D&D 5E [+] Explain RPG theory without using jargon

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
it's not 1910... in the interanet age you are telling me that no one else is studying this?
They were comparing talking about RPG theory now to people talking about psychology in 1910. It’s a new field, there’s not a lot of sources to choose from yet. And, I you still pretty much have to talk about Freud when studying psych today, at least in introductory courses.
 

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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I'm not particularly wedded to any particular framing. I try to communicate things in the best way I know possible. I also like to share primary sources where available. If someone has a better way to frame things in a way that preserves what I regard as important distinctions I'm all for that.

Fundamentally I approach things from a very technical perspective. I care about the structure of things. I care about precision. I think it's important to discuss what the actual people at the actual table are doing. For us to be real about the constraints we are working under and the impact of those constraints. Also to analyze mechanics from the intended structure of play.

I think there's often this idea that speaking to play structure and constraints on play in a technical way is reductive. That when we give one play structure flowers for what it does well that takes away from other structures of play. I also believe there is a tendency to deny that other sorts of play structures actually do different things.

Basically I'm doing the best I can to represent my thoughts in a way that's as approachable as possible. I do not expect anyone to use the same framing as me. I just expect that we will try to understand each other, rather than try to deny each others' experiences or try to control what ideas people are allowed to express.

Upthread I attempted to express differences in play structure in my words and was immediately told that there was no meaningful difference instead of asking me to clarify or understand where I am coming from. I approached the thread in good faith and was immediately shut down. That's the sort of thing that leads to a contentious environment. Us not trying to understand each other. Us trying to control what other people are allowed to talk about.
 

Aldarc

Legend
How is this post not a complete violation of the rules the Original Poster put forth for this thread?
Ummm... How are you only concerned about violations of the rules now?

You're suggestion is intended to be ridiculous, but there is a non-ridiculous version of this criticism and that is that it is perfectly possible to design and play a solo RPG. And in fact, certain people have done so. So then if Sociality is not an aesthetic of play that drives a group to play together, you'd think that they'd be equally happy and derive equal enjoyment from choosing to play a solo RPG. But that's clearly not the case. So I don't think you can dismiss that a RPG tends to be a social experience that drives a group to meet together for a long period on a regular basis from the reasons that an RPG is fun, because you certainly could have an RPG that doesn't do that.

More subtly, you could have an RPG where the mechanics didn't drive group collaboration on problem solving or story creation or shared experience. You could have an RPG where players typically set and watched each other play each taking a turn doing their own thing, something that tends to happen for example when parties become heavily split. So it isn't really tangential to the experience of enjoying D&D that splitting the party is such a bad idea there are memes about how bad it is. Having mechanics that drive the party to work collaboratively or risk failure upholds the desires of the player that enjoys the game because it is Social in a way that each of the three pillars of GNS just don't. So to claim that Social enjoyment is tangential to the game is to so far misunderstand RPGs that you don't even notice how it can be baked into the mechanics and processes of play (or not).
IMHO, Edwards (and the preceding GDS Model) did underestimate Social play as a creative agenda, but I shudder to think what inappropriate name he would have given it.

They were comparing talking about RPG theory now to people talking about psychology in 1910. It’s a new field, there’s not a lot of sources to choose from yet. And, I you still pretty much have to talk about Freud when studying psych today, at least in introductory courses.
See also my earlier comparison to Julius Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis in Biblical Studies.
 

They were comparing talking about RPG theory now to people talking about psychology in 1910. It’s a new field, there’s not a lot of sources to choose from yet. And, I you still pretty much have to talk about Freud when studying psych today, at least in introductory courses.
again it's not 1910, it's not even 2010 (and I had heard of GNS in 3e so before that) but today people share ideas at the speed of the internet. So where someone had to write a paper, go and wait for someone else to write a paper in responce... and both required a lot of leg work.

today I can share my idea for a she ra meets sailor moon fan fic and have 3 other writers working on similar ideas in hours... and they can be around the world.

15ish years after Freud wrote his first paper I am sure there were others... today 15 days later there would be,
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
You certainly have a good grasp of the essentials of Vampire!

