D&D General Supposing D&D is gamist, what does that mean?


log in or register to remove this ad

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I don't know or care about the game being broken. What I can tell you is running 3e, even at fairly low levels, damn near broke me. Almost put out of the hobby altogether. The sheer amount of work it took to bring a successful session together still has me shell shocked. 10 hours of highly technical prep for like a 4 hour session.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
As I posted upthread, I'm sure there are many people who've had a great time playing Rifts or other Palladium RPGs.

4e was the version of D&D that made me interested in what WotC had to offer (whereas I treated 3E purely as an object of curiosity).

I play Classic Traveller, ergo it works.

I'm not sure how any of these propositions relate to the analysis of games. And they certainly don't tell us anything about the relationship between quality and popularity.
They are not comments on the relationship between quality and popularity.

As @Campbell felt previously, I find knocking one game design or another unwelcoming and unproductive. It's a habit of some posters here and it contributes nothing at all to the strength of their arguments.
 

Returning to my "game-(design-)purposes" taxonomy and some of the input @clearstream and others have given, but starting (almost) from scratch in terms of examining and presenting it...

A designed thing, especially a designed thing with rules, must have a goal, an end. Laws and rules, as part of their very nature, are teleological. They must point toward a goal or purpose, and should they produce results genuinely counter to that goal or purpose, they not only can but should be changed until they meet their purpose. The process of designing anything is, in part, the process of figuring out what tools will accomplish the chosen end(s) effectively, learning what standards or functions those tools can serve, applying those tools and functions toward that end, and then checking to see whether the designed thing does the task or meets the standard of judgment for the purpose that it was created.

My interest, with this taxonomy, is to consider the families of "purposes" that roleplaying games may be designed to pursue. As a result, this is a descriptive effort, though in being descriptive I am not opposed to the possibility of finding a lacuna that can be filled with a theoretical not-widely-grokked option. As this is concerned with the overall reason for why someone would make a given game, rather than the specific methods that would work well for a given "overall reason why," individual techniques may certainly be an interesting side or follow-up discussion but are not strictly my area of focus. Furthermore, as my focus is on the thing the designer "sets out for," it is not strictly interested in things that would motivate players to choose to play the game, even though player motivation is absolutely an important and valid aspect of game design.

Having reflected on others' models, in particular Edwards', and on my own experience with roleplay, I have come to the conclusion that most "game-purposes" define some kind of central concept(s) that will drive the interest or focus of play, and then some general category of action that will constitute the process of play (from a design perspective—that is, what might be called the "gameplay loop," which is distinct from the literal lived-through process of play that actual players experience, in the same way that a blueprint differs from the physical object it generates.)

I have seen, both in games I have personally played and in the ways others talk about games whether or not I have played them, at least four distinct "game-purposes," that I choose to label with an "X-and-Y" (or, abbreviated, X&Y, just the first letters) format. These are as follows.

Score-and-Achievement. This is "game-purpose" in arguably its most literal sense, making a roleplaying game in order for it to be a game, with points or grades or numerical/evaluative testing of some kind, balance, difficulty curves, etc. A really ultra-pure S&A game is centered on that process of mastering the rules and then engaging in their skillful use in ways that matter to the player(s.) Few games are quite that purely S&A in design, though, as they usually provide context for why success would be relevant.
"Score" refers to the designer-created system or structure that allows at least partially objective measurement or evaluation of performance within the Situations the system considers. A game that includes Score, in general, needs a concept of "fairness" in order for that Score to be valid and worthy of player attention, and needs to not play fast and loose with the game rules so that the Score can retain relevance as a metric of evaluation and not just a random number or keyword. Score also, generally speaking, benefits from clarity, both in the sense of "transparency" (it is easy to see how the rules work and interact) and specificity (the use of keywords and other unambiguous terms/"jargon.")
"Achievement" is the action, by players, of pursuing success in goals, where that success can be measured or evaluated via the already-defined Score. I specifically call this "Achievement" rather than something like "striving" or "attempting" because S&A design specifically emphasizes a focus on success, with failure pretty clearly seen as an undesirable state, something to avoid or correct, which is generally not shared with the other "game-purposes." This "game-purpose" is pretty much inarguably the oldest and best-demonstrated of the bunch, having been the heart of the first TTRPG. As a result it can sometimes be glossed over as being intuitive or already explored because it is old hat, but this is not always the case (as Clearstream has demonstrated purely by making this thread!)

Groundedness-and-Simulation. Though a popular interest, this "game-purpose" has occasionally struggled to see effective design, perhaps because it focuses least on any specific part of the phrase "roleplaying game," being neither about the role one plays, nor about being a game in the sense that S&A is. Rather, G&S is about the process of inserting or immersing the player, via their character, into the fictional world with its various rules and components, and letting things naturally advance, with minimal influence or modification by the person facilitating this experience once the ball starts rolling. In many ways, this is where TTRPGs intersect most with auteur cinema and authorship as in novels; there is a huge emphasis on worldbuilding and consistency and precision.
That's where "Groundedness" is established: someone (almost always the GM or the author of the premade setting or adventure) setting up a believable, cognizable, "realistic" (but still fantastical) context. This is vitally important ground work for the process of play, as an ungrounded fictional context is too unreliable or too incoherent to make sense of (unless that sort of thing is the point, e.g. the context is a dreamworld or the like where inconsistency is expected, but that's a rare exception where minimum Groundedness has a grounded reason for being very low.) Then, players themselves advance the state of the world (with the GM/module/system doing the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting) via naturalistic, context-appropriate decision-making: Simulation. They collectively Simulate (read: run the processes for an intended accurate model of) a world and its inhabitants and how they would process and respond to the established world and its rules.
Unexpected, emergent phenomena often result from these things. The intended gameplay loop usually involves having a goal within the established world (usually, but not necessarily, GM-provided) and a set of resources (possibly including information and time as "resources") which may be turned toward that goal, with the best play occurring when one finds a satisfactory path to that goal which employs those resources in clever or efficient ways or leverages unexpected confluences of the rules. Reasoning, extrapolation, and prediction are highly valued.

Conceit-and-Emulation. Almost as old as G&S (it's hard to tell which came first), but moving in very different directions, this is the "game-purpose" of faithful depiction of a theme, what is called a High Concept in cinema. Internal physical/naturalistic consistency is of minimal relevance, instead the High Concept is king, dictating what design elements will be included and wrapping the gameplay loop around itself. In general this High Concept, which I call the Conceit, will be chosen by the GM herself, though it may come from an outside source, or might even be collaborated on by the group, but rarely if ever will arise from an individual ordinary player picking it. From there, the gameplay loop focuses on developing satisfying and (ideally) enlightening portrayals of the Conceit(s), which is "Emulation."
Where an ultra-pure S&A game just cares about besting challenges and superlative success, and an ultra-pure S&G game follows naturalistic reasoning wherever it may lead, C&E welcomes elements that enforce the tropes or characteristics of the Conceit even if they might not be "effective" or "realistic," because the purpose of play is to elevate Conceit so that it can be appreciated more. Genres are one of the primary options for Conceit, but other choices are not unusual ("wacky hijinks" comedic games, for example). Because of this interest in Conceit, this "game-purpose" is much more amenable to active-in-play GM force than the previous two in their pure forms would be. (S&A generally opposes GM force outside of setting up the opposition/challenge, while G&S generally opposes GM force once the Simulation has started unless it is needed to expand the world content in a direction that hasn't previously been fleshed out.) Making "behind the scenes" tweaks to ensure a fulfilling portrayal is welcome here.

