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

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Malmuria

I fundamentally disagree that a game like Blades in the Dark or Apocalypse World is fundamentally less focused than adventure games like D&D 5e or Conan 2d20. You have to basically ignore the entirety of the game's text and deal with counterproductive procedures to get anything close to the same sort of play. The same could be said for the opposite direction by the way.

I agree that a game like Monsterhearts or My Life With Master is more thematically focused than 5e or Exalted, but then again so is Vampire and L5R. It's not like a trad versus Story Now thing. It's a game to game thing.

Connotationally I also really dislike the focused/narrow bit because it feels like saying traditional games are for everyone and these other games are for weird people.

Also the idea that like you can have the same sort of play experience without the technique and discipline I know is required to get you there is the biggest fundamental issue I have with that particular notion.

Addendum: I am speaking to specific sorts of discipline and technique. Running a trad game well obviously requires different sorts of discipline and technique.
 
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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.
Right, I think one of us made this point in the ancestor of this thread as well. None of these analytical frameworks is really intended to examine every aspect of RPGs. GNS, for example, was not even intended to be applied to GAMES at all, but more to players (and maybe more specifically even to how they happened to play in a given situation). GDS and the various theories and analyses mentioned by the OP likewise. They may each simply capture some different dimension. People probably then think they've said everything that is to be said, foolishly, and thus someone else rushes in and claims the other guy is full of it, ad infinitum.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yes, I would dislike it for exactly this reason. However, if we allow justifications from dramatic internal logic, it would make perfect sense. The hit points loss represent the dramatic situation moving closer to defeat, and this doesn't necessarily need to correspond to any specific fixed events such as hits or misses.


But narrativist games absolutely prioritise certain kind of dramatic logic!
How so? They do not use dramatic logic to resolve things, nor are choice made to prioritize dramatic logic either when the GM is making a move or the player declaring actions. Dramatic logic may inform, but it isn't controlling nor is it prioritized. I don't consider dramatic logic when I'll deciding on actions for my PC in PbtA games or Blades. Doing so would actually be against the principles of play for players.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
To me that's more an issue in what an attack roll is meant to represent (mapping mechanics to fiction). If billed as a "to hit" roll, the name is pretty clearly indicating that a miss means you don't hit. If not billed as such, I'm fine with an attack success/fail governing degrees of damage instead. It's just a different way of dividing up the fumble/miss/hit/crit range. If such things aren't presented in terms of damage-whittling at all, you have something different again.
You don't have that particular cognitive lens, so it doesn't bother you -- it's not an internal cause that you're concerned about (although you may be concerned about others).
 

@Malmuria

I fundamentally disagree that a game like Blades in the Dark or Apocalypse World is fundamentally less focused than adventure games like D&D 5e or Conan 2d20. You have to basically ignore the entirety of the game's text and deal with counterproductive procedures to get anything close to the same sort of play. The same could be said for the opposite direction by the way.

I agree that a game like Monsterhearts or My Life With Master is more thematically focused than 5e or Exalted, but then again so is Vampire and L5R. It's not like a trad versus Story Now thing. It's a game to game thing.

Connotationally I also really dislike the focused/narrow bit because it feels like saying traditional games are for everyone and these other games are for weird people.

Also the idea that like you can have the same sort of play experience without the technique and discipline I know is required to get you there is the biggest fundamental issue I have with that particular notion.

Thanks for the polite response!

Anyway, my point is not about trad vs story now. It’s about the benefits of considering historical and social context when discussing a game, or more generally why its interesting to do so.

As I posted in the pride month thread, I don’t think “queer games” are just games that engage in certain themes explicitly, so I take your point about not reinforcing that dichotomy. If anything I think 5e—for reasons that go way beyond game design—affords exploration of personal identity in a way that is reinforced by the culture surrounding the game and that is more visible now than it was, say, 20 years ago.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
If you ever play Blades in the Dark, there is a really helpful section near the beginning of the book that lists the touchstones for the game—videogames, tv shows, movies etc. It really helped our group when we were learning the game because everyone had seen Peaky Blinders. Whenever we were thinking about what would be a good score, or even a good complication, we could always reference a moment from the tv show and go from there. (i.e. genre emulation is helpful across a variety of games(
Sure, but that's not that, so to speak. The need to have a complication is already determined, and done so without regard to dramatic logic. Leaning on genre to provide flavor, which is what you're describing, is not prioritizing dramatic logic. It's leaning on genre tropes to provide flavor and inspiration.
 


