• COMING SOON! -- The Awfully Cheerful Engine on Kickstarter! An action comedy RPG inspired by cheerful tabletop games of the 80s! With a foreword by Sandy 'Ghostbusters' Petersen, and VTT support!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

The Six Cultures of Gaming

overgeeked

B/X Known World
You keep conflating the idea of scaring players, and crossing their boundaries.
When you're talking about something like arachnophobia there is no difference between scaring the players and crossing their boundaries.
As if nothing that could scare players, is acceptable to their boundaries (which are things they draw themselves as adults whose agency is to be respected) while playing a horror game.
Because scared means a thing. Scared doesn't mean thrilled. It doesn't mean excited. Scared is the thing you are when you think you're about to die. Scared is the thing you are when you think someone you care about is going to die. Scared is that thing that happens to your body when someone points a gun at your face. Scared gets people running for their lives. Scared gets people hiding under tables. Scared causes the fight or flight response to kick in. Scared is not something you evoke at the gaming table. So when someone says they're out to scare their players, they are either a monster or they are using the word spectacularly, and potentially dangerously, wrong. I suspect some people in this discussion are simply using the word scared when they mean thrilled, excited, or some other lesser variation. It may be pedantic, but words have meaning. And that meaning actually matters.

It matters because if some novice GM reads the sentence "horror GMs should try to scare their players" and they understand 'scare' to mean thrill and excite, that's fine. No problem. That's the goal of horror gaming, to thrill and excite. But if they read that bit of advice and actually try to...you, know...scare their players...that's incredibly, incredibly bad. And potentially dangerous. For all involved.
If I tell you that child abuse scares me (which is one of my personal triggers) but that I don't mind you using it because we're agreeing to play the kind of game where it could come up, what would be the problem with you using it to scare me? and its not like giving you that consent removes the fear factor from it?
Sorry, but no. Trigger does not mean "I don't like it." Trigger means a particular thing that will trigger a mental health episode. So saying something is a personal trigger and then saying you'd be fine with it popping up in game is contradictory. That's like saying you're fine with a game session ending with you being talked down off a roof and being involuntarily admitted to the psych ward. Yes, I get that the meaning of words can and does drift over time, and that now trigger is used for anything that we don't like. But it's belittling to people with actual mental health problems. Likewise using OCD to mean more organized than most. You don't have OCD, you're organized. If you had OCD you'd wash your hands 76 times in a row before being able to stop. Again, sorry. Pet peeve.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

When you're talking about something like arachnophobia there is no difference between scaring the players and crossing their boundaries.

Because scared means a thing. Scared doesn't mean thrilled. It doesn't mean excited. Scared is the thing you are when you think you're about to die. Scared is the thing you are when you think someone you care about is going to die. Scared is that thing that happens to your body when someone points a gun at your face. Scared gets people running for their lives. Scared gets people hiding under tables. Scared causes the fight or flight response to kick in. Scared is not something you evoke at the gaming table. So when someone says they're out to scare their players, they are either a monster or they are using the word spectacularly, and potentially dangerously, wrong. I suspect some people in this discussion are simply using the word scared when they mean thrilled, excited, or some other lesser variation. It may be pedantic, but words have meaning. And that meaning actually matters.

It matters because if some novice GM reads the sentence "horror GMs should try to scare their players" and they understand 'scare' to mean thrill and excite, that's fine. No problem. That's the goal of horror gaming, to thrill and excite. But if they read that bit of advice and actually try to...you, know...scare their players...that's incredibly, incredibly bad. And potentially dangerous. For all involved.

Sorry, but no. Trigger does not mean "I don't like it." Trigger means a particular thing that will trigger a mental health episode. So saying something is a personal trigger and then saying you'd be fine with it popping up in game is contradictory. That's like saying you're fine with a game session ending with you being talked down off a roof and being involuntarily admitted to the psych ward. Yes, I get that the meaning of words can and does drift over time, and that now trigger is used for anything that we don't like. But it's belittling to people with actual mental health problems. Likewise using OCD to mean more organized than most. You don't have OCD, you're organized. If you had OCD you'd wash your hands 76 times in a row before being able to stop. Again, sorry. Pet peeve.
This is a really weird and low key offensive thing to tell me about my own, fully diagnosed, PTSD.