Values-and-Issues. The most recent, and most easily misunderstood, game-purpose. Here, the point of play is for the players themselves to declare what matters to them and then pursue or abandon those things specifically through the process of play. When this is actually facilitated by the system, it means the players have tools for establishing their Values in a concrete way, usually with incentives or rewards for doing things that exemplify, test, question, or invalidate these Values. Where a Conceit is more like an ambiance, a tone or vibe pervading the overall experience, Values are specific to each character and (typically) chosen by the player, since it can be challenging to choose to care about something that someone else has imposed on you.
But if you merely said, "I care about X" or "my goal is Y," that wouldn't really get anywhere, would it? To actually go somewhere, there must be some form of conflict or difficulty (all the "game-purposes have some kind of conflict, they differ on where it's located and how it's processed). For V&I, conflict arises in the form of Issues: points of uncertainty or even crisis, where the Values are on the line. An important characteristic of Issues compared to other conflicts, though, is that they generally follow after the set Values, rather than being decided separately in advance (as is generally the case for most other "game-purposes.") In the crucible of Issues, Values are tried and the resolve and beliefs of the character are put to proof. As a result, particularly in comparison to S&A design, "success" is generally not unequivocally preferable to failure even at the small scale--which is part of why "Fail Forward" is a technique strongly associated with games of this overall "game-purpose," such as Dungeon World. "Success" is nice, sure, but the "be a protagonist, face difficulty" gameplay loop functions little differently whether goals consistently succeed or consistently fail (though there's certainly a likelihood of darker characters if they fail all the time!)
 
Last edited:


soviet

Adventurer
They are not comments on the relationship between quality and popularity.

As @Campbell felt previously, I find knocking one game design or another unwelcoming and unproductive. It's a habit of some posters here and it contributes nothing at all to the strength of their arguments.
How is saying '5e is the most popular and therefore also the best, suck it nerds!' not doing the same thing?
 

DM will then narrate result.
This, I believe, is specifically the problem. That is, have you not just described "Mother-May-I" so-called "design"? Anyone can attempt "hear input, narrate result." That's not a game design, it is literally conversing with other people.

I did not mean to distract from the overall point of the thread. I was actually trying to praise the design quality of 5e which I feel is actually an incredibly coherent game. About on 4e's level on that score, but certainly more so than any other version besides B/X.
Very truly: I am glad that you have found it such. My experience has been exactly the opposite, much to my consternation. 3rd edition at least had the excuse of being really badly made. 5e is not "really badly made," it's just made from parts that don't talk to each other or design choices that actively compete against one another. For instance, making early levels have few options and minimal choices so new players can have an easy onramp....and then also making early levels be RIDICULOUSLY DEADLY such that new players, who don't really know what they're doing, are extremely likely to have characters die, and thus extremely likely to experience a "quit moment" rather than keep playing. Or the (admitted) issues with resting, where the game was designed expecting people would choose to extend the time between long rests as much as possible, when there are huge incentives to do exactly the opposite if you want to succeed more; they predicated their design on willingly ignoring a dominant strategy and then gave a shocked pikachu face when people followed the dominant strategy, particularly when not following it feels like a slog.

Or, for an example that is simply weak design without actually producing conflict per se, the rampant over-use of Advantage, something I predicted back in the D&D Next playtest and which remains a pernicious weakness for 5e. One that will likely be difficult to solve, because the only "solutions" I know of require breaking one or more of the characteristics that made Advantage valuable in the first place (its one-stop-shopping nature, its extreme simplicity, or the fact that it doesn't stack).
 


@EzekielRaiden

Some label changes to consider for your model:

Score + Achievement = Distill Skill

Groundedness + Simulation = I’m there

Conceit + Emulation = Experience genre

Purpose + Conflict = Distill Protagonism
Sure, those would be decent labels for the overall combination (though the last one is technically "Values + Issues," but I get what you mean). These seem like decent, pithy albeit decontextualized, ways of summarizing the "game-purposes" in a holistic way.

I might also change "Experience Genre" to something more like..."Portray Concept." Portrayal, the whole "giving my subjective performance of some archetype or ideal or concept that interests me," is the thing C&E gameplay loops focus on. C&E/"Portray Concept" is usually going to carry some Necessary Weasels (as TVTropes puts it), and accepts or even embraces that fact, which is a key thing differentiating it from "I'm There"/G&S and from "Distill Protagonism"/V&I.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
As I posted upthread, I'm sure there are many people who've had a great time playing Rifts or other Palladium RPGs.
As an aside, I would encourage folk to read and contrast purchaser reviews on Amazon for Rifts and 5e.

There's the headline 79% (170) 5-star against 90% (40,000) but for me the testimonials attached to those scores are what really speak to the quality of each game (read multiple so as to avoid any sense of cherrypicking!)

This, I believe, is specifically the problem. That is, have you not just described "Mother-May-I" so-called "design"? Anyone can attempt "hear input, narrate result." That's not a game design, it is literally conversing with other people.
There's some ambiguity in your wording here. Do you mean an RPG is not conversing with other people, and the problem is that 5e is a conversation? By way of reference
Playing Dungeon World means having a conversation
Or do you fear that the DM being involved in the conversation ends the conversation? Why? How is that obviated if say we elect someone at random to narrate? How is that obviated if a player narrates their own successes?

Very truly: I am glad that you have found it such. My experience has been exactly the opposite, much to my consternation. 3rd edition at least had the excuse of being really badly made. 5e is not "really badly made," it's just made from parts that don't talk to each other or design choices that actively compete against one another. For instance, making early levels have few options and minimal choices so new players can have an easy onramp....and then also making early levels be RIDICULOUSLY DEADLY such that new players, who don't really know what they're doing, are extremely likely to have characters die, and thus extremely likely to experience a "quit moment" rather than keep playing. Or the (admitted) issues with resting, where the game was designed expecting people would choose to extend the time between long rests as much as possible, when there are huge incentives to do exactly the opposite if you want to succeed more; they predicated their design on willingly ignoring a dominant strategy and then gave a shocked pikachu face when people followed the dominant strategy, particularly when not following it feels like a slog.
Some reasearch was done on early game difficulty, in Australia. The outcomes were that folk on average dislike an overly easy early game. It seems like they want to respect the challenge in order to feel that any skill they express is really, er, skillful. (Connects well with your Score-Achievement.) What is crucial is that they can see that they can do better next time. Ideally, they have some idea what they want to try... how they might overcome the obstacle.