And speaking of Vampire, I like it too. I haven't played the tabletop version for ages, but I was pretty impressed by it and other WW games back then. I mean, sure, I had my issues with them, and I would probably find more if I went back to them now, but they were far cry from incoherent mess. Compared to many other games of the era (such as D&D as it was back then) the design was very sleek and elegant, and the subject matter fresh (though of course it is rather passé now.)

If I had more gaming time, WW stuff definitely would be high on my list to play. I'd actually love to run very classic Vampire like it was 90s again.
The biggest problem with revisiting Vampire today, assuming you mean Masquerade, is that the Clans, uhh… Don’t hold up to modern standards of cultural sensitivity… Onyx Path did their best to fix that in the anniversary edition, but there’s only so much lipstick you can put on a pig. And then Paradox bought the white wolf IPs and decided they’d lean into the edge, and… It just wasn’t for me any more.

The problem with revisiting Requiem is that the couple dozen people I played it with in college and I are apparently the only vampire fans who like it.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
It feels like if one is discussing something in a casual/practical sense without going into the whole history - say Illithid, modern psychoanalysis, or some narrative game in particular - they could do it without mentioning Lovecraft and the mythos, Freud and his theories, or Edwards and GNS.

If they're going in to mentioning the origin of the Ilithid, modern psychoanalysis, or the particular narrative game, it feels like Lovecraft and the mythos, Freud and his theories, or Edwards and GNS would probably come up.

If the discussion moves to the mythos, Freud's theories, or GNS themselves, then it feels like the some statements of Lovecraft, Freud, and Edwards become extremely relevant to me for giving insight into why they were come up with and what their particular slants/biases/short-comings/agendas might be.
 

it's not 1910... in the interanet age you are telling me that no one else is studying this?
Have you ever heard of anyone else taking RPG theory particularly seriously?

The closest thing we get is the already-referenced MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics) framework, which is generic to gaming overall, not specific to roleplaying games. It's just not a field that has attracted a lot of academic scholarship in a public-facing way. There are studies of games in other fields, e.g. a friend of mine is a doctorate researcher in social psychology specifically focused on gaming (mostly video games, but pretty I'm sure she would consider live-person RPGs within her field...perhaps I should ask). But specifically academic analysis of what RPGs are, of how RPGs work, and why RPGs are made? Few have specifically sought out to make their contributions readily accessible, and none (to the best of my knowledge) have done so nearly as heavily as Edwards.

In much the same way that many folks were interested in neurological and mental health issues in Freud's day, but how many of them have you heard of? Perhaps John P. Gray, a psychologist who died before Freud even got started? I admit, my knowledge of psychology is limited to a couple undergrad courses because I find the field interesting, but people basically don't talk about pre-Freud psychology or psychiatry. There absolutely were theorists other than Freud, their work informed Freud. But he's such a big deal, both because he advocated his position so widely and influenced so many things in such a dramatic way, there's really nowhere else to begin.

Sort of like how Socrates is generally seen as having "founded" western philosophy...even though there are several pre-Socratic philosophers. We just know almost nothing about them, other than what later philosophers wrote about them and their works. Hell, Pythagoras was one of the pre-Socratic philosophers, and we attribute to him a major mathematical theorem! Yet it is Socrates where things get started.

For better and for worse, there are few widely-available, readily-cited, RPG-specific theorists out there, and Ron Edwards stands head and shoulders above the rest for how easy his work is to cite (by design; he put it on the internet for a reason) and how heavily discussed his work is (again, by design).
 

The biggest problem with revisiting Vampire today, assuming you mean Masquerade, is that the Clans, uhh… Don’t hold up to modern standards of cultural sensitivity… Onyx Path did their best to fix that in the anniversary edition, but there’s only so much lipstick you can put on a pig. And then Paradox bought the white wolf IPs and decided they’d lean into the edge, and… It just wasn’t for me any more.

