D&D General Rules, Rulings and Second Order Design: D&D and AD&D Examined

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Again, as I just articulated ... if someone is telling you that the reason that they play a game is because the game is fun, then if your interest is in finding out why the game is fun, you should ask them what they enjoy about it. They may or may not be able to articulate it, but they aren't lying to you about their enjoyment.

If, on the other hand, when someone tells you that they find something fun, and you feel the need to "pushback," then you are likely not paying attention to what I just spent time writing.
If you haven’t read the MDA article that poster linked you should take the time. It’s a breakdown of several types of fun in video games, an analysis of what desires those types of fun serve, and how to serve them in game design. It’s a short article but it is rather good. It speaks direct to the topic.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Oofta

Legend
I have seen people emphasise "rules must be fair", "rules must be consistent between tables", "rules must be realistic", "rules must support the lore" ahead of "rules must be fun".
Because they feel that rules being consistent and realistic make the experience more enjoyable to them.
 

And? I don't see the point, the designer needs to know they failed at their goal, that's the starting point. More important though is that we are talking about games and individuals don't matter, the aggregate of your target market matters. If I'm publishing a Cthulhu game, I don't expect it to appeal to a particularly broad audience, but I do want it to be fun for people that enjoy eldritch horror. Even if some individuals that enjoy eldritch horror don't enjoy your game, that doesn't necessarily matter. You can't please everyone.

The game being fun for the target audience is still the primary measurement. How to fix it is a different issue.

The biggest issue I see is that when people say "designing for fun leads to worse results" what they really mean is that it is not fun for them. Because they are not in the target audience that the designers were targeting, it doesn't matter how many people find the game fun. It doesn't matter how much I say "I really enjoy this, it's a lot of fun. My group and I have a blast playing the game and ___ is part of what makes it work." The response is always "But that doesn't matter because the game isn't supposed to be designed for fun". In other words "I'm not having fun with it and they should have done it the way the I would have more fun."

Saying "designing for fun leads to terrible results" is just code for "I don't like it, therefore it's bad design". I'm perfectly fine with discussing design features and what I think they add to the game. Just keep in mind that what any individual will find a worthwhile design element (because it makes the game more fun for them) will not be a worthwhile element for every individual (because it does not make the game more fun for them).
People sometimes talk past each other. I'm trying to align things.

The only time I've seen "fun as a goal" be a problem is at the second-order level - this thing was fun in one context, so it must be fun in all contexts, yes? Like adding a slice of cheese to your cereal because it's so good on hamburgers, not all combinations are better than the sum of their parts.

In practice, this often means adding mechanics that worked in one genre to a game in another: old-school resource scarcity by attrition just does not jive with superhero games. High-octane anime combat doesn't fit in horror-mystery games. But a dm switching games without switching genre expectations will often make those kinds of mistakes.

The other way it comes up isn't really about prioritizing fun per se, but prioritizing fun now without considering the overall effect - the "always say yes" problem wearing a different coat. I've seen that called "the tyranny of fun" but I'd say a better name is "helicopter parenting your players."

Because fun doesn't mean the same thing to all people -heck, it's doesn't mean the same thing every time I say it.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
If you haven’t read the MDA article that poster linked you should take the time. It’s a breakdown of several types of fun in video games, an analysis of what desires those types of fun serve, and how to serve them in game design. It’s a short article but it is rather good. It speaks direct to the topic.

One source of continuing frustration I have is that video game design has advanced by leaps and bounds because it is treated seriously, believes in data, and has money behind it- whereas TTRPG theory still has people re-inventing the wheel and claiming things that are two decades old are "avant-garde."

While I don't think that the mapping is perfect, and I am not a huge believer in typologies, I think that ideas like LeBlanc's taxonomy provides a good reference point into understanding why different people enjoy different game experiences; with regard to the instant issue, it also provides an understanding as to why D&D, which is unusual in that it can support (albeit far from perfectly) different types of fun for different players during the same game, has popularity.

Of course, that strength also depends upon the GM being able to adjust the game for the players' interests- something that not all GMs are equally adept at doing.

I wonder who might have said that a year ago? Or, for that matter, who has repeatedly noted that the work videogames (which is based on actual research) has advanced so much further than the theory discussions we have in RPGs. ;)
 

Oofta

Legend
People sometimes talk past each other. I'm trying to align things.

The only time I've seen "fun as a goal" be a problem is at the second-order level - this thing was fun in one context, so it must be fun in all contexts, yes? Like adding a slice of cheese to your cereal because it's so good on hamburgers, not all combinations are better than the sum of their parts.