Games that were much easier up front were also found to be less engaging by players (strictly speaking, resulted in less perseverance) than games that were harder, with a couple of caveats. The obstacle couldn't be one that they couldn't possibly imagine overcoming. It couldn't be an impenetrable wall. As I said, they had to be able to come up with a good idea of what to try next: believing that success was possible for them.

Or, for an example that is simply weak design without actually producing conflict per se, the rampant over-use of Advantage, something I predicted back in the D&D Next playtest and which remains a pernicious weakness for 5e. One that will likely be difficult to solve, because the only "solutions" I know of require breaking one or more of the characteristics that made Advantage valuable in the first place (its one-stop-shopping nature, its extreme simplicity, or the fact that it doesn't stack).
Advantage is a good mechanic, but I agree leaned on too heavily now in 5e. It's worth counting among its merits that with advantage, you have a better chance of making a success within your range, but your range isn't shifted. Die modifers - especially when stacked - shift your range. Sometimes undesirably.

I believe the right approach is both together (advantage and die modifers.) It's been interesting to see more recent PbtA designs include advantage (roll 3d6, keep highest two) and disadvantage.
 
Last edited:

clearstream

(He, Him)
How is saying '5e is the most popular and therefore also the best, suck it nerds!' not doing the same thing?
If someone is saying that, then I am not on their side of the conversation. Honestly, the least one could concede of 5e is that it has proved to be highly functional for a great many players. To turn that on its head and try and argue that it's not functional does no credit to anybody.

Most importantly though, we don't need to even make such arguments. It's contributing nothing to understanding. If anything, it is getting in the way of understanding.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Returning to my "game-(design-)purposes" taxonomy and some of the input @clearstream and others have given, but starting (almost) from scratch in terms of examining and presenting it...

A designed thing, especially a designed thing with rules, must have a goal, an end. Laws and rules, as part of their very nature, are teleological. They must point toward a goal or purpose, and should they produce results genuinely counter to that goal or purpose, they not only can but should be changed until they meet their purpose. The process of designing anything is, in part, the process of figuring out what tools will accomplish the chosen end(s) effectively, learning what standards or functions those tools can serve, applying those tools and functions toward that end, and then checking to see whether the designed thing does the task or meets the standard of judgment for the purpose that it was created.

My interest, with this taxonomy, is to consider the families of "purposes" that roleplaying games may be designed to pursue. As a result, this is a descriptive effort, though in being descriptive I am not opposed to the possibility of finding a lacuna that can be filled with a theoretical not-widely-grokked option. As this is concerned with the overall reason for why someone would make a given game, rather than the specific methods that would work well for a given "overall reason why," individual techniques may certainly be an interesting side or follow-up discussion but are not strictly my area of focus. Furthermore, as my focus is on the thing the designer "sets out for," it is not strictly interested in things that would motivate players to choose to play the game, even though player motivation is absolutely an important and valid aspect of game design.

Having reflected on others' models, in particular Edwards', and on my own experience with roleplay, I have come to the conclusion that most "game-purposes" define some kind of central concept(s) that will drive the interest or focus of play, and then some general category of action that will constitute the process of play (from a design perspective—that is, what might be called the "gameplay loop," which is distinct from the literal lived-through process of play that actual players experience, in the same way that a blueprint differs from the physical object it generates.)

I have seen, both in games I have personally played and in the ways others talk about games whether or not I have played them, at least four distinct "game-purposes," that I choose to label with an "X-and-Y" (or, abbreviated, X&Y, just the first letters) format. These are as follows.

Score-and-Achievement. This is "game-purpose" in arguably its most literal sense, making a roleplaying game in order for it to be a game, with points or grades or numerical/evaluative testing of some kind, balance, difficulty curves, etc. A really ultra-pure S&A game is centered on that process of mastering the rules and then engaging in their skillful use in ways that matter to the player(s.) Few games are quite that purely S&A in design, though,
"Score" refers to the designer-created system or structure that allows at least partially objective measurement or evaluation of performance within the Situations the system considers. A game that includes Score, in general, needs a concept of "fairness" in order for that Score to be valid and worthy of player attention, and needs to not play fast and loose with the game rules so that the Score can retain relevance as a metric of evaluation and not just a random number or keyword. Score also, generally speaking, benefits from clarity, both in the sense of "transparency" (it is easy to see how the rules work and interact) and specificity (the use of keywords and other unambiguous terms/"jargon.")
"Achievement" is the action, by players, of pursuing success in goals, where that success can be measured or evaluated via the already-defined Score. I specifically call this "Achievement" rather than something like "striving" or "attempting" because S&A design specifically emphasizes a focus on success, with failure pretty clearly seen as an undesirable state, something to avoid or correct, which is generally not shared with the other "game-purposes." This "game-purpose" is pretty much inarguably the oldest and best-demonstrated of the bunch, having been the heart of the first TTRPG. As a result it can sometimes be glossed over as being intuitive or already explored because it is old hat, but this is not always the case (as Clearstream has demonstrated purely by making this thread!)

Groundedness-and-Simulation. Though a popular interest, this "game-purpose" has occasionally struggled to see effective design, perhaps because it focuses least on any specific part of the phrase "roleplaying game," being neither about the role one plays, nor about being a game in the sense that S&A is. Rather, G&S is about the process of inserting or immersing the player, via their character, into the fictional world with its various rules and components, and letting things naturally advance, with minimal influence or modification by the person facilitating this experience once the ball starts rolling. In many ways, this is where TTRPGs intersect most with auteur cinema and authorship as in novels; there is a huge emphasis on worldbuilding and consistency and precision.
That's where "Groundedness" is established: someone (almost always the GM or the author of the premade setting or adventure) setting up a believable, cognizable, "realistic" (but still fantastical) context. This is vitally important ground work for the process of play, as an ungrounded fictional context is too unreliable or too incoherent to make sense of (unless that sort of thing is the point, e.g. the context is a dreamworld or the like where inconsistency is expected, but that's a rare exception where minimum Groundedness has a grounded reason for being very low.) Then, players themselves advance the state of the world (with the GM/module/system doing the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting) via naturalistic, context-appropriate decision-making: Simulation. They collectively Simulate (read: run the processes for an intended accurate model of) a world and its inhabitants and how they would process and respond to the established world and its rules.
Unexpected, emergent phenomena often result from these things. The intended gameplay loop usually involves having a goal within the established world (usually, but not necessarily, GM-provided) and a set of resources (possibly including information and time as "resources") which may be turned toward that goal, with the best play occurring when one finds a satisfactory path to that goal which employs those resources in clever or efficient ways or leverages unexpected confluences of the rules. Reasoning, extrapolation, and prediction are highly valued.