The problem with revisiting Requiem is that the couple dozen people I played it with in college and I are apparently the only vampire fans who like it.
Yeah, I totally get what you mean by the cultural sensitivity issues. And I really don't have strong feelings about Masquerade vs Requiem, the former hits my nostalgia buttons better, but I don't think the clan arrangement is better in any real sense. But I was never so focused on the clans to begin with.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Have you ever heard of anyone else taking RPG theory particularly seriously?

Which makes me wonder if any of the seriously interested people on here have checked out the Springer book by William White that @Snarf Zagyg has brought up in another thread.

I had no idea until reading the author blurb that there was a journal of role-playing.

Aims and scope: Aims and Scope | International Journal of Role-Playing
(The bottom of the page mentions a variety of past sources of scholarship. Knutepunkt has apparently been publishing things since 2001).

Google scholar to articles: Google Scholar
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
My personal issue with Vampire is that it billed itself as a game of personal horror, but delivered a game of figuring out conspiracies and byzantine politics. Also for some reason it provided players with cool mechanical buttons, but then shamed them for caring about the cool mechanical buttons. Also bizarrely had an incredibly complex combat system that felt like a war game. Not to mention extremely shady instructions for the GM to keep players in line and railroad them through stories you have already written.

I bought into all that for time. It was some of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had and not just gaming.

I actually adore the current edition which is far more transparent and provides hooks to make the game more about the player characters.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Yeah, I totally get what you mean by the cultural sensitivity issues. And I really don't have strong feelings about Masquerade vs Requiem, the former hits my nostalgia buttons better, but I don't think the clan arrangement is better in any real sense. But I was never so focused on the clans to begin with.
Requiem Second Edition is pretty solid as (just to keep things on topic) an example of what I understand to be a “high-concept sim.” The mechanics are a little complex, but they do an excellent job of mechanically expressing the fiction they represent. And it’s very focused on emulating the descent into monstrosity angle, so… maybe not so appealing if you were more into the “superheroes with fangs” style of play than the “woe is me, I’m eternally cursed” style. Not sure what’s up with Masquerade 5th edition (or “VV” as they called it) because, again, I bounced off with the change of publishers. But I’ve heard that they actually did a pretty good job of modernizing the mechanics.
 


Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Requiem Second Edition is pretty solid as (just to keep things on topic) an example of what I understand to be a “high-concept sim.” The mechanics are a little complex, but they do an excellent job of mechanically expressing the fiction they represent. And it’s very focused on emulating the descent into monstrosity angle, so… maybe not so appealing if you were more into the “superheroes with fangs” style of play than the “woe is me, I’m eternally cursed” style. Not sure what’s up with Masquerade 5th edition (or “VV” as they called it) because, again, I bounced off with the change of publishers. But I’ve heard that they actually did a pretty good job of modernizing the mechanics.

Requiem Second Edition is pretty much a distillation of everything I wanted Vampire to be. Relatively transparent mechanics that do what they say, more carrot than stick and focused on the more personal side of being a vampire.
 

niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
Which makes me wonder if any of the seriously interested people on here have checked out the Springer book by William White that @Snarf Zagyg has brought up in another thread.

I had no idea until reading the author blurb that there was a journal of role-playing (role playing writ large).

Aims and scope: Aims and Scope | International Journal of Role-Playing

Google scholar to articles: Google Scholar
I would, but keeping up with this thread is taking up all my time! ;-) It is on my queue though.

It's so damn hard to just read a book these days....
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
My personal issue with Vampire is that it billed itself as a game of personal horror, but delivered a game of figuring out conspiracies and byzantine politics. Also for some reason it provided players with cool mechanical buttons, but then shamed them for caring about the cool mechanical buttons. Also bizarrely had an incredibly complex combat system that felt like a war game. Not to mention extremely shady instructions for the GM to keep players in line and railroad them through stories you have already written.

I bought into all that for time. It was some of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had and not just gaming.

I actually adore the current edition which is far more transparent and provides hooks to make the game more about the player characters.
The beauty of Vampire was to never play as intended and just play The Matrix with Fangs.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I never played Vampire, but I played both the first and second editions of Mage: The Awakening. I enjoyed both, but I was probably a “bad player”. My characters always ended up suffering Wisdom loss. I figure what I was doing was thematically appropriate.
 

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