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

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
All very reasonable critiques! One of the reasons I preferred Requiem over Masquerade was that I felt it delivered on the promise of personal horror much better. It is still very much what you would call a high concept sim, and the culture of play is very Trad, but it simulates the horrific aspects much better than I think Masquerade did, and Second Edition added a lot of tools to help the ST build a story around the players’ interests. It also moved away from shaming the players for using their cool powers and towards making the use of the cool powers a tempting but dangerous thing.
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.
Yeah, I think they learned a lot from what other modern RPGs were doing, thank goodness.
 

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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
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.

Yeah. I was basically playing my characters like stolen cars from the beginning. Then wondering why people got upset when my vampire did vampire things or when my samurai did samurai things in L5R.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
You were absolutely doing what was thematically appropriate. CofD really zeroed-in on the personal horror themes WoD missed the mark on and built systems to support that. Especially with the 2nd edition, if you’re not struggling to manage your “integrity stat,” you’re probably doing something wrong.
 


Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I’ve heard this turn of phrase before but don’t understand it. Could you elaborate?

Basically creating characters with a strong dramatic need like catching up with the sire who abandoned them or getting revenge on the Scorpion Bushi who dishonorably killed your best friend in a duel and like going after that stuff hard. In Requiem Second Edition terms basically every moment thinking about how you can go after your aspirations. Playing the character hard basically.
 

I feel like that was the only way to make Masquerade work, yeah.
Currently playing in a friend's whenever-we-can-all-meet-up W20 game, and yeah, this is pretty much how I approach the setting. It's grimdark bordering on crapdark, so I basically play it as Hippie Rage Monster Superheroes. Sort of hopepunk by way of Lawful Good? Which is a weird fit for WTA, but I've made it work and the guy running it is on board (though the occasionally-comical nature of the game means there have been a few laughs at my character's expense!)

Edit: Yeah, sounds like what @Campbell refers to as "playing my character like a stolen car." In my case, it's stupidly lofty goals of (a) healing the wounds and divisions between the surviving werewolf tribes, (b) restoring the lost tribes and lost fera, and (c) uniting the fera against the Wyrm to save the world. The storyteller even let me take a merit from Changeling: the Lost called "Higher Purpose," which is basically a positive version of the flaw "Driving Goal." My char strives to be a hero in a world that isn't supposed to permit heroes, and he goes HAM for redemption and second chances, unity and diplomacy, that sort of thing. It also helps that after the time we've been playing, he's a literal and metaphorical beast at both physical combat and inspirational/aspirational stuff.
 
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niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
I’ve heard this turn of phrase before but don’t understand it. Could you elaborate?
The phrase always makes me think of the bit in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, where the garage attendants take Cameron's dad's car out for a wild joyride. To me it says, "Your character is not you (nor a vehicle you paid a lot of money for) and you don't need to have a stake in their wellbeing, so get out there and do as crazy as you like." You can crash and burn, there's always a new car to steal. (You can also bring the car back with no evidence of your joyride but the odometer, that's still an option.)
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Currently playing in a friend's whenever-we-can-all-meet-up W20 game, and yeah, this is pretty much how I approach the setting. It's grimdark bordering on crapdark, so I basically play it as Hippie Rage Monster Superheroes. Sort of hopepunk by way of Lawful Good? Which is a weird fit for WTA, but I've made it work and the guy running it is on board (though the occasionally-comical nature of the game means there have been a few laughs at my character's expense!)
My impression of Apocalypse is that Hippie Rage Monster Superheroes is actually the intended mode of play there. At least, the Apocalypse players in my old Vampire troupe played it that way (though they called it “Fuzzy Captain Planet.”) But god, I feel like the already grimdark setting of apocalypse would only be even more depressing in the Year Of Our Lord Two-Thousand-and-Twenty-Two. I was always more into Forsaken. But I guess I could say “I like the CofD version better” of every splat.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I’ve heard this turn of phrase before but don’t understand it. Could you elaborate?

I love this phrase because it addresses one of the issues I have with D&D (and similar games).

The characters are meant to be brave adventurers. And often will be portrayed as such. But players tend to get so attached to them, that when there is actual risk or danger, they get super cautious. It's the exact opposite of what I want to see when I play these games (or it very often is; caution dos have its place, of course).

So the idea is to play your character without concern for their condition. Let them get hurt, put them at risk, jump in there and find out what happens.

