Out with the old (Game design traditions we should let go)

overgeeked

B/X Known World
IME, the imgination blossoms and shines when it works under limits and focus rather than when it runs unbridled. The focus of those limitations can lead us to greener, more fruitful pastures that we wouldn't normally reach on our own. The reality of unbridled imagination is that it very often leads people back to their oft-trampled mental comfort zones that require little effort, conflict, or challenge to traverse. Limitless imagination is overrated.
You are right. I'm not suggesting completely unfettered imagination with zero constraints. I'm suggesting fewer mechanics getting in the way of playing the game. You still need constraints, like say genre and setting and character limitations, etc. None of those require mechanics to be a thing. We're playing superheroes with a silver age tone in an amalgam world of Marvel and DC and characters should be about on par with the average X-Men, i.e. not the big guns. That focuses and limits the imagination into something quite playable with nary a mechanic in sight.
Those are nice words from Tweet, but keep in mind that this is the same Jonathan Tweet who also helped lead design Ars Magica, 3e D&D, and 13th Age. His words here say one thing but the body of his works say another.
Well, that would be a great point if the other author wasn't Robin Laws. Looking at his body of work suggests that particular bit of writing from Over the Edge was more likely his than Jonathan's. That bit of text also comes from OtE2E. Looking at OtE3E, which Laws did not co-design, and the rules bloat compared to 2E kinda puts the nail in that coffin.
Because some people prefer that it is handled mechanically, and they find that a given mechanical method enhances rather than detracts from their gaming experiences. Moreover, those preferences are valid.
All preferences are valid. Including not using many or any mechanics.
But, the answer lies in the fact that we are not engaged in free role-playing. If we were, you'd be right, as the only rewards available would be diegetic ones. But, we are engaged in a role playing game.
Games need rules. They don't need mechanics. We're playing a game of make believe in this genre is a rule, i.e. don't violate this genre's conventions. You resolve actions by using this randomizer is a mechanic, i.e. roll 1d20 + modifiers vs a target number. See the above superhero game example.
To be fair, @overgeeked champions GM-led free role play with, at the most. coin toss tie breaker mechanics.
I wouldn't call misrepresenting my position "fair."
 

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Aldarc

Legend
You are right. I'm not suggesting completely unfettered imagination with zero constraints. I'm suggesting fewer mechanics getting in the way of playing the game. You still need constraints, like say genre and setting and character limitations, etc. None of those require mechanics to be a thing. We're playing superheroes with a silver age tone in an amalgam world of Marvel and DC and characters should be about on par with the average X-Men, i.e. not the big guns. That focuses and limits the imagination into something quite playable with nary a mechanic in sight.
Again, I think you underestimate how mechanics can push players to play with greater creativity. Remove too many mechanics and it seems that you are scarcely playing a game with rules or mechanics at all. It becomes of a game at that point IMO and more like kids playing with toys in the sandbox, but with one person enforcing what the official canon of the setting will be. Sure, it can be fun, but it's not really much of a game, which would personally feel like a waste of my time to me and not what I am looking for in a roleplaying game. Obviously your mileage does vary.

Well, that would be a great point if the other author wasn't Robin Laws. Looking at his body of work suggests that particular bit of writing from Over the Edge was more likely his than Jonathan's. That bit of text also comes from OtE2E. Looking at OtE3E, which Laws did not co-design, and the rules bloat compared to 2E kinda puts the nail in that coffin.
Robin Laws design and writing work is all over the place. He is a prolific freelance designer. I'm not sure if one can safely say who wrote what and I would prefer if our respective cognitive biases were not the primary detectives of sussing that out.

All preferences are valid. Including not using many or any mechanics.
Of course. However, not all preferences are valid IMHO. Toxic ones, for example, can GTFO of our hobby.
 

Games need rules. They don't need mechanics. We're playing a game of make believe in this genre is a rule, i.e. don't violate this genre's conventions. You resolve actions by using this randomizer is a mechanic, i.e. roll 1d20 + modifiers vs a target number. See the above superhero game example.

I wouldn't call misrepresenting my position "fair."
Rules = mechanics.