Triggers do not have to result in mental health episodes to be valid, they can just trigger extreme feelings of discomfort and fear. They don't even do that every time consistently.

Edit: Also, when you watch a scary movie, is that really how you react? hiding under tables, feeling like someone is pointing a gun at you, have you really never experienced mild fear. Because it sounds like the word you're looking for is "Abject Terror."

Edit 2: Gonna clarify a little harder so you don't go and inflict this misunderstanding on someone else. Triggers can result in different things depending on what the person has been through. In fact many people read trigger warnings as an opportunity to brace themselves, rather than a warning not to click, because they know how they react to their traumas. Similarly, being prepared for it, versus being blindsided by it can make a big difference. When I discuss it being ok with me, I know that I'm going to experience some fear and discomfort, but because I'm forewarned, and expecting it, I can handle it a lot better. A lot of the fun of TTRPGs for me comes from deep and meaningful themes and storytelling, which is also the reason I brave a lot of media (in this case supernatural) that I know might trigger my PTSD, that can be especially meaningful for someone like me who has a personal connection to the content, and a chance to interact with the situation-- that can be empowering, it can be thought-provoking, and all of the other things that good stories are.

But you know, consent and forewarning are important.
 
Last edited:

overgeeked

B/X Known World
This is a really weird and low key offensive thing to tell me about my own, fully diagnosed, PTSD.

Triggers do not have to result in mental health episodes to be valid, they can just trigger extreme feelings of discomfort and fear. They don't even do that every time consistently.

Edit 2: Gonna clarify a little harder so you don't go and inflict this misunderstanding on someone else. Triggers can result in different things depending on what the person has been through. In fact many people read trigger warnings as an opportunity to brace themselves, rather than a warning not to click, because they know how they react to their traumas. Similarly, being prepared for it, versus being blindsided by it can make a big difference. When I discuss it being ok with me, I know that I'm going to experience some fear and discomfort, but because I'm forewarned, and expecting it, I can handle it a lot better. A lot of the fun of TTRPGs for me comes from deep and meaningful themes and storytelling, which is also the reason I brave a lot of media (in this case supernatural) that I know might trigger my PTSD, that can be especially meaningful for someone like me who has a personal connection to the content, and a chance to interact with the situation-- that can be empowering, it can be thought-provoking, and all of the other things that good stories are.

But you know, consent and forewarning are important.
My apologies, I'm so used to people misusing the word I assumed you were, too. PTSD sucks.
Edit: Also, when you watch a scary movie, is that really how you react? hiding under tables, feeling like someone is pointing a gun at you,
No, I don't. Because horror movies don't "scare". They excite and thrill. They surprise. They titillate. Sometimes they disgust.
have you really never experienced mild fear.
Yes, I have, but not from movies or RPGs.
Because it sounds like the word you're looking for is "Abject Terror."
No, scare and scared are the right words.
 

pemerton

Legend
The intention here is that my character can be hurt by something you did, even while I know you were just trying to clear angry, or you might flee from the fight with the villain to clear afraid, or you might decide to attack the bad guy while the rest of your team was in stealth. If we're playing to win in a simulationist sense, these are all actions that might make your teammates annoyed at you, but around the Masks table, the mechanics are working to create situations in which you might flee the villain, or screw over a teammate, because the emotional fallout of that happening is the point, not so much actually defeating the villain. We see this in some playbook moves too.

