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

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This is one reason to have multiple design models for games. When all you have is one model, one theory, around game design, you miss aspects of games. GNS theory may tell you how well your game appeals to desires for G, for N, or for S. It doesn't help you meet other desires the players might have. Today, this would include identity desires, but won't be limited to that.

As a highly relevant example of today - GNS theory doesn't inform you about design theory around making a game appealing for remote play.
What a strange thing to say, in this way. Of course it doesn't. It doesn't claim to. No one has ever said, to my knowledge, that GNS is all you need or want. This is beating up a strawman.
 

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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Well, hold on a second.
OK holding on
D&D, historically, hasn't mechanically cared a lot if characters had connection to the world. This enables disconnected murder hobos, but does not mean they are required.
Encourages and requires a lot more work out of everyone involved in order to work against it. I know because I did it.

Gurps has mechanics that encourages connections and characters with more depth. Where do the mechanics exclude the loner?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
But do you believe that this would in anyway reduce the amount of jargon or terminology in the hobby?

Well, despite the thread title, I don't think the sheer length of the jargon dictionary is the issue. There are issues around how we use jargon.

When there is only one dominant selection of jargon, it is easy to fall into the habit of assuming its adoption and relevance. When there are multiple sources of relevant jargon, masters of each have to actually think more about their language use.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
How magical is your fantasy world? Do you have cities with circles of transport I certainly do in my modern fantasy stories for instance. If you were trying to cleave really strongly to a true medieval this is not the only issue you will run into.

I think a setting with that much magitech is a "modern world" for most purposes, but even most incarnations of D&D don't go that far, let alone games like most of the ones in the BRP sphere. There's a big gap between "true medieval" and what you're talking about; I'll point out it applied to most of the world up until air travel became a thing.

And of course in SF settings, you can have scales such that even though travel is, in an absolute sense, fast, the scale being played on still means it takes weeks to cover the ground.

I had world spanning organizations priesthoods aka distance is not much of an issue when magic is real. and countries with influence due to massive trade on oceans who themselves distributed minor magic (tech effectively)

A lot of early fantasy liked to blur the lines between magic and tech I always like that and figuring out the impact of magic on the world that is reliable seems to always be a lot like potent tech.

I don't disagree. I just kind of think that doesn't describe a rather large number of RPG settings.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Right, and I think we even got that back in the day. We were actually pretty friendly to the idea of building more elaborate backstories and whatnot than a lot of groups (maybe because by the early 80's we were old enough to play in a bit more mature way). I recall that the Traveler campaign I ran at this time also had characters that the players had fleshed out backstories for to a higher degree than normal. Like the Merchant character's Free Trader wasn't just some random ship. In the first adventure he was searching for his father and his father's ship, which they found drifting frozen in space. Between recovering it, fighting with the insurance company and the bank, repairing the damage, etc. he ended up with basically a standard mortgage! This was the sort of play we were always after. Champions was pretty good, though I guess the guy that owned it lost interest or something.

Well, there were always going to be some people who would hop on board the idea, but it seemed desirable from a design standpoint to try to passively encourage even the ones who were resistant to giving GMs that kind of handle to do so. It was very much a genre support rules setup (the fact that, much as I may emphasize how particularly strong that effect is in supers, its useful to encourage fleshing out in general came later at the hands of people named McDonald and Jackson, so I can't make any claims about that).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Well, at least around here, that seems to happen anyway, especially with GDS/GNS terminology, for reasons already discussed by many - including yourself, iirc.

So, if the terms aren't saving you from having to re-explain concepts, what's the point of the terms?

I disagree with your premise. You may have to do it reasonably frequently, but there's a big difference between that and having to do it with every new participant. If that wasn't true, no term-of-art ever would be useful, and they simply wouldn't happen.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
One thing I find interesting there is that the GNS model did recognize many differences, even incompatiblities or outright competing agendas, within its Simulationist category (more than just process vs. high concept), even as it huddled them all up under that umbrella to claim that they did all share the same specific contrasts in comparison with Gamism and with Narrativism.

Except, as I've noted, it kind of didn't unless you were extremely fixed on elements that were largely trivial from the POV that actually was interested in any of the styles buried in it. As you note, there were some issues with G too, but not as severe.

Honestly, it comes across as they narrowed Nar enough they didn't have to worry about much of it falling outside the lines and, whether they avowedly cared about them or not, though Gamism and Simulationism could just take care of themselves.

There was also some talk (from what I've managed to read, not being involved at the time) about how the vast majority of RPG development up to then (and certainly at the time) had been in the realm of Simulationism, less so in Gamism—which had gotten short shrift in the preceding GDS discussion.

While I do agree GDS Gamism got the least attention (as I said, the fact that out of all the RGFA proponents there were all of three of us who really cared didn't help), I find it kind of--reaching--to suggest Gamism got no development focus. The early RPG writers were mostly wargamers, after all.
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski
Except, as I've noted, it kind of didn't unless you were extremely fixed on elements that were largely trivial from the POV that actually was interested in any of the styles buried in it. As you note, there were some issues with G too, but not as severe.
This is interesting; could you elaborate?

Honestly, it comes across as they narrowed Nar enough they didn't have to worry about much of it falling outside the lines and, whether they avowedly cared about them or not, though Gamism and Simulationism could just take care of themselves.
Yes, this is becoming more apparent to me the more I look into it.

While I do agree GDS Gamism got the least attention (as I said, the fact that out of all the RGFA proponents there were all of three of us who really cared didn't help), I find it kind of--reaching--to suggest Gamism got no development focus. The early RPG writers were mostly wargamers, after all.
I didn't mean to suggest it got no development focus, I just said it got short shrift (which may still be too strong, I'll admit).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Well, hold on a second.

D&D, historically, hasn't mechanically cared a lot if characters had connection to the world. This enables disconnected murder hobos, but does not mean they are required. The murder hobos are one possible result, not a rules core element that excludes other character types from play.

Meanwhile, requiring connection in character generation would be a core rules element that does exclude some character types, like the disconnected murder hobo, and the perhaps more nuanced Man With No Name.

Just so we are clear on that.

Well, a lot of disadvantage systems don't require connection, they're just one of the easiest ways to use them to meet requirements and/or acquire extra points. As an example, you can build a Champions character who's got no Hunteds, DNPCs or Reputation; you just take things like physical vulnerabilities and psychological limits. You can do similar things in GURPS.

What it does do is put a thumb on the other side of the scale from the tendency in parts of the hobby that avoid connections at all cost because of either direct consequences of dealing with adversarial GMs, or by inheritance from gaming cultures that evolved out of hitting that. I'll argue that's most of where you see "murderhobos" come from; its not a particularly expected thing for people to develop who haven't been bit.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
This is one reason to have multiple design models for games. When all you have is one model, one theory, around game design, you miss aspects of games. GNS theory may tell you how well your game appeals to desires for G, for N, or for S. It doesn't help you meet other desires the players might have. Today, this would include identity desires, but won't be limited to that.

As a highly relevant example of today - GNS theory doesn't inform you about design theory around making a game appealing for remote play.

To be fair, I don't think GNS was designed to be the be-all and end-all of talking about game elements; I certainly know GDS wasn't. It was specifically talking about a certain layer that made potential problems for people wanting different things out of it. The Stances discussion in the RGFA days was, for example (mostly) orthogonal.
 

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