Why Jargon is Bad, and Some Modern Resources for RPG Theory

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
However, I agree with earlier posts which pointed out that terms like 'railroading' or 'player authority' probably should ALSO be explained, though they don't happen to be recognized to belong to any one particular 'school' or other.
Perhaps. Thing is, though, the moment in a discussion when one tries to explain or define railroading is the moment when that discussion jumps off its previous track and instead devolves into a long drawn-out argument over that explanation or definition; which defeats the point of having the original discussion.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Perhaps. Thing is, though, the moment in a discussion when one tries to explain or define railroading is the moment when that discussion jumps off its previous track and instead devolves into a long drawn-out argument over that explanation or definition; which defeats the point of having the original discussion.

Yep. This isn't something confined to Forge jargon.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is this:

So long as the terms are undefined, people can continue on, happy in the oblivious notion that they agree. It is only when someone makes the tragic error of defining a term that the people realize that they were only in agreement because they were talking about different things the entire time.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Extraordinary statements (there are ONLY three reasons people play TTRPGs) require extraordinary proof.

Let me know when there is ... you know, actual empirical proof through studies or surveys of players*, and not just people saying so.


*Even something as basic as the one I provided the link to earlier.
My understanding from what I have read of GNS is that it does not claim that there are only three creative agendas, only that they were three of the most prevalent. That does not mean that GNS is correct about those three broad general categories or creative agendas, but I think that the claim is a little less extraordinary or absolute as you make it out to be. 🤷‍♂️

Consider the article that you linked about the reasons why people roleplay. It provides five categories or reasons. Does that mean that these are the ONLY reasons because the author grouped their findings into broad categories?
 
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100% agree. Ron Edwards himself was also a keen fan of Champions and other non-narrativist games. Personally I found GNS very useful and I published a narrativist-supporting RPG, but I also greatly enjoy the Gamist elements of D&D (4e much moreso than 5e) and one of my last games as a GM was highly simulationist MERP/Rolemaster play.

I definitely don't see myself as an N looking down on those dirty Gs and Ss. I'm just someone who likes the games I play to pick a lane and focus strongly on that particular flavour rather than trying to have a little bit of everything.
Yeah, I totally agree. I am in no way an agenda-snob. I've tried every sort of RPG there is. There are a few cases where I think an RPG is basically dated to the point where there are simply much better choices, but in terms of the type of game play? I enjoy a lot of things. Some I'm better at than others, but I also find that doing things I'm NOT so good at are generally the more rewarding ones, at least up to a certain point. I mean, I would not now play Call of Cthulhu, there's just MUCH MUCH better games for that genre, and likewise better games which do the core agenda too (not the same game, as I think CoC's mix of agenda-related features and genre is a crummy mix).
 

Yeah. Some of these are really odd. Like you, me and mine always played that way. Fiction first. That was literally the point of the game. And has been since 1984. Dive into the world as much as possible. Make decisions from there. If you want to move a pawn around a board, go play a board game. If you want a rigid game of numbers, go play a video game. RPGs were the only one of those three that could even handle it. To us, that was the "killer app" of RPGs.
But it most certainly wasn't the origination point of the RPG concept, as far as I experienced it. That came from a combination of open-ended adjudication and the focus on single characters. While we were certainly aware of role play as an element of game, as in Actor Stance RP, we didn't consider that to be pivotal to the idea of an RPG at all. Instead it was the directing the character through a scenario where we selected actions from an unlimited palette of possibilities. In a board game you climbed the ropes, slid down the chutes, moved down the road and landed on Atlantic Avenue and paid rent, etc. Even in classic war games you still only had limited options, move or reload your muskets (or whatever the rules said you could do). All of a sudden we could decide to open the door, nail it shut, listen at it, leave it alone, burn it down, knock on it, or ANY OTHER THING we could describe in words, as long as we could explain how it could be accomplished.