<snip>

You might still identify with your character a lot, but the actual sync of "I want to punch Isidro in the face" and "Thomas my character wants to punch Isidro in the face" is more distant, because your character has incentives to act in ways you wouldn't, they can be made angry against their will
When the GM of Masks tells me that Ronin marks angry due to another character insulting him, it doesn't matter how I think of the character Ronin is angry at, its the narrative asserting itself to make something happen in the fiction, I have to live with it.
This is bleed-in, where the player's emotional state becomes the characters. This is being talked about as something to avoid, although I haven't spent much time thinking on it. The point of "bleed" in the article is for the player to align to and feel the emotional state of the character -- if the character is sad, the player feels sad. This is the "bleed" in the article. It's not about driving the character to act as the player feels.
As Ovinomancer says, @The-Magic-Sword seems to be talking about "bleed in" and its presence or absence.

I've not played Masks, but clearly is doesn't require the player to be angry in order for the character to be angry. That is to say, it doesn't require bleed into the character from the player. But presumably it can generate "bleed out". The mechanics for clearing conditions mean that if my character is Afraid then I, the player, have a reason to want to have my character run away; or if my character is Angry than I, the player, have a reason to want to have my character hit Ronan or Isidro. And I can imagine that, in the right context, that could lead to "bleed out" in the sense that I feel the same aversion to dangerous situations that my Afraid character does; or I feel the same overwhelming impulse to punch Isidro or Ronin in the fact that my character does.

A cleverly-designed 4e D&D mechanic that can generate this sort of bleed from character to player is the Chained Cambion's psychic shackles ability, in MM3. The Cambion is described in the flavour text as having a "tortured psyche", as "hat[ing] its life, its captors, and its enemies who roam free", and as "screaming its despair within the minds of nearby foes." Its mind shackles ability causes two enemies to take ongoing damage unless they are adjacent to one another, with each victim having to make a separate saving throw. When I used this in game, I shackled the melee fighter to the archer ranger. As the two players had to coordinate their actions or else take damage, they started bickering and complaining. Once one had saved but the other hadn't, the bickering got worse, because the one who had saved nevertheless had to stay shackled because the other player couldn't roll a d20 high enough. In other words, I didn't have to tell the players to pretend to be filled with despair and hate towards one another; the mechanic ensured that this actually happened.

I don't think that typical D&D play is going to produce the sort of sustained bleed from character to player that one might hope for from a more dramatically sophisticated system like some of the PbtA ones. This relates very much to the discussion in this current thread about characters as gameplay ciphers (eg for defeating the dragon) rather than as fictionally rich protagonists with their own emotional lives and dramatic needs.
 

Interestingly, I've gotten more actual dramatic bleed from DND 4e than any other system ever, though that's probably more to do with certain trust issues I've developed since then, transitioning completely to online play, and playing with people who flowed into each other less well. But I've definetly felt DND more strongly than Masks, so it can certainly be done.
 

Interestingly, I've gotten more actual dramatic bleed from DND 4e than any other system ever, though that's probably more to do with certain trust issues I've developed since then, transitioning completely to online play, and playing with people who flowed into each other less well. But I've definetly felt DND more strongly than Masks, so it can certainly be done.

I don't think that is interesting in a "didn't figure that" kind of way. But its definitely interesting in a "awesome" kind of way (and 4e is trivially the pinnacle of TSR/WotC bleed for me as a GM, only surpassed by some Dogs/Blades/x World/Torchbearer GMing...and there isn't much daylight there at all to be honest!)!
 

Clearly we're using the word "scared" in two drastically different ways. What exactly do you mean by scared? What do you want your players to do? What reaction do you want from them? Describe the physical and mental thing you want. Don't use the word scared.
Scared: thrown into a state of fear, fright or panic. (Not necessarily panic)

Fright: 1. fear excited by sudden danger, 2. something strange, ugly, or shocking

So, like a scary movie or haunted house.
 

The last several pages have been entrenched haggling over the meaning and application of "scared" and "negotiation."

Think about that for a moment ENWorlders. And be sad. And hope an advanced alien civilization isn't above us in low-earth orbit and they're watching you guys with their finger hovering over the "nuke the barely advanced monkeys" button.
 



Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The last several pages have been entrenched haggling over the meaning and application of "scared" and "negotiation."

Think about that for a moment ENWorlders. And be sad. And hope an advanced alien civilization isn't above us in low-earth orbit and they're watching you guys with their finger hovering over the "nuke the barely advanced monkeys" button.
I think you mean "negotiate with a distinct power advantage over the barely advanced monkeys." Sheesh, this isn't hard.
 



Aldarc

Legend
Maybe. But I still think that it'd be better if we stopped pretending that all of these approaches can be put it one category.

I mean, there is no overlap between OSR and narrativist games. Best practices are incompatible, mistakes are different and advice that one may give or receive can be good or absolutely terrible depending on who is asking.

In Russian-speaking TTRPG world, OSR gang is sitting in their own cute little camp and everyone understands that when unless we specifically talk about OSR, there's no need to bring up that "neutral referee" or "player advocating for their characters" stuff.
IMHO, as someone with an interest in both cultures (or at least the non-toxic parts) - as they both bring unique and well-defined game sensibilities to the table as a result of having to define themselves against Trad/Neo-Trad gaming - I do think that there is a fair amount of overlap between OSR and narrativist games. I agree that OSR diehard crowd likes to imagine themselves as an elitist, secluded circle that sticks to "their own cute little camp," but IMHO it's pretty clear that there is a lot more bleed between the camps than even they recognize.

For example, there's the narrativist Torchbearer that's an ode to old school gaming. There's Dungeon World, which is a bizarre mish-mash of PbtA and OSR. And Dungeon World led to World of Dungeons (John Harper), Freebooters on the Frontier (Jason Lutes), Dungeon Bitches (Emily Allen aka "cavegirl") and even Ironsworn (Shawn Tomkin), which, despite being narrativist games, are all highly influenced by OSR. Likewise, there is Vagabonds of Dyfed that tries to hybridize OSR and PbtA. Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number was also a huge influence on Blades in the Dark.

On the OSR side of things, the impact has not necessarily been as overt, but one can see how narrativist games influenced even a B/X-based game like Over the Wall and Other Adventures (e.g., playbooks, character/village creation, etc.).

And despite differences in their diagnoses of "trad problems," techniques, and approaches, both OSR and narrativist cultures do have some key overlapping ideas and themes that they stress as part of their mutual reaction against Trad/Neo-Trad gaming: e.g., emphasis on character agency, resisting the GM as author of outcomes/railroading, non-linear play, play to find out what happens, emergent play, let the dice fall where they may, fiction first (or fiction before mechanics), etc.
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
I find there is a real cognitive issue when the author says, "here are the cultures of gaming" but then notes that most folks don't actually exist within any one culture.

I am pretty sure "culture" is really the wrong word.

I disagree people naturally live between a blend of cultures. I'm British which influences my culture, but live near Liverpool so while some parts of my life are influence by an overall British Culture, I'm not all the same influences as someone from Essex for example. I also work in Education that has its own culture, and in IT that has another one. When I cook at home I might be taking influences from Indian, Italian or Spanish cultures...

While you might be able to tie particular things I do and practice to one particular culture, people as a whole very rarely can be.

So I don't have a problem with culture being used here. Certain things reflect one gaming culture, but people tend not to fall into neat little boxes.
 
Last edited:


pemerton

Legend
I think discussion of the blogger's terminology and methodology is a distraction. Cultures, paradigms, ideal types, creative agendas: given the context of the initial blog and then of this discussion, there is nothing at stake between these.

The interesting issues are ones like has the author drawn the boundaries more-or-less correctly? Has the author accurately described the main categories of RPGing? Has any important trend in RPGing been left out?

To elaborate on some considerations that are relevant to answering those sorts of questions:

The author distinguishes Nordic Larp from Neo-Trad. But at a certain level of abstraction these could be lumped together - a certain sort of "integrity of the character in the hands of the player" is central to both. It's only when you go a bit further down into the weeds that the salient difference emerges - between an emotional integrity (for Nordic Larp) and integrity of concept (for Neo-Trad).

