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

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Personally, I find the open world approach to be deeply constraining on both sides of the screen.

As a GM I have zero interest in world building for its own sake. Sometimes I like framing interesting situations, coming up with interesting complications, digging into the other players' characters and seeing where it goes. Sometimes I like digging into a more complex situation and being a facilitating an exploration of a more involved scenario with a strong focus on the connections of the specific characters.

As a player I have zero interest in go anywhere, do anything. I like to play with a purpose. I do not want to spend hours at the table hunting out the play experience I am looking for, often to come up short of it. I have no desire in turning over the corners of the setting just because.

In either case I do not see why the play group should have to jump through hoops to get the sort of play experience it is after. It's alright to be into that open world experience. People should seek their own fun, but there are other valid ways to play roleplaying games. The medium has many other advantages. For me personally it is the ease in which the play environment can be tailored to our needs. That we can start with a silhouette of a setting and build it based on the characters we want to play and the situations we want to play through. Also, that we can elide the things we are not interested in as a group.

There are multiple valid ways to approach this stuff. Not everyone is in this hobby for the same reasons.
 

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loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
Ugh. The answer is not on your character sheet. You’re supposed to be role-playing, i.e. pretending your character is a real person in a real place and making decisions based on that. Not what your character sheet says.
Well, if we're continuing with Mexican soap operas example, real world doesn't abide the genre conventions, and real people don't act like characters on daytime television. Or speak in one-liners like action heroes. Or whatever else. Because real world is real world and not a story, and real people are real people and not characters.

At least, the world I live in and people I know. Is life on your side of the Berlin wall a soap opera?
 

kenada

Legend
Ugh. The answer is not on your character sheet. You’re supposed to be role-playing, i.e. pretending your character is a real person in a real place and making decisions based on that. Not what your character sheet says.
“The answer is not on your sheet” is not a universal convention. There are games (e.g., Torchbearer) where you need to engage with the mechanics on your sheet if you want to be successful. When you play those games, that’s still “role-playing”. You’re still assuming the role of a character in a fictional setting and making decisions as your character. And there are other games (e.g., Moldvay Basic) where being too engaged has the opposite effect. Just because one has an affinity for one way or another doesn’t make the other ways of playing RPGs less legitimate or wrong.
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
My wife is Mexican (Apache and Ukrainian) and she says I look like Rodchenko, so we do ok.

Thing about open worlds, is one usually decides the direction in sesh zero, except sometimes we decide to change it again during the game. So it's not always just faff about, though we do that too.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
pretending your character is a real person in a real place and making decisions based on that. Not what your character sheet says.

Says who? This is not what games as diverse as D&D 5th Edition, Deadlands Classic, The Nightmares Underneath, Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition or Blades in the Dark describe as the players' responsibilities.

This might be true for the sort of play experience you are looking for personally, but there's more under heaven and earth Horatio. What you are looking for is a perfectly valid approach, but it's not the only valid approach. Insisting it is will not persuade many people to try the sort of FKR approach you are looking for.
 

Aldarc

Legend
That’s hilarious. This knowledge is better than that knowledge because it’s written down and I paid for it. You know that game designers are people, right? They make stuff up and write it down. It’s not superior simply because it’s in a book. The guy who designed the telenovela game could run the game for you without needing the book. But I’d guess you’d say his own book is a better authority on the topic than he is. I mean books are awesome, but come on.
Your amusement at my expense aside, let me quote myself again and highlight the point in bold that you are glossing over with your post:
Let me recontextualize it another way. If I am seeking to commune with the Divine, I do not want my sense, knowledge, or experiences of the Divine to be mediated exclusively through a singular priest claiming greater spiritual access or "gnosis" of the Divine. This Gnostic priest may be knowledgable, but I'm willing to fork over $45 to buy a book or two that provides some additional insight about the matter.
"Exclusively." I had even italicized it for emphasis in the hopes that my point would be clear. My last sentence even establishes that the book is meant to supplement the officiant as a source of additional insight or knowledge. It's not about one knowledge being superior to the other for me. However, I do not necessarily want my sense, knowledge, or experience of the setting mediated exclusively through the GM or referee. I find books helpful in that regard. I enjoy reading, and I often find it easier to process game/setting information through reading rather than having it explained to me. It's good, IMHO, if I can get myself excited about the setting while reading a game book without needing the GM to pump up my spirits. I like being able to apply my own understanding of the setting to the game rather than exclusively the GM's own idiomatic understanding of the setting or genre.

