own death, and accordingly take -1 throughout the battle.

So this move asks the player to roll 2d6 and add their Weird modifier (a number between -3 and +3). It then gives the player narrative control on a success or limited success (a roll of 7 to 9), so that they may declare which characters will live or die. So it's quite obvious how this move in particular gives the player narrative control of the scene.

Also note that the mechanics are designed so that the MC never rolls dice. The whims of chaos are always set square in the hands of the players, and the successes of antagonists are often only granted in the case of failure on the part of a player roll. So oftentimes enemies never attack, so much as they deal damage when the players fail or get a limited success.

Limited success is an important aspect of the game mechanics, because they are often designed so that the player has to make a tough choice. And the case is always such that the player must pick to the detriment of his/her own character. Here's another example, this time from Dungeon World:

Spoiler: Highlight to view
When you release a spell you’ve prepared, roll+Int. ✴On a 10+, the spell is successfully cast and you do not forget the spell—you may cast it again later. ✴On a 7-9, the spell is cast, but choose one:
  • You draw unwelcome attention or put yourself in a spot. The GM will tell you how.
  • The spell disturbs the fabric of reality as it is cast—take -1 ongoing to cast a spell until the next time you Prepare Spells.
  • After it is cast, the spell is forgotten. You cannot cast the spell again until you prepare spells.
Note that maintaining spells with ongoing effects will sometimes cause a penalty to your roll to cast a spell.

In this example, you get to see the vivid nature of limited successes. When a wizard in Dungeon World rolls a 7-9 while casting a spell, the player has to make a hard choice as to the consequences in the setting, while the character has to suffer from them.

Apocalypse World was the original game, and Dungeon World is a D&D-inspired spinoff that uses the AW engine on a D&D style setting. They aren't actually made by the same person at all. I doubt the engine would ever become a target for the EP setting, because EP is a skill-based game and AW is decidedly not. I doubt you could even try to make it a skill-based game, with the way the whole thing is structured.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

SavageYinn SavageYinn's picture
Roll a crit!

I don't believe that the STG vs RPG blog post is completely accurate. There is a difference between more traditional RPG's and RPG's that are more focused on creating drama, or telling a story.

Robin D. Laws defines the difference in his up-coming Hillfolk game by breaking the game into two different types of scene the Dramatic and the Procedural. Dramatic scenes are built around one character needing emotional fulfillment from another character whereas Procedural scenes are about overcoming a practical, external goal.

If I take your example of two people playing chess and describe it as a Dramatic scene, wherein Joe wants Eric to respect him because Joe who is dating Eric's sister doesn't want the pair of them to fight anymore. Joe being the school jock and Eric being a school brain-box. The players of Joe and Eric will roleplay playing a game of chess, when the scene comes to an end the group will decide if Joe got the respect he wanted from Eric. If he didn't get that respect then Joe could spend "drama tokens" to force a win, but with complications. In a case like this Eric might promise to stop being acidic, but if Joe ever breaks his sisters heart....

The same scene as a procedural would be Joe and Eric's players check their character sheets for their chess skill, or finding out what that skill defaults to and then using a random mechanic to see who wins. If Joe's player is very lucky then he could win.

Dramatic games are based around the characters and the relationships they have with each other and the world they live in. Depending on which set of rules you are using this will be expressed as a hard value with a statement (Cortext+ Drama) or just a statement (an aspect from Fate). But this is just a part of the character.

Quote:
And STGs typically make any action the player wants the character to take acceptable regardless of how impossible it is… want your character to fall into the lake, swim to the bottom, and make an hour long phone call using nothing but a fast food wrapper in a world without magic? No problem, just be prepared not to be allowed to narrate any scenes in the rest of the night’s game… great… and again… whats the point of this? Wish fulfillment?

Well, this all depends on the gaming group and the story they are telling. If the story is one of cartoon humor then it may pass muster if however the game is more along a gritty police buddy story then I would say that the rest of the table would "call bullshit" and as most modern drama games are about shared story-telling then no amount of spending drama tokens would make your above statement true.

It's sad that you are unable to see the value of games beyond the ones you are more comfortable with.

For the record you will hate Apocalypse World, as it's more about getting the players to make the story and the world they are living in. Also, the people who created Dungeon World have no connection to the creator of Apocalypse World. They took the principals of Apocalypse World and tuned it towards old-school fantasy.

If you want to try a fantasy game then take a look at Burning Wheel Gold.

Decivre Decivre's picture
SavageYinn wrote:For the

SavageYinn wrote:
For the record you will hate Apocalypse World, as it's more about getting the players to make the story and the world they are living in. Also, the people who created Dungeon World have no connection to the creator of Apocalypse World. They took the principals of Apocalypse World and tuned it towards old-school fantasy.

If you want to try a fantasy game then take a look at Burning Wheel Gold.

Yeah, I had a feeling about that. Apocalypse World gives narrative control of the setting to the players very often, and allows the playgroup to reshape the setting to suit them uniquely. I've been running a Dark Sun-inspired game of Dungeon World for a couple weeks now, and it already deviates dramatically from that setting thanks to player collaboration.

Ironically, what he seems to hate about STGs I absolutely love. Apocalypse and Dungeon World both allow me to create a relatively blank setting with a core theme, and let my players work alongside me to form its history and setting. It reminds me of videogames like Legend of Mana, where you create your own unique world map as you progress through the world. I find that playgroups become more invested in a world they helped shape.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
I only looked at this thread

I only looked at this thread because I didn't know what STG stood for...

STGss don't stand or fall with narrative or fate points or what not, unless the GM wants to play it that way. Like other RPGs, it depends on what the GM allows and how he sets difficulty levels.

And a realistic RPG can be just as unrealistic as any STG if the GM wants it. All he needs to do is suck at or be lenient with assigning difficulty levels to tests. EP is extremely light on tables with test modifiers. An STG with many tables that specified difficulty would be much more stringent than EP.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
You game like a fat girl

Last night I was reading blogs about pax east, one article "you game like a fat girl" caught my eye, it was about women gamers getting trolled but it made me think... What does a fat girl actually game like? The chess description you gave above answered that for me... That right there is what a fat girl games like.

By the descriptions your giving, the difference between story teller games and RPGs is the difference between "40 days of night" and "twilight". In twilight, the story is driven by the emotions of a love triangle, the fact it's got fighting vampires and werewolves is always secondary to the characters emotional states, desires and relationship woes. In 40 days of night, the story is driven by the character's desire to survive and defeat a pack bloodthirsty monsters.

Does that mean 40 days of night is just running and fighting with no connection to the characters back story? Not at all, the sherif's broken engagement to the medtech, her desire not to emotionally hurt him, one survivor's relationship with his father who has Alzheimer's, an anti-social hermits commitment to the townspeople... And on and on. The movie is chock full of fully developed in depth emotional relationships between characters but they are not the drive or focus of the theme/movie they are all secondary to immortal superhuman apex predators showing up to wipe out the town.

If you prefer romance, emotional teen angst, more time spent dealing with feelings and respect/disrespect. Your movie is twilight and you should be playing storyteller games.

If you prefer heart pounding suspense, plot twists, antagonists that create fear and hate, heroism, and some gore your movie is 40 days of night, and your an RPG guy.

Twilight and STGs suck.

Which brings up another point... An RPG's mechanics are usually based around resolving physics issues, especially in "lite" designed systems. leaving the majority of the characters motivations up to the individual players, but there's no reason why I can't create or run a twilight like RPG that focuses almost entirely on romance and angst. As a matter of fact with less mechanics getting in the way of a mostly non-combat physics free heavy RP game it will even run more smoothly than a wonky indi STG.

BUT you say, there are often RP rules for social interactions in most RPGs!!! yes there are, you are not your character, a character may be more savy and manipulative than a professional con man but the player may be a basement dwelling social recluse, since the focus of an RPG is playing a role, and success or failure depends on the character's abilities... there often needs to be a system to ballence the disparity.

In an STG this isnt a problem that needs to be addressed because your not playing a role and a characters success or failure is determined by whos turn it is to narrate not by the characters ability.

My response to that is crunch heavy RPGs that focus more on character interactions are much more successful at resolving social events with detail and rational outcomes.

Want a great example of this? Check out "Song of Fire and Ice: Game of Thrones edition" you'd think reading the books or watching the HBO series with 90% of the events being pure intrigue, story development and involving little or no combat, the game "should" have been written as a STG... Right?

Wrong, SoFaI:GoT has the most in depth, detailed, and rationally resolving "social combat" system I've ever seen. You can RP any part of an interaction but as the conversation progresses you make social combat tests, you attack with intrigue skills, and roll damage against "composure" which acts like HP.

At the end of the interaction the winner can alter their status, relationship, get items or favors, seduce them etc. it's about 8 pages and made of braided awesome. It completely and accurately portrays the abilities of the story's main characters, and shows exactly why daddy Lannister is a intrigue powerhouse regardless of the DMs actual ability to narrate or script plots/intrigue. No STG I've ever read comes close to that level of detail. It's not lazy minimalist design, and if you have some practice with the system it flows quckly and easily with just a few rolls.

To me this exactly outlines the difference between fine craftsmanship and quality in game design and slipshod just flip a coin STG mechanics.

And your right, I skimmed through apocalypse world last night... Terrible. When I read that characters regain health and get skill benefits from having sex with other PCs I had flashbacks of that horrible rape RPG, no, won't be playing AW. and no, I don't think it's sad that I don't appreciate crappy minimalist low quality game design with immature sex=health overlays.

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

puke puke's picture
lots to say?

wow, these are long winded posts. I don't know where I sit on this one, but I'll relate an anecdote:

My first exposure with “narrative” features in RPGs was an article on Blackjack’s Shadowrun page. He described a method of playing where a GM didn’t have to describe every detail that was present, and that players did not have to ask permission for something to be present.

To paraphrase, if someone wanted to “vault off the head of a nearby dwarf” then the GM should allow there to be a convenient dwarf nearby for the sake of the story.

This has always seemed like a good policy to me. And as Baalbamoth pointed out, there are lots of nice elegant mechanics in the new indy patchouli games.

What I’m not sure about, is the tendency to codify the narrative bits with mechanics. Paying to introduce story elements, or having players make up the plot as they go.

But hey, whatever. The fresh ideas breath new life and cool mechanics into more traditional simulations games, so I think there is a benefit to developing various styles. Hopefully the OP writes something awesome and I’ll read it or play it someday. We can all thank the patchouli smelling narrativist bastards, when he does.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:Last night I

Baalbamoth wrote:
Last night I was reading blogs about pax east, one article "you game like a fat girl" caught my eye, it was about women gamers getting trolled but it made me think... What does a fat girl actually game like? The chess description you gave above answered that for me... That right there is what a fat girl games like.

By the descriptions your giving, the difference between story teller games and RPGs is the difference between "40 days of night" and "twilight". In twilight, the story is driven by the emotions of a love triangle, the fact it's got fighting vampires and werewolves is always secondary to the characters emotional states, desires and relationship woes. In 40 days of night, the story is driven by the character's desire to survive and defeat a pack bloodthirsty monsters.

Does that mean 40 days of night is just running and fighting with no connection to the characters back story? Not at all, the sherif's broken engagement to the medtech, her desire not to emotionally hurt him, one survivor's relationship with his father who has Alzheimer's, an anti-social hermits commitment to the townspeople... And on and on. The movie is chock full of fully developed in depth emotional relationships between characters but they are not the drive or focus of the theme/movie they are all secondary to immortal superhuman apex predators showing up to wipe out the town.

If you prefer romance, emotional teen angst, more time spent dealing with feelings and respect/disrespect. Your movie is twilight and you should be playing storyteller games.

If you prefer heart pounding suspense, plot twists, antagonists that create fear and hate, heroism, and some gore your movie is 40 days of night, and your an RPG guy.

Twilight and STGs suck.

To quote Abraham Lincoln, "Every single thing you just said is horseshit."

I could be paraphrasing.

First off, character relationships, while often treated as a core component of the game mechanics, aren't often treated as the sole component of said mechanics. In Apocalypse World, Hx (the relationship stat) plays a very minor role, and is largely only used for small amounts of experience gain, and either aiding or preventing another player that is trying to do something.

Even in a game like Lady Blackbird, or Mythender, where character relationships can be a central focus, they don't play a primary mechanic for the game. To say that it does would be like claiming that the only mechanic D&D has is hit points. It's a gross exaggeration.

That said, if the entire industry can be boiled down to a formulaic vampire horror film and a Mormon vampire fapfic, I think it's safe to say that the entire tabletop gaming industry is doomed.

Baalbamoth wrote:
Which brings up another point... An RPG's mechanics are usually based around resolving physics issues, especially in "lite" designed systems. leaving the majority of the characters motivations up to the individual players, but there's no reason why I can't create or run a twilight like RPG that focuses almost entirely on romance and angst. As a matter of fact with less mechanics getting in the way of a mostly non-combat physics free heavy RP game it will even run more smoothly than a wonky indi STG.

BUT you say, there are often RP rules for social interactions in most RPGs!!! yes there are, you are not your character, a character may be more savy and manipulative than a professional con man but the player may be a basement dwelling social recluse, since the focus of an RPG is playing a role, and success or failure depends on the character's abilities... there often needs to be a system to ballence the disparity.

In an STG this isnt a problem that needs to be addressed because your not playing a role and a characters success or failure is determined by whos turn it is to narrate not by the characters ability.

I have yet to see any examples of STGs where you don't play a role. Are you talking about Microscope, perhaps? Because sure, you don't play a role in that. You craft worlds, shape histories and design universes. Bummer that you can't portray a single character; but as a side benefit, there aren't many roleplaying games that allow you and three other buddies to pound out a setting over the course of a 12-pack, while you play.

Baalbamoth wrote:
My response to that is crunch heavy RPGs that focus more on character interactions are much more successful at resolving social events with detail and rational outcomes.

Want a great example of this? Check out "Song of Fire and Ice: Game of Thrones edition" you'd think reading the books or watching the HBO series with 90% of the events being pure intrigue, story development and involving little or no combat, the game "should" have been written as a STG... Right?

Wrong, SoFaI:GoT has the most in depth, detailed, and rationally resolving "social combat" system I've ever seen. You can RP any part of an interaction but as the conversation progresses you make social combat tests, you attack with intrigue skills, and roll damage against "composure" which acts like HP.

At the end of the interaction the winner can alter their status, relationship, get items or favors, seduce them etc. it's about 8 pages and made of braided awesome. It completely and accurately portrays the abilities of the story's main characters, and shows exactly why daddy Lannister is a intrigue powerhouse regardless of the DMs actual ability to narrate or script plots/intrigue. No STG I've ever read comes close to that level of detail. It's not lazy minimalist design, and if you have some practice with the system it flows quckly and easily with just a few rolls.

To me this exactly outlines the difference between fine craftsmanship and quality in game design and slipshod just flip a coin STG mechanics.

And your right, I skimmed through apocalypse world last night... Terrible. When I read that characters regain health and get skill benefits from having sex with other PCs I had flashbacks of that horrible rape RPG, no, won't be playing AW. and no, I don't think it's sad that I don't appreciate crappy minimalist low quality game design with immature sex=health overlays.