Drive fast, take chances!
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I love this phrase because it addresses one of the issues I have with D&D (and similar games).

The characters are meant to be brave adventurers. And often will be portrayed as such. But players tend to get so attached to them, that when there is actual risk or danger, they get super cautious. It's the exact opposite of what I want to see when I play these games (or it very often is; caution dos have its place, of course).

So the idea is to play your character without concern for their condition. Let them get hurt, put them at risk, jump in there and find out what happens.

Drive fast, take chances!
That makes sense. That’s one of the things I like playing D&D characters as blank slates to start. In addition to being able to flesh them out in response to what happens during play, there’s a lot less of that instinct to play them super cautiously when you haven’t already put a ton of work into developing them before play even starts.
 


Celebrim

Legend
I feel like that was the only way to make Masquerade work, yeah.

VtM didn't realize that the examples of play in the original book were all personal rather than social, and as such it was describing in it's examples of play a deeply personal introspective game for two players (a character and a Storyteller) and not a social game for a group. The political conspiracy game of Gothy superheroes was invented as a way to play the game in a functional way for groups.
Which is again about how the sort of game you can run depends on the number of players in it because the number of players in a game very much determines where you can put the spotlight. Lots of Indy games are written as if the spotlight isn't actually social and have the same problem of examples of play in an ostensibly social game always showing one GM and one player, which proves that the attempts to improve on the VtM "incoherence" never figured out exactly where the problem was.
 

pemerton

Legend
Please define narrativism in plain English, in your own words, without resorting to tautology or quoting Edwards.
I've done this, in multiple threads.

Narrativism is the use of RPGing - which is a particular way of creating fiction - to the goal of creating dramatic stories, in the sense in which Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Zadie Smith, Chris Claremont and the writers of Days of Our Lives all set out to create dramatic stories.

What is distinctive about RPGing is that there are multiple participants with asymmetric roles: "players", who author the actions of protagonists, and "GMs" who narrate adversity.

Narrativist RPGing begins with the players creating PCs who have dramatic needs - impulses to action of the same sort that characters in dramatic fiction have. These typically come from within the character (think eg the various characters in The Princess Bride) but sometimes are more external in their origins (eg Tenar in The Tombs of Atuan has to navigate her way through complex social relationships as well as her relationship to the powers that she serves).

The GM's job is then to present situations - "scenes" - that put pressure on the PCs' dramatic needs and in that way compel the players to declare actions for their characters. The compulsion operates in this way: the players are expected to "inhabit" their characters and declare actions as if they were their PCs. (I've seen some people call this sort of thing "method acting" RPGing.) Thus, the player is moved to declare actions in pursuit of whatever it is that drives their PC. Comparing to more conventional literary forms, it's as if the protagonist were self-authoring.

The resolution system needs to be one which allows the players' conceptions of why their PCs care about the situation to feed through into the outcomes of their action declarations. Generally, if an action succeeds then that feeding through gives the PC at least some of what they want, while if it fails the adversity that the PC is confronting is reinforced or further developed. These outcomes - "consequences" - are picked up on by the GM and fed back into the situation(s) they are presenting.

The requirement specified in the previous paragraph requires some departures from widespread RPG resolution techniques. Most importantly, it requires that consequences not be determined by the GM's reasoning about an already-established or already-imagined fictional situation, that is then extrapolated by incorporating into the imagination whatever it is that the PC has done. Because that technique will not guarantee either that success on an action gives the PC at least some of what they want, nor that failure reinforces or further develops adversity. In RPGs designed to support narrativist RPGing, there is a lot of diversity in the approaches to action resolution used to ensure that the requirements for narrativist play are met.

The outcome of narrativist RPGing will be a dramatic story, but not one which anyone authored or planned in advance. The protagonists will fare well or poorly depending on how the dice fall, and the actions and fates of the protagonists will express some sort of "point", a reflection of the participants' and especially the players' ideas about whatever was thematically salient in their play.

The most natural contrast with narrativist RPGing is something like the DL modules, which are full of theme and drama, but can produce that in play only by constraining the actions that the players declare for their PCs, and ensuring that the pre-authored outcomes come to pass in the actual course of play.
 

pemerton

Legend
The thing is, when I look at the rest of what he has to say, I get exactly the same impression the brain damage comment gives, just under a veneer of pseudo-academic impartiality. That’s why people don’t just ignore the brain damage thing and focus on the rest of his writing: the brain damage thing is characteristic of what they perceive in the rest of his writing. They don’t trot it out to say “look, he said the problematic thing, so we can ignore everything else he says,” they bring it up to illustrate that no, they’re not just imagining the vitriol they perceive in his less openly-resentful writing. Underneath the mask, he really does hate the games we enjoy and look down on us for enjoying them.
In another thread, when I posted that Edwards is the most insightful author on purist-for-system simulationist RPGing (of the RM, RQ etc variety) you assumed that I must hate that sort of RPGing.

