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Okay, I think "What makes it a Big Tent game?", and "What makes it what is is?", are actually two very different questions.I agree- but I'm trying to understand something a wee bit different. This goes to the idea of why "D&D" (however defined) is, and has remained, a "Big Tent" game.
This is easy - it is basically, "What defines a genre?" I am now pedantic for those who have not considered the definition of genres before.If you want to use your analogy, it wouldn't be that we both saw a western film; it would be "What makes something a western such that people can discuss Stagecoach, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Unforgiven, Serenity, and Moon Zero Two as westerns? If I wanted to make a western, except it was set in the 70s in Manchester England, what would that look like?"