No, ASoIAF would have been a terrible STG, simply because it is set in a very concrete and drawn out world. STGs are best used to portray fluid settings which the playgroup can shape to their needs and wants. There isn't a single already-existing setting that would serve well to be played in an STG... because an STG is best used for crafting your own worlds.

Your complaint doesn't seem to be with STGs so much as its with the playstyle you enjoy. It's like bitching about novel authors because novel writing won't allow you to watch Iron Man 3. Well no shit... you don't write novels to watch Iron Man 3, you write novels to create a story and world of your own design. You go to the theatre to watch Iron Man 3.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
Heheh

Puke- lol yeah I agree there are some damn cool mechanics from the "smells like a dead hippy" indi market, unfortunately each game has only one or two good mechanics wrapped around with a bunch of terrible and too many of those mechanics simply can't be converted from dissassociative to associative mechanics that don't use wonky dice pools, chip bidding etc but you can take a little inspiration from them. My game is still likely months away from playtesting but so far everybody I've shown it to first compares the mechanics to like 10 other games then swoons about the way I've crammed the common elements all together with some innovative but derivative mechanics of my own. I'm pretty excited about it but it will very much be a love it or hate it game.

Stoneskin- um no, in a story telling game you may or may not have a character you're "mostly" in charge of, but your not engaged in playing a role, your engaged in "creating a story" using all the characters (even if one is your primary) Theres a lot of bleed over with both RPGs and STGs on this but were talking about absolutes here.

I don't know that I agree STGs have no settings, they do, their just poorly developed and the players are filling in blanks.

But specifically about settings, generally I use homebrew only worlds for heroic fantasy settings, and run strictly sandbox style. Regarding those types of RPGs I agree with Gygax's original position that pre-written, modules and adventure paths are crap and "why would you want to let people do your imagining for you?" (His exact words)

So again I see no benefit in allowing my players create the setting, that's the big fun for the DM and my biggest reason to want to DM.

And no I'm not bitching just about playstyle, read that manifesto again, STGs fail in lots of areas for me, the biggest of which again is design shortcuts (narration over detailed resolution, simplistic and minimalist character attributes and skills if they exist at all, etc) and overall low quality games rarely worth more than a one shot adventure just to goof with the wonky mechanics.

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
After reading every post,

After reading every post, which were enlightening (i will look into the SoFaI RPG simply because of the social combat mechanics), i think i can say one thing.

I accept the manifesto, but reject your interpretation, Baal. I think Decivre is right, you compare apples with oranges here. I play RPGs mostly via voicechat and a battlemap, and i surely do prefer crunch-heavy systems. But stuff like Wushu or FATE caters to a different kind of player than you and i are. Thats absolutely cool, because i know that the players - to which those systems cater - don't expect me to give them big narrative control over the story i - as a GM - want to tell, but then, i never had a problem with telling my groups, that rolling dice is basically the physics of the world.
Heck, many people tell stories with regular boardgames, some of which don't even offer a big context or background. Settlers of Catan told my family many stories over the years and when you look at wargames, there's always somebody who invents a story about his badass regular infantryman, who by all chances, should have died but the lucky die let him survive the day.
So, yes, i prefer a good rules system that simulates the world as it should be and frown upon rules, which deviate from the presented setting.

But there are different ways to tell stories. Ask the guys which wrote the script for Lord of the Rings. The books are quite different from the movies, aren't they? There's a reason for that and it makes sure that there will always be people which nag about the apparent inaccuracy of movie adaptions.

Which leads to RPGs. Half a year ago, i started playing in the MMO enviroment. And holy crap, i couldn't use a rules-heavy system here. Actually, i can't use any system, since it would make me expect that others will read into it and understand it. Right now, it feels like a... well massively multiplayer tabletop group, without gamemasters and the community has to be self-policing. Alternatively, its a LARP without the physical element and without a governing body of GMs. Everything has to be discussed if any misunderstandings arise.
So i started using the basic principles of FUDGE for situations, where the outcome of a situation isn't clear. Would i start a regular tabletop game with FUDGE? Hell no. I find the rules to inaccurate for that matter. But to adapt to the - most often flowery - descriptions of fellow players, it is exactly what i need.

tl;dr: Rules are tools. I prefer to have a varied toolbox so i have the right one for the task at hand.

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:

Baalbamoth wrote:

Stoneskin- um no, in a story telling game you may or may not have a character you're "mostly" in charge of, but your not engaged in playing a role, your engaged in "creating a story" using all the characters (even if one is your primary) Theres a lot of bleed over with both RPGs and STGs on this but were talking about absolutes here.

I just read the FATE rules, and about player narrative control it clearly says it is minor, like having brought an item or knowing someone in a new city, and that "GMs are welcome to ignore this option entirely".

The Leverage RPG also has narrative player control options, but for getting around the tedious parts of recon and contingency planning, which I have made houserules for and would prefer to use when running EP games.

You're basing your idea on STGs on the most extreme reading of their rules.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:Puke- lol

Baalbamoth wrote:
Puke- lol yeah I agree there are some damn cool mechanics from the "smells like a dead hippy" indi market, unfortunately each game has only one or two good mechanics wrapped around with a bunch of terrible and too many of those mechanics simply can't be converted from dissassociative to associative mechanics that don't use wonky dice pools, chip bidding etc but you can take a little inspiration from them. My game is still likely months away from playtesting but so far everybody I've shown it to first compares the mechanics to like 10 other games then swoons about the way I've crammed the common elements all together with some innovative but derivative mechanics of my own. I'm pretty excited about it but it will very much be a love it or hate it game.

If there's only one or two good mechanics, then everything is fine. Most STGs are built around one, maybe two mechanics at maximum. It's part of the simplicity they try to produce in gameplay.

Baalbamoth wrote:
Stoneskin- um no, in a story telling game you may or may not have a character you're "mostly" in charge of, but your not engaged in playing a role, your engaged in "creating a story" using all the characters (even if one is your primary) Theres a lot of bleed over with both RPGs and STGs on this but were talking about absolutes here.

These absolutes you speak of don't exist. I have yet to find a single STG (except for Microscope) where you are not playing a singular role as a player. Unless you count the fact that Apocalypse World allows you to earn more characters as play progresses, but even then that's no different then the character trees that 2nd Edition Dark Sun had, or any number of other game structures that allow players to have multiple characters.

Baalbamoth wrote:
I don't know that I agree STGs have no settings, they do, their just poorly developed and the players are filling in blanks.

But specifically about settings, generally I use homebrew only worlds for heroic fantasy settings, and run strictly sandbox style. Regarding those types of RPGs I agree with Gygax's original position that pre-written, modules and adventure paths are crap and "why would you want to let people do your imagining for you?" (His exact words)

So again I see no benefit in allowing my players create the setting, that's the big fun for the DM and my biggest reason to want to DM.

Yes, but Gygax's words run completely non-sequitor to the idea that a playgroup could cooperatively create a setting. In fact, I believe his playgroup did work with him to create Greyhawk. His complaint was mostly against pre-made adventures and worlds... if anything, Gygax would have hated Eclipse Phase and loved STGs, for exactly the reason you have the opposite view.

An STG setting isn't poorly developed, it's undeveloped. In the same way that a blank canvas isn't a shitty painting, but no painting at all. It gives you the framework and themes for a specific game style, and allows the playgroup to draw out the world from there, as gameplay progresses. It's not a play style for everyone, but I certainly know plenty of people that love it.

Baalbamoth wrote:
And no I'm not bitching just about playstyle, read that manifesto again, STGs fail in lots of areas for me, the biggest of which again is design shortcuts (narration over detailed resolution, simplistic and minimalist character attributes and skills if they exist at all, etc) and overall low quality games rarely worth more than a one shot adventure just to goof with the wonky mechanics.

Except there were plenty of minimalist games through the 80s and 90s that weren't narrativist at all. Minimalism isn't a new thing in gameplay, and not even in RPGs. OD&D probably counts as a minimalist game, as do most early wargames.

It's a design conceit. Not every game needs an insane degree of accuracy in simulation, and oftentimes too much is just that. Otherwise, Phoenix Command would have been the best-selling game of all time, and FATAL would be fondly remembered as one of the best fantasy RPGs ever. Except this is reality and neither of those things were true.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
apples and oranges?

Grey brother, if the terms RPG and STG are synomous, why use them at all? but I dont think they are, they come from extremely different design principals. can you use some stuff from an RPG in a STG? sure, and vice versa (its sort of what a lot of my system is based on) but I'm looking at the extreme definitions... HSG vs DitV mostly, and their polar opposites.

Steelskin- simplicity in game design to me means lazy, inconsistant and incomplete 90% of the time. It means your going to have to do massive intrepretation, IE all the work of resolving character actions, the game wont be doing hardly any of that for you, it also means that identical rolls might yeild completely different results performing the exact same task simply because of how the action is intrepeted.

Thats why I ask whats the point of calling it a "system" its mostly random assuming nobody burns dice, tokens etc at if they do, the resolution becomes as predictable as the desires of the players. no risk, no challenge, no suspense, just predictable story. hate it. If it was a fictional book I'd take it back.

"I have yet to find a single STG (except for Microscope) where you are not playing a singular role as a player."

but thats just it, if your narrating how your action effects another player, your not just playing your role, your also acting partially as the GM and partially as the other character. In DitV thats a big part of the game. in a RPG you dictate your character's actions only, and you dont get to dictate how an NPCs and PCs actions effect your character that is solely the job of the GM. and again, I'm sure some STG games, heck maybe a lot of them mirror this, but then their not sticking to that core understanding of associative vs dissasociative being the differences between the two types of games.

Its like your arguing that because a STG game contains a RPG mechanic that means I cant judge the game as a wonky poorly designed STG... I can and do.

"An STG setting isn't poorly developed, it's undeveloped. In the same way that a blank canvas isn't a shitty painting, but no painting at all. It gives you the framework and themes for a specific game style, and allows the playgroup to draw out the world from there, as gameplay progresses."

Dresden files, Fate Core system, complete setting.
Spellbound Kingdoms, complete setting
Dogs in the Vinyard, mostly complete setting
Gumshoe, complete setting

I dont know where this idea that STGs dont have complete settings is coming from. maybe thats true or partially true with some STGs I'm not familar with, or maybe we have a different idea of what "complete" means... to me, if they describe the world, the cities, the creatures and people in those cities, its complete. It might have gaping holes (like who the mayor of the town is and what he wants) but the setting, is "set" for the game to be played in.

speaking of 80's minimalism... I was like 14 or 15 I think, at Orcon, my friend and I just finished the playtest for the unreleased "gurps" system. were getting on the elevator and my buddy asks me "so what did ya think of gurps?"
"I hated it, theres only three stats, the only difference between your character and mine was like two points and the weapons we used. no 18.00 strength, no exceptional abilities, my character felt bland and boring."
his response."yeah... I wont be getting it."
the door to the elevator started opening to our floor. The tall adult behind me says to his friend "did you hear all of that?" the other guy says "yep, every word"
as we start leaving the guy taps me on the back and when I turn around he says "Hi, I'm Steve Jackson" smiles at my shock and shakes my hand as I step away. will never forget that. so yes... I hated minimalist and generic way back then as well, and told Steve Jackson right to his face, or erm right in front of his face... unintentionally...

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:

Baalbamoth wrote:

Steelskin- simplicity in game design to me means lazy, inconsistant and incomplete 90% of the time. It means your going to have to do massive intrepretation, IE all the work of resolving character actions, the game wont be doing hardly any of that for you, it also means that identical rolls might yeild completely different results performing the exact same task simply because of how the action is intrepeted.

EP doesn't have any modifiers listed for social interaction, use of profession or academic skills, doing science, doing engineering, flying space ships, driving cars, running, climbing, you name it. In most areas of the game it is totally up to the GM to do the interpretation.

So EP is one of the games you don't like?

puke puke's picture
various systems

I still don't have a dog in this fight, but here are some of my thoughts on various systems:

GURPS: wow, one of the crunchiest most heavily simulationist systems ever. One second combat rounds, detailed combat modifiers for any combination of situations, elaborate magic system(s) that are games unto themselves, some of the best written settings books you can find. Honestly I dont like it and just use the setting books for other games.

FATE - dont write it off. its true, the setting is collaborative and in the various Evil Hat games you cant die unless you choose to. Likewise, the GM pretty much has to decide to let NPCs be taken out, as things just dont go down on their own. But there are some great innovations here:

first off, teamwork. Effective combat is like volleyball. Individual actions are inneffective without support from other characters. Three players might spend their turns creating advantages for a forth to use. Set-set-spike.

Second, the spin-off games are much better. Diaspora makes combat far more lethal. Strands of FATE has a good "stressless" damage hack that replaces stress boxes with thresholds. Diaspora also has great equipment creation rules, and innovative ship combat. Bulldogs has good gear and weapon rules.

Last, I think the limited skill lists let you differnetiate characters well without being burried in minutia. I usually end up stripping down skill lists in games anyway, as I hate having multiple skills for different kinds of small arms.

Apocapalyse World: I dont know if this was from the main rules, or from The Regiment hack. But the idea of making like a "tactics" roll for planning and earning points that you can later spend durring the mission is great. Leverage also does this with their flashback mountauges or whatever. You'd probably call it lazyness and inability to plan, but I see too many games (especially my prefered heist style of shadowrun / cyberpunk / anything really) get bogged down in excessive amounts of planning paralisis.

Sorry, there seems not to be a spellchecker on this tablet browser.

Decivre Decivre's picture
puke wrote:Apocapalyse World:

puke wrote:
Apocapalyse World: I dont know if this was from the main rules, or from The Regiment hack. But the idea of making like a "tactics" roll for planning and earning points that you can later spend durring the mission is great. Leverage also does this with their flashback mountauges or whatever. You'd probably call it lazyness and inability to plan, but I see too many games (especially my prefered heist style of shadowrun / cyberpunk / anything really) get bogged down in excessive amounts of planning paralisis.

Forwards and holds are in the original rules, and I think that the regiment hack uses them for its tactical system.

I like such systems because they allow a player to portray a character that is more intelligent than they are. I always thought it odd that when it comes to mental capability, above all other things, roleplayers often expect the player to show their work and be as capable as the character they portray. No one ever asks a player whose character has 20 Strength to go benchpress something if their character makes an epic lift. No one expects a person to go out and seduce someone in real life whenever their character uses their charms. Yet when a character uses intelligence, the player is mandatorily assumed to have to do the same, and often to an equal degree.

One of my favorite examples of character knowledge trumping player knowledge was from the game Reign, by Greg Stolze. In it, there is a spell which allows the character to catch a glimpse of a future event. But rather than demand the GM fabricate a future event to tell the player, the game simply assumes that this future event is seen. The player may then have the character plan for said future event, without ever declaring what that future event is: "I hire these mercenaries and tell them my plan for the prophecy I saw", "I prepare the following contingency spells for the prophecy I saw", and whatever. You never need know as a player what the future event is, but you can set in motion plans for it.

How does this pan out if the player doesn't know the event? Simple... at any point in time during the campaign, the player may declare the current events to be the event he saw in the spell, and he is allowed to set in motion any contingencies he declared for this event. Did the group just get ambushed? The player can declare the ambush to be what he saw in the prophecy, and then say that the mercenaries he hired earlier come over the ridge and surround the marauders. Did someone fatally stab him? The player can declare the assassination to be what he saw, then say that the person that was there was just a doppelganger (that's another fun spell that comes from the same school!).