Or to put it another way, and I can draw from personal experience here as well, it's nice being able to pick the brain of the academic in person. However, I would not want to rely solely on this academic in person to mediate their knowledge to me. The academic doesn't cite their sources in person, nor can they remember them all. They cite them in their book/paper. The academic is a scatter brain who occasionaly experiences brain farts in person. The academic organizes and presents their thoughts better in their book/paper, which also provides a common point of reference.

And to be clear, this view reflects my personal preferences and biases. I understand that you have your own idiosyncratic preferences, and those preferences are fine up to a point.

Ugh. The answer is not on your character sheet. You’re supposed to be role-playing, i.e. pretending your character is a real person in a real place and making decisions based on that. Not what your character sheet says.
Since we are all hopefully against OneTrueWayism and disposing of toxic behaviors, then we should be able to agree that a player using a character sheet or playbook to help inform their roleplaying is not mutually exclusive to good or fun roleplay.

It’s also a bit weird how PbtA keeps getting brought up but people don’t acknowledge that the referee in those games is solely responsible for when the fiction is sufficient to bring in the mechanics of a move.
The principles and procedures for a GM's fiat in the application of Move mechanics are laid out stark, raving bare naked in the open for all to ogle at in the GM section of the book. As Moves are also often player-facing, it also means that players know the sort of in-fiction conditions their characters need to perform to trigger them. If not, players and the GM are advised to have a conversation about their respective senses of the fiction and how it corresponds to the triggering of Moves.

I still love Spirit of 77 best. Page 13. The only rule you need is the success ladder and 2d6. Everything else is extra.
(1) It's debatable whether that is the only rule you need. (2) It's debatable whether that rule does not also contain extraneous elements. (3) It may be the only rule we need, but it's debatable whether that is the best rule to play by or the one that leads to the greatest happiness quotient for participants.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
The first rule above is fine.

The second...meh. I don't care if the PCs don't want to adventure together, and I'm happy to let 'em fight each other if that's what the characters would end up doing.

More important is that the players at the table want to play together, no matter what their PCs are doing or how well said PCs get along (or don't).
 

Yora

Legend
I always think it's a waste of time when some of the players are desperately trying to come up with a good reason why that one edgelord PC should come with them so they can start the adventure, and everything is shot down with "not my problem, I don't care about any of you".
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
(1) It's debatable whether that is the only rule you need. (2) It's debatable whether that rule does not also contain extraneous elements. (3) It may be the only rule we need, but it's debatable whether that is the best rule to play by or the one that leads to the greatest happiness quotient for participants
And if I remember Spirit of '77 correctly, it says pretty much the same thing almost every PbtA game does: the game can function with just 2d6, but you'll be missing out.

After all, if it was genuine belief of the authors, why the hell did they write the rest of the game.
 

Yora

Legend
Oh, I actually have a thing that is both extremely traditional and 100% always bad without exception: Railroad adventures.

Don't write adventures that have a story already spelled out for the players and then has the players play the guessing game of "what does the GM want us to do?"

People like to say that you can't play an RPG wrong and that all playstyles are viable. This one is the exception. It's always awful and a perfect example of doing it wrong.

To bad it's the only kind of adventure that is commercially published and the only kind of adventure most people have ever known for the last four decades.
 

payn

Legend
Oh, I actually have a thing that is both extremely traditional and 100% always bad without exception: Railroad adventures.

Don't write adventures that have a story already spelled out for the players and then has the players play the guessing game of "what does the GM want us to do?"

People like to say that you can't play an RPG wrong and that all playstyles are viable. This one is the exception. It's always awful and a perfect example of doing it wrong.