So, the focus on playing in character, on driving the game via character motives and needs, etc. wasn't really part of that at first. MUCH of this play was pretty much pawn stance, challenge-oriented play. It was not relevant who Bongo the Dwarf was, you were playing a dwarf, with certain abilities, and you could declare things based on that. That was it. I won't claim nobody did something else right there from day one in 1974 or so, but D&D itself didn't really talk about it like that.
 

Looping back to this, because I think it may be a low-key but very significant part of where the backlash against GNS comes from. Taking your word for it that GNS’s claim is not that the various agendas can’t coexist, but that there is the potential for conflict to arise between them, I think Edwards and Co kinda took that and said “therefore, a game should pick one and focus on it, lest it be incoherent” whereas the folks who take issue with the Forge don’t find the notion that these interests can sometimes come into conflict with each other particularly revelatory, and have all along been interested in developing systems that avoid or smooth over those conflicts. So what you’ve got is one group of people seeking the best ways to serve all of these interests simultaneously, and another group saying “eww, no, that doesn’t work, you have to pick one and commit to it hard.”
And I suspect, heavily, if you were to talk to Ron Edwards right now today, he'd probably say something similar. In fact I think there was some discussion of that not too long ago in one of the other threads where he was quoted saying something about mixing approaches. I know it is tempting to always put your rhetorical targets in a box and ascribe specific definite traits to them, which you can then make points against. Reality, at least in this case, is not so clear cut. I don't know if I agree with Ron or not, exactly. I think if you were to say "mixing X, and Y works if you do A, B, and C, and can lead to Q, P, and R interesting results" I can get behind the idea that those things may well exist and make such a statement valid. I don't think that conflicts with the 'incoherent' observation though. Some things don't easily mix, and some maybe not at all.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
My understanding from what I have read of GNS is that it does not claim that there are only three creative agendas, only that they were three of the most prevalent. That does not mean that GNS is correct about those three broad general categories or creative agendas, but I think that the claim is a little less extraordinary or absolute as you make it out to be. 🤷‍♂️

Consider the article that you linked about the reasons why people roleplay. It provides five categories or reasons. Does that mean that these are the ONLY reasons because the author grouped their findings into broad categories?

Well, of course not! It's a very limited sample size, and drawn from undergraduates at one small midwestern university. But ...

1. The author showed their work.

2. The categories were created from the data; not just conjured from thin air.

3. Others can try and repeat the process (and replicate, or not) if they so choose.

What can GNS do? Again, tell me why GNS is any more rigorous than a Buzzfeed listicle? I don't mean that the conversations weren't productive to informing "N" design for indie games in the early aughts- I mean why should this typology be given any credence whatsoever?
 

Using @niklinna's idea of a flowchart of possible events, this doesn't seem like its A to B to C. For instance, couldn't the PCs get to the secret door and then go back to room 2 to make an offering, or study the reliefs or memorise the oath? Plus there are the patrols which may or may not ambush depending on what the players have their PCs do. And the PCs might (say) Charm the Bugbear boss and send boss with squad to fight the undead.

As I've said, I think there is something going on in the usage of the term that I'm not picking up on.
My personal opinion is it is less at a detailed level of, say, rooms, and more at a general level. The classic AD&D A series 'Against the Slave Lords' modules (A1-A4) follow this pattern and are VERY linear in that you go from the first module in the series to the 2nd, etc. There's no bypassing one, no real 'branches' at all. The structure of each module attempts to insure that the PCs are shunted into the opening sequence of the next module correctly. Within each module things vary. Generally speaking they're fairly linear internally, but IIRC some of them are closer to a set of options or could even be approached almost as a random series of encounters, though again, progress to the next one requires certain things to happen. If the PCs go 'off the rails' somewhere in, say, A2, it could be pretty hard to get back on track.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Well, of course not! It's a very limited sample size, and drawn from undergraduates at one small midwestern university. But ...

1. The author showed their work.

2. The categories were created from the data; not just conjured from thin air.

3. Others can try and repeat the process (and replicate, or not) if they so choose.
Sure, one is an academic who is required to demonstrate research methodology and one is an enthusiastic hobbyist making generalizations based on amateuristic observations.