Conceit-and-Emulation. Almost as old as G&S (it's hard to tell which came first), but moving in very different directions, this is the "game-purpose" of faithful depiction of a theme, what is called a High Concept in cinema. Internal physical/naturalistic consistency is of minimal relevance, instead the High Concept is king, dictating what design elements will be included and wrapping the gameplay loop around itself. In general this High Concept, which I call the Conceit, will be chosen by the GM herself, though it may come from an outside source, or might even be collaborated on by the group, but rarely if ever will arise from an individual ordinary player picking it. From there, the gameplay loop focuses on developing satisfying and (ideally) enlightening portrayals of the Conceit(s), which is "Emulation."
Where an ultra-pure S&A game just cares about besting challenges and superlative success, and an ultra-pure S&G game follows naturalistic reasoning wherever it may lead, C&E welcomes elements that enforce the tropes or characteristics of the Conceit even if they might not be "effective" or "realistic," because the purpose of play is to elevate Conceit so that it can be appreciated more. Genres are one of the primary options for Conceit, but other choices are not unusual ("wacky hijinks" comedic games, for example). Because of this interest in Conceit, this "game-purpose" is much more amenable to active-in-play GM force than the previous two in their pure forms would be. (S&A generally opposes GM force outside of setting up the opposition/challenge, while G&S generally opposes GM force once the Simulation has started unless it is needed to expand the world content in a direction that hasn't previously been fleshed out.) Making "behind the scenes" tweaks to ensure a fulfilling portrayal is welcome here.

Values-and-Issues. The most recent, and most easily misunderstood, game-purpose. Here, the point of play is for the players themselves to declare what matters to them and then pursue or abandon those things specifically through the process of play. When this is actually facilitated by the system, it means the players have tools for establishing their Values in a concrete way, usually with incentives or rewards for doing things that exemplify, test, question, or invalidate these Values. Where a Conceit is more like an ambiance, a tone or vibe pervading the overall experience, Values are specific to each character and (typically) chosen by the player, since it can be challenging to choose to care about something that someone else has imposed on you.
But if you merely said, "I care about X" or "my goal is Y," that wouldn't really get anywhere, would it? To actually go somewhere, there must be some form of conflict or difficulty (all the "game-purposes have some kind of conflict, they differ on where it's located and how it's processed). For V&I, conflict arises in the form of Issues: points of uncertainty or even crisis, where the Values are on the line. An important characteristic of Issues compared to other conflicts, though, is that they generally follow after the set Values, rather than being decided separately in advance (as is generally the case for most other "game-purposes.") In the crucible of Issues, Values are tried and the resolve and beliefs of the character are put to proof. As a result, particularly in comparison to S&A design, "success" is generally not unequivocally preferable to failure even at the small scale--which is part of why "Fail Forward" is a technique strongly associated with games of this overall "game-purpose," such as Dungeon World. "Success" is nice, sure, but the "be a protagonist, face difficulty" gameplay loop functions little differently whether goals consistently succeed or consistently fail (though there's certainly a likelihood of darker characters if they fail all the time!)
I believe the most evident two that your set of four is missing are my

Stakes-and-Risks
An offer made for the consideration of some stakes at some odds. A good example is the likelihood of terminating use of a character costing at least the time invested in developing it, in exchange for increased future power. Often connects with Skill - Arena, but isn't Skill - Arena. For example, high Skill may produce a confidence that the odds are better. Or risk taking in the Arena may result in the Skill display becoming more thrilling. Note the evident mapping of this and the Score-and-Achievement binary to Edwards' "performance with risk", but this is a separate purpose that can be satisfied on its own terms. In fact, too much risk (chance) is often seen to be counter to skill expression.

Construction-and-Perfection
Perfection is the neurotic satisfaction in a tidy or controlled game state. Construction includes constructing a collection, and is found in all the places that players can make a choice to achieve a satisfying neatness and completeness. In RPG, it's noticeable in choices on offer in a system that "click" together. It can be mistaken for a concern for balance, where it is in fact concern for preservation and fulfillment of pattern. This is a powerful purpose that almost every game is designed to satisfy to some extent. Class-based designs, magic items, features that "click" together... and so on.


EDIT As an aside, I believe you need to do more to disambiguate motivations from purposes. What is the purpose of an RPG, if not to serve player motivations? Are you thinking of pure aesthetic forms, not intended for play?
 

soviet

Adventurer
If someone is saying that, then I am not on their side of the conversation. Honestly, the least one could concede of 5e is that it has proved to be highly functional for a great many players. To turn that on its head and try and argue that it's not functional does no credit to anybody.

Most importantly though, we don't need to even make such arguments. It's contributing nothing to understanding. If anything, it is getting in the way of understanding.
Fair enough. I guess my point would be that the popularity of a game is based on a lot of factors, and the quality of the game design itself is probably not even in the top three. I don't think 5e is not functional, by the way, albeit I am not a fan.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Returning to my "game-(design-)purposes" taxonomy and some of the input @clearstream and others have given, but starting (almost) from scratch in terms of examining and presenting it...

A designed thing, especially a designed thing with rules, must have a goal, an end. Laws and rules, as part of their very nature, are teleological. They must point toward a goal or purpose, and should they produce results genuinely counter to that goal or purpose, they not only can but should be changed until they meet their purpose. The process of designing anything is, in part, the process of figuring out what tools will accomplish the chosen end(s) effectively, learning what standards or functions those tools can serve, applying those tools and functions toward that end, and then checking to see whether the designed thing does the task or meets the standard of judgment for the purpose that it was created.

My interest, with this taxonomy, is to consider the families of "purposes" that roleplaying games may be designed to pursue. As a result, this is a descriptive effort, though in being descriptive I am not opposed to the possibility of finding a lacuna that can be filled with a theoretical not-widely-grokked option. As this is concerned with the overall reason for why someone would make a given game, rather than the specific methods that would work well for a given "overall reason why," individual techniques may certainly be an interesting side or follow-up discussion but are not strictly my area of focus. Furthermore, as my focus is on the thing the designer "sets out for," it is not strictly interested in things that would motivate players to choose to play the game, even though player motivation is absolutely an important and valid aspect of game design.

Having reflected on others' models, in particular Edwards', and on my own experience with roleplay, I have come to the conclusion that most "game-purposes" define some kind of central concept(s) that will drive the interest or focus of play, and then some general category of action that will constitute the process of play (from a design perspective—that is, what might be called the "gameplay loop," which is distinct from the literal lived-through process of play that actual players experience, in the same way that a blueprint differs from the physical object it generates.)

I have seen, both in games I have personally played and in the ways others talk about games whether or not I have played them, at least four distinct "game-purposes," that I choose to label with an "X-and-Y" (or, abbreviated, X&Y, just the first letters) format. These are as follows.

