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RPG Play Style Model (Cinematic, Tactical, etc)


Systems we call "tactical" often reward conflict avoidance and/or risk minimization - so that the way to success is to only engage in conflict when you know you can win, and the result is a foregone conclusion. Smart tactical choices minimize risk of harm.

This, pretty obviously, is about the opposite of generating satisfying drama, which counts on characters engaging in conflicts we are unsure they'll win. Satisfying drama calls for high-risk, high-reward actions which are often disincentivized by tactical systems.

Again, I disagree. Generally speaking, almost all heroic fiction involves placing the characters in situations where it seems impossible for them to win and where the direct and obvious approach will simply fail, and then has them heroically and cleverly come up with a solution which minimizes their risk of harm and maximizes their advantages such that they are able to triumph despite the odds being against. This is "Now if I only had a wheelbarrow" moment in "The Princess Bride". The dramatic solution to the guard of 30 men at the gate isn't for the heroes to charge forward and overwhelm them in a direct (untactical) attack, because then they were never in any threat to begin with - they simply have the power of plot or superheroic power on their side. The dramatic solution is the tactical solution and it is always the job of the writer to ensure that, whether we are playing an RPG or watching "Star Wars".

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Anon Adderlan

if your dramatic action isn't also your tactical action, then you are doing it wrong. And if your cinematic narrative doesn't feel like it naturally emerged, then you are doing it wrong.
To be fair the root cause is when the system presents incentives which do not match the intended outcomes. What's the fancy word for it: Ludonarrative Dissonance.

Which is funny, in that in our real world, the narratives that emerge in our lives are rarely cinematic. The "natural emergence" usually must be carefully guided for it to end up being cinematic.
Luckily we're not talking about the real world but ultimately a set of procedures with lead to certain outcomes naturally emerging.

Tactical/Cinematic: D&D 4E
Tactical/Emergent: Dungeon Crawl Classics
Dramatic/Cinematic: Fiasco
Dramatic/Emergent: Dungeons of Fate

The last combo is quite rare!
Hope that's not due to lack of popularity as that's the direction my game seems to be heading.

Anon Adderlan

There might be a gap in the market. Where can we learn more about your game?

Nowhere yet, but thanks for your interest.

Tangentially, my biggest problem has been the fact that the design community has moved from technical analysis to emotional support. And while I realize you need both, it's gone so far in that direction that getting functional feedback has become difficult. So when I release the Beta SRD I'm really hoping I can find enough people willing to honestly rip it to pieces.

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