What can GNS do? Again, tell me why GNS is any more rigorous than a Buzzfeed listicle? I don't mean that the conversations weren't productive to informing "N" design for indie games in the early aughts- I mean why should this typology be given any credence whatsoever?
This reminds me of sitting in classes where students were more concerned about their feelings regarding a political theorist or whether they thought the theorist was right/wrong rather than what the political theorist actually said in the text, which was what we were supposed to be discussing. Moreover, it's a bit irrelevant to the point that I was making, as this part of my post may have escaped your notice:
My understanding from what I have read of GNS is that it does not claim that there are only three creative agendas, only that they were three of the most prevalent. That does not mean that GNS is correct about those three broad general categories or creative agendas, but I think that the claim is a little less extraordinary or absolute as you make it out to be. 🤷‍♂️
The credence of GNS's categories is not the issue in my post, but, rather, your claims that GNS states that there is ONLY three reasons why people play roleplaying games. As far as I'm concerned, you can both be wrong. Edwards can be wrong about GNS while you can be wrong about what they said, especially if neither of you properly did your homework. These aren't mutually exclusive options.
 

niklinna

Legend
My personal opinion is it is less at a detailed level of, say, rooms, and more at a general level. The classic AD&D A series 'Against the Slave Lords' modules (A1-A4) follow this pattern and are VERY linear in that you go from the first module in the series to the 2nd, etc. There's no bypassing one, no real 'branches' at all. The structure of each module attempts to insure that the PCs are shunted into the opening sequence of the next module correctly. Within each module things vary. Generally speaking they're fairly linear internally, but IIRC some of them are closer to a set of options or could even be approached almost as a random series of encounters, though again, progress to the next one requires certain things to happen. If the PCs go 'off the rails' somewhere in, say, A2, it could be pretty hard to get back on track.
This is why I took pains to say "at some level of granularity". Several times, in fact!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Sure, one is an academic who is required to demonstrate research methodology and one is an enthusiastic hobbyist making generalizations based on amateuristic observations.

That's fair, and I agree! But that also ties into the "endless loop" that has been described by Torner, et al., in the hobby.

A. Amateur hobbyist declaring that there's a problem in TTRPGs.
B. This problem is caused by inconsistent desires/agendas/types of players.
C. Therefore, a new typology of players will be announced (almost always with some types being more equal than others, in the George Orwell sense).
D. Based on that typology, a theory (or theories) of TTRPGs and/or game design will bloom, under the concept that the system itself will enable/encourage/assist in certain types of play.
E. Rinse, repeat.

In addition, because of the hobbyist nature, the past lessons keep getting forgotten. We just keep re-inventing the wheel.

This reminds me of sitting in classes where students were more concerned about their feelings regarding a political theorist or whether they thought the theorist was right/wrong rather than what the political theorist actually said in the text, which was what we were supposed to be discussing. Moreover, it's a bit irrelevant to the point that I was making, as this part of my post may have escaped your notice:

The credence of GNS's categories is not the issue in my post, but, rather, your claims that GNS states that there is ONLY three reasons why people play roleplaying games. As far as I'm concerned, you can both be wrong. Edwards can be wrong about GNS while you can be wrong about what they said, especially if neither of you properly did your homework. These aren't mutually exclusive options.

I am perfectly willing to accept that both I am wrong, and Edwards is wrong. In fact, far from being mutually exclusive, I'd say that it's probably the most likely scenario. After all, I am just another amateur criticizing an amateur.

There's a lot of people that know more about the subject than me- which is why I post links and recommend people check it out!
 

Quite the reverse. That said, a lot of indie publishers did try to codify "fiction first" principles into the rules and play procedures rather than "that's the way that it's always been played."


I have told you before but our memories about our pasts tend to be highly deceptive. We often project false histories onto the past based upon the present, and the more time between the present and a given moment in the past, the greater the potential room for misremembering. It's no secret to scientific studies that our memories play tricks on us and cause us to misremember in a variety of different ways. This is pretty clear when some American politicians project a utopian like society on the 1950s.