Score-and-Achievement. This is "game-purpose" in arguably its most literal sense, making a roleplaying game in order for it to be a game, with points or grades or numerical/evaluative testing of some kind, balance, difficulty curves, etc. A really ultra-pure S&A game is centered on that process of mastering the rules and then engaging in their skillful use in ways that matter to the player(s.) Few games are quite that purely S&A in design, though,
"Score" refers to the designer-created system or structure that allows at least partially objective measurement or evaluation of performance within the Situations the system considers. A game that includes Score, in general, needs a concept of "fairness" in order for that Score to be valid and worthy of player attention, and needs to not play fast and loose with the game rules so that the Score can retain relevance as a metric of evaluation and not just a random number or keyword. Score also, generally speaking, benefits from clarity, both in the sense of "transparency" (it is easy to see how the rules work and interact) and specificity (the use of keywords and other unambiguous terms/"jargon.")
"Achievement" is the action, by players, of pursuing success in goals, where that success can be measured or evaluated via the already-defined Score. I specifically call this "Achievement" rather than something like "striving" or "attempting" because S&A design specifically emphasizes a focus on success, with failure pretty clearly seen as an undesirable state, something to avoid or correct, which is generally not shared with the other "game-purposes." This "game-purpose" is pretty much inarguably the oldest and best-demonstrated of the bunch, having been the heart of the first TTRPG. As a result it can sometimes be glossed over as being intuitive or already explored because it is old hat, but this is not always the case (as Clearstream has demonstrated purely by making this thread!)

Groundedness-and-Simulation. Though a popular interest, this "game-purpose" has occasionally struggled to see effective design, perhaps because it focuses least on any specific part of the phrase "roleplaying game," being neither about the role one plays, nor about being a game in the sense that S&A is. Rather, G&S is about the process of inserting or immersing the player, via their character, into the fictional world with its various rules and components, and letting things naturally advance, with minimal influence or modification by the person facilitating this experience once the ball starts rolling. In many ways, this is where TTRPGs intersect most with auteur cinema and authorship as in novels; there is a huge emphasis on worldbuilding and consistency and precision.
That's where "Groundedness" is established: someone (almost always the GM or the author of the premade setting or adventure) setting up a believable, cognizable, "realistic" (but still fantastical) context. This is vitally important ground work for the process of play, as an ungrounded fictional context is too unreliable or too incoherent to make sense of (unless that sort of thing is the point, e.g. the context is a dreamworld or the like where inconsistency is expected, but that's a rare exception where minimum Groundedness has a grounded reason for being very low.) Then, players themselves advance the state of the world (with the GM/module/system doing the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting) via naturalistic, context-appropriate decision-making: Simulation. They collectively Simulate (read: run the processes for an intended accurate model of) a world and its inhabitants and how they would process and respond to the established world and its rules.
Unexpected, emergent phenomena often result from these things. The intended gameplay loop usually involves having a goal within the established world (usually, but not necessarily, GM-provided) and a set of resources (possibly including information and time as "resources") which may be turned toward that goal, with the best play occurring when one finds a satisfactory path to that goal which employs those resources in clever or efficient ways or leverages unexpected confluences of the rules. Reasoning, extrapolation, and prediction are highly valued.

Conceit-and-Emulation. Almost as old as G&S (it's hard to tell which came first), but moving in very different directions, this is the "game-purpose" of faithful depiction of a theme, what is called a High Concept in cinema. Internal physical/naturalistic consistency is of minimal relevance, instead the High Concept is king, dictating what design elements will be included and wrapping the gameplay loop around itself. In general this High Concept, which I call the Conceit, will be chosen by the GM herself, though it may come from an outside source, or might even be collaborated on by the group, but rarely if ever will arise from an individual ordinary player picking it. From there, the gameplay loop focuses on developing satisfying and (ideally) enlightening portrayals of the Conceit(s), which is "Emulation."
Where an ultra-pure S&A game just cares about besting challenges and superlative success, and an ultra-pure S&G game follows naturalistic reasoning wherever it may lead, C&E welcomes elements that enforce the tropes or characteristics of the Conceit even if they might not be "effective" or "realistic," because the purpose of play is to elevate Conceit so that it can be appreciated more. Genres are one of the primary options for Conceit, but other choices are not unusual ("wacky hijinks" comedic games, for example). Because of this interest in Conceit, this "game-purpose" is much more amenable to active-in-play GM force than the previous two in their pure forms would be. (S&A generally opposes GM force outside of setting up the opposition/challenge, while G&S generally opposes GM force once the Simulation has started unless it is needed to expand the world content in a direction that hasn't previously been fleshed out.) Making "behind the scenes" tweaks to ensure a fulfilling portrayal is welcome here.

Values-and-Issues. The most recent, and most easily misunderstood, game-purpose. Here, the point of play is for the players themselves to declare what matters to them and then pursue or abandon those things specifically through the process of play. When this is actually facilitated by the system, it means the players have tools for establishing their Values in a concrete way, usually with incentives or rewards for doing things that exemplify, test, question, or invalidate these Values. Where a Conceit is more like an ambiance, a tone or vibe pervading the overall experience, Values are specific to each character and (typically) chosen by the player, since it can be challenging to choose to care about something that someone else has imposed on you.
But if you merely said, "I care about X" or "my goal is Y," that wouldn't really get anywhere, would it? To actually go somewhere, there must be some form of conflict or difficulty (all the "game-purposes have some kind of conflict, they differ on where it's located and how it's processed). For V&I, conflict arises in the form of Issues: points of uncertainty or even crisis, where the Values are on the line. An important characteristic of Issues compared to other conflicts, though, is that they generally follow after the set Values, rather than being decided separately in advance (as is generally the case for most other "game-purposes.") In the crucible of Issues, Values are tried and the resolve and beliefs of the character are put to proof. As a result, particularly in comparison to S&A design, "success" is generally not unequivocally preferable to failure even at the small scale--which is part of why "Fail Forward" is a technique strongly associated with games of this overall "game-purpose," such as Dungeon World. "Success" is nice, sure, but the "be a protagonist, face difficulty" gameplay loop functions little differently whether goals consistently succeed or consistently fail (though there's certainly a likelihood of darker characters if they fail all the time!)
It's nice work though (even with ambiguities and lacunae dear to my heart!) I want to read it through a few times :)

[EDIT also in G&S it's not quite right that "minimal influence" is wanted. Or to think so would be to exclude RPGs that should be in G&S (or belong nowhere else.) FKR amounts to a rejection of the minimal influence premise here.]
 
Last edited:

There's some ambiguity in your wording here. Do you mean an RPG is not conversing with other people, and the problem is that 5e is a conversation? By way of reference

Or do you fear that the DM being involved in the conversation ends the conversation? Why? How is that obviated if say we elect someone at random to narrate? How is that obviated if a player narrates their own successes?
Do you think that you could play DW purely by "having a conversation," without any reference to its game design? As someone who's been running it for over four years now, I can say I absolutely could not, and it's been a process for my group to learn how to work within the fiction and how to invoke mechanics without thinking in mechanics. But "tell the DM the situation, DM will narrate the result" is literally nothing more than two people having a conversation.