When I pointed out that in fact I played RM as my main game for 19 years, and that reading Edwards improved my RM game, you didn't respond. I now invite you to, should you wish to do so.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The outcome of narrativist RPGing will be a dramatic story, but not one which anyone authored or planned in advance. The protagonists will fare well or poorly depending on how the dice fall, and the actions and fates of the protagonists will express some sort of "point", a reflection of the participants' and especially the players' ideas about whatever was thematically salient in their play.

Thank you for the nice write up! (Again, apparently, but I don't remember reading it nicely in all one place like that).

I wonder if it would help to put the paragraph I snipped up near the top next time you're asked (maybe the second or third paragraph?) instead of near the end. For me, someone not that familiar with the style, it gives me some important orientation before reading the rest of it.
 

pemerton

Legend
I would never want to make someone feel not welcome to that degree, especially over a topic like gaming. But then, I suppose if you see trad games as so much shadow play against the cave wall, then there’s no way to communicate what true light looks like; they have to leave the cave. But hey, if you are content to being chained up in a cave watching illusions, have fun!
Given what you say here, this thread is an epic fail. The second post sneered at all the ENworlders who love Burning Wheel and Prince Valiant (in case you didn't know, I'm the only one). In another parallel thread @Charlaquin, who liked your post to which I'm replying, assumed that I must hate playing RQ and RM and CoC and classic D&D because I find Edwards insightful in his remarks about them.

In fact, I have probably played more RM than anyone else participating in this thread (many hundreds of hours over nearly 20 years). I have 3 or 4 copies of RQ on my shelf. It's a long time since I've played CoC, but as far as I know the first person on these boards ever to post about Cthulhu Dark, and was mocked for doing so. And I have posted about my experiences running classic D&D scenarios (these days I use my own variant of Gygax's AD&D rules), and also started one of the first threads about Torchbearer 2nd ed, which cites multiple classic D&D sources in its bibliography (as I pointed out in the OP of that thread).

I'm not sure what you think the threshold is for being a legitimate participant in conversations about gaming, or why it's OK to express a degree of dislike for any sort of RPGing except 2nd ed AD&D.
 

In another thread, when I posted that Edwards is the most insightful author on purist-for-system simulationist RPGing (of the RM, RQ etc variety) you assumed that I must hate that sort of RPGing.

When I pointed out that in fact I played RM as my main game for 19 years, and that reading Edwards improved my RM game, you didn't respond. I now invite you to, should you wish to do so.
I think if you draw the implication of the brain damage quote out, it suggests that if you play Rolemaster (or another game), read Edwards, and your game doesn’t improve, it’s because you aren’t accepting of the new and correct ideas. Your mind is not open, either because you have a bias against new ideas, or because your brain is literally damaged.

The polite version is what you said earlier:

It's not a mystery. If the only RPGing you're very familiar with is high concept simulationism, or low competition gamism that arises from laying a light touch performance metric over characters-face-challenges high concept simulationism, then you have to dive very deep into Edwards analysis to find the bits that will talk to you about the play distinctions you're interested in.

There is also a tendency in RPGers highly committed to simulationist-oriented RPGing to be very hostile to talking about authorship, and who says what. So people will post about the PCs exploring the setting, but when you try and talk about that as an actual process of play - the players declare actions for their PCs which, in virtue of their PCs' fictional positioning, oblige the GM to relate more information about the setting that will be described as dismissive, reductionist, insulting, trivialising etc.

Given that Edwards's writing does talk about processes of play rather than the imagined events that occur in the fiction, it generates hostility for that reason also.
 

Thank you for the nice write up! (Again, apparently, but I don't remember reading it nicely in all one place like that).

I wonder if it would help to put the paragraph I snipped up near the top next time you're asked (maybe the second paragraph?) instead of near the end. For me, someone not that familiar with the style, it gives me some important orientation before reading the rest of it.
@Snarf Zagyg put this article in the other threat which you might also find useful:

 

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