Sandboxes were created in 1850 in Berlin's parks. (Yes, sand existed in enclosed spaces before that.) Sandboxes have served as a metaphor for creative interaction and play since even the late 1800s. So it is no surprise that "sandbox" existed as a term in TTRPG circles; however, in earlier publications its meaning was closer in meaning with "the campaign" or even other more generalized uses rather than its present specialized meaning describing a particular playstyle or setting.

Dragon #25, Tim Kask


Dragon #247, Page 123

Later in the issue


This latter, more restricted meaning supposedly came more directly from video games. According to designer Robert Conley:

Most of what I have found on the Internet seems to conform with the above point that our current sense of "sandbox game" came from video games, even if both "sandbox" was used and this style of play existed in TTRPGs prior to its coinage. (I also saw one TTRPG source use "story telling game" back in 1980 for what we would now clearly call a "sandbox game.")

The above also matches up with the development of the term "sandbox games" in video games: "The Theory and History of Sandbox Gaming" -

This article points out that while games that we would retroactively consider as "sandbox games" existed prior to the coinage of the term, it was only with the advent of The Sims (2000) and Grand Theft Auto III (2001) that we see "sandbox game" coined to describe a style of video game. These are also the two games mentioned as redefining the genre on the Wikipedia article on Sandbox Games. And unsurprisingly both of these games predate the Wilderlands of High Fantasy (2005) book by Necromancer Games.

Even if you search for "sandbox" on the ENWorld forums from about 2005 back, no one is really using "sandbox" with this more specialized meaning. It's much closer to what we find in the Dragon magazine snippets above, where it's used more akin to "playing in someone else's sandbox" (i.e., a game, a campaign, a setting, the table, etc.) rather than its more contemporaneous sense. In one such post, Eberron is described as WotC's "sandbox," with a meaning that is closer to what we would now probably refer to as a "kitchen sink setting."

🤷‍♂️
Well... there's never going to be a way to prove it, but I didn't participate in ANY online RPG forums at all before the release of 4e, but I definitely recall 'sandbox' being THE traditional term, going all the way back to the '80s, for that type of game. It may not have been a very prevalent term, but one thing that may explain why it was not used much is that, frankly, the term 'campaign' itself, in the RPG context, mostly referred to a sandbox! I mean, that was the understood default form of construction of a campaign. The GM established a geography and encounter locations, as well as potentially some sort of meta-plot that would take place, and the the players simply 'went places and did stuff'. The stuff they could do was obviously limited to what the GM put into the sandbox, but that was about it. Now, in reality most people played a more informal type of 'campaign' that basically consisted of 'serial dungeons' (usually purchased modules, but not always). I'd say sometime in the mid '80s the old type of campaign kind of withered away, at least it became a rarity.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
My personal opinion is it is less at a detailed level of, say, rooms, and more at a general level. The classic AD&D A series 'Against the Slave Lords' modules (A1-A4) follow this pattern and are VERY linear in that you go from the first module in the series to the 2nd, etc. There's no bypassing one, no real 'branches' at all. The structure of each module attempts to insure that the PCs are shunted into the opening sequence of the next module correctly. Within each module things vary. Generally speaking they're fairly linear internally, but IIRC some of them are closer to a set of options or could even be approached almost as a random series of encounters, though again, progress to the next one requires certain things to happen. If the PCs go 'off the rails' somewhere in, say, A2, it could be pretty hard to get back on track.
A-1 has some options. A-2 at first glance looks like it has all sorts of options, but a closer look or a run-through finds it in fact to be very linear in its design* other than a few branches in the lower level. A-3 has options outdoors then becomes linear once the PCs get into the actual "dungeon" bits, leading to a very railroad-y conclusion which really does need buy-in from the players.

But A-4 is an odd duck. It's clearly written with the intent of being quite linear, but in non-tournament play once the PCs get out of jail it's as open-ended as any module out there; yes there's a serious time crunch involved but there's very little restricting what the players can have their PCs (try to) do within that time. They have an entire small city to explore-befriend-pillage-hide in, and-or they can try to flee the island, and-or they could try to find a place to hunker down and survive what's coming then carry on afterwards, or whatever.