Some reasearch was done on early game difficulty, in Australia. The outcomes were that folk on average dislike an overly easy early game. It seems like they want to respect the challenge in order to feel that any skill they express is really, er, skillful. (Connects well with your Score-Achievement.) What is crucial is that they can see that they can do better next time. Ideally, they have some idea what they want to try... how they might overcome the obstacle.

Games with easier earlier games were found to be less appealing to players (less perseverance) than games with harder, with a couple of caveats. The obstacle couldn't be one that they couldn't possibly imagine overcoming. It couldn't be an impenetrable wall. And, as I said, they had to be able to come up with a good idea of what to try next.
Well...that's kind of my point. What do you do about "I literally died to the second attack roll I ever experienced," because yes, it is quite literally possible for even beefy 5e characters (e.g. Fighter with 14 Con, so 12 HP) to die in two normal hits, y'know, something that will happen pretty often purely from standing next to a monster for two rounds. It is quite possible for a fragile character (e.g. a Wizard with 10 Con, so 6 HP) to literally die outright to a single attack from a single attack from a single CR 1/4 (there are several CR 1/4 creatures that can deal 12 damage in a single hit). Or experiences I've had, where DMs have thrown together deadly encounters because they "have" to or the game isn't challenging, only to result in massive DM fiat or outright TPK.

Advantage is a good mechanic, but I agree leaned on too heavily now in 5e. It's worth counting among its merits that with advantage, you have a better chance of making a success within your range, but your range isn't extended. Die modifers - especially when stacked - extend your range.

I believe the right approach is both together (advantage and die modifers.) It's been interesting to see more recent PbtA designs include advantage (roll 3d6, keep highest two) and disadvantage.
I mean, PbtA has been using that for ages, since I know at least the idea (if not the name) came up in the DW game where I was a player, and that was easily 4-5 years before 5e came out. Well before we started calling it "Advantage." But, as I said, the problem with that is you've just eliminated the simplicity. Ad/Dis and modifiers isn't ultra-simple anymore. You've sacrificed one of the key characteristics. (The characteristic you mention, raising/lowering results but not range, could only be sacrificed by ditching Advantage/Disadvantage entirely, hence why I didn't mention it.)

[EDIT also in G&S it's not quite right that "minimal influence" is wanted. Or to think so would be to exclude RPGs that should be in G&S (or belong nowhere else.) FKR amounts to a rejection of the minimal influence premise here.]
And I wouldn't call FKR "G&S" anymore, at least, not as its core game-purpose. That's....literally what made it "Free," because it'd been transitioned to the (so-called) rules design of "referee decides." I, personally, would call it an effort at a high-detail C&E game, the Conceit being "literally portray a military commander so faithfully, you might actually learn something about how military command works" (much as how actors practicing for a demanding part--such as Sherlock Holmes--frequently do personal research to understand it better), and the Emulation being run purely through "what does the referee think makes more sense?" It's emphatically NOT just following the natural-reasoning conclusions that necessarily follow from the rules and resources as expressed--the whole point is that it not only can but WILL openly defy the rules if doing so leads to a "better" experience. That, that exact commitment, is one of the most blatant "no, we are not do ing G&S/'I'm There,' we are dong C&E/'Portray Concept.'" Because the former, the rules are reality (or as close as one can get to it), and just like reality, understanding the rules means knowing what will happen and why; for the latter, the rules are not reality, the Conceit is reality, and the rules are useful tools for reaching that Conceit--you can and should break them if doing so leads to more faithful portrayal.

And I'm not alone in thinking that. I had to use the Internet Archive to dig it up, but the essay on "invisible rulebooks" explicitly refers to genre conventions ("Book of Genre Conventions Volume XIV: Action-Comedy Westerns," emphasis in original.) Because it's not about a faithful simulation regardless of what people think it should be. It's about doing what feels right. Others mention how people use "movie physics" rather than real physics, or how research shows that if one person (in this case, a young child) believes a person in a fight has magical power, they're more likely to believe that person will win regardless of other considerations. Or in the parallel essay (that doesn't require the Wayback Machine, thankfully!) about "playing at the world," the author instructs us to think of Star Wars by saying (emphasis added), "Close your eyes and imagine the tropes."

FKR isn't G&S/"I'm There" anymore. It's C&E/"Portray Concept." And it makes that leap specifically because it no longer wishes to be bound by rules that are just true and must be reasoned through. Instead, it wants whatever conventions--tropes--seem appropriate to the thing being Emulated.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
But "tell the DM the situation, DM will narrate the result" is literally nothing more than two people having a conversation.
Is that how you approach your 5e play?

Well...that's kind of my point. What do you do about "I literally died to the second attack roll I ever experienced," because yes, it is quite literally possible for even beefy 5e characters (e.g. Fighter with 14 Con, so 12 HP) to die in two normal hits, y'know, something that will happen pretty often purely from standing next to a monster for two rounds. It is quite possible for a fragile character (e.g. a Wizard with 10 Con, so 6 HP) to literally die outright to a single attack from a single attack from a single CR 1/4 (there are several CR 1/4 creatures that can deal 12 damage in a single hit). Or experiences I've had, where DMs have thrown together deadly encounters because they "have" to or the game isn't challenging, only to result in massive DM fiat or outright TPK.
I'd draw attention to what happens next. Can the group see how to improve things for themselves, or have they hit a wall?

I mean, PbtA has been using that for ages, since I know at least the idea (if not the name) came up in the DW game where I was a player, and that was easily 4-5 years before 5e came out. Well before we started calling it "Advantage." But, as I said, the problem with that is you've just eliminated the simplicity. Ad/Dis and modifiers isn't ultra-simple anymore. You've sacrificed one of the key characteristics. (The characteristic you mention, raising/lowering results but not range, could only be sacrificed by ditching Advantage/Disadvantage entirely, hence why I didn't mention it.)
Hmm, I wasn't making an argument for simplifying here :) Tastes vary!

And I wouldn't call FKR "G&S" anymore, at least, not as its core game-purpose. That's....literally what made it "Free," because it'd been transitioned to the (so-called) rules design of "referee decides." I, personally, would call it an effort at a high-detail C&E game, the Conceit being "literally portray a military commander so faithfully, you might actually learn something about how military command works" (much as how actors practicing for a demanding part--such as Sherlock Holmes--frequently do personal research to understand it better), and the Emulation being run purely through "what does the referee think makes more sense?" It's emphatically NOT just following the natural-reasoning conclusions that necessarily follow from the rules and resources as expressed--the whole point is that it not only can but WILL openly defy the rules if doing so leads to a "better" experience. That, that exact commitment, is one of the most blatant "no, we are not do ing G&S/'I'm There,' we are dong C&E/'Portray Concept.'" Because the former, the rules are reality (or as close as one can get to it), and just like reality, understanding the rules means knowing what will happen and why; for the latter, the rules are not reality, the Conceit is reality, and the rules are useful tools for reaching that Conceit--you can and should break them if doing so leads to more faithful portrayal.