Without mechanics, you have crossed the line from RPGs into collaborative story telling. Nothing wrong with the latter, but it is a different activity.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Again, I think you underestimate how mechanics can push players to play with greater creativity.
It depends on the heaviness of the system. In rules-heavy games, the only "creativity" I've seen mechanics push players into is gaming the system for their own benefit. All of the actually creative stuff I've seen has been either in lighter games or well outside the scope of whatever mechanics we've been playing with at the time. Creativity completely outside the rules is things like redirecting a river to flood a dungeon.
Remove too many mechanics and it seems that you are scarcely playing a game with rules or mechanics at all. It becomes of a game at that point IMO and more like kids playing with toys in the sandbox, but with one person enforcing what the official canon of the setting will be. Sure, it can be fun, but it's not really much of a game, which would personally feel like a waste of my time to me and not what I am looking for in a roleplaying game. Obviously your mileage does vary.
Quite a lot, clearly. The people playing free-form would hardly describe their games as "kids playing with toys in the sandbox" but that shows your bias more than you seem to think.
Robin Laws design and writing work is all over the place. He is a prolific freelance designer. I'm not sure if one can safely say who wrote what and I would prefer if our respective cognitive biases were not the primary detectives of sussing that out.
Well, when looking at their stand-alone work or the projects they did for themselves, you can see a clear pattern. Tweet prefers more rules; Laws prefers less rules. It's not bias to honestly look at their work and compare them. Both wrote Over the Edge 2E which I quoted from. You then decided to single out Tweet alone and claim that clearly it was only pretty words based on his other design work. I pointed out that you ignored the other designer who's got an equally long history of design who tends toward lighter rules. And now you're claiming it's bias to point that out.
Of course. However, not all preferences are valid IMHO. Toxic ones, for example, can GTFO of our hobby.
If only it were that easy. There's an awful lot of clearly toxic behavior that is standard practice in the hobby but it's so ingrained that people don't question it.
 

Aldarc

Legend
It depends on the heaviness of the system. In rules-heavy games, the only "creativity" I've seen mechanics push players into is gaming the system for their own benefit. All of the actually creative stuff I've seen has been either in lighter games or well outside the scope of whatever mechanics we've been playing with at the time. Creativity completely outside the rules is things like redirecting a river to flood a dungeon.
I am admittedly not the biggest fan of rules heavy games. But here I don't think that our conversation is improved by talking about games as if they only come in ultra light or ultra heavy flavors. There is a tremendous wealth of complexity between these poles and at different areas of the play process.

Quite a lot, clearly. The people playing free-form would hardly describe their games as "kids playing with toys in the sandbox" but that shows your bias more than you seem to think.
More than I think? It's not as if I was pretending otherwise:
Again, I think you underestimate how mechanics can push players to play with greater creativity. Remove too many mechanics and it seems that you are scarcely playing a game with rules or mechanics at all. It becomes of a game at that point IMO and more like kids playing with toys in the sandbox, but with one person enforcing what the official canon of the setting will be. Sure, it can be fun, but it's not really much of a game, which would personally feel like a waste of my time to me and not what I am looking for in a roleplaying game. Obviously your mileage does vary.
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Well, when looking at their stand-alone work or the projects they did for themselves, you can see a clear pattern. Tweet prefers more rules; Laws prefers less rules. It's not bias to honestly look at their work and compare them. Both wrote Over the Edge 2E which I quoted from. You then decided to single out Tweet alone and claim that clearly it was only pretty words based on his other design work. I pointed out that you ignored the other designer who's got an equally long history of design who tends toward lighter rules. And now you're claiming it's bias to point that out.
The design and authorship for Over the Edge is typically written in terms of "Jonathan Tweet with Robin Laws" rather than "Jonathan Tweet and Robin Laws." That does tend to direct my judgment.
 



aramis erak

Legend
There is no need to let anything go because the diversity of available RPGs is so wide these days you can choose exactly what type of system you want to play, which was not possible 20ish years ago.

(edit) There is no advancement in the original Traveller, which dates back to the beginning of RPGs.
Only true if one can find the match.
 