A-4 does very much leave the DM on her own should the PCs not do what the module expects, but I guess we can't expect much more from what was specifically written as a tournament adventure.

* - when I ran it I changed much of it from linear to looping via the simple addition of about six internal doors, a hidden staircase to provide a potential second vertical access point, and a postern gate to the outside.
 

You presumably set the stakes for the skill challenge when you declare it. So there is two ways it can go, the determined pass stake and the determined fail stake. The fiction cannot evolve into some completely different direction. Also, it really doesn't matter much what the characters do, they just need to make up something to trigger the skill roll. And if someone comes up with something that seems really easy, or really hard in the fiction, it doesn't matter, the DC is the same. If someone comes up with something ingenious that should solve the whole issue at once or something utterly disastrous that should instantly doom the whole attempt, it cannot happen without deviating from the skill challenge structure. Nope, sorry, this is mostly just weaving some flavour on rigid and fixed mechanics. If we want to truly put the fiction first, then we don't have some inflexible framework the fiction needs to conform to, we apply the mechanics to the situation as the fiction warrants it.
This is where we see that you can't just mix any old 'stuff' together and get a working outcome! A 4e SC really has to be focused on INTENT, not action success in terms of its final outcome. So, if we want to get to the Great Temple before the Blood Moon rises, then we have an intent, and we have a 'landscape' of obstacles which the GM can construct, or which may already be established to some degree or other. Now we can see that, yes, it is possible for the party to 'derail' this whole thing, if they really want to, but I don't see why that's a negative or really even bears much on the nature of this kind of structure. As for ideas like "it doesn't really matter much what the characters do" this is flat out preposterous! Again, this is why we need a definite process, the GM will posit an obstacle "You must cross Rocky River" and the players can propose various approaches to doing that, which might elicit some different DCs, etc. (Read the SC rules in the 4e RC, there are a couple different ways that checks can have different difficulties). In every case the GM will be presenting fiction that explicates all of this. Furthermore the SC rules dictate that some skills can only be used once, require a more difficult DC inherently, etc. (these kinds of restrictions would be used to establish (dis)incentives for particular types of task declarations).

I'm not sure what all this has to do with terminology though...
 

aramis erak

Legend
This is an interesting point. I think there was definitely a clash of assumptions where GNS-sympathetic people tended to see different games [...]
The biggest problem with GNS is that advocates for it don't all mean the same by it, since Edwards' view on it changed, and he always preached his most recent version.
By the end of the big model, they'd made the entire thing in an echo chamber.

THe initial essay, provided one doesn't insist that each item can only fit in the points of the triangle, provides a means of comparing ones preferences and the rules. I'm somewhere near the middle of the graph... towards the gamist corner, but definitely not in the gamist corner.

My first encounters with Ron were all negative, because he couldn't accept that anyone wasn't firmly in one corner, and his accusations of self-deception arising from that.

His methodology was fine at first; by the time I'd encountered the RPGForge, he was almost literally chasing out anyone challenging his ideas. Which makes the (otherwise reasonable) research process entirely ruined by lack of criticism. Academic criticism is essential.

GNS the initial essay is useful in that it provides pretty clear definitions, and it allows one to assess one's place of preference, and to categorize games. But any use of it should include a link to the initial essay...

I'll also note: no more credible academician in the English speaking world has arisen with a reasonable rigor to their methodology than Ron. The problem is his training is in life sciences, specifically zoology... not social sciences, and so he blows the standards for sociological and psychological research. He also seems to lack the mathematical prowess to analyze the data he generated effectively. And he treated study subjects as peer review... which makes his credibility dubious, especially the latter works.

Shannon Applecline is farm more rigourous, but isn't doing the same type of research; Applecline is doing history, not evaluation of what makes a game work for clade X but not for clade Y... Applecline has become, if not the definitive, the most authoritative historian of Roleplaying Games in print.

I'm too lazy to do similar research to either - what I've read of Applecline is nifty.
 