Sure, it makes the player look personally like a terrible planner. But that's okay. He can be a terrible planner, and still have a character that isn't one. That's kind of how roleplaying works.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

puke puke's picture
oh noes, quoting myself

puke wrote:
FATE - dont write it off. I think the limited skill lists let you differnetiate characters well without being burried in minutia. I usually end up stripping down skill lists in games anyway, as I hate having multiple skills for different kinds of small arms.

I think there is something worth saying here, that I did a poor job of getting across previously: A single skill list with no attributes has value.

Too many games try to model human ability and learning patterns. All of them do it poorly. GURPs leaves you with an optimum character having a high IQ and lots of half-point skills that you can know at a reasonable level due to your high IQ. It is absurd. All the other Skill+Stat games -- from D&D3 to Paranoia to Shadowrun to WOD to EP -- are all doing the same thing even if not quite as egregiously.

There is no reason to model this. It adds no value. FATE (FUDGE, really) struck on a good idea when they decided to cut the whole business out. It does not matter if you are playing GURPS or Tristat with their three stats, or Silhouette (DP9's RPG system) with like fucking TEN.

There is no reason to do a crappy job modeling human learning or intrinsic capability, when all you really care about is how well someone can pick a lock or shoot a gun. And I defy anyone to actually do a good job of modeling such a complex web within the confines of a playable RPG, when modern physical therapists, psychologists, nutritionists, and et nauseam cant even do a decent job within the confines of their entire careers.

So, for this reasoning, skill values without foundation in stats have some elegance. Some intrinsic value, even.

Until you want to do something at a default level that is not described on your character sheet, I suppose.

bibliophile20 bibliophile20's picture
*looks at OP*Stop Having Fun

*looks at OP*

Stop Having Fun Guy, is that you?

Interesting link regarding the two different clades of tabletop games; I'll have to show that to a friend; it nicely parallels some arguments that we've had on styles of GMing. But frankly, I find the tone of the OP elitist, insulting and counterproductive. STGs and RPGs are both just tools in my gamemaster toolbox. There are times for both, so characterizing, say, FATE players as lazy and stupid is just as wrong as saying that simulationist systems are innately superior. Both categories are both just means to an end.

What is that end?

Well, last I checked, it was "having fun with friends".

But what do I know? I'm apparently a "lazy and stupid GM" because I enjoy using FATE.

But I'd take one of my old Dresden Files RPG game sessions--the ones where we went for nine hours straight on Friday nights (and into Saturday mornings) because we were so into it that my players simply didn't want to stop--over one of these intense, need-to-know-every-little-rule simulationist games. And if you don't like STGs, well, then don't play them!

/$0.02

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -Benjamin Franklin

Decivre Decivre's picture
cGrey brother, if the terms

Baalbamoth wrote:
Grey brother, if the terms RPG and STG are synomous, why use them at all? but I dont think they are, they come from extremely different design principals. can you use some stuff from an RPG in a STG? sure, and vice versa (its sort of what a lot of my system is based on) but I'm looking at the extreme definitions... HSG vs DitV mostly, and their polar opposites.

All RPGs come from extremely different design principles. Do you honestly think that D&D was created with the same mindset as GURPS? World of Darkness? FATAL?!

The term "storytelling game" is just a fad term referencing what is the current trend in game design. White Wolf used a similar term when they tried to differentiate their games from the pack early on, by saying that their games were more about character and less about mindless action. STGs are trying to differentiate themselves too, because the best path to a following is to make yourself stand out.

Baalbamoth wrote:
Steelskin- simplicity in game design to me means lazy, inconsistant and incomplete 90% of the time. It means your going to have to do massive intrepretation, IE all the work of resolving character actions, the game wont be doing hardly any of that for you, it also means that identical rolls might yeild completely different results performing the exact same task simply because of how the action is intrepeted.

Thats why I ask whats the point of calling it a "system" its mostly random assuming nobody burns dice, tokens etc at if they do, the resolution becomes as predictable as the desires of the players. no risk, no challenge, no suspense, just predictable story. hate it. If it was a fictional book I'd take it back.

Why is it that the only way to create an unpredictable story is with completely random mechanics? Do you honestly not see any other way to produce an interesting story than with dice rolls or coin flips? If you found out that authors never rolled a single die while they wrote their books, would novels lose their magic and suspense?

Baalbamoth wrote:
"I have yet to find a single STG (except for Microscope) where you are not playing a singular role as a player."

but thats just it, if your narrating how your action effects another player, your not just playing your role, your also acting partially as the GM and partially as the other character. In DitV thats a big part of the game. in a RPG you dictate your character's actions only, and you dont get to dictate how an NPCs and PCs actions effect your character that is solely the job of the GM. and again, I'm sure some STG games, heck maybe a lot of them mirror this, but then their not sticking to that core understanding of associative vs dissasociative being the differences between the two types of games.

Its like your arguing that because a STG game contains a RPG mechanic that means I cant judge the game as a wonky poorly designed STG... I can and do.

But here's an oddity: how is that different from regular RPGs? If I attack another PC in Dungeons and Dragons, and deal damage to them, does that not effectively narrate the consequences to that player? Has he not lost hit points, of which he had no direct control over? Roleplaying games have always been games of consequence, and people don't always have control over even their own character 100% of the time. That's how characters die.

The only thing that STGs add is a sliver of narrative control beyond just their characters. DitV does so within only conflict resolution, which isn't a significant degree of influence.

Baalbamoth wrote:
"An STG setting isn't poorly developed, it's undeveloped. In the same way that a blank canvas isn't a shitty painting, but no painting at all. It gives you the framework and themes for a specific game style, and allows the playgroup to draw out the world from there, as gameplay progresses."

Dresden files, Fate Core system, complete setting.
Spellbound Kingdoms, complete setting
Dogs in the Vinyard, mostly complete setting
Gumshoe, complete setting

I dont know where this idea that STGs dont have complete settings is coming from. maybe thats true or partially true with some STGs I'm not familar with, or maybe we have a different idea of what "complete" means... to me, if they describe the world, the cities, the creatures and people in those cities, its complete. It might have gaping holes (like who the mayor of the town is and what he wants) but the setting, is "set" for the game to be played in.

By a fluid setting, I mean that there is plenty of space for the playgroup to define and redefine the world as it is. Dresden files is a broad setting with a ludicrous amount of mysteries, ripe for a playgroup to fill in gaps. Dogs in the Vineyard is briefly based on real historical events, but gives you plenty of leeway to shape things as you will.

When I talk about games with bad settings for an STG, I'm talking about games with a concrete campaign structure. A setting with a well-defined history and drawn-out locales makes for a bad STG setting... at least with regards to the STGs you mostly speak of (I'm avoiding games like Ars Magica or FATE, which despite filling what you seem to consider the STG design structure are largely traditional RPGs). Apocalypse World would not play out right if the MC decided to hammer out a concrete history and setting... because the game is designed to paint the setting as you play (hell, Apocalypse World is designed so that you don't even start hammering out setting specifics until during or after the first session). Games like Lady Blackbird give you just enough setting to know where the game is suppose to start from, and effectively leave you to naturally build from there.

But you do bring up a point. The line between STG and RPG is ridiculously vague, if there even is a line to begin with. Is it when games give a player narrative control? Because Shadowrun's karma pool or edge gave you that, as did D&D's action points and Eclipse Phase's moxie. Are those STGs? How much narrative control is too much for an RPG? How much setting is required before an STG crosses the RPG threshold, or are you okay with RPGs that have vague settings?

What is your line in the sand with regards to what constitutes an STG that is too terrible to be counted as an RPG?

Baalbamoth wrote:
speaking of 80's minimalism... I was like 14 or 15 I think, at Orcon, my friend and I just finished the playtest for the unreleased "gurps" system. were getting on the elevator and my buddy asks me "so what did ya think of gurps?"
"I hated it, theres only three stats, the only difference between your character and mine was like two points and the weapons we used. no 18.00 strength, no exceptional abilities, my character felt bland and boring."
his response."yeah... I wont be getting it."
the door to the elevator started opening to our floor. The tall adult behind me says to his friend "did you hear all of that?" the other guy says "yep, every word"
as we start leaving the guy taps me on the back and when I turn around he says "Hi, I'm Steve Jackson" smiles at my shock and shakes my hand as I step away. will never forget that. so yes... I hated minimalist and generic way back then as well, and told Steve Jackson right to his face, or erm right in front of his face... unintentionally...

That's fair. But I disagree with your seeming desire to pin that on STGs. Minimalism is a trend that roleplaying has had to some degree since forever. It won't disappear if STGs do.

That said, GURPS is anything but minimalist today.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:Grey brother

Baalbamoth wrote:
Grey brother, if the terms RPG and STG are synomous, why use them at all? but I dont think they are, they come from extremely different design principals. can you use some stuff from an RPG in a STG? sure, and vice versa (its sort of what a lot of my system is based on) but I'm looking at the extreme definitions... HSG vs DitV mostly, and their polar opposites.

Taxonomy, basically. A cheetah and a leopard both live in africa, are big cats, related to each other and share some other similarities. Still they are different species and fulfill different ecological niches.
bluetyson bluetyson's picture
Anyone not heard these gems?

Anyone not heard these gems?

Science Fiction sucks

Fiction sucks

Dungeons and Dragons Nerds suck

etc

so, speaking of slackers, who hasn't read every single work by the sci-fi writers to watch on the Resources page? :) Why is Greg Egan not on the list? :) Or Sean Williams, or Chris Moriarty or Justina Robson or Paul McAuley etc. etc. etc.....someone really dedicated to the source material surely would have improved things like this if not lazy? ;-)

bluetyson bluetyson's picture
The polar opposite of a

The polar opposite of a fictional game with dice is most definitely not another fictional game with dice. That is obvious.

puke puke's picture
bluetyson wrote:Anyone not

bluetyson wrote:
Anyone not heard these gems?

Science Fiction sucks

Fiction sucks

Dungeons and Dragons Nerds suck

etc

God, all those things are so true! I've got me some guilty pleasures, though.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
Actually...

eclipse phase does have a mechanical resolution for in-game RP difference beween player ability and character ability...

Savvy (SAV) is your mental adaptability, social intuition, and proficiency for interacting with others. It includes social awareness and manipulation.

social awareness and manipulation... pretty clear cut, the fact that there is no "listed" skill for persuasion, etc. simply means that the authors didnt really see those as skills that could be built uphon etc. which, I sort of dont agree with but not a big deal anyways.

Biblio- no actually I'm a different sub of this guy
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FanHater

and again I'll say there is a value in a high quality RPG, I dont really accept that because a game is tied to "STG" definitions they somehow get a pass to produce a low quality game and people just say "oh, all STGs are minimalistic, and barely fleshed out" to me that high quality well designed, well layed out, fully fluffed 600 page RPG is "better" than a 100 page, one mechanic, half complete STG or RPG, and anyone who thinks differently is simply wrong. its not about fun, its about quality (which in my mind influences the level of fun greatly)

Can people have fun with a low quality RPG or STG? Sure... and village idiots can have fun rubbing a peice of felt. That does not change the quality level of the game.

Grey brother do they fill different niches? that is one of my sore points for allowing a FATE crossover, I think having a fate crossover will cut back on the number of games that use the core system and increase the level of confusion when somebody says "lets play eclipse phase" they are both filling the same niche, just one is going after associative resolutions the other dissassociative (or mostly so) one I like and want to see more of, one I hate and feel like its something I have to rally against.

If I seem judgemental, eliteist, whatever... I think most people are too tollerant especially in regards to shody low quality work.

Its like how kids little leagues are ran now. Nobody is allowed to strike out, the pitcher keeps throwing balls till egbert hits it, everybody gets a trophy, nobody is allowed to hit a grand slam home run all home runs are doubles, everybody is equal, nobody is allowed to be a great or terrible player, everyone's level of suck is acceptable...

I disagree with that whole line of thinking and when it comes to game design, wish a whole lot of people would become more critical, more eliteist, more judgemental. then the better made but more expensive games wouldent die on the shelves while piss poor "free" or low priced crap books are downloaded or sent out en-mass. I really dont like what the indi games are doing to the market.

bluetyson- they are polar opposites in game design, one trys to create a specific rule, or rule set for every type of possible occurance in order to best simulate the physics/outcome of the action, the other trys to create one rule to fit every possible occurance irregardless of physics/outcome (expecting the narration to explain the short comings of the resolution dynamic).

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

Decivre Decivre's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:eclipse

Baalbamoth wrote:
eclipse phase does have a mechanical resolution for in-game RP difference beween player ability and character ability...

Savvy (SAV) is your mental adaptability, social intuition, and proficiency for interacting with others. It includes social awareness and manipulation.

social awareness and manipulation... pretty clear cut, the fact that there is no "listed" skill for persuasion, etc. simply means that the authors didnt really see those as skills that could be built uphon etc. which, I sort of dont agree with but not a big deal anyways.

But that isn't the same as a mechanic for representing intellectual elements of a character. Here, let me give you an example.

Let's say a team is about to do a tactical break in to retrieve an item within a building. Now how do you feel is the proper way to approach it?

1. The players can use fiat and dice rolls to represent proper planning, because they may not be as intelligent as their characters. If they make a rookie mistake during the ploy, then you might settle it with a dice roll, pretending as though they did the whole thing professionally because the characters should not necessarily suffer from the player's mistake.

2. The players are expected to plan everything out, and any important information they miss is their mistake. The characters will have to suffer the consequences of those decisions.

If you picked #1, then fine. You have found a functional way to represent that the character can be more intelligent than the player portraying them. But if you picked #2, then you have run into a functional problem that most games have... RPGs presume that players must have equal or greater intelligence or knowledge than the characters that they are trying to portray.

Baalbamoth wrote:
Biblio- no actually I'm a different sub of this guy
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FanHater

and again I'll say there is a value in a high quality RPG, I dont really accept that because a game is tied to "STG" definitions they somehow get a pass to produce a low quality game and people just say "oh, all STGs are minimalistic, and barely fleshed out" to me that high quality well designed, well layed out, fully fluffed 600 page RPG is "better" than a 100 page, one mechanic, half complete STG or RPG, and anyone who thinks differently is simply wrong. its not about fun, its about quality (which in my mind influences the level of fun greatly)

Can people have fun with a low quality RPG or STG? Sure... and village idiots can have fun rubbing a peice of felt. That does not change the quality level of the game.

The length of a book does not define the quality of the writing. Or are you contesting that short stories are shit in comparison to novels, simply by merit of how long they might be?

A minimalist game serves the purpose of simplifying gameplay. Not everyone needs a game to simulate everything up to and including the wiping of one's ass. It's a design conceit. If a playgroup is satisfied with game mechanics that can be confined to a dozen or so pages of material, then so be it.

That said, not every STG is so written. Dungeon World and Apocalypse World have books that are about equal in length to Eclipse Phase's core book. Fate Core is 310 pages long. Why are these considered "low production"? Because they have a setting that bothers you? Because they have mechanics that work differently from the games you grew up on?

Baalbamoth wrote:
Grey brother do they fill different niches? that is one of my sore points for allowing a FATE crossover, I think having a fate crossover will cut back on the number of games that use the core system and increase the level of confusion when somebody says "lets play eclipse phase" they are both filling the same niche, just one is going after associative resolutions the other dissassociative (or mostly so) one I like and want to see more of, one I hate and feel like its something I have to rally against.