And I'm not alone in thinking that. I had to use the Internet Archive to dig it up, but the essay on "invisible rulebooks" explicitly refers to genre conventions ("Book of Genre Conventions Volume XIV: Action-Comedy Westerns," emphasis in original.) Because it's not about a faithful simulation regardless of what people think it should be. It's about doing what feels right. Others mention how people use "movie physics" rather than real physics, or how research shows that if one person (in this case, a young child) believes a person in a fight has magical power, they're more likely to believe that person will win regardless of other considerations. Or in the parallel essay (that doesn't require the Wayback Machine, thankfully!) about "playing at the world," the author instructs us to think of Star Wars by saying (emphasis added), "Close your eyes and imagine the tropes."

FKR isn't G&S/"I'm There" anymore. It's C&E/"Portray Concept." And it makes that leap specifically because it no longer wishes to be bound by rules that are just true and must be reasoned through. Instead, it wants whatever conventions--tropes--seem appropriate to the thing being Emulated.
I'm thinking of games I played in years back, run in an FKR style by history buffs. The goal was pure sim, and rules weren't trusted to deliver on that. [EDIT Thinking of "core purpose" does that include where the mode came from? It's history of being exactly about better simulation.]

I acknowledge that the recent FKR revival might better fit C&E.
 
Last edited:

clearstream

(He, Him)
I mean, PbtA has been using that for ages
As an aside, I was mulling where advantage might have come from. Rerolling a die or dice might have been first seen in tabletop wargames, perhaps dating at least back to the 80s. (Dice pools, too, for that matter.) It wouldn't surprise me if we discovered the principle was older than that.
 

Is that how you approach your 5e play?
We weren't talking about my 5e play; we were talking about @AbdulAlhazred 's play. So you should probably ask him.

I'd draw attention to what happens next. Can the group see how to improve things for themselves, or have they hit a wall?
In my experience? They hit a wall, and the game disbands shortly thereafter. I've seen it happen on three different occasions with three completely unrelated groups. In at least two cases, it caused people to decide that TTRPGs just really weren't for them.

Hmm, I wasn't making an argument for simplifying here :) Tastes vary!
I wasn't implying you were. What I'm saying is, part of why Advantage has been lauded by its fans is very specifically that it cannot, even in principle, become overly complicated. It is impossible to be outside of three states: no impact (whether because no change, or because you have both things so they cancel out), rolling twice and taking the best, or rolling twice and taking the worst. The fact that it eliminated (most) modifiers was in fact highly celebrated. We now see that it has led to frequently dead-end design, because there's only one place to go, and as soon as you go there, there's no more room for growth.

I'm thinking of games I played in years back, run in an FKR style by history buffs. The goal was pure sim, and rules weren't trusted to deliver on that.
Well, I cannot comment on your experience there, but again that doesn't sound to me like what I'm calling Simulation. It sounds like a Conceit (historical fiction) and Emulation (portraying our modern ideas and understandings about such things.) Without further details, it's hard to say much more than that.

I acknowledge that the recent FKR revival might better fit C&E.
I don't see how the original Free Kriegsspiel doesn't. The whole point of dispensing with all the rules (except the very, very basic "roll to determine losses" stuff) was to make it so players would feel like military commanders. The referee rules whatever they feel like ruling, whenever they feel like ruling it; consistency is not a virtue, it's merely a pattern, and it not only can be but should be broken the instant it seems better to do so than to not do so. That is fundamentally antagonistic to what "Simulation" is. Simulation is all about being external to the participants--they may feed in data (e.g. populating a previously-unexamined area with NPCs), but once the data is in, it has a life of its own, it is procedural. Emulation, on the other hand, is performative, a living expression of something, and that expression is more important than consistency for its own sake. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." (Meaning, even if you made a very firm conclusion yesterday, but your intuition tells you you should break it today, do it and never regret it.) That ethos is precisely what FKR-style play espouses, and it is pretty thoroughly opposed to Simulation.

As an aside, I was mulling where advantage might have come from. Rerolling a die or dice might have been first seen in tabletop wargames, perhaps dating at least back to the 80s. (Dice pools, too, for that matter.) It wouldn't surprise me if we discovered the principle was older than that.
Well, I can tell you where it was first used consistently in D&D: 4e. Specifically, it was the core "damage" boost mechanic for Avengers. Every Striker in 4e has some kind of mechanic that gives them extra damage. Rangers had Hunter's Mark (which got a...weak...implementation in 5e), Rogues obviously had Sneak Attack, Sorcerers just straight-up added their Charisma modifier to damage dealt by Arcane attack powers, etc. Avengers were somewhat unique in that their "damage" boost mechanic...wasn't actually about damage at all. Instead, it was about accuracy. Every attack they made against their Oath of Enmity target, they would roll 2d20 and take the higher value--aka, rolling with advantage. As a result, Avengers were known not for their high damage but their consistent damage, which played into their "divine executioner"/"terrible swift sword"/"inevitable vengeance" theme. (This is another very 4e-style "the mechanic tells a story, and the story invokes the mechanics" kind of structure, which is part of why people say it fits well with Story Now play.)
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
In my experience? They hit a wall, and the game disbands shortly thereafter. I've seen it happen on three different occasions with three completely unrelated groups.
That would be a case of too hard then. In my experience and observation, most 5e early games do not hit that problem.

I wasn't implying you were. What I'm saying is, part of why Advantage has been lauded by its fans is very specifically that it cannot, even in principle, become overly complicated. It is impossible to be outside of three states: no impact (whether because no change, or because you have both things so they cancel out), rolling twice and taking the best, or rolling twice and taking the worst. The fact that it eliminated (most) modifiers was in fact highly celebrated. We now see that it has led to frequently dead-end design, because there's only one place to go, and as soon as you go there, there's no more room for growth.
Fair point. I wonder how it will play out in 6e?

Well, I cannot comment on your experience there, but again that doesn't sound to me like what I'm calling Simulation. It sounds like a Conceit (historical fiction) and Emulation (portraying our modern ideas and understandings about such things.) Without further details, it's hard to say much more than that.
It sounds like we're running into the same blurring of lines that makes others feel the two should be rolled into one. I agree with their separation, I just don't agree that rules are required to be doing simulation. Trivially, we can imagine rules that don't simulate as reliably as an expert groups own intuitions. After all, the rules are written by games designers and there is no reason to suppose they know more.

