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Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 03:20 PM #1
Pit Fiend (Lvl 26)
Chess is not an RPG: The Illusion of Game Balance
RPG designer John Wick has written a lengthy article in which he tackles the subject of game balance and the definition of a roleplaying game. One thing's for sure - he's no fan of games with equipment lists!
I've always said that balance (or symmetry) for its own sake robs a game of flavour. Some stuff can be better than other stuff; I'm fine with that. Some choices can be better, as long as it doesn't lead to an environment in which some layers dominate a game to the exclusion of other players.
That said, I find a lot to disagree with in this article, too. In particular, he seems to be of the opinion that the only thing important in a roleplaying game is the roleplaying; I disagree. Yes, it has the word "roleplaying" in its name, and I see how that can be confusing, but that's just a label.
Roleplaying is part of the fun of an RPG, and different RPGs offer different flavours of fun. In common, yes, they all contain roleplaying to a greater or lesser extent. Having an intricate combat system does not make a game "not an RPG" it makes it "an RPG with an intricate combat system".
That's just my take, though. I know there are gamers of wildly varying styles and opinions on this board!
Last edited by Morrus; Sunday, 5th October, 2014 at 03:36 PM.
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 04:03 PM #2
Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)
It's a mix of good points and bad points, I think.
"RPGs are about story" -- yes, good point; I agree with that definition.
"RPGs being games where players are rewarded for making character-consistent choices;" yes, ideally -- but just because someone can take a RPG like D&D and play it with reduced roleplaying does not make D&D any less of a roleplaying game; catering to different play styles is a strength of good RPGs IMO. RPGs should be tailorable to a group's playstyle by the group -- the author is essentially suggesting that playing an RPG in a way other than he interprets it is badwrongfun.
"In a roleplaying game balance does not matter" -- disagree strongly. "RPG" includes "game;" games have rules and balance matters in games. That doesn't mean the game has to be precisely and equally balanced ... but if balance does not matter, you may be roleplaying but you're not playing a roleplaying game.
In the end I think the author loses the forest of gaming fun in the trees of gaming rules. Rules do not an RPG make, nor do they defeat the ability to roleplay -- it's the group's ability to come together to tell a story that makes the game. Groups that have that dynamic can do it regardless of what set of rules you give them, and groups without it can't regardless of what game they play.
(I acknowledge that depending on the game, rules may be more in the forefront or disappear more, and one should strive to make the rules disappear in play ... but that's a somewhat different discussion.)
However, after all that I'm intrigued by the idea of Chess as a roleplaying game. What can we do with that? Someone call Lewis Carroll ...
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 04:11 PM #3
Lama (Lvl 13)
Originally Posted by John Wick
News at 11.
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 05:16 PM #4
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
I don't disagree that rules that don't serve the story get in the way of doing so. I just don't think the author is accounting for how the story is being told.
Especially, rules intended to balance a game do, indeed, affect how a story plays out. In fact, they make a statement about the setting if that story.
To use as extreme an example as I can come up with, I think the game I developed for this site's 7-day RPG contest has no rules that do not serve the story, and yet requires a tight balance of the rules since the core mechanic is entirely driven by strategy (and not luck).
Could it be played without roleplaying? I really don't see how?
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 05:40 PM #5
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 05:53 PM #6
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Everyone calling John Wick "the author" suggests to me that a number of posters don't realize that he's actually an accomplished game designer, albeit definitely closer to the rules-lite, story-game end of the spectrum. (He did not design, say, GURPS or Champions.)
And maybe I misread the piece last night, but I didn't see him telling you that your games that you enjoy are bad, but just that he doesn't believe most of the crunch in game systems has a lot of benefit and challenges the reader to try it his way. Even if you have different tastes, the idea of dumping rules that don't do anything for you is pretty sound advice, with a long history in RPGs. (Weapon speed, weapon type and encumbrance rules were probably skimmed over by 95+ percent of 1E players back in the day, for instance.)
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 07:10 PM #7
Guide (Lvl 11)
It's funny he doesn't considet the RPG that started the industry to be an RPG.
I think his definition of RPGs is way too narrow.
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 09:37 PM #8
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
It's not for nothing that Wick has a reputation as a titanic ass. And I agree that his declarations of what are and are not RPGs are far too extremist. But I think he has some good points about game balance just the same. What he misses is that some of those choices (like weapon lists) can be used quite well to support role playing and story telling - all it takes is a character as interested in the gun porn as the player. And that's not at all hard to imagine.
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 09:41 PM #9
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
I have never played D&D 1, so I don't know from experience. But, I have a suspicion that some roleplaying is required.
These lines about WoW were great:
"My friend Jessie tells the story of being kicked off a roleplaying server because he was talking in character. Another friend of mine tells the story of how she was wearing “substandard” armor and equipment because “my character liked it.”"
He was definitely talking about roleplaying and games at that point of the blog, but toward the end, I think he was referring more to improvisational acting than roleplaying games.Modular, open source, free roleplaying rules: Modos Roleplaying Game
The sequel cometh...
Sunday, 5th October, 2014, 10:37 PM #10
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
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