If I seem judgemental, eliteist, whatever... I think most people are too tollerant especially in regards to shody low quality work.

Again, you'll need to give us some info on why these STGs are low-quality. Most of them are well-playtested, very in-depth, and have experienced writing crews. Why is an STG of high calibur like Fiasco definitively less quality than a traditional RPG like... say... FATAL?

Baalbamoth wrote:
Its like how kids little leagues are ran now. Nobody is allowed to strike out, the pitcher keeps throwing balls till egbert hits it, everybody gets a trophy, nobody is allowed to hit a grand slam home run all home runs are doubles, everybody is equal, nobody is allowed to be a great or terrible player, everyone's level of suck is acceptable...

I disagree with that whole line of thinking and when it comes to game design, wish a whole lot of people would become more critical, more eliteist, more judgemental. then the better made but more expensive games wouldent die on the shelves while piss poor "free" or low priced crap books are downloaded or sent out en-mass. I really dont like what the indi games are doing to the market.

Again, I'd like to know which STGs we are talking about. I lost my first character in Apocalypse World within the first hour of playing it. Dungeon World is only slightly more forgiving. And while it's very hard to die in a game like Nobilis, there are also a significant number of fates far worse than death in such settings.

Not every STG is FATE, and many of them approach character death in a whole multitude of ways. You can't judge every STG for the design conceits of one, especially when they can vary so drastically.

Baalbamoth wrote:
bluetyson- they are polar opposites in game design, one trys to create a specific rule, or rule set for every type of possible occurance in order to best simulate the physics/outcome of the action, the other trys to create one rule to fit every possible occurance irregardless of physics/outcome (expecting the narration to explain the short comings of the resolution dynamic).

And the largest majority of games fall somewhere in between these two extremes, being far less complex than Phoenix Command or FATAL, yet far more complex than Risus or Shadows. It's dishonest to claim that all fit into one of those two niches, rather than along a sliding scale between them.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Smokeskin Smokeskin's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:

Baalbamoth wrote:

If I seem judgemental, eliteist, whatever... I think most people are too tollerant especially in regards to shody low quality work.

Its like how kids little leagues are ran now. Nobody is allowed to strike out, the pitcher keeps throwing balls till egbert hits it, everybody gets a trophy, nobody is allowed to hit a grand slam home run all home runs are doubles, everybody is equal, nobody is allowed to be a great or terrible player, everyone's level of suck is acceptable...

Ok, let us just take a situation from a Shadowrun game. Two PCs want to pick up an NPC for interrogation or worse, so they dress up as cops and try to "arrest" him. The NPC panics and tries to escape and the PCs stupidly take some quite un-cop-like actions which attracts attention on a street in a society where everyone has a camera. And that of course has all sorts of consequences (mainly that the option of dissappearing the NPC got taken off the table).

In an STG, some of the mechanics of that encounter might have been simpler and gone faster. A player might have invoked an aspect to gain a bonus, or compelled an aspect for a negative complication.

In a simulationist RPG there might be mechanical difference between throwing a cross and an uppercut, and the combat would have taken longer.

Shadowrun falls somewhere in between.

Neither version however would have been any less hardcore if I was running it in terms of the consequences. They made a plan that didn't include the option of an irrational NPC, didn't have a back up plan and made a shitty decision, in a trenchcoat and mirrorshades campaign. That's going to cost them.

I personally prefer the STG, where character depth and roleplaying has mechanical effects and the action goes by faster so more table time is spent on story. Modelling a fight, or anything really, in high mechanical detail is just not that interesting to me. If you look at the probability of different outcomes of an encounter and they're roughly equal whether or not you use 10 dice rolls with lots of modifiers or 1 dice roll with few modifiers, does it really matter? I remember back in the old days of Shadowrun when you rolled for hits and damage with EVERY SINGLE BULLET when firing on full auto... Seriously unfun.

bibliophile20 bibliophile20's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:Biblio- no

Baalbamoth wrote:
Biblio- no actually I'm a different sub of this guy
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FanHater

and again I'll say there is a value in a high quality RPG, I dont really accept that because a game is tied to "STG" definitions they somehow get a pass to produce a low quality game and people just say "oh, all STGs are minimalistic, and barely fleshed out" to me that high quality well designed, well layed out, fully fluffed 600 page RPG is "better" than a 100 page, one mechanic, half complete STG or RPG, and anyone who thinks differently is simply wrong. its not about fun, its about quality (which in my mind influences the level of fun greatly)

Can people have fun with a low quality RPG or STG? Sure... and village idiots can have fun rubbing a peice of felt. That does not change the quality level of the game.

Uh huh. So, you're willing to designate yourself as being someone with even less moral superiority than the so-call Moral Guardians, because it's your own subjective attitudes that you're trying to hold up as universal truth, without even an ancient Bronze-age book to give you veracity? And you somehow think this will make the rest of us inclined to listen to you? Especially with the volleying insults? Wow, and I thought that Pat Robertson was arrogant and full of himself...

And who is to say that "village idiots" shouldn't be able to play rpgs? STGs, especially FATE, are wonderful for pickup games and convention games; they are great for those players who have time-consuming demands on their lives such as children and careers and who only get a few hours of game time in a month and don't want to be bogged down in the rules. They're superb for introducing new players to the hobby, people that would otherwise be put off by the size of, say, the D&D core rulebooks.

Yes, they're simpler when compared to simulationist games... but it's alot easier to say to a newbie or a harried parent or a busy college student or a convention goer or a non-gamer S.O. "here, roll these four dice, count up the pluses and minuses and add that number" than it is to say "so, you're trying to walk uphill? Well, we have to consult Table 237-8, Inclined Surfaces, on page 792--yes, it's right there, in the beginning third of the book--and roll these five dice and divide the sum by your Stamina to determine if you're capable of tackling the climb. Your boots, climbing gear and the breakfast your character ate this morning will add modifiers, as listed on Table 361-2."

Decivre wrote:
The length of a book does not define the quality of the writing. Or are you contesting that short stories are shit in comparison to novels, simply by merit of how long they might be?

Not a very precise metaphor, Decivre. He's not saying that short stories are shit in comparison to novels, because that's a mostly matter of content and somewhat of structure. He's being critical of a very basic structure of a game, so it is more like, oh, I don't know, declaring that only poems written in villanelle form are good poems, or that only novels told in strict limited first person perspective with a chapter format can be considered true literature.

He's not making arguments over one type of content or genre being superior to others (although I imagine that that'll be a later thread), he's saying that, "if you don't use this particular structure to play your games, you are a 'lazy GM' or perhaps even a 'village idiot,' and that is because I say so." That's what this whole rant boils down to.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -Benjamin Franklin

Decivre Decivre's picture
bibliophile20 wrote:Not a

bibliophile20 wrote:
Not a very precise metaphor, Decivre. He's not saying that short stories are shit in comparison to novels, because that's a mostly matter of content and somewhat of structure. He's being critical of a very basic structure of a game, so it is more like, oh, I don't know, declaring that only poems written in villanelle form are good poems, or that only novels told in strict limited first person perspective with a chapter format can be considered true literature.

He's not making arguments over one type of content or genre being superior to others (although I imagine that that'll be a later thread), he's saying that, "if you don't use this particular structure to play your games, you are a 'lazy GM' or perhaps even a 'village idiot,' and that is because I say so." That's what this whole rant boils down to.

It's apt for that specific response. Baalbamoth claims that a 600-page roleplaying game is superior to a 100-page storytelling book, likely referencing the very short STGs that exist on the market. I was simply referencing the few STGs out there that have large books (including the point of contention that started this topic: FATE), and the fact that it's trivial to hate on something simply because of the length of the writing. I would personally take a short story masterpiece (like "The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", or "The Cask of Amontilado") over a several-hundred page pile of crap (I'm looking at you two, Stephanie Meyer and EL James).

In RPG terms, I'd rather be playing a short game like Risus than a long-winded game like FATAL.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

puke puke's picture
it reflects poorly upon my character that I choose to post here

To that point (length=quality), I think FATE is worth looking at as a good example. The Dresden Files game has two HUGE books.

One full of mechanics, examples of how to apply the FATE rules to the setting, long lists of stunts and magical talents. Long winded meandering diatribes on rules and game mechanics that only Evil Hat can sell to their fans. Seriously, if anyone else tried to spoon that stuff out...

The other megatome is purely background material and fluff, basically wrapping up the Harry Dresden series into one giant encyclopedia on the off-hand chance that someone playing the game hadnt read it.

I can't speak to the quality as I dont really read fantasy mega-series, modern fantasy included. And I also make it a policy not to buy games based on licensed properties. So take that with a grain of salt.

Actually, I'm totally lieing. I bought the D20 Green Ronin treatment of The Black Company, and ate it up. So use more salt.

Anyway, MASSIVE word count. Not poorly written, as such, but I sort of cant stand Evil Hat's writing style. Rich and detailed world, little you have to make up on your own.

But it does include free-form collaborative city-building mechanics that are all hippie smelling, and do add something to the game. There's something to be said for getting table buy-in on the kind of campaign you are going to have, and these systems are sort of training wheels for that.

That said, I think there is another FATE product to compare to, that does a better job: Lets consider Diaspora. It's setting is just a veneer, but I find the whole thing more evocative. It does not have a megatome of rules examples, but gives you the basic mechanics underneath the rules and invites you to expand your own (specifically with regards to stunts and equipment).

Having tried the collaborative narrative thing, I am pretty sure that it isn't for me or the folks I game with. But I see the value and why other more improv oriented folks like it.

That said, between the two products I described, I found the one with the richer background was pretty much useless to me, but the shorter one with no determinable background of its own really opened my eyes about how mechanics COULD be and the sorts of things that games could do if there were distilled and refined a bit.

Case in point, what if EP or Shadowrun pulled out those pages and tables of cyberware and guns and replaced it with some cost-vs-feature formulas? invited the players to construct what they wanted, and provided a few examples to start from?

Lazy? Sure. But even the most crunch heavy gamers would eat it up, because they would be able to min-max at a much finer level of detail. And the emo gamers would just pick "medium SMG example A" and move on with their game.

If there is one thing I want game designers to learn, its to use rules instead of fiat, and to SHOW YOUR NOTES so those rules can be followed by players.

People like to hack games, and not showing your work just means you're not confident in the play balance and are trying to hedge your bets by allowing yourself an easy way to revise in the future -- or to sell a later supplement with a rule-breaking super gun in it. GW and Palladium, I'm talking about you!

edit: good lord, the length of this post is inversely related to its quality. and to think I was just complaining about Evil Hat's lack of editorial oversight.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
to continue...

decivre- in your tactical break example, I think your right in that a game without an accurate system for checking the character's ability to pick up clues, remember information etc leads to a big problem during the game, namely that the DM should have a means for providing the characters information they might know but that the player has missed or forgotten about, and to offer clues and suggestions as to how a successful strategy could be planned.

Again that's more of a problem for an STG than an RPG. with an STG it seems like everything comes down to a DM fiat, "Tom, you know this because I think your character would, but chris, you don't know this because I don't feel that knowledge plays to your character's skills and abilities to the level I am assuming they are at according to the background you provided me"

That perfectly outlines why I find STG design lazy and annoying, the rules for this event should be provided to accurately describe the character's (not players) abilities and differences, instead your left with an open and possibly unfair interpretation, with narration being used to justify a subjective opinion.

Its not about the length of the book, though it serves as a pretty good descriptor of what I see is wrong with STG design in general. simulationist rules that should be in most STG games are lacking in leu of a single rule or fate point type system in an STG.

if both games are "well written" and one game offers all the rules necessary for fast yet descriptive simulationist resolutions while the other primarily focuses on a single mechanic, that doesn't attempt to define resolutions (leaving that up to whoever) and a load of fluff. the second game is simply low quality and incomplete, it may be well written, the fluff may be awesome, but the system itself is lacking.... greatly.

and I agree, its a sliding scale, the problem is I have yet to find a game which bills itself as "storytelling" in its design principals, that I would also define as complete, high quality, and capable of resolving actions without fate points or far reaching narratives.

Most STGs come across as "hey look at this nifty scheme for working out everything with a dice pool, some narrative points, and breaking down every item and action into a tiny framework" then they might add a few other "inventive, innovative" etc. mechanics for group creation of setting etc. (which I also find deeply annoying, again if I'm running I don't want the players creating the world, that's my job or if I'm using an adventure path, the designers job) and people rave as if the lack of rules is some how a benefit.

When I hear people praising a STG and are defining why they love them, I listen carefully to them... "my players have lives, their too busy to learn a complex gaming system" "my players don't like to get bogged down in a bunch of rules" "my players don't care about details, they prefer making things up as they go along"

All of this amounts to wanting a system that has been dumbed down. they dumb down movies, videogames, books, so that they are more appealing for mass consumers, and its no different here.

STGs with simple yet wonky mechanics are appealing to gamers who don't want to spend the time to learn how to use a more complex system quickly and efficiently and its not an activity I want to engage in or support.

I assume when I buy a good system there will be a learning curve, getting rid of that learning curve in exchange for coin flip mechanics without an outlined resolution system is not something I'd ever consider. it's lazy, it's dumb, it's bad.

Smokeskin- and I think that is where your belief that STGs are far superior in devoting time to story and roleplaying over simulationist resolutions falls short... when new players pick up champions for the first time, combat will be slow, learning how to count 10d6 as two types of damage takes a little while to build up player skill at. but once those mechanics are understood, practiced, etc. to me they are much faster than trying to think of every detail in a narrative combat all on the fly, in a way that makes rational sense.

If there is a minor sacrifice in time to resolve a wild swing vs boxer's cross type maneuvers in a complex system that you know, have practiced using, and are accomplished at, that minor sacrifice is well worth the pay off, especially when you think of possibly having to explain how or why you made a narrative that disappointed a player because it didn't follow any form of concise resolution system.

I liked shadowrun's setting, but hated the dice pool mechanics, ruined me on dice pools forever I think, as I didn't understand why it would take 6 minutes to resolve an action a single d20 and a damage roll would have done in a third of the time. so not a great example for me as I consider that system pretty flawed, and I never played the later editions.

Bibilo- no, I just don't care what tv trope definition/lable your trying to hem me into to make it easy for you to dismiss my positions.

The question is how do we define quality in game design? for me, quality game design must follow those gamer manifesto points. narration is in no way a good or quality substitution for well written, easy to use, yet complex in detail rules. re-read the manifesto and it should be clear to you what I consider quality aspects of game design. So far I haven't heard a valid point why any of the issues in the manifesto are irrational or wrong.

Puke- no I don't think there is something in getting table buy-in as to what type of campaign your going to have. when I prep a game I spend months designing the type of campaign I want to run, but I never railroad, I sandbox pretty much everything, and base all the main plot points off the character's backstories (the way every great book and movie does). I offer options and the players select where and how they want to adventure.

I have planned for the majority of the decisions I expect they could make and can offer a lot of options, if they do something that isn't at all planned for I improv till I can get the time to better design the adventure according to the path they want to take.