Parties. Everybody and their mother tries to shoehorn PCs working (and often even travelling) together for exactly zero reasons.
Party rationale is the very first thing I establish when creating a campaign.

There are some settings in which it is neatly built-in, such as Tribe 8.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
You are right. I'm not suggesting completely unfettered imagination with zero constraints. I'm suggesting fewer mechanics getting in the way of playing the game. You still need constraints, like say genre and setting and character limitations, etc. None of those require mechanics to be a thing. We're playing superheroes with a silver age tone in an amalgam world of Marvel and DC and characters should be about on par with the average X-Men, i.e. not the big guns. That focuses and limits the imagination into something quite playable with nary a mechanic in sight.
It's playable, yes. But it requires greater trust in people you're playing with, that they actually know and understand the genre and the setting, and, more importantly, that their knowledge and understanding is synchronized with yours.

Freeform roleplaying lives on self-restraints, because the lines aren't, khm, marked. You need to just know where you can step, and where you can't.

Mechanics that support the genre allow for playing the game without knowing that much, because the fun zone is marked with brigh retroreflecting stripes, and dangerous pits are surrounded with fences. You don't need to rely on intuition -- if the game allows you to do something, then it's something appropriate.
 

pemerton

Legend
Mechanics that support the genre allow for playing the game without knowing that much, because the fun zone is marked with brigh retroreflecting stripes, and dangerous pits are surrounded with fences. You don't need to rely on intuition -- if the game allows you to do something, then it's something appropriate.
Sadly, that last sentence isn't always true - it's not uncommon for RPGs to have incomplete rules!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
It's playable, yes. But it requires greater trust in people you're playing with, that they actually know and understand the genre and the setting, and, more importantly, that their knowledge and understanding is synchronized with yours.
The amount of trust required to play an RPG with people is already really high. Instead of trusting the referee to have read and attempted to memorize the rules and to actually follow them, you trust the referee to know the genre and run the game according to that knowledge rather than the limitations of the book.

Synchronized understanding? That’s literally what Session Zero is for. They still take place. And if there’s an asynchronous moment in game then you pause and talk, just like you’d have to with rules disputes.
Freeform roleplaying lives on self-restraints, because the lines aren't, khm, marked. You need to just know where you can step, and where you can't.
Again, Session Zero and the referee is there to guide you. And I’m not actually advocating for free-form, rather utterly minimalistic rules.
Mechanics that support the genre allow for playing the game without knowing that much, because the fun zone is marked with brigh retroreflecting stripes, and dangerous pits are surrounded with fences. You don't need to rely on intuition -- if the game allows you to do something, then it's something appropriate.
You see pointers and warnings signs, I see limitations and constraints. For the system to “allow” you to do something it has to have mechanical support, yet it’s not possible to have a rule for everything. At best you can have a few broadly applicable rules that cover most things. Which is what I want. Utterly minimalistic rules that you only use when necessary. I don’t like pure free-form. A sentence, a paragraph, a 3x5 card. That’s enough rules. One or two pages if you must but that should also cover specific genre expectations if you’re getting that long winded.

Besides, praising mechanical restraints completely ignores the fun of the game, being able to try anything. That’s what the referee is there for. To figure out the right response to the players’ whacky plans that aren’t covered by the rules. It’s the difference between a coloring book and a canvas.
 

Yora

Legend
Party rationale is the very first thing I establish when creating a campaign.

There are some settings in which it is neatly built-in, such as Tribe 8.
I have only two rules in my campaigns about the characters that players make, aside from the character options from the game that are available:
  • Every PC must want to go on the kind of adventure the campaign is about.
  • Every PC must want to adventure together with the other PCs.

Everything else I don't care about, the players have to work that out among each other. But a character that doesn't fit the two rules just isn't playable in the campaign.
It should be obvious, but lots of people think a PC who dislikes the others and doesn't want to adventure is super cool. It can be made to work in a story, but not in a group game.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Rules = mechanics.
I stopped in to see how my sacred cows were holding up. Looks like they haven't been in danger for several pages now. But I'm sorry Jd, I can't let this one fly.