How so? They do not use dramatic logic to resolve things, nor are choice made to prioritize dramatic logic either when the GM is making a move or the player declaring actions. Dramatic logic may inform, but it isn't controlling nor is it prioritized. I don't consider dramatic logic when I'll deciding on actions for my PC in PbtA games or Blades. Doing so would actually be against the principles of play for players.
But the whole premise of how to GM such a game is based on dramatic logic.
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski
Right, I think one of us made this point in the ancestor of this thread as well. None of these analytical frameworks is really intended to examine every aspect of RPGs. GNS, for example, was not even intended to be applied to GAMES at all, but more to players (and maybe more specifically even to how they happened to play in a given situation). GDS and the various theories and analyses mentioned by the OP likewise. They may each simply capture some different dimension. People probably then think they've said everything that is to be said, foolishly, and thus someone else rushes in and claims the other guy is full of it, ad infinitum.
I'm actually re-reading the GNS essays right now—specifically Simulationism: The Right to Dream. It definitely examines games in terms of the model's creative agendas and other components (System, Setting, Situation, Character, Color). Also, even though GNS and Other Matters of Role-playing Theory explicitly disavows '"genre" as part of the lexicon', this later essay does talk about it (although not as an essential element, as best I can determine). So that's a likely source of confusion there that I'm in the middle of trying to untangle for myself.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The aesthetic, thematic, and mechanical focus and integration of a game like Monsterhearts is a strength, not a weakness. Saying that it is focused is not an attempt to “pigeonhole” it; rather, it is simply clear about its intended audience. In other words, it is argue contrary to the opinion that dnd 5e can support any type of gameplay, a position that, given your frequent remonstrations, I would assume you agree with (much more so than me, for example; I’ve said before that I think the social ’pillar’ of 5e is fine and affords a variety of gameplay).
You moved the pea. Your initial claim is a look at the social implications of people choosing these games because they highlight identity issues. Here, you've switched to arguing about games being focused at all versus being not focused. You've altered the argument so that you're defending games that are focused from some imagined claim that I'm saying that claiming games are focused is pigeonholing them.

My comments were to your original claim. I have no issue with noting some games are focused.
What purpose does it serve? If someone says they hated their one experience playing dnd, because it was a bunch of dudes who just wanted to be murder hobos, I might suggest to them not only other games, but other communities. This is apart from analysis of the hobby as a social activity being abstractly interesting on its own.
Okay, your ask about the social implications of choosing games because of identity focuses doesn't seem to even be addressed with this statement. You've created an example that is trivially dealt with. I have no problems with your example. It doesn't expand to any other cases, nor to your initial claims. It's a red herring.
Edit: all social activities serve (and constitute) “identity needs.” Social activities are never neutral with regards to identity, though I appreciate it can seem that way for those in the majority.
I mean, this is only true through specific lenses -- your assuming a particular lens is universal and aiming to discredit any other kinds of analysis with a moral value claim. I think this gets very far out of bounds, though, so it should probably be dropped.
My post was praising the variety of independent rpgs and their success in appealing to demographics excluded by traditional play, especially dnd, not (just) because of the mechanical focus but because of the “culture of play.” Bizarrely, you read that as trying to “pigeonhole” independent games, which, yeah, seems pretty defensive.
No, I can scroll up. Your post was asking if thematically focused (there's no qualifier to this at this time) indie games are successful because they lean into social identity concerns. I pointed out that this is not anywhere close to universal, and that such a general claim appears to be trying to pigeonhole the entire indie game segment into socially conscious games for exploring identity. I still find that to be reductionist statement that isn't at all born out by a look at that segment. That you've shifted your argument and are claiming offensive at my comment pointed at your original statement -- taking it entirely at face value -- is just moving the goalposts.
 

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