Now... I couldn't do all of this with a huge family, a 80 hr a week job, while running for political office, while dealing with a life threatening illness, and while running a soup kitchen for the poor.

but I think that's part of what makes me a good DM. I put the time in to make the gaming sessions great. If I plan on spending 4 hrs gaming I typically put double or triple that amount of time into pre-planning for the adventures. A lot of other DMs don't do this, they buy pre-scripted railroad adventures, that use "if you don't get on the railroad the world will be destroyed" hooks, and don't have anything to do with the player character's back story.

Mostly this happens because the DMs really don't make the game any kind of priority in how they spend their time. they want to run a great game, but they don't want to put the time in to make sure its a great game, and their players probably don't know the difference because their new, or because they don't have expirence with a DM who really does make the effort to make the game great by creating NPCs the players might never run into, or detailing the abilities of the NPCs rather than using "generic tech guy build #4".

Greatness in game design, living life, or success in doing anything is all about details, details, details. STGs are built so details are thrown away in support of a small learning curve. and again... badwrongfun.

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:Grey brother

Baalbamoth wrote:
Grey brother do they fill different niches?

Yes. The core system caters to simulationist players, the FATE system caters to those who prefer a more narrative approach.
To get that taxonomy metaphor going: Crows and sparrows both live in my garden and both are birds. Yet they live quite different lives, although they are similar. And i enjoy watching crows more.

As for your fears, it was said that there will only be a conversion guide. So yeah. As for the apparant confusion... it won't be as big as a problem as you seemingly see. People still play Shadowrun 3rd Edition, or 2nd and newbies will get that. Heck, people still play ADnD and get new guys into it, without throwing civilization into chaos.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:decivre- in

Baalbamoth wrote:
decivre- in your tactical break example, I think your right in that a game without an accurate system for checking the character's ability to pick up clues, remember information etc leads to a big problem during the game, namely that the DM should have a means for providing the characters information they might know but that the player has missed or forgotten about, and to offer clues and suggestions as to how a successful strategy could be planned.

Again that's more of a problem for an STG than an RPG. with an STG it seems like everything comes down to a DM fiat, "Tom, you know this because I think your character would, but chris, you don't know this because I don't feel that knowledge plays to your character's skills and abilities to the level I am assuming they are at according to the background you provided me"

That perfectly outlines why I find STG design lazy and annoying, the rules for this event should be provided to accurately describe the character's (not players) abilities and differences, instead your left with an open and possibly unfair interpretation, with narration being used to justify a subjective opinion.

Actually, not everything is an issue of DM fiat. One of the conceits of player-controlled narrative is that the DM doesn't need to fiat anything... the player can often get the means to fiat all their own. As an example, Apocalypse World has two mechanics called Forwards and Holds which allow the player to make future decisions of an extended event, from an earlier roll. So for example, a blackmail attempt might grant a player multiple holds, and each individual hold can be cashed in for favors that the blackmail victim must grant (or penalize said blackmail victim for acting against the blackmailer's wishes). And the mechanics are constrained enough that there is a finite and limited structure by which the player can spend a character's holds. Forwards are simple die roll bonuses granted based on positioning or situational effects, generated by other moves.

Baalbamoth wrote:
Its not about the length of the book, though it serves as a pretty good descriptor of what I see is wrong with STG design in general. simulationist rules that should be in most STG games are lacking in leu of a single rule or fate point type system in an STG.

if both games are "well written" and one game offers all the rules necessary for fast yet descriptive simulationist resolutions while the other primarily focuses on a single mechanic, that doesn't attempt to define resolutions (leaving that up to whoever) and a load of fluff. the second game is simply low quality and incomplete, it may be well written, the fluff may be awesome, but the system itself is lacking.... greatly.

and I agree, its a sliding scale, the problem is I have yet to find a game which bills itself as "storytelling" in its design principals, that I would also define as complete, high quality, and capable of resolving actions without fate points or far reaching narratives.

Really? Aren't most RPGs based on a single mechanic? If we're going to count all the other mini-mechanics of most RPGs as separate mechanics, couldn't you do the same for STGs? I mean FATE isn't just about the 4df die roll... aspects, milestones, fate points, stunting and stress all are separate mechanics with separate purposes. Apocalypse World hacks all have forwards, holds, a variety of damage tracking systems, a complex move library, and wholly different systems for defining NPCs and locales.

Now let's look at RPGs. Shadowrun and World of Darkness have the dice pool mechanic. Sure there are plenty of other sub-mechanics within both games, but if we aren't going to count them in STGs, why count them here? d20 has the d20 mechanic, and Eclipse Phase has the d100 mechanic. Why aren't you complaining about how simplistic these games are?

Let's be honest, your problem isn't simplicity, brevity, or even narrative control. Your problem is a nu-wave cycle of RPGs that have called themselves "Storytelling Games" for whatever arbitrary value that label might have.

Baalbamoth wrote:
Most STGs come across as "hey look at this nifty scheme for working out everything with a dice pool, some narrative points, and breaking down every item and action into a tiny framework" then they might add a few other "inventive, innovative" etc. mechanics for group creation of setting etc. (which I also find deeply annoying, again if I'm running I don't want the players creating the world, that's my job or if I'm using an adventure path, the designers job) and people rave as if the lack of rules is some how a benefit.

I'm pretty sure this paragraph describes every RPG in the history of ever, other than perhaps the phrase "lack of rules". Plus, I think it's a bit inaccurate to call STGs rules-light. FATE is a very long book, chock full of rules information. Even the accelerated edition, a smaller book with just the gist of rules, is still 50 pages long. If you compared the FATE rules to Eclipse Phase's core book, it's actually quite close to length. It might even be longer, if you removed all setting material in EP and simply compared all mechanical information and GM advice.

Baalbamoth wrote:
When I hear people praising a STG and are defining why they love them, I listen carefully to them... "my players have lives, their too busy to learn a complex gaming system" "my players don't like to get bogged down in a bunch of rules" "my players don't care about details, they prefer making things up as they go along"

All of this amounts to wanting a system that has been dumbed down. they dumb down movies, videogames, books, so that they are more appealing for mass consumers, and its no different here.

STGs with simple yet wonky mechanics are appealing to gamers who don't want to spend the time to learn how to use a more complex system quickly and efficiently and its not an activity I want to engage in or support.

I assume when I buy a good system there will be a learning curve, getting rid of that learning curve in exchange for coin flip mechanics without an outlined resolution system is not something I'd ever consider. it's lazy, it's dumb, it's bad.

I don't remember using any of those phrases when I referenced why some of my playgroups like STGs. It's rarely about simplicity, ease of play or even because they have lives outside the table. In fact, pretty much every STG I play with a group has different motives for why we enjoy them.

Most of our Apocalypse World fans like it because it is a damn enjoyable class-based RPG with neat mechanics, a cinematic feel, and because the game isn't tied to one specific post-apocalyptic setting. They like that everytime we sit at a table and play a new campaign, they could be looking at a completely different post-apocalyptic earth with completely different threats and only similar themes. It isn't tied to one specific history or world, and the game facilitates creating the setting on the fly. We can all come to the table knowing just as much about the world as the MC does during session 1. Not many games work like that

We like Nobilis because it's a whimsical setting where we get to play omnipotent beings, and live out the drama and politics that fill their lives. We can't think of many traditional games that handle divine beings of world-shattering power very well... yet Nobilis pulls it off.

We like Microscope because it is one of the few ways that a group can sit together and craft a setting within the framework of a game. Sure, I could sit as the table's GM and do it myself, choring over it for the course of a week. Sure, we could work collaboratively and do it, reducing my workload. But Microscope takes the work of crafting a setting and world and turns it into a form of entertainment, something that a group of people can do over the course of a week, having fun the whole time. Then afterwards, we get to use that setting in another game, and play characters within it.

Sure, some might be attracted to the simplicity of these games, but to presume this is the only thing that draws someone into a game is a gross understatement.

Baalbamoth wrote:
Smokeskin- and I think that is where your belief that STGs are far superior in devoting time to story and roleplaying over simulationist resolutions falls short... when new players pick up champions for the first time, combat will be slow, learning how to count 10d6 as two types of damage takes a little while to build up player skill at. but once those mechanics are understood, practiced, etc. to me they are much faster than trying to think of every detail in a narrative combat all on the fly, in a way that makes rational sense.

If there is a minor sacrifice in time to resolve a wild swing vs boxer's cross type maneuvers in a complex system that you know, have practiced using, and are accomplished at, that minor sacrifice is well worth the pay off, especially when you think of possibly having to explain how or why you made a narrative that disappointed a player because it didn't follow any form of concise resolution system.

Not really. Apocalypse World boils all the actions of the player down to 7 different things that require rolls (8, if you count the one supernatural element of the setting). Anything that the players could ever want to do will either fall into one of these things, be a class-specific action that must be earned to use, or not require a roll at all. It's not particularly hard to figure out where an action falls under this metric. Here, go ahead and try to figure out things that would fit outside this structure:

do something under fire, or dig in to endure fire
go aggro on someone
try to seize something by force, or to secure your hold on something
try to seduce or manipulate someone
read a charged situation
read a person
help or interfere with someone

There's no real problems figuring out where an action sits on the list. Unless you're trying to do something your class can't do (heal someone when you aren't an angel, build something when you aren't a fixer, command your gang when you aren't a chopper), your actions are easily spelled out for you.

How would this be difficult for a player to grasp? How is this not concise?

Baalbamoth wrote:
I liked shadowrun's setting, but hated the dice pool mechanics, ruined me on dice pools forever I think, as I didn't understand why it would take 6 minutes to resolve an action a single d20 and a damage roll would have done in a third of the time. so not a great example for me as I consider that system pretty flawed, and I never played the later editions.

4th Edition generally boils down any given action down to two rolls maximum. Admittedly, earlier editions did deal with varying levels of complexity, often to detriment of game flow.

But I have to say I find this peculiar. Didn't you just say shortly that games that are too simple are problematic? Wouldn't the sheer complexity of Shadowrun's earlier system be something you would laud, as something that is prohibitive to "dumbed down" gameplay?

Baalbamoth wrote:
Bibilo- no, I just don't care what tv trope definition/lable your trying to hem me into to make it easy for you to dismiss my positions.

The question is how do we define quality in game design? for me, quality game design must follow those gamer manifesto points. narration is in no way a good or quality substitution for well written, easy to use, yet complex in detail rules. re-read the manifesto and it should be clear to you what I consider quality aspects of game design. So far I haven't heard a valid point why any of the issues in the manifesto are irrational or wrong.

My problem with the manifesto is that it presumes that dissociated mechanics are the only time that a player needs to segregate himself from his role, but this is massively untrue. If at anytime the player needs to reference a book, a sheet, or a set of dice, they have to separate themselves from the role for the sake of playing the game component of a roleplaying game. That's the part your manifesto forgets; no matter how much a game's mechanics might facilitate roleplay, the game's mechanics are not themselves roleplay. They are an interlinked system used to resolve conflicts within the story. This is true whether the mechanics are associative or dissociative... roleplay stops, however temporarily, the second I need to pick up dice and resolve a mechanic.

Now we can argue all day and night about which is superior, but a stop in roleplay is still a stop in roleplay. Whether the GM makes the final declaration, or a player is given that right, roleplay doesn't start again until the consequences have been meted out, the hit points have been deducted, and the resolved events have been unfolded. And this is the part that your manifesto doesn't discuss... why is it that players should not be given any say during the pauses in roleplay that occur as a consequence of mechanics? What is superior to a single-narrator structure, as opposed to a multi-narrator structure? Isn't the DM a roleplayer at the table as well (he does play every NPC, does he not)? Why are you okay with the DM interrupting his roleplay for the sake of narration, while anyone else doing the same is badwrongfun?

Baalbamoth wrote:
Puke- no I don't think there is something in getting table buy-in as to what type of campaign your going to have. when I prep a game I spend months designing the type of campaign I want to run, but I never railroad, I sandbox pretty much everything, and base all the main plot points off the character's backstories (the way every great book and movie does). I offer options and the players select where and how they want to adventure.

I have planned for the majority of the decisions I expect they could make and can offer a lot of options, if they do something that isn't at all planned for I improv till I can get the time to better design the adventure according to the path they want to take.

Now... I couldn't do all of this with a huge family, a 80 hr a week job, while running for political office, while dealing with a life threatening illness, and while running a soup kitchen for the poor.

but I think that's part of what makes me a good DM. I put the time in to make the gaming sessions great. If I plan on spending 4 hrs gaming I typically put double or triple that amount of time into pre-planning for the adventures. A lot of other DMs don't do this, they buy pre-scripted railroad adventures, that use "if you don't get on the railroad the world will be destroyed" hooks, and don't have anything to do with the player character's back story.

Mostly this happens because the DMs really don't make the game any kind of priority in how they spend their time. they want to run a great game, but they don't want to put the time in to make sure its a great game, and their players probably don't know the difference because their new, or because they don't have expirence with a DM who really does make the effort to make the game great by creating NPCs the players might never run into, or detailing the abilities of the NPCs rather than using "generic tech guy build #4".

Greatness in game design, living life, or success in doing anything is all about details, details, details. STGs are built so details are thrown away in support of a small learning curve. and again... badwrongfun.

See, you and I have completely different styles of GMing. I personally find that sandbox play and lots of GM preparation is a counterintuitive methodology. I find it far easier to do light planning, and rely largely on improv throughout our game sessions. The largest majority of notes I take are during the game, not before. And I don't pre-plan adventures... I find it far more entertaining to use random generators or cues from the players to come up with something they will find entertaining. It means that both me and my players have a game to play; them, portraying the heroes within the setting who are solving the dilemmas of the story, and me as a narrator who has to keep up with my players on the fly.

But this is the thing; it's all about how you want to play the game. I'm not going to call your style "badwrongfun", claim you're a newb, or mock the way you run a game. You and I have different styles, and they each have advantages... mine requires a lot of work during the session with no homework in between them, and yours is nearly the opposite. I like my style because it was the way I first learned to roleplay, with a single book of the D&D Redbox, with everything else fabricated by me and my playgroup's imaginations. We didn't know about the idea of prep time, and we didn't even have access to the DM information... so we made everything up as we went. This sort of GMing helped me craft my style over two decades, and I wouldn't change it anymore than I would force someone else to do it. I'm sure you have reasons that your style of GMing works for you.

The same is true with game styles. I grew up on 2nd Edition AD&D and Basic, Shadowrun, Battletech and roleplayed games of Risk. I'm sure my early repertoire is different from yours, and I'm sure that my choice of games shaped my roleplay style in a significantly different manner from the way you roleplay your characters. That doesn't mean that one of us roleplays right while the other roleplays wrong. It means we both do things differently.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Referenced from another thread

Referenced from this thread:

Justin Alexander wrote:
Except the one trait which I would consider definitional.

It's like saying that Asimov's I, Robot exhibits ALL of the essential traits of a comic book: It has characters. It's sold as bound paper. It's printed with ink. It has art on the cover. It has written dialogue. It has an author.

Probably not the best place to conduct this debate at any length, however.

But what definitional trait would that be? You play a role within FATE, and that's what I personally consider the definitional trait of a roleplaying game.

For some reason I feel like a lot of the complaints that are directed towards STGs are secondary to the goals of roleplaying games. To use your analogy, it would be like refusing to consider "Scott Pilgrim" a comic book series because it isn't in traditional four-color format.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Zombieneighbours Zombieneighbours's picture
Inquiring minds, want to know...

