Defining TTRPGs and the the International Roguelike Development Conference's "Berlin Interpretation"


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I don't think play and game are redundant; there are forms of play that do not map much to even a loose definition of game.

Firstly, sorry for the very late response.

Personally I define* a game as that thing which is the result of play. Playing (the verb) results in a Game (the noun.) One is the action that creates the other. Technically they are different classes of thing. <insert technically correct reference from Futurama here> But the way I see it is that play always results in a game and a game is always the result of play. Hence my claim that game is redundant. In hindsight I would have been better saying unnecessary rather than redundant.



*Of course there's the definition of "game" that is a physical thing: the box, playing pieces, the rule book, etc. But I assume we're not talking about the physical object but rather the conceptual definition of game.
 


aramis erak

Legend
I am being contradictory here, but again: Do we even have any products that people are ignoring because they are not defined as RPGs, but might be intersted in as RPG fans?
A few, actually.
Hybrid Wargame/RPG
(Classic) Car Wars (pre 5th) is both boardgame and RPG.
Battlestations (by Gorilla Games) is also a hybrid. The designer states that it being both is intention
Heavy Gear and Jovian Chronicles, in the editions I have, are both RPG and wargame in the same corebook, and fully interoperable for both modes. Explicitly stated as both RPG and TT Minis wargame.

Many players, and most RPG sites, reject the RPG side of these games.

It's worth noting that many early RPGs were essentially only combat rules (glares at Boot Hill), and even into the 80's...(Star Frontiers "basic game" is essentially counters-on-map combat. The "advanced game is where the RPG aspects get highlighted

LARPs
Most LARPs are ignored on most RPG sites, if not actively discouraged in the discussions.
 

I think some people might consider Lancer: Battlegroup in the hybrid wargame/RPG category, although as a cooperative party-vs-GM system, it's actually a closer cousin to D&D 4e than any wargame.

 


aramis erak

Legend
I think some people might consider Lancer: Battlegroup in the hybrid wargame/RPG category, although as a cooperative party-vs-GM system, it's actually a closer cousin to D&D 4e than any wargame.

There have been a number of one vs many wargames, and multiplayer many on one scenarios in many more.

Also, some RPGs don't use single-GM. Rotational GMing on a scene by scene is a feature in Cosmic Patrol, and many flavors of PBTA/AWE games have advice on GM-less play.

Lancer crosses the line by intent (and character focus), not because of a many on one.
 

There have been a number of one vs many wargames, and multiplayer many on one scenarios in many more.

Also, some RPGs don't use single-GM. Rotational GMing on a scene by scene is a feature in Cosmic Patrol, and many flavors of PBTA/AWE games have advice on GM-less play.

Lancer crosses the line by intent (and character focus), not because of a many on one.
True, I was speaking more to today's mainstream perceptions (since Warhammer 40k is monolithic and massive in the wargaming scene now). I've seen some fun group-vs-GM wargames at conventions, and I've been one of the rotating GMs in Eclipse Phase and Night Witches.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Just a few to get started, but here we go:
  • Participants adopt fictional roles
  • There is a shared fictional space thought of as the game world
  • There are rules and processes that determine what happens in the fictional space and who gets to decide and when
  • There is usually some randomizing factor used to help determine the results of actions when the outcomes are in doubt
Participants adopt roles - fictional isn't necessary. Some people just play themselves, but in a fictional world.

I'm on board with the single fictional space. The poetry game example with multiple spaces leads to multiple games - different sets of competitors.

There are rules. Stop. Dungeon World shows us that rules don't need to tie directly to fiction.

They don't need a randomizing factor; that there are rules and competitors covers this. I'm not too familiar with Amber, but it might be a good example of randomness-free role-playing?

Cooperative games are not a new concept. Sometimes they're indirectly competitive, but sometimes they just have a collective win/loss condition.

I also fail to see why, even if its the common case, a GM is a required component of a roleplaying game.
You're reading too much into this. Tun Kai Poh was using passive voice, so I sought clarification.

So to the original question: what are qualities of an RPG.

The way I see it there are two main operatives in the term RPG. Role and Play. Game is redundant, play implies a game (and vice versa.)

This leads me to the following definition:
One or more players take on a role and play with it in a fictional setting. (I think a fictional setting is inherent to the nature of play.)

To this you can add, well, almost anything:

Playing pieces.

Playing boards for those pieces.

Stats. Which is to say mathematical models that model aspects of the play space that can be used to interact with other models within the play space.

Rules that govern the types of interactions available within the play space and how those interactions are carried out.

Rules that define the diegetic limits of the play space. By which I mean game worlds and the "physics" by which they operate.

Rewards systems.

Randomisers. Dice, coins, random number generators, the I-Ching. Used to add or heighten already existing dramatic tension.

A defined end to the play. Win/Loss states. The end of a series of events/scenes/tactical decisions/story elements.

Adjudicators.

A player in a position of official opposition. By which I mean the traditional GM. Someone who's role is to provide drama. This position can be given to different players at different times. This position is granted by some non-diegetic consideration, eg. the rules.

Players taking oppositional roles (on a temporary basis?) as suggested by diegetic concerns. Can range from the very simple "You killed me with a fireball. My next character is going to kill you!" to designing characters with the intent that they shall provide one another with dramatic tension.

Art.

Costumes.


Beyond things that can define the actual play we can get into things like fandoms and such forth. The social aspects of it. But that's probably getting off base.


Aside: I also think that aspects of playing a role can be (easily) imported into other games. In post #14 Endroren mentions playing traditional board and war games from within assumed roles. I've done the same with Diplomacy and Empires in Arms.
Most of these are not necessary for our definition. I take issue with the single-player RPG idea; such a game is an edge case, not a general one. See also: we probably don't want to call it a TRPG when gamers play with themselves.
 

Most of these are not necessary for our definition. I take issue with the single-player RPG idea; such a game is an edge case, not a general one. See also: we probably don't want to call it a TRPG when gamers play with themselves.

Sorry. I wasn't clear about exactly what I meant with my list of add-ons. My list is of things that can be added to my basic definition of RPG, but are not necessary to a game being an RPG.

Sorry, what's TRPG? Table top RPG? Traditional RPG? Something else?
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Sorry. I wasn't clear about exactly what I meant with my list of add-ons. My list is of things that can be added to my basic definition of RPG, but are not necessary to a game being an RPG.

Sorry, what's TRPG? Table top RPG? Traditional RPG? Something else?
If costumes become necessary, I'm getting another hobby 🤓

TRPG is TTRPG less the superfluous T.
 

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