There's a certain amount of irony going on here. "Mechanic" is one of two things: a "mechanism" and used correctly, or a "rule" and used incorrectly. The irony is that I believe in many cases, "mechanic" is the lazy man's version of " mechanism, " because it's shorter by one syllable. Why the lazy man (don't worry, he's a friend of mine) doesn't just say "rule," because it's shorter still, is beyond me.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I wouldn't call misrepresenting my position "fair."
I've heard you say it many times, though. You think things should play out with the GM making the call (free-roleplay) until the GM decides to call for an opposed roll, usually said as opposed 2d6. That's a coin toss. I mean, I guess you could have something you do for ties, but I don't recall what it is. This is something you've expressed represented as 'all that is needed.'
 

Yora

Legend
I stopped in to see how my sacred cows were holding up. Looks like they haven't been in danger for several pages now. But I'm sorry Jd, I can't let this one fly.

There's a certain amount of irony going on here. "Mechanic" is one of two things: a "mechanism" and used correctly, or a "rule" and used incorrectly. The irony is that I believe in many cases, "mechanic" is the lazy man's version of " mechanism, " because it's shorter by one syllable. Why the lazy man (don't worry, he's a friend of mine) doesn't just say "rule," because it's shorter still, is beyond me.
Explain the difference between a game mechanic and a game mechanism then, please.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I stopped in to see how my sacred cows were holding up. Looks like they haven't been in danger for several pages now. But I'm sorry Jd, I can't let this one fly.

There's a certain amount of irony going on here. "Mechanic" is one of two things: a "mechanism" and used correctly, or a "rule" and used incorrectly. The irony is that I believe in many cases, "mechanic" is the lazy man's version of " mechanism, " because it's shorter by one syllable. Why the lazy man (don't worry, he's a friend of mine) doesn't just say "rule," because it's shorter still, is beyond me.

From the OED for Mechanics
1656192176614.png


Which feel likes its getting at the idea. If mechanics plural is details, mechanic singular could be one of them?

So it doesn't feel like all those web-sites using game mechanic as rule are too far off, if at all.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
From the OED for Mechanics
View attachment 251962

Which feel likes its getting at the idea. If mechanics plural is details, mechanic singular could be one of them?
What does the OED say a "mechanic" is? I'll wager it's different from "mechanics."

My OAD says that a mechanic is a skilled workman, while mechanics is (yes, it's singular) the scientific study of motion and force. Since I'd say RPGs don't quite fit that bill, I can go down the line a bit further and start to answer @Yora 's question with these not-quite-matching definitions:

Mechanics: the processes by which something is done.
Mechanism: the process by which something is done.

So no, a rule isn't a game mechanic. You can't take a singular word (mechanics) and pry the s off to make it more singular. At least, not in English. Jd (see above) is close: rules can describe a process, which can in turn join other processes so something can be done (mechanics). But it's probably more correct to say "rules constitute mechanics" than "rules = mechanics."
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I know MMO players use "mechanic" and "mechanics" as slang for things that occur during boss fights. Like "in this phase, arcane whirlwinds spawn in the room that follow around characters, these need to be kited back to the boss" would be described as a mechanic.

Words get invented and/or get new meanings all the time, it's just how language evolves.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
What does the OED say a "mechanic" is? I'll wager it's different from "mechanics."

My OAD says that a mechanic is a skilled workman, while mechanics is (yes, it's singular) the scientific study of motion and force. Since I'd say RPGs don't quite fit that bill, I can go down the line a bit further and start to answer @Yora 's question with these not-quite-matching definitions:

Mechanics: the processes by which something is done.
Mechanism: the process by which something is done.

So no, a rule isn't a game mechanic. You can't take a singular word (mechanics) and pry the s off to make it more singular. At least, not in English. Jd (see above) is close: rules can describe a process, which can in turn join other processes so something can be done (mechanics). But it's probably more correct to say "rules constitute mechanics" than "rules = mechanics."

As I quoted though, one definition of "mechanics" is "operational details". Both plural. Removing the two s's doesn't seem a big leap. ::🤷::

In any case, see the final example for the singular "mechanic" here, also from the OED.
1656199404595.png
 

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