Thinking About the Purpose of Mechanics from a Neo-Trad Perspective

Thomas Shey

Legend
That's certainly always going to be an issue; even with broadly designed build systems, the mechanics are going to make assumptions about how some things are resolved, so if you don't have trait add-ons that can modify it in the direction you want, the result you want may not be possible even if the system theoretically supports the character concept you're aiming at.
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
I'd even go so far as to say there are two distinct prelusory stages, one where there's a vague notion of playing a game and what it should be like, that culminates in the picking of a system, followed by a second prelusory stage where the system has been selected and characters are being produced. Character concepts can emerge in either or even evenly in both, and that might dictate the directionality of the causative relationship between concept and game-- the difference between having a concept and needing to pick a system that lets you do that, having a concept and picking the best fit to crystallize it in the language of the game that will be played, picking a concept after game selection where you're looking through the options and deciding what to use as expression ex nihilo and prompting an OC based on that, or even hacking a game that has been selected to produce accommodation; particularly since a best-fit for a selection 3-6 people isn't the same as the best fit for 1 person.
That could be over-productive: diluting differences between OC play, and picking up a game text and creating a character. Perhaps it's right to see OC as a pronounced version of consideration for character that is present in other modes; but say I select FF L5R as my text compelled by my desire to play a bushi character that I have in mind? I think one wants to be able to pick out when and why that is OC, beyond my choosing and playing an RPG that appeals to me... which is what I would ordinarily do in any case.
 

The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
That could be over-productive: diluting differences between OC play, and picking up a game text and creating a character. Perhaps it's right to see OC as a pronounced version of consideration for character that is present in other modes; but say I select FF L5R as my text compelled by my desire to play a bushi character that I have in mind? I think one wants to be able to pick out when and why that is OC, beyond my choosing and playing an RPG that appeals to me... which is what I would ordinarily do in any case.

I'm not sure its distinctly OC (as culture) the emphasis is more that it can be, that different timings for character conceptualization aren't determinative of the presence of OC play. The distinction between the two prelusory stages was to illustrate OCs compatibility with the timings, I think OC itself is more concerning the goals and processes of play at runtime. However your bushi comes about, or however you settled on L5R, centering your goal of spending time with your Bushi, or authoring his arc, that affection and expression, with the player calling the creative shots, is the central concept of OC.
 

There are so many games that focus hard on the improvisional roleplaying that players will be doing that it is very difficult to take the assertion that a lack of attention to this area is at the root of several supposed problems in game design.
 

GobHag

Explorer
I think there are also two different starting point but mirroring one another: Narrative and ludic. Making a character concept backwards from ability/power-set, and not necessarily meaning stuff like Pyromancer or Enchanter but something similar to how card games have 'gimmick' decks or certain deck archetypes(Midrange, Spellslinger, Discard).

Someone might , say, like a certain class' build or how cool 'Limb-Chopper Style' is and work to make a character that fits or contrasts it. They usually have a similar want to the more Narrative OC players but how it manifests is usually in that they don't want the DM to prevent them. Limb-Chopper Style works best with a katana and they really do not care if it doesn't fit the 'Kill Baba Yaga' campaign. Sure they like it if the DM puts 'Maiming Strike'--a prereq for Limb-Chopper Style--as an RP award or treasure but mostly they're fine if they have to be level 6 to get it.

A game that I do think very much fits in the NeoTrad game want of having a preset 'arc' is Chuubo, it's been awhile since I've read it but I think they have something where 'this character end is to get corrupted'
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
Why is this not trad?
It could be, but the distinction being made in the essay is the extent to which the GM has authority over the story. Consider the following quote from the description of “OC / Neo-trad” in the original essay.

OC basically agrees with trad that the goal of the game is to tell a story, but it deprioritises the authority of the DM as the creator of that story and elevates the players' roles as contributors and creators. The DM becomes a curator and facilitator who primarily works with material derived from other sources - publishers and players, in practice.

The question I’m posing is whether I can avoid making an OC and still contribute material (and still have that be neotrad).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
It could be, but the distinction being made in the essay is the extent to which the GM has authority over the story. Consider the following quote from the description of “OC / Neo-trad” in the original essay.

OC basically agrees with trad that the goal of the game is to tell a story, but it deprioritises the authority of the DM as the creator of that story and elevates the players' roles as contributors and creators. The DM becomes a curator and facilitator who primarily works with material derived from other sources - publishers and players, in practice.

The question I’m posing is whether I can avoid making an OC and still contribute material (and still have that be neotrad).
If one applies the "neo-trad" label to the game design, and the "OC" label to the creative agenda, then surely yes. Thinking here about the Mutant Year Zero designer comment that SFAIK introduced neo-trad.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
If one applies the "neo-trad" label to the game design, and the "OC" label to the creative agenda, then surely yes. Thinking here about the Mutant Year Zero designer comment that SFAIK introduced neo-trad.
Where I was trying to go initially was to push back on the essay author’s suggestion that he should have just called it “OC” and not mentioned neotrad, but I’m coming around to his position. If neotrad is going to pull things back to design, it should be left separate (since the author mentioned these cultures were not about design). What I am suggesting (and I think he is as well) is to view them anthropologically rather than analytically. In effect, these cultures are akin to personas.

The value of keeping them separate from design is they allow you to use them with different analytical and design frameworks. If I’m using MDA, I can determine the aesthetics for a particular culture and use that to shape my design. If I am using the criteria that Edwards laid out in System Does Matter, I can adopt the persona of a player in a particular culture (e.g., OC) and then ask myself: does it know its outlook and not waste mechanics on other ones, and is the resolution model appropriate for it.

For example, suppose as an OC player, I want a say over my character’s experiences, so I that I can inhabit my conception of it. My game is going to be a hack of Apocalypse World. Is it a good fit?
  • The mechanics center play on the characters, so that’s good. There are many ways for me to have a say over my character (e.g., how I answer questions, the moves I make, etc); but
  • The resolution method can put the characters to the test on a miss. I may have a say, but I am not guaranteed a say. This can result in my character changing away from my conception.
So my Apocalypse World hack is a bad game for an OC player. If that’s the audience I have in mind for my game, then I need to make (potentially major) changes to it to avoid upsetting the players’ character conceptions.
 

The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
It could be, but the distinction being made in the essay is the extent to which the GM has authority over the story. Consider the following quote from the description of “OC / Neo-trad” in the original essay.

OC basically agrees with trad that the goal of the game is to tell a story, but it deprioritises the authority of the DM as the creator of that story and elevates the players' roles as contributors and creators. The DM becomes a curator and facilitator who primarily works with material derived from other sources - publishers and players, in practice.

The question I’m posing is whether I can avoid making an OC and still contribute material (and still have that be neotrad).
Yes, consider Microscope, if you imbue the enthusiasm into say, a set of institutions and want to make sure they aren't 'ruined' by being taken in unlikeable directions, so you encourage the other participants to avoid doing certain things with their game-given authority to mess with it, that's going to have a lot of the hallmarks of Neotrad-- the sense of emotional ownership and game-authority mitigation is going to be very similar, in my eyes.
 

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