To bad it's the only kind of adventure that is commercially published and the only kind of adventure most people have ever known for the last four decades.
Guess I'll just have to continue having my badwrongfun.
 

kenada

Legend
If that’s what everyone wants to do, then why not? That’s not my thing (because my instincts as a player would be to derail the train, so I’m being self-aware by saying I’d rather not), but I don’t see why other people couldn’t (or shouldn’t) enjoy it.

To bad it's the only kind of adventure that is commercially published and the only kind of adventure most people have ever known for the last four decades.
Are you just considering official D&D adventures? That’s not necessarily true across the board. I know Necrotic Gnome has put out some good adventures for Old-School Essentials that are not plot-driven and do not prescribe outcomes. I think @pemerton has written about some others for other systems he’s ran.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Papa GM, Papa GM! Can you tell us another hour-long story about this genre and its most unique qualities, so that we have proper context when we…

Are we already back to the “but the game rules protect little old me from the big bad referee” nonsense?

Mod Note:
The two of you should ask yourselves whether, to others, you look like 1) wise people who know RPGs and should be listened to, or 2) condescending people who are too stubborn to stop butting heads over issues that neither one of you are going to change your minds on.

After asking yourselves that, maybe you'll approach the discussion more constructively.
 

pemerton

Legend
Are you just considering official D&D adventures? That’s not necessarily true across the board. I know Necrotic Gnome has put out some good adventures for Old-School Essentials that are not plot-driven and do not prescribe outcomes. I think @pemerton has written about some others for other systems he’s ran.
On adventures - it's not true that published adventures/scenarios must be railroads.

The main source of scenarios I've used in recent years is the Prince Valiant Episode Book. Some of the scenarios in that book are railroads, and hence need reworking to be used. But some are not. The best, which I think is a candidate to be the best scenario ever published (of those I've come across) is The Crimson Bull by Jerry Grayson.

Another examples I've mentioned before is Demon of the Red Grove in Robin Laws's Narrator's Book for HeroWars.
 


...genre as in genre of the story. What you can or cannot do and what kind of character you can or cannot create in a slasher flick is very different from a game that tries to capture the feeling of a Hong Kong action cinema. The consequences of the same action would also be different.
I understand what 'genre' means. And my answer is still the same. People are capable of both constructive learning and abstract thought.

There are few hobbies you can't explain, and involve at a basic level, a complete newbie in a very short time.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Nonsense. I've had countless players over the last 45 years who not only didn't grasp the genre, but who had never played an RPG before, but they picked it up quickly. This is not that complicated of a hobby.
I've had similar experiences.
There are some, however, who never grasp the setting, and others who never grasp the mechanics.
 

delericho

Legend
It's too soon to do away with them completely, but we should start moving away from books.

The best approach is probably a fairly slim starter rulebook (such as the Essentials Rulebook for D&D - 64 pages covering 5 levels for 5 classes), and then everything else online.

Also: that's a terrible idea, and we absolutely shouldn't do it. :)
 

kenada

Legend
Look at the situation with the 4e character builder. The online version is dead. The technology is obsolete, and you can’t even signup and use it if you wanted. The content is only not completely gone because people have figured out a way to load custom content in the offline builder. It would terrible for the hobby if content were available only via such an ephemeral medium.
 

delericho

Legend
Look at the situation with the 4e character builder. The online version is dead. The technology is obsolete, and you can’t even signup and use it if you wanted. The content is only not completely gone because people have figured out a way to load custom content in the offline builder. It would terrible for the hobby if content were available only via such an ephemeral medium.
I know. It's a terrible idea.

And yet books really aren't a great medium either - as soon as the first supplement is published looking anything up becomes more challenging, and it only gets worse with time. Much of this material should be available in some sort of cross-referenced electronic form. Especially as more and more games move online, or at least have easy access to internet-capable devices.

(And add to that the problem that a hardback book needs to be of significant size to be worth publishing, which means it needs material to fill out those pages, even if all they have are a bunch of random name tables. Electronic publishing means no need to hit an exact page count, which gives more flexibility.)
 

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