It’s way worse than that. These exact same conversations (only using slightly different terms and jargon) have been going on since at least the late 1960s (yes, they predate D&D), if not all the way back to Reisswitz’s Kriegsspiel game in 1812. We’re stuck in a conversational loop that’s at least 60 years old at this point, if not one that’s 210 years old.
Really? I mean, where are the discussions of something that we would call Story Games or 'Narrativist agenda play'? I mean, there has been effectively LARP, cooperative storytelling techniques of various types, improv theater, etc. I think they HAVE touched on similar or analogous questions at times, but I'm not so convinced that this particular vein of discussion is that old. FK, in the classic sense, does have some rules, and the participants certainly are doing a type of RP, and they have defined agendas. However, since there isn't a 'free narrative' in those types of games (they are about something specific, having the character of 'scenarios') its not really possible they can support a discussion of character-oriented play where the focus is on driving the fiction forward in a way similar to what Edwards describes. I mean, I can't swear there wasn't an experimentalist group of RPers someplace that never did something like that. However, it certainly didn't go far, or we wouldn't be calling D&D the first modern RPG. Right?
 

I think that this is a point of fundamental agreement that we likely have.

At the most basic level, and from my POV, GNS (and the Forge) was born out of a rejection of the dominant games of the time (V:TM and AD&D 2e and 3e). It led to a dramatic increase in indie games, and, more importantly, an emphasis on design in the "N" sphere.

All of that is good! That's how it's supposed to work; you reject the dominant paradigm, and in so doing, make new stuff. We can see this with OSR, FKR, Storygames, and going back to debates about illusionism and the rise of storytelling in the 70s.

I think that there are people that appreciate the games that arose from the Forge model, but also understand that for that reason, it's primarily gNs. It's really good for the N ... not so much for people that like other games, especially so-called "trad" games.

For that reason, the rhetoric surrounding the Forge (which is activist) and the "conversion stories" (I used to be a dumb ol' D&D player like you, until I saw the light!) is not just off-putting, but can be actively offensive at times ... especially when it is repeatedly called neutral.

Again, that doesn't mean that the jargon isn't helpful for some people, or doesn't improve their games. But I think it is telling that most modern designers eschew those labels.
Honestly though, I don't think that many designers DID use those terms. I mean, maybe they did when they chatted about stuff on The Forge way back when, but Mike Mearls was there, along with various other really well known RPG authors, and where are they off spouting about this stuff? They never did. It was, at most, a discussion that happened in a forum and they got some ideas, and then they ran with them, in various ways, with various results.

TBH, my guess is that if this sort of discussion IS happening today, it is hidden behind invite-only gates. I mean, endless public debate filled with the posts of all of us, who have never seriously designed an RPG (I mean I've written a couple, but I wouldn't call myself a game designer) probably isn't a whole lot of use to professionals... Frankly I don't post much on public boards about IT topics either, that doesn't mean I don't have conversations with other pros whom I have learned to value the opinions of. I just have no interest in having those discussions in public where random ignoramuses will bog down the discussion! Its pretty specialized stuff, really. As to what terminology or analytical concepts or whatever they use in these hypothetical RPG designer discussions, heck if I know! lol.
 

pemerton

Legend
Yes, this counts as a linear adventure (script), especially as you stated its intent is clear (possibly explicit!). The GM can run it otherwise, of course, or give the players the option to change the order.
More questions incoming:

Having learned that it's a linear adventure, what do I now know about it? As an analytical term, where is that supposed to take me?

EDIT: Apparently I already asked those questions upthread!

Ooh, interesting question, but I'm afraid that would branch us off the main line of inquiry. 😉 Maybe I'll come back to this after I catch up!
Fair enough! But there is another thing you posted that I wanted to reply to.

The difference is whether the players are aware they have some choice in how things go, and whether that matters to them of course.
This puzzled me.