In practice, this often means adding mechanics that worked in one genre to a game in another: old-school resource scarcity by attrition just does not jive with superhero games. High-octane anime combat doesn't fit in horror-mystery games. But a dm switching games without switching genre expectations will often make those kinds of mistakes.

The other way it comes up isn't really about prioritizing fun per se, but prioritizing fun now without considering the overall effect - the "always say yes" problem wearing a different coat. I've seen that called "the tyranny of fun" but I'd say a better name is "helicopter parenting your players."

Because fun doesn't mean the same thing to all people -heck, it's doesn't mean the same thing every time I say it.

That's not how some people use it. It's the blanket statement "designing for fun often leads to bad results" which is just completely nonsensical in the context of games.
 

For you, realism (for whatever that value holds for you) is not really a component of your fun.
NO, that's not the case. I don't want the game to be deliberately unrealistic. I just don't want realism to, for example, slow down combat, or incentivise caution.
To go further, "Fun" in and of itself is a meaningless statement. Fun is a descriptor for something else. It's an adjective. And an adjective without the thing for which the adjective describes means nothing.
Fun is what you have left once you remove all the things that are easily qualified.

It the unquantifiable essence of the thing. It's the thing you can't describe, but you know it when you see it.

It's like saying "Art must be beautiful". Is all Art beautiful? I would say not. But I would rather look at beautiful Art than disturbing Art.

Another example, my partner left her book group on the basis that they where only reading books they considered "worthy" rather than books that where enjoyable.
 
Last edited:

Aaaaannnyyywho... on fun and second-order design:

One thing we've all tacitly agreed on is that each game should provide it's own kind of fun, and there are way that first-order design can do this (for details, see any other thread), but second-order design will either follow through on this or not. I do believe there are things the author of the game to do to influence this:

1. Make the genre clear. If players don't know what kind of fun you were trying to provide, then they may try to use the game to create a different kind of fun, which is inefficient at best. Like trying to use dnd characters in a strait horror game, it's either not going to work, work badly, or require a ton of heavy lifting from the gm.

This can be done a lot of ways, but the rules themselves might be the worst way to do this. Experiennced players can derive the genre from the rules, but it takes a lot of reading between lines. What can make it clear?

Art, whether pictures or short fiction or whatever else ou can include: the more the art looks like Conan, the more likely people are to expect Conan-like gameplay. If it looks like Sword Art Online, they'll expect different things. Getting this wrong can torpedo the whole experience.

Layout: Probably 4e's biggest mistake is printing ttrpg game books that look like video game strategy guides. Sure, they're very useable, but they present the wrong genre.

Just telling people. Like, seriously, put it on the front cover.

2. Build rules that support the genre, but more importantly: don't build rules that don't support the genre. Players will always look at the rules first to determine what kinds of things they can do. If there's a rule for it, it's obviously an option. If there's no rule, it may or may not be an option. They'll try the sure things first.

Character sheets can play into this.

3. Control the conversation (to a point) - if the designer is able to interact with the community, they'll be able to reinforce what the game is and isn't, and re-direct players who want something else to a better experience. It's better to have non-buyers who don't want your game right now. They'll come back when they are interested. Some of this is social media, some is advertising.

At some point I'll try to post thoughts on this topic form a dm and/or point of view.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
How do you judge the value individual design elements if you don't look at whether or not they make the game more enjoyable for the target audience?

I would certainly hope that military war planning is not supposed to be fun. It's also not at all relevant to a conversation on games.
???

They are GAMES. They are specifically called "wargames". So I'd ask you the same question... how do you judge whether or not something is or is not a game?

You are correct-- in the discussion of Dungeons & Dragons or even just roleplaying games, military wargames are not relevant to the conversion.

However... in the discussion of "The overall goal of a game is to be fun", wargames ABSOLUTELY can be used as a counterargument to that statement and are completely relevant. Wargames are games. Wargames are not fun (for most people). Thus not all games are fun. Thus the design goal of a game to BE fun is not in fact true. There will be plenty of people and plenty of times when fun IS NOT the overall goal of the game's design.
 

1. Make the genre clear. If players don't know what kind of fun you were trying to provide, then they may try to use the game to create a different kind of fun, which is inefficient at best. Like trying to use dnd characters in a strait horror game, it's either not going to work, work badly, or require a ton of heavy lifting from the gm.
I don't agree with this. I think genre pastiches are fun. So over the course of one game the players may walk through several different genres. Genre purism is an unnecessary constraint. The game should be it's own thing, not try to conform to a narrow genre.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top