Decivre wrote:
Referenced from this thread:

Justin Alexander wrote:
Except the one trait which I would consider definitional.

It's like saying that Asimov's I, Robot exhibits ALL of the essential traits of a comic book: It has characters. It's sold as bound paper. It's printed with ink. It has art on the cover. It has written dialogue. It has an author.

Probably not the best place to conduct this debate at any length, however.

But what definitional trait would that be? You play a role within FATE, and that's what I personally consider the definitional trait of a roleplaying game.

For some reason I feel like a lot of the complaints that are directed towards STGs are secondary to the goals of roleplaying games. To use your analogy, it would be like refusing to consider "Scott Pilgrim" a comic book series because it isn't in traditional four-color format.

So yeah, this is a conversation I would like to continue.

In the example you give, there is of course a glaring omission from the defining characteristics of a comic book.

That being cell structured Art. It is the lack of cell structured art that stops I, robot from being a comic, however it does not stop I,robot from being a story, just like Sandman #1 is a story.

Just as Sandman and I,robot are both stories; I would argue that both Pathfinder and Fate, are roleplaying games.

To say that STGs are not role-playing games, you would need to find something that ALL Roleplaying games must have to, be considered Roleplaying games, that STGs lack, or something that ALL STGs have, which roleplaying games cannot have.

I'm going to suggest that Dissociated Mechanics are not the argumentative silver bullet your looking for here, as WFRP [1e and 2e] (fate points), 3.5(hero points), 4e (for reasons you have eloquently listed yourself), and Eclipse Phase (moxy) all have dissociated mechanic of one type or another, yet all are very clearly not STGs. To add to this, I think it is arguable that not all STGs have disassociate mechanics. From my memory of dogs in the vineyards system for instance, I think it would be possible to argue that it is in some ways a more associative way of dealing with combat than any DnD system.

bblonski bblonski's picture
I feel games like fate

I feel games like fate actually enhance roleplaying vs traditional roleplaying games. I wouldn't even call something like fate a STG. I'd reserve STG to describe something like Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game. Fate is a roleplaying game with some extra mechanics to address things like character motivations and relationships. Even this is not new to traditional RPGs, they just haven't had a primary focus. I've heard people complain that this somehow causes less roleplaying or more metagaming, but I feel this is the opposite. Giving mechanical weight to a character's motivation and personality encourages players to stay true to their character rather that simply choose what gets them the most loot and xp. While people may metagame to try to gain extra fate points, this isn't any different from people metagaming in other RPGs. I've seen lawful good characters purposely decide to commit genocide on the local lizard men because it gave them more loot and xp then negotiating peace.

Character creation is almost entirely metagaming. This is why min-maxing is so prevalent in traditional RPGs. Every player I have every gamed with has always min-maxed their characters by trying to pick flaws that are most difficult to bring into gameplay while maxing out skills that are likely to be used. Their characters are almost always bland combat avatars with no background, personality, or motivation besides kill things and get more loot. Things like D&D alignment are barely relevant. Fate encourages players to pick meaningful flaws that will actually come up in play and rewards players for it. The characters are almost always more interesting and have many more actual roleplaying opportunities.

In terms of giving up narrative control to the player, this isn't new to traditional RPGs either. Fate perhaps gives up more control then others, but the GM always has last say. I actually think this is a good thing. As the saying goes, no plan survives contact with the players, and the more effort a GM spends in developing the campaign, the more likely they are to railroad the players and shoot down cool ideas that don't fit in the framework. This is especially important if you don't have a great GM. The fate point economy gives the players a currency to open up additional possibilities that the GM may not have considered and prevents the GM from being unfairly cruel. This improves the campaign instead of detracts.

Justin Alexander Justin Alexander's picture
Decivre wrote:But what

Decivre wrote:
But what definitional trait would that be?

In the other thread there was a link to Roleplaying Games vs. Storytelling Games in which I write:

"Roleplaying games are defined by mechanics which are associated with the game world.

"Let me break that down: Roleplaying games are self-evidently about playing a role. Playing a role is about making choices as if you were the character. Therefore, in order for a game to be a roleplaying game (and not just a game where you happen to play a role), the mechanics of the game have to be about making and resolving choices as if you were the character. If the mechanics of the game require you to make choices which aren’t associated to the choices made by the character, then the mechanics of the game aren’t about roleplaying and it’s not a roleplaying game."

I encourage you to read that essay in full if you want to understand my position on this stuff. It's clear from the rest of your post that you have not.

Quote:
You play a role within FATE, and that's what I personally consider the definitional trait of a roleplaying game.

So you would also consider Arkham Horror and Clue to be roleplaying games? You play roles in both.

If you do, of course, then it's self-evident that your definition of "roleplaying game" does not produce results which match the way the majority of people use the term. (When people say "roleplaying game", they aren't thinking of Clue.) And if you don't consider them roleplaying games, then you need to take a moment here and really think about why you don't consider them roleplaying games; because the definitional trait you've proffered doesn't cut it.

Quote:
For some reason I feel like a lot of the complaints that are directed towards STGs are secondary to the goals of roleplaying games.

I don't have any complaints to direct at STGs. I like STGs.

Let me also be crystal clear about something here: I never said FATE wasn't an RPG. What I actually said: "And for me, personally, I find FATE's dabbling with STG mechanics to be significant enough to disrupt my roleplaying experience but not extensive enough to significantly enhance the experience through narrative control."

YMMV. For example, BBlonski says the narrative control mechanics in FATE provide a positive feedback for his roleplaying. That's fantastic for him.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Justin Alexander wrote:In the

Justin Alexander wrote:
In the other thread there was a link to Roleplaying Games vs. Storytelling Games in which I write:

"Roleplaying games are defined by mechanics which are associated with the game world.

"Let me break that down: Roleplaying games are self-evidently about playing a role. Playing a role is about making choices as if you were the character. Therefore, in order for a game to be a roleplaying game (and not just a game where you happen to play a role), the mechanics of the game have to be about making and resolving choices as if you were the character. If the mechanics of the game require you to make choices which aren’t associated to the choices made by the character, then the mechanics of the game aren’t about roleplaying and it’s not a roleplaying game."

I encourage you to read that essay in full if you want to understand my position on this stuff. It's clear from the rest of your post that you have not.

Then roleplaying games don't exist.

Period.

In Dungeons and Dragons, you have saving throws. A mechanic not directly tied to any decision made by players. It is a purely reactionary mechanic originally based on the whims of the DM (for traps and enemy attacks), and later used as a side consequence to most magical effects. SO unless you call "I stand here hoping not to die" a character choice, this is a dissociated mechanic.

As many people have already mentioned, a multitude of games already have plenty of other dissociated effects. Edge points, Moxie, Hero points, Karma pools... that eliminates nearly half the declared list of RPGs invalid, because they give players options that are completely segregated from the character directly.

Hell, you want to talk about dissociative mechanics in RPGs, then let's talk about tactical grid- or map-based play. Angle of perspective plays a crucial role in the decision-making process, and an overhead map gives you a perspective that your character simply does not have. Even when playing with double-blind mechanics, the fact that every player is sitting at the same table looking at a viewpoint that is completely divorced from the character's own means that they are working within the confines of a dissociated mechanic. And why wouldn't it be dissociated; the tactical grid and map are descendants of the wargame, not new byproducts of the coming of roleplay.

Furthermore, a multitude of other game mechanics are not tied directly to character decision. Is fall damage a character decision? How about damage rolls in general... does the character decide "I want to hurt right now" when shards of glass go flying into their face? How about passive skill checks?

But really when I look at this essay, it seems that the thing it seems to most damn in these STGs is distributed narrative... the idea that there isn't a single narrator at the table, and players will share the job of narration at periods of time. So at its most fundamental, the essay stipulates that a person who narrates is incapable of roleplay, or that the duty of narration reduces ones ability to roleplay. Of course, this statement has some far-reaching implications. For one thing, every game table in a traditional RPG has one person relegated to the task of narration... the DM/GM/ST/MC/HG/whatever two-letter designation this person might have. If narration detracts from roleplay, and all decisions must be done from a character's perspective, then you are by proxy implying that the GM can't roleplay, by merit of his task at the table. Is this how you feel? If so, then fine... but if not, then this brings up an important issue. Why does the power of narration detract from everyone else's ability to roleplay, but not theirs?

Now mind you, I'm not mocking your stance (I have to start putting this statement when I respond to people... some people get offended thinking I am). But this goes towards perhaps figuring out why there is this separation between STGs and RPGs you wish to point out. At its most fundamental, the important distinction between STGs and RPGs is that the latter delegates all power of arbitration and narration to a single person at any given time, while an STG creates mechanics which distribute that power of narration, granting it to different people at different points.

This in fact, seems to be everyone's definition of "dissociative" as it has been used in this debate and in that essay.

Now I've been roleplaying and GMing for 21 years, and have probably GMed in damn near 9 out of 10 games I've been involved with... and maybe that shapes my personal view... but I've always considered the GM a roleplayer at the table. I don't consider my authority as narrator to be detrimental to my ability to roleplay, at all. In fact, it's damn near instinctive at this point for me to shift roles from character to narrator (most of my players have noted that even when I play a PC, I do my character's voice in first person, but tell his actions in third person... just like when I GM). Perhaps that is why I love STGs so much... as someone who normally has to do all the narration (and story writing), it's nice to have games that explicitly let me give up some of that power for other people to deal with.

This is getting to tl;dr territory, so I'll just boil it down to two questions you can respond to: why do the narrative-controlling elements of dissociative mechanics bother you, and do you consider the GM to be a roleplayer at the table?

Justin Alexander wrote:
So you would also consider Arkham Horror and Clue to be roleplaying games? You play roles in both.

If you do, of course, then it's self-evident that your definition of "roleplaying game" does not produce results which match the way the majority of people use the term. (When people say "roleplaying game", they aren't thinking of Clue.) And if you don't consider them roleplaying games, then you need to take a moment here and really think about why you don't consider them roleplaying games; because the definitional trait you've proffered doesn't cut it.

Actually, you don't play a role in Clue at all. Your game piece is named after one of the potential suspects, and this attachment in no way affects the game. It is purely aesthetical. In fact, several of the games we've played have ended in the very person who was allegedly guilty winning the game by pointing the finger at themselves. That's not roleplaying in any significant form, no more than I'm roleplaying a shoe or battleship in monopoly.

I don't know about Arkham Horror.

Justin Alexander wrote:
I don't have any complaints to direct at STGs. I like STGs.

Let me also be crystal clear about something here: I never said FATE wasn't an RPG. What I actually said: "And for me, personally, I find FATE's dabbling with STG mechanics to be significant enough to disrupt my roleplaying experience but not extensive enough to significantly enhance the experience through narrative control."

YMMV. For example, BBlonski says the narrative control mechanics in FATE provide a positive feedback for his roleplaying. That's fantastic for him.

Actually, new question to add to my previous two: have you ever GMed?

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Justin Alexander Justin Alexander's picture
Decivre wrote:Then

Decivre wrote:
Then roleplaying games don't exist.

If you say so.

Decivre wrote:
In Dungeons and Dragons, you have saving throws. A mechanic not directly tied to any decision made by players. It is a purely reactionary mechanic

Reactionary mechanics don't contradict anything I said.

Decivre wrote:
As many people have already mentioned, a multitude of games already have plenty of other dissociated effects. Edge points, Moxie, Hero points, Karma pools... that eliminates nearly half the declared list of RPGs invalid, because they give players options that are completely segregated from the character directly.

I asked you to read the full essay before attempting to continue this conversation. You clearly didn't. Shame on you. Please stop wasting my time.

Decivre wrote:
Justin Alexander wrote:
And if you don't consider them roleplaying games, then you need to take a moment here and really think about why you don't consider them roleplaying games; because the definitional trait you've proffered doesn't cut it.

Actually, you don't play a role in Clue at all. Your game piece is named after one of the potential suspects, and this attachment in no way affects the game. It is purely aesthetical.

Now we're getting somewhere. So, according to you, it's not sufficient for a game to merely involve named roles or for people to talk as if they were their character. The mechanics actually have to interact with that role in some way.

In what way, exactly?

Quote:
I don't know about Arkham Horror.

Then do your homework and get back to us.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Justin Alexander wrote

Justin Alexander wrote:
Reactionary mechanics don't contradict anything I said.

Sure they do. If roleplaying mechanics are directly tied to character decision, then reactionary mechanics are perfect proof that you are wrong to a definable level.

Now we can talk about to what degree you're wrong, but the fact is that this is a blatant contradiction to the idea that roleplaying requires mechanics directly tied to character decisions, and any mechanics that do not detract from the process.

Justin Alexander wrote:
I asked you to read the full essay before attempting to continue this conversation. You clearly didn't. Shame on you. Please stop wasting my time.

Actually, I read the essay along with the majority of the comments (which are a lot longer than the essay, might I add). His distinction between dissociative and associative is fairly arbitrary, based on what he feels is directly tied to something within the game setting. What he never discusses is the narrative control mechanics that exist within roleplaying games, at least to any significant degree (in fact, he at one point claims that there are no narrative control mechanics in Storyteller... because apparently he knows nothing about the Willpower Pool).

Decivre wrote:
Now we're getting somewhere. So, according to you, it's not sufficient for a game to merely involve named roles or for people to talk as if they were their character. The mechanics actually have to interact with that role in some way.

In what way, exactly?

No, the mechanics don't necessarily have to interact with the role. The biggest difference is how important the metaphor is with regards to gameplay. To clarify, the metaphor is the setting that is being represented, as separate from the game mechanics. D&D's metaphor is a fantasy setting, Eclipse Phase's metaphor is a post-Earth Transhuman Solar system, and Clue's metaphor is a mansion with a dead body.

Now I consider something a roleplaying game when the metaphor is more than simply aesthetical... when a change in metaphor will actually alter how players enjoy the game. This is because the metaphor is, in effect, the game when you roleplay. So for example, when the d20 system is transferred to a modern setting, it actually feels like a different game. On the other hand, a Mario Brothers chess set doesn't particularly feel any different from any other game of Chess.

Taking that in mind, if Clue were set on a space station, with laser guns instead of candlesticks, and Japanese porn stars as the suspects... would it actually be a different game to any significant degree?

Justin Alexander wrote:
Then do your homework and get back to us.

Screw that. No debate is worth a $60 entry fee. If I have to get a copy of Arkham Horror in order to discuss STGs, then you need to buy a portable hammock and a double-ended silver dildo. I am NOT going to be the only one that has to waste money on crap that will be thrown away later.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Justin Alexander Justin Alexander's picture
Decivre wrote:Sure they do.

Decivre wrote:
Sure they do. If roleplaying mechanics are directly tied to character decision, then reactionary mechanics are perfect proof that you are wrong to a definable level

Just to be clear here: We're talking about a definition based on the mechanical decisions you make and you're trying to claim that mechanics you don't make decisions about are somehow relevant to the discussion?

I can't even begin to untangle your "logic" here.

Quote:
Actually, I read the essay along with the majority of the comments (which are a lot longer than the essay, might I add).

And yet you felt the need to ask me if I have ever GMed a roleplaying game before. Interesting. Were you being dishonest in asking the question? Or are you being dishonest now? Frankly, I don't care.