In The Green Knight the players have a very large amount of choice over how things go, mostly oriented around Honour and Dishonour. But what sequence the events happen in isn't one of the objects of choice. Because it has no bearing on matters of Honour or Dishonour.
 

pemerton

Legend
As has become clear, "linear" is not a simple thing, nor does it really apply to an "adventure" as a unit. It applies to some parts or aspects of an adventure, as scripted, GMed, or played through, which I've generically called "situations"—locations, NPCs, activities/events. Since we live in sequential time, every adventure ultimately becomes linear, but from an authorial/director point of view, mapping potential sequences, things can branch, loop, or have other structures. Even players can be aware of this in moments where decisions are possible—but only one option can be taken.

So, your "suppose that it was linear" needs to be more specific. Linear in what way? The adventure as described is linear by decree, except for the bookend scenes. Nothing about its internal structure, no cause/effect relationships, no baked-in need for the PCs to have obtained a particular thing that is then needed in the next (or a subsequent) scene, requires the ordering. Linear by degree, I would submit, isn't a particularly interesting property. But the other stuff, that gets interesting, for the author, the GM, and the players! Even as the adventure remains linear in some aspects, things are now connected in more interesting ways than merely, "and then that happens"
I've bolded two bits of your post. Is "the other stuff" that gets interesting "the dependence of stuff in subsequent scenes on earlier scenes"?

I think that is an interesting property of preparing/scripting scenes for RPGing. Because it requires that whichever scene is run first produce certain outcomes that will support the dependencies that obtain in which scene is run second. And there is evident scope for tension between requiring certain outcomes be produced and players declaring actions for their PCs.

My personal opinion is it is less at a detailed level of, say, rooms, and more at a general level. The classic AD&D A series 'Against the Slave Lords' modules (A1-A4) follow this pattern and are VERY linear in that you go from the first module in the series to the 2nd, etc. There's no bypassing one, no real 'branches' at all. The structure of each module attempts to insure that the PCs are shunted into the opening sequence of the next module correctly.
The idea of "shunting" seems related to the idea of producing certain outcomes that will support the dependencies between scenes.

As well as the sorts of dependencies @niklinna mentions (obtaining a thing, meeting a person etc) there can be dependencies like this: if Scene B opens "As your reach the crest of the mountain pass, you see a scene of devastation in the land below", that won't work if at the end of Scene A the protagonists decided not to cross the mountains.

but if, say, there's something to be learned/found at scene 2 that would make a difference in how scene 3 plays out then there could be a significant difference in play if the sequence goes 3-2 than if it goes 2-3.
OK, but then what's interesting isn't the "linearity" but rather the dependencies. So let's have a term to describe that.

As I already posted, The Green Knight has no such dependencies.

Re: linear

I think it’s most helpful in thinking of adventure design for games like DnD, CoC etc. Sometimes quite literally, as in how a text is organized and laid out and how that helps out a reader.

I've read some of The Alexandrian's work on "node-based design" and the closely related "three clue rule". I personally see it as a way of preparing a sophisticated sort of railroad. It tries to resolve the tension I describe just above by building in multiple, overlapping dependencies between scenes.

linear adventures/dungeons are IMO and IME generally less interesting for all involved* than are looping ones; with branching ones somewhere between.
This seems to be going back to geography.

But anyway I don't think this claim seems very plausible. The Green Knight is more interesting than many looping dungeon (or starship, or alien facility, or . . .) scenarios I've encountered. And I don't see how it would be more interesting by changing the sequence of the non-bookend scenes.
 

niklinna

Legend
More questions incoming:

Having learned that it's a linear adventure, what do I now know about it? As an analytical term, where is that supposed to take me?

EDIT: Apparently I already asked those questions upthread!
Were they answered?

Fair enough! But there is another thing you posted that I wanted to reply to.

The difference is whether the players are aware they have some choice in how things go, and whether that matters to them of course.
This puzzled me.

In The Green Knight the players have a very large amount of choice over how things go, mostly oriented around Honour and Dishonour. But what sequence the events happen in isn't one of the objects of choice. Because it has no bearing on matters of Honour or Dishonour.
A large amount of choice in one area can mask a lack of choice in other areas.

Generally, though, players who can see that they lack choices they might otherwise expect to have, might not like that.
 

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