Are any distinctions of equal salience lurking in the other categories? For instance, do Burning Wheel - a scene-framed game with meta-currency awards connected to the play of the character - and Apocalypse World and its offshoots - which do not rely on the scene as the basic unit of play, and which don't have any sort of meta-currency like BW does - belong together? There are other differences too - eg the role of the GM's conception of the "offsceen" situation is different in BW and AW.

The basis on which BW and AW/PbtA do belong together is that both aim at "story now" play although using different techniques. But as games like these, and building on these, are developed and played down the years, will some of the differences between them start to become more salient to the aesthetic aspirations of RPGers?

[EDITed just to tidy up a misspelled word and an ambiguous verb.]
 
Last edited:

I think discussion of the bloggers terminology and methodology is a distraction. Cultures, paradigms, ideal types, creative agendas: given the context of the initial blog and then of this discussion, there is nothing at stake between these.

The interesting issues are ones like has the author drawn the boundaries more-or-less correctly? Has the author accurately described the main categories of RPGing? Has any important trend in RPGing been left out?

To elaborate on some considerations that are relevant to answering those sorts of questions:

The author distinguishes Nordic Larp from Neo-Trad. But at a certain level of abstraction these could be lumped together - a certain sort of "integrity of the character in the hands of the player" is central to both. It's only when you go a bit further down into the weeds that the salient difference emerges - between an emotional integrity (for Nordic Larp) and integrity of concept (for Neo-Trad).

Are any distinctions of equal salience lurking in the other categories? For instance, do Burning Wheel - a scene-framed game with meta-currency awards connected to the play of the character - and Apocalypse World and its offshoots - which do not rely on the scene as the basic unit of play, and which don't have any sort of meta-currency like BW does - belong together? There are other differences too - eg the role of the GM's conception of the "offsceen" situation is different in BW and AW.

The basis on which they do is that both aim at "story now" play although using different techniques. But as games like these, and building on these, are developed and played down the years, will some of the differences between them start to become more salient to the aesthetic aspirations of RPGers?

I'm not going to go too deeply into this, but the differences are sufficiently potent such that they are salient to the aesthetic aspirations of RPGers.

Consider in the other thread how I attempted to use this taxonomy to capture the differences in classic (but indie ethos) and indie D&D games (including 4e). Forgetting Burning Wheel for a moment, the differences between Moldvay Basic and Torchbearer are significant and they are extremely kindred in a number of ways. The differences between 4e and Dungeon World are significant and they are extremely kindred in a number of ways. Every contrast of just those 4 games will see significant Venn Diagram overlap (in theme, in structure, in techniques deployed, in play priorities) and equally (or more) significant areas outside of that overlap.

I mean the areas outside of the overlap are probably sufficient for me to say that you (pemerton) would love 4e, would be just north of lukewarm on Dungeon World, but wouldn't be inclined toward Torchbearer (in part because you don't love delves, but other reasons as well).
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
I repeat - where people live is not the issue. I discussed this upthread, and won't repeat myself for everyone else's sake.

It's not just about where people live though, as culture doesn't just come from that. If you kept reading I mention different cultures in work environments and the like. I think culture is a perfectly fine word to use in this case.

Would you rather they use the term style?
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm not going to go too deeply into this, but the differences are sufficiently potent such that they are salient to the aesthetic aspirations of RPGers.

<snip>

I mean the areas outside of the overlap are probably sufficient for me to say that you (pemerton) would love 4e, would be just north of lukewarm on Dungeon World, but wouldn't be inclined toward Torchbearer (in part because you don't love delves, but other reasons as well).
Do you think this sort of thing puts any pressure on the blogger's categories? Or is it more like someone who enjoys B/X but finds T&T a bit silly? That's probably not a reason to split the "Classic" category into two.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top