The referee rules whatever they feel like ruling, whenever they feel like ruling it; consistency is not a virtue, it's merely a pattern, and it not only can be but should be broken the instant it seems better to do so than to not do so. That is fundamentally antagonistic to what "Simulation" is. Simulation is all about being external to the participants--they may feed in data (e.g. populating a previously-unexamined area with NPCs), but once the data is in, it has a life of its own, it is procedural. Emulation, on the other hand, is performative, a living expression of something, and that expression is more important than consistency for its own sake. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." (Meaning, even if you made a very firm conclusion yesterday, but your intuition tells you you should break it today, do it and never regret it.) That ethos is precisely what FKR-style play espouses, and it is pretty thoroughly opposed to Simulation.
Just to get your thought here clear then, the process takes priority over the result? Say we had a version of ICE with what we might think are absurd weapons and injuries. It's still a sim because it really is external to the participants. It's procedural. Whereas an FKR GM who happened to know a great deal about weapons and injuries couldn't possibly deliver a sim? Even assuming that the GM took care to faithfully represent the best available knowledge about weapons and injuries of the time and place their game was set in.

Well, I can accept that you can define sim purely as process without concern for result, and then see myself looking at those lines and drawing outside them.

Well, I can tell you where it was first used consistently in D&D: 4e. Specifically, it was the core "damage" boost mechanic for Avengers. Every Striker in 4e has some kind of mechanic that gives them extra damage. Rangers had Hunter's Mark (which got a...weak...implementation in 5e), Rogues obviously had Sneak Attack, Sorcerers just straight-up added their Charisma modifier to damage dealt by Arcane attack powers, etc. Avengers were somewhat unique in that their "damage" boost mechanic...wasn't actually about damage at all. Instead, it was about accuracy. Every attack they made against their Oath of Enmity target, they would roll 2d20 and take the higher value--aka, rolling with advantage. As a result, Avengers were known not for their high damage but their consistent damage, which played into their "divine executioner"/"terrible swift sword"/"inevitable vengeance" theme. (This is another very 4e-style "the mechanic tells a story, and the story invokes the mechanics" kind of structure, which is part of why people say it fits well with Story Now play.)
I'm still going with tabletop wargames. Maybe early versions of Warhammer even. High skill attackers and those with enhanced weapons get rerolls of misses. In d20 the first reference I know of to reroll is in Book of Nine Swords. 3rd edition D&D. Lightning Recovery is an example.
 

That would be a case of too hard then. In my experience and observation, most 5e early games do not hit that problem.
I certainly wouldn't complain about it so much if I hadn't had three different campaigns, with three totally different groups, all end the same way: brutally hard encounter that either TPKs or requires heavy DM fiat to fix, players lose interest and leave.

Fair point. I wonder how it will play out in 6e?
No idea.

It sounds like we're running into the same blurring of lines that makes others feel the two should be rolled into one. I agree with their separation, I just don't agree that rules are required to be doing simulation. Trivially, we can imagine rules that don't simulate as reliably as an expert groups own intuitions. After all, the rules are written by games designers and there is no reason to suppose they know more.
Who said anything about knowing more? There is a reason the GNS framework calls them "process" Sim vs "High Concept" sim. The rules of "process" Sim know nothing, no more than a computer running a program knows anything, even if that program is an extremely advanced neural network that can generate novel images. They simply are taken as the rules of what is, and generate results. If you think those results should be honored essentially no matter what, you favor "purist-for-system"/G&S design. If you think those rules not only can be but should be ignored literally every single time they defy some kind of projected expectation, whatever that expectation might be, then you are not a "purist-for-system"/G&S design fan, and are likely looking for C&E instead.

G&S design projects nothing, except the rules themselves. C&E design projects as the core purpose of play: projecting a theme, concept, idea, etc. onto the play-space and modifying the state of play whenever and wherever necessary to ensure that that projection is satisfying.

Just to get your thought here clear then, the process takes priority over the result?
Yeah. That's why it's "process" or "purist-for-system," and not "High Concept." Having something where there is essentially no system seems to be pretty blatantly opposing an approach called "purist-for-system"!

Say we had a version of ICE with what we might think are absurd weapons and injuries. It's still a sim because it really is external to the participants. It's procedural. Whereas an FKR GM who happened to know a great deal about weapons and injuries couldn't possibly deliver a sim? Even assuming that the GM took care to faithfully represent the best available knowledge about weapons and injuries of the time and place their game was set in.
I can't really comment on ICE as I don't know what it is. But, yes, I would argue that a genuine "I do this because it's what my experience says" FKR GM is not providing a Groundedness-and-Simulation design in what they're doing. They may be doing it for the player-motive of "it will actually be more like real things of this nature,"* but they are openly rejecting Groundedness-and-Simulation in the process.

*Being blunt: I don't believe most people who claim this. Even those who are super-experts on their area of expertise. Mostly because I am a huge believer in the power, and necessity, of playtesting. You can't playtest an "invisible rulebook," not even in theory. You can playtest a visible rulebook. You can't evaluate an invisible rulebook and mark the errors in red ink. Sure, we may still fall back on "invisible rulebook" things--following intuition, rather than procedure--if something goes horribly wrong. But how can you do the reverse? How can you point to something going wrong with the "invisible rulebook" and develop a visible rule to address it? You can't, not without abrogating the notion that the invisible rulebook is all you need.

Well, I can accept that you can define sim purely as process without concern for result, and then see myself looking at those lines and drawing outside them.
Alright. I've been pretty consistent about that up until now, so I'm a little surprised this is tripping you up. "Process" is not "realism." It often associates with "realism" (note the quotes, since it's not actually real things a lot of the time), but as I mentioned upthread, it is perfectly comfortable with actively non-realistic things if they arise by naturalistic reasoning and deductive logic from the rules as presented. Just as few people exclusively want a Score-and-Achievement design with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING else, few people exclusively want an absolutely purist Groundedness-and-Simulation design. FKR, by comparison, strikes me as being an actual legit absolutely-purist C&E "design," because it rejects any and all rules or structures in the name of delivering the right kind of overall experience. That's the essence of a C&E gameplay loop: faithful portrayal. In this case, at any cost, hence why I see it as an absolutist/purist "design." (Quotes because I don't actually see FKR as being designed at all, other than the vestigial "table for what bad things can happen" bit. It is actively disengaging from the design process.)

I'm still going with tabletop wargames. Maybe early versions of Warhammer even. High skill attackers and those with enhanced weapons get rerolls of misses. In d20 the first reference I know of to reroll is in Book of Nine Swords. 3rd edition D&D. Lightning Recovery is an example.
Rerolls aren't advantage though. I'm specifically talking about "roll two dice at the same time, and take whichever one is better." Rerolls have existed since the dawn of time, I'm sure you could find reroll mechanics in ancient Roman dice games if we had records thereof. But the specific structure of Advantage, specifically as it appears in D&D? 4e Avenger.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top