Quote:
His distinction

Ah. I see. You couldn't even muster the basic reading comprehension necessary to notice that I was the author of the linked essay, despite that being stated explicitly multiple times. Is this due to carelessness or lack of capability? Again, I can't really bring myself to care.

Quote:
If I have to get a copy of Arkham Horror in order to discuss STGs, then you need to buy a portable hammock and a double-ended silver dildo.

If you can't be bothered to familiarize yourself with a game through its Wikipedia article or the rulebook which is freely available online, that's not my problem.

Thank you for confirming -- in multiple ways -- that you are merely wasting my time.

If anyone is interested in actually discussing this issue in a coherent and meaningful fashion, I'll be around. Decivre, unfortunately, has worn out his welcome.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Justin Alexander wrote:Just

Justin Alexander wrote:
Just to be clear here: We're talking about a definition based on the mechanical decisions you make and you're trying to claim that mechanics you don't make decisions about are somehow relevant to the discussion?

I can't even begin to untangle your "logic" here.

If that's the case, we're back to square one. Storytelling games have plenty of mechanics tied to character decision... and in fact, their core mechanics are often driven by character decisions. The fact that they are often resolved through player narration is almost secondary to this fact, and most of the time such narration only occurs as a consequence to a successful dice roll. Player narration in turn is a consequence to events initially driven by character decision.

Mind that I actually agree with you to some extent. Especially as it pertains to the game Microscope; it's roleplaying elements are almost tertiary in nature and can be completely divorced from the game with little to no change. Furthermore, those roleplaying elements are almost railroaded, as the game works under the presumption that whoever is in control of the event being roleplayed gets to script and railroad said event to a large degree.

But I consider Microscope to be the outlier. It is a game specifically about defining histories and worlds, rather than playing roles. Shock, while it is mostly tied around creating a story, still has characters as a central part of its focus. And many other STGs are even more so closely related to traditional roleplaying games. Sufficiently Advanced has many elements of both, yet I would consider it pretty close to a traditional roleplaying game, even though it has attributes directly tied to a characters influence on the story rather than the setting.

Justin Alexander wrote:
And yet you felt the need to ask me if I have ever GMed a roleplaying game before. Interesting. Were you being dishonest in asking the question? Or are you being dishonest now? Frankly, I don't care.

It is quite important, actually. At the end of your essay, you even make reference to the fact that the distinction between STG and RPG gets fuzzier if you happen to sit at the other side of the GM's screen. So you at least acknowledge to some degree what I discussed. I'm not trying to insult you one way or another, I just think this is something that might define our difference in view.

Justin Alexander wrote:
Ah. I see. You couldn't even muster the basic reading comprehension necessary to notice that I was the author of the linked essay, despite that being stated explicitly multiple times. Is this due to carelessness or lack of capability? Again, I can't really bring myself to care.

Ah, that explains a lot... I had noticed that you responded to a multitude of comments on that blog post, but never made the connection that you were the author. I meant no insult, I just hadn't read any more of that blog other than this post and its comments (and there is no explicit "written by Justin Alexander" on that page). I suppose I could have made the connection based on the blog's title being "The Alexandrian", but I had a brother named Alex, and I'm not going to start linking something with such a name to every potential person I know with the same.

I apologize if that offended you.

Justin Alexander wrote:
If you can't be bothered to familiarize yourself with a game through its Wikipedia article or the rulebook which is freely available online, that's not my problem.

Thank you for confirming -- in multiple ways -- that you are merely wasting my time.

If anyone is interested in actually discussing this issue in a coherent and meaningful fashion, I'll be around. Decivre, unfortunately, has worn out his welcome.

Actually, I did read a lot about the game, but I still don't feel I know enough about how it plays to make any judgment call. It's my own personal stance on things... the same reason I won't pass judgment on a game like Mummy: The Curse, despite having a long rapport with other Storyteller games and having read plenty about it. I'm too divorced from it to be able to say whether I think it should count as a roleplaying game or not, and I'm not the kind of person that complains about games he doesn't play.

I have played most of the other games you have referenced. But apparently the lack of this single notch on my belt loop bothers you, so I shall take my leave accordingly.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Jet Black Jet Black's picture
I have to admit that I don't

I have to admit that I don't like Fate. I think its mechanics are often intrusive, the results of die rolls are too predictable and aspects are more confusing than evocative. Still, it should be clear to anyone who hasn't some personal axe to grind that it is a regular RPG.

The totally arbitrary distinction between RPG and STG does a great disservice to our hobby as a whole by further splintering its already rather small fanbase. To Justin Alexander and other grumpy old gamers from theRPGSite STGs are just the "new-fangled games we don't like", while RPGs are the "old-school, traditional games we do like." They further obscure their issues with enough pseudo-intellectual drivel to choke a horse with.

In short, it is only some personal opinion disguised as fact by an exercise in mental masturbation.

"You're gonna carry that weight"

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
I got addicted...

to the new Steam game "Banner Saga" and havent been on in a while so first I'll address the many points in this posting...

1) forwards and holds, not sure I understand exactly how this works but essentially it looks like the players have a roll that they make BEFORE the action needing to be resolved in the game and then the player spends his action points or die results to get the scene to resolve the way he wants or he blackmails another player or the DM so they have to make some kind of raise to cancil the resolution... I hate mechanics like this, I mean really hate them. where is the suspense? where is the worry if the sniper is going to hit the terrorist or the hostage? its gone because you know what rolls or points you have to bid and you know the scene will turn out the way you want if you take enough of a sacrifice in latter scenes... again, this isnt an action resolution, its gameism and a bidding war that has very little to do with the character's ability to hit his target.

2) no, RPGs are not ever based on a single mechanic, example: a character wants to run across a wet wherehouse floor while under the increasingly detrimental effects of a neurotoxin and being shot at by mooks. how do conditions and terrain effect the character's chances? how far can he make it before he stumbles? what are the chances of a stumble vs the character's athletic ability? how hard is it for him to vault over a crate? if hes at the end of the run and the neurotoxin has effected his reactions, now how hard is it? and what if he is then shot, what are the chances then?

these are all the types of questions that are never answered in most STGs and are answered in most RPGs. the differences are detailed mechanics and sloppy narritive mechanics, which may change from DM to DM or week to week depending on the memory of the players/dm to recall what the decision was when it isnt written down in the main game book.

the fact that you roll a d20, or d99, or 5d6 is not the issue, the issue is how the game, the mechanics around those dice rolls resolve the action, and how detailed the resolution is vs how complex or time consuming. a great system does both, its short its fast and its detailed. a terrible system does neither, it takes a long time, and details are made up on the fly and change constantly.

3) how are the only 7 things your character can do in Apocalypse World not concise? take for example "seize something"... say a person, how does the character's 5 years of brazillian judo figure in, what if he has a broken arm, what if the guy he's fighting is bigger than him, what if the guy has 10 years of brazillian judo and knows a counter move to being grabbed with one arm, and how does all this happen without necessary narration and instead function as a predictable set of simulationist mechanics that can be accurately repeated if a similar situation should arise in the future?

that is the core flaw of an STG. basically I can do everything a STG does with an RPG, I can have player narration, create a system for narrative control (in a few seconds, their pretty simplistic) but I cant use an STG for accurate and detailed action resolution... their rules simply do not support that type of play. thats why a well written RPG will always be better than a well written STG, because STG's dont try and provide a simulationist representation of actions or possible outcomes. IF an STG did... it wouldent be an STG.

4) the issue isnt if role play stops to facilitate mechanics, they will, the issue is (as I spelled out at the begining of the thread) imersion.

I have to stop roleplay to roll a d20, but I still "feel" like I am my character, playing to his or her abilities, but thats different with narrative control, with an STG I'm not so much playing to my character's abilities, instead I am battling the DM for the right to narrate what happens to the chararacter, regardless of or paying little import to the character. all that great imersion, all the suspense, and with it the stronger drama, more tense emotions, the connections between player, character, and game world are all crippled in an STG. thats why its dumbed down wrong bad fun. and that feeds right into the next point...

5) why is a single narrator preferable?

this is a very good, very big question...

for the same reasons listed above, the DM is not the goblin, the goblin is not really his creation, his beloved fighter, the numbers and fluf outlining of some aspect of his personality. the goblin is a mook.

The Players play to be imersed in the game world, to live vicariously through their characters. The DM's fun is not the same, the DM gets to create the game world, and the adventure. his fun is the joy he brings to the players, watching their tension when a plot twist goes into effect, etc.

for the DM its not about being imersed in the game world... its the joy of creation, the art of world and plot design. If you start requiring that the players control the goblins, or create the world their attentions must be divided, they cant simply be imersed anymore, they have to be in-control.

Further, being a great narrator/world designer/plot builder/adventure writer and about 100 other things great DMs can do are not easy skills to master. out of say 100 average TTRPG gamers, I think you'd find maybe five that make exceptional DMs and maybe 20 that can DM well but not great. but what happens when you give everyone narrative control? what happens when people who lack the essential skills or tallents of a good DM are given their time to control/create the world... crappy adventures and outcomes happen.

that is why a single narrator is preferable to multi-narration... put simply, better DMs=better games.

and lastly...

6) I still dont think you get my style of running, the world is fully complete, NPCs have goals, and take required actions (go to work, send the mooks to kill that guy etc) the players sandbox and choose what they want to do, who they want to interact with. and that seems to be the only difference between our styles. I am putting a huge amount of time into having everything ready to go when the team wants to assualt mountian fortress, I got maps, guards, guard routes, a bbeg (likely with a sketch or pic from the net) a few traps and twists etc. but if I tried to make up all this on the fly, even though I am very good at doing that, it wouldnet be my best adventure, it wouldent come close to the level of perfection I like my tables to operate at. does that make me a nut job? probably.. but I run damn good games.

would my players care if I took less time, would they really notice the difference? maybe only minorly but I shure would notice. but to go on to a related issue...

not all games are "Toon" I played "Toon" it was "fun" once... now I think its boring, and a little stupid. I dont think I'd play it again.

I want something more from my games than just "fun" I want action, edge of your seat heart pounding suspense, glory, greed, politics, moral quandry, and all the other things that on TV uasually require warning notices and 10:00 PM time slots. (ps have you been watching "Hannibal"... ITS AWESOME!) I want a great and entertaining expirence.

generally I cant do that if I have to share narrative or design control with somebody who likely does not share my level of commitment or who wants something different from the game than I do. (IE somebody who wants FATE and twilight when I and my regular players want HGS and 30 days of night)

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

Decivre Decivre's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:to the new

Baalbamoth wrote:
to the new Steam game "Banner Saga" and havent been on in a while so first I'll address the many points in this posting...

1) forwards and holds, not sure I understand exactly how this works but essentially it looks like the players have a roll that they make BEFORE the action needing to be resolved in the game and then the player spends his action points or die results to get the scene to resolve the way he wants or he blackmails another player or the DM so they have to make some kind of raise to cancil the resolution... I hate mechanics like this, I mean really hate them. where is the suspense? where is the worry if the sniper is going to hit the terrorist or the hostage? its gone because you know what rolls or points you have to bid and you know the scene will turn out the way you want if you take enough of a sacrifice in latter scenes... again, this isnt an action resolution, its gameism and a bidding war that has very little to do with the character's ability to hit his target.

I wouldn't call it gameism, so much as it's limited narrative control. A sort of plot coupon, like limited-use moxie or hero points. Sure it reduces suspense somewhat, but doesn't necessarily eliminate it. But this all depends on how it's implemented.

For example, the Brainer class (essentially a psychic) has an ability called "In-brain puppet strings". Upon physical intimate contact, you may choose a mentally-planted command for your target and roll your Weird stat. On a success, hold 3, on a partial success, hold 1. At any time, until they fulfill your command, you may spend 1 hold to inflict instantaneous undefendable harm, or penalize any action they might be taking. Once they fulfill your command, you lose all remaining hold you have. In this case, the holds are used to simulate your character's influence over a target's mind, and are restricted to pain and distraction.

Another ability they have is effectively mind-reading, and allows the brainer to spend hold asking the MC (if used on an NPC) or that character's player questions about the target (and they are given a very limited list of questions they are allowed to ask), that they must answer truthfully. It is a meta-ability that is handled directly from player to player., but is probably the most proper way to represent mind-reading within a roleplaying game, no?

Baalbamoth wrote:
2) no, RPGs are not ever based on a single mechanic, example: a character wants to run across a wet wherehouse floor while under the increasingly detrimental effects of a neurotoxin and being shot at by mooks. how do conditions and terrain effect the character's chances? how far can he make it before he stumbles? what are the chances of a stumble vs the character's athletic ability? how hard is it for him to vault over a crate? if hes at the end of the run and the neurotoxin has effected his reactions, now how hard is it? and what if he is then shot, what are the chances then?

these are all the types of questions that are never answered in most STGs and are answered in most RPGs. the differences are detailed mechanics and sloppy narritive mechanics, which may change from DM to DM or week to week depending on the memory of the players/dm to recall what the decision was when it isnt written down in the main game book.

the fact that you roll a d20, or d99, or 5d6 is not the issue, the issue is how the game, the mechanics around those dice rolls resolve the action, and how detailed the resolution is vs how complex or time consuming. a great system does both, its short its fast and its detailed. a terrible system does neither, it takes a long time, and details are made up on the fly and change constantly.

If that's the case, then FATE (and most of the game's we are discussing) is decidedly a roleplaying game, and the discussion is moot.

Baalbamoth wrote:
3) how are the only 7 things your character can do in Apocalypse World not concise? take for example "seize something"... say a person, how does the character's 5 years of brazillian judo figure in, what if he has a broken arm, what if the guy he's fighting is bigger than him, what if the guy has 10 years of brazillian judo and knows a counter move to being grabbed with one arm, and how does all this happen without necessary narration and instead function as a predictable set of simulationist mechanics that can be accurately repeated if a similar situation should arise in the future?

that is the core flaw of an STG. basically I can do everything a STG does with an RPG, I can have player narration, create a system for narrative control (in a few seconds, their pretty simplistic) but I cant use an STG for accurate and detailed action resolution... their rules simply do not support that type of play. thats why a well written RPG will always be better than a well written STG, because STG's dont try and provide a simulationist representation of actions or possible outcomes. IF an STG did... it wouldent be an STG.

All of a characters experiences, talents and skills in Apocalypse World are boiled down to five stats (more, if you count Hx; one less if you eliminate supernatural elements of your campaign) and their ability list (all actions they may take beyond the initial 7, generally class-based or specific to the campaign). Wounds like broken arms and the like are generally handled by negative forwards, while more permanent wounds (like scars, disfigurements) are handled by permanent reductions in one of four select stats.

As for the rest of your references, much of that sort of thing will be handled in the NPC's stats. That character's talents for Judo will be represented by an increase in that NPC's damage and armor stats, which reduce the damage they take while increasing the damage they deal in a combat action. Or perhaps they'll receive a size tag (which increases the damage they deal to smaller units, while decreasing the damage they receive). It depends on how the MC wishes to handle it.

Simplicity does not equate to a flat structure of mechanics.

Baalbamoth wrote:
4) the issue isnt if role play stops to facilitate mechanics, they will, the issue is (as I spelled out at the begining of the thread) imersion.

I have to stop roleplay to roll a d20, but I still "feel" like I am my character, playing to his or her abilities, but thats different with narrative control, with an STG I'm not so much playing to my character's abilities, instead I am battling the DM for the right to narrate what happens to the chararacter, regardless of or paying little import to the character. all that great imersion, all the suspense, and with it the stronger drama, more tense emotions, the connections between player, character, and game world are all crippled in an STG. thats why its dumbed down wrong bad fun. and that feeds right into the next point...

"Feeling" is a completely arbitrary metric. Some people will "feel" like they are still immersed in their character during things which would break your sense of immersion, and likely vice versa. What is true for you in this regard is not necessarily true for everyone else. To that end, as a GM I never feel like I have to cease roleplaying unless I reach for the chip bag or sip my beer. Even as I narrate rather than portray a specific character, I am still acting as the disembodied medium by which my player's character observe and interact with the world. That is still roleplaying, just as the ever-present narrator within a theatrical production is still a character in the play.

If I can roleplay while I interact with the narrative component of my task as GM, I don't see why my players are unable to as well.

Baalbamoth wrote:
5) why is a single narrator preferable?

this is a very good, very big question...

for the same reasons listed above, the DM is not the goblin, the goblin is not really his creation, his beloved fighter, the numbers and fluf outlining of some aspect of his personality. the goblin is a mook.

The Players play to be imersed in the game world, to live vicariously through their characters. The DM's fun is not the same, the DM gets to create the game world, and the adventure. his fun is the joy he brings to the players, watching their tension when a plot twist goes into effect, etc.

for the DM its not about being imersed in the game world... its the joy of creation, the art of world and plot design. If you start requiring that the players control the goblins, or create the world their attentions must be divided, they cant simply be imersed anymore, they have to be in-control.

Further, being a great narrator/world designer/plot builder/adventure writer and about 100 other things great DMs can do are not easy skills to master. out of say 100 average TTRPG gamers, I think you'd find maybe five that make exceptional DMs and maybe 20 that can DM well but not great. but what happens when you give everyone narrative control? what happens when people who lack the essential skills or tallents of a good DM are given their time to control/create the world... crappy adventures and outcomes happen.

that is why a single narrator is preferable to multi-narration... put simply, better DMs=better games.

I don't entirely disagree with this. But you falsely presume that the best medium is a single great GM. I counter-propose that a better medium is multiple great GMs interacting through a shared narrative. There are plenty of advantages to this configuration that a single-GM structure does not have, of which I'll discuss the two that most interest me.

For one, there is the shared experience. The reason there aren't many skilled GMs is that there aren't many people getting the experience of being a GM, for one reason or another. GM rotation, or games which create the conditions for a joint narrative, give players beyond the traditional GM a chance to experience, to however limited a degree, what it is to be the narrator in the story. This is the sort of thing that breeds great GMs. Simply playing a single character gives you none of the opportunity to try out those world-crafting chops, and exercise those narrative-guiding skills that will produce potential peers. It's like with driving... you can't learn how to do it if you're always a passenger.

Secondly, it creates a more emergent story, one that can develop in ways that a single GM would be incapable of producing. Railroading is an endemic problem in traditional roleplay (agreeably a sign of talentless GMing), and the chance to take over the narration is an opportunity for players to break the railroad. Furthermore, it's a new opportunity for the players to put the GM on his or her toes... when I hand the reins over to my players and give them a slice of narrative control, I don't know what scene I will receive when that narrative control passes. The dynamic changes, I may be working with completely different conditions than I started the scenario with, and they might throw a curveball that completely alters the plot. This exercises my improvisational skills, and helps prevent plot stagnation as well.

Baalbamoth wrote:
and lastly...

6) I still dont think you get my style of running, the world is fully complete, NPCs have goals, and take required actions (go to work, send the mooks to kill that guy etc) the players sandbox and choose what they want to do, who they want to interact with. and that seems to be the only difference between our styles. I am putting a huge amount of time into having everything ready to go when the team wants to assualt mountian fortress, I got maps, guards, guard routes, a bbeg (likely with a sketch or pic from the net) a few traps and twists etc. but if I tried to make up all this on the fly, even though I am very good at doing that, it wouldnet be my best adventure, it wouldent come close to the level of perfection I like my tables to operate at. does that make me a nut job? probably.. but I run damn good games.

would my players care if I took less time, would they really notice the difference? maybe only minorly but I shure would notice. but to go on to a related issue...

not all games are "Toon" I played "Toon" it was "fun" once... now I think its boring, and a little stupid. I dont think I'd play it again.

I want something more from my games than just "fun" I want action, edge of your seat heart pounding suspense, glory, greed, politics, moral quandry, and all the other things that on TV uasually require warning notices and 10:00 PM time slots. (ps have you been watching "Hannibal"... ITS AWESOME!) I want a great and entertaining expirence.

generally I cant do that if I have to share narrative or design control with somebody who likely does not share my level of commitment or who wants something different from the game than I do. (IE somebody who wants FATE and twilight when I and my regular players want HGS and 30 days of night)

I don't think it makes you a nutjob at all. All your work as a world-builder happens before the game starts, while a good portion of mine happens as the game goes. That's the primary difference. We likely put just as much work into our settings, we just happen to make that happen at different times.

I do maps, play in plenty of complete worlds (as I am a big player of both Shadowrun and Battletech), and even commit myself to some preparatory work... I just find that less is often more when it comes to the latter. I don't tend to do guard routes because I don't like to think of guards as pre-programmed robots following a fixed path (unless they in fact are exactly that). I put a lot of thought into my villains, but I don't pre-decide what they will do because when rubber hits the road, GM plans often get crapped on by player actions. We just have different priorities, you and I.

Plus, I disagree with your concept of "fun". Shadowrun is "fun", even when it ends with the entire team being ambushed and killed. Eclipse Phase is "fun", even when we deal with serious (and ofttimes politically relevant) issues and body horror. Exalted is "fun", even when the Great Curse has driven one of the PCs into madness. About the only time we have the sort of fun that one might have playing Toon is when we crack out a game of Paranoia or HOL and play it while half-drunk. And to be honest, that still generally ends in death.

I agree that if your standard for roleplaying is a lot of preparatory work and a well-invested narrative, then STGs are not for you. But I say that in the same vein as I say that you and I don't roleplay the same way. This does not mean that I think you don't roleplay, and I hope that does not mean you think I don't roleplay because I don't prepare as much as you do... but my style of play is better suited to many STGs than yours is, and this might play a heavy role in your distaste for them. STGs don't work for people that aren't fond of lots of improv, and the ability to share the plot and setting.

Joint narrative control isn't exactly new with STGs... back in the day we just used to call it "GM rotation" (or even Troupe play, as was the case with Ars Magica). The revolutionary idea that STGs bring to the table is to make that GM rotation occur as a byproduct of in-game mechanics. I don't consider STGs to be disqualified for the label of "roleplaying game" because of this concept anymore than I would say that a playgroup which rotates the role of GM (or plays a Troupe-based game) is disqualified for the label of "roleplaying group" because they don't divest the role of GM to one person. It's a different style of play.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
and I think the mind control power...

frames the problem perfectly, in Hero Game System mind control hasnt changed much since 1980.

you use your ego combat value (your ego stat divided by 3) to hit, and your target uses his to defend, if you hit you roll your dice (avg 10-14d6.) The target's ego stat will typically be from 10-18 (but may be 30-40 or higher if its something his powers are based on.) then you subtract any "ego defense" the target may have and take the remaining and divide by the ego of the target.

for every multipule of the target's ego you roll, your command can be more strongly opposed... IE at 1xego "shoot my friend, not me" 2x ego "run away" 3xego "shoot your friend" 3xego+ "shoot yourself in the head".

so the better your ego, the much less likely your character will do things he's opposed to... but you notice what all of these require if successful? yup the guy is actually controlled and does what you told em to... no choice about it.

but what about your system? the target never actually has to do what you "mind controll" him to do. he always has the option to take damage instead, and I'd bet theres some drama point or something that can even stop you from dieing from the damage.

the same thing happens with pretty much every action in DitV, if you really dont want something to happen, you can sacrifice plot points to stop it from happening. both the DM and the players can do this. so it stops being a mechanic for say mind control and becomes a mechanic for plot control.

and thats the big problem in a nut shell. with STGs the mechanics, the design of the games themselves, are not written to allow simulationist resolutions, they are written to allow control of plot or scene IF the target chooses to let you have that control by not paying a plot penalty. do moxie points let you do that? no, of course not.

and thats why the "feeling" will always be different for all gamers between a real STG and a real RPG, because the STG isnt attempting to simulate mind control, its attempting to govern plot control.

HUGE difference. thats why imersion fails in STGs, why suspense is dulled, why outcomes depend more on player or DM opposition, rather than reasonable predictability for the action taken.

as to multipule DMs... what happens when multipule great chefs are in one kitchen? a lot of arguing and bad food.

what happens when the guy with no culinary arts education takes over the kitchen from a master chef? yup its prolly gonna suck.

if somebody has great tallent for DMing (mostly creative writing, verbal ability, commitment level, and drama) even without running a single game, he can probablly do pretty good even if he has no system mastery. add some system mastery, and a few one shot adventures to practice with and I think he can be a great DM,

Take somebody with no tallent, and no matter how many games they run, no matter how many years they DM for... chances are they will still suck 20 years later.

so no... its not a prefrence thing... STGs are written and created for different purposes than RPGs. that design element is what differenciates them.

are you telling a story? or are you playing a role? their not the same things.

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."

Decivre Decivre's picture
Baalbamoth wrote:frames the

Baalbamoth wrote:
frames the problem perfectly, in Hero Game System mind control hasnt changed much since 1980.

you use your ego combat value (your ego stat divided by 3) to hit, and your target uses his to defend, if you hit you roll your dice (avg 10-14d6.) The target's ego stat will typically be from 10-18 (but may be 30-40 or higher if its something his powers are based on.) then you subtract any "ego defense" the target may have and take the remaining and divide by the ego of the target.

for every multipule of the target's ego you roll, your command can be more strongly opposed... IE at 1xego "shoot my friend, not me" 2x ego "run away" 3xego "shoot your friend" 3xego+ "shoot yourself in the head".

so the better your ego, the much less likely your character will do things he's opposed to... but you notice what all of these require if successful? yup the guy is actually controlled and does what you told em to... no choice about it.

but what about your system? the target never actually has to do what you "mind controll" him to do. he always has the option to take damage instead, and I'd bet theres some drama point or something that can even stop you from dieing from the damage.

So, you would prefer a game that completely strips agency, and eliminates all ability to roleplay? Interesting.

As for plot points, there is no way to avoid this damage. A PC can take the option to take debilities rather than wounds from this effect, but players are more wary about debilities (as they are permanent, limited to four for a character, and reduce your stats), and would likely only take one if the alternative is death. NPCs can survive only by MC fiat.

Baalbamoth wrote:
the same thing happens with pretty much every action in DitV, if you really dont want something to happen, you can sacrifice plot points to stop it from happening. both the DM and the players can do this. so it stops being a mechanic for say mind control and becomes a mechanic for plot control.

and thats the big problem in a nut shell. with STGs the mechanics, the design of the games themselves, are not written to allow simulationist resolutions, they are written to allow control of plot or scene IF the target chooses to let you have that control by not paying a plot penalty. do moxie points let you do that? no, of course not.

Actually, they do. You may use moxie to flip-flop a resistance roll, or upgrade it potentially to a success or critical, which may very well give you the ability to alter the plot. Don't pretend it's any different just because there is some odds to it.

What boggles my mind is that you are fabrication a problem to be angry at. Yes, STGs do not generally have simulationist resolution systems. But that's inherently the point; people who roleplay with such games aren't looking for simulation in the first place. I don't play Dungeons and Dragons for hard science fiction, nor do I play Bunnies and Burrows for hardcore pornographic storylines. As I have said to someone who complained that Eclipse Phase had too much Lovecraftian horror, you cannot fault something for fulfilling its purpose. STG games are explicitly designed to make the narrative more important than simulation, so faulting them for it makes no sense.

This still does not mean they are not roleplaying games.

Baalbamoth wrote:
and thats why the "feeling" will always be different for all gamers between a real STG and a real RPG, because the STG isnt attempting to simulate mind control, its attempting to govern plot control.

HUGE difference. thats why imersion fails in STGs, why suspense is dulled, why outcomes depend more on player or DM opposition, rather than reasonable predictability for the action taken.

Or, it emulates mind control through plot mechanics.

I'm not disagreeing with your premise that STGs break your sense of immersion. I'm arguing with your premise that it breaks all sense of immersion, as plenty of people have already attested that it does not do it for them. Your anecdote is not a universal truth, and this has been proven through testaments to the contrary.

Baalbamoth wrote:
as to multipule DMs... what happens when multipule great chefs are in one kitchen? a lot of arguing and bad food.

what happens when the guy with no culinary arts education takes over the kitchen from a master chef? yup its prolly gonna suck.

if somebody has great tallent for DMing (mostly creative writing, verbal ability, commitment level, and drama) even without running a single game, he can probablly do pretty good even if he has no system mastery. add some system mastery, and a few one shot adventures to practice with and I think he can be a great DM,

Take somebody with no tallent, and no matter how many games they run, no matter how many years they DM for... chances are they will still suck 20 years later.

You could use that logic for any aspect of roleplay. Why let any newcomers roleplay at all? If they don't have a talent for it, they never will... right? Why even let anyone try to roleplay? Why even game, if there is the risk that you will be terrible at it?

Because that's how you discover, hone, and utilize that talent. The attitude you seem to have seems almost hostile to the idea of finding new potential GMs, who have the world-crafting potential to run great games. Sure, not everyone is going to be great at it, just as many people aren't great at roleplaying normally. Just as some people are terrible at creating characters in a simulationist RPG. Just as some people are terrible at tactics in a gamist RPG. Not everyone has every skill that might be useful at the table. But I don't see why people should be prevented from even trying.

As for your argument logic, I have yet to have any arguments when I do cooperative GMing. One of the inherent rules of cooperative GMing is that everyone needs to know what can and can't be done within its context. So when you cooperatively GM a specific setting, everyone knows that you can't insert things that are unfit for the setting into the game. The group will know what this is when they begin crafting their setting, and an experienced GM can explain the process to newcomers fairly easily. Furthermore, no argument arises so long as you can truly hand over the reigns. If you are trying to control the game when it's someone else's turn to, then clearly problems will arise. But that's kind of the point, if you can't hand over control of the narrative, then cooperative GMing isn't for you.

So again, this comes back to "you wouldn't like the way many of my groups roleplay, but that's fine."

Baalbamoth wrote:
so no... its not a prefrence thing... STGs are written and created for different purposes than RPGs. that design element is what differenciates them.

are you telling a story? or are you playing a role? their not the same things.

A role is a concept within a story, an aspect of characters within it. They are not exclusive. You can do both.

That's like asking "are you reading a page, or are you reading a book?" The answer is "yes".

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Baalbamoth Baalbamoth's picture
More than 5 years and I still stick by every word...

Was just scanning through old postings I made on various forums, and after re-reading this I still stand by most of it. Also I think I was much brighter 5 years ago or more driven by the subject matter, not sure I could or would even try to pull off the arguments I made here so long ago...

"what do I want? The usual — hundreds of grandchildren, complete dominion over the known worlds, and the pleasure of hearing that all my enemies have died in highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me."