Shining Dodecahedron

One geek's views on role-playing and games in general.

This place is all about discussing paper-and-pencil roleplaying games. I'm Jay, and I run this joint, but that doesn't make me smarter than you. This will all work best if I say things, and you say what you think about them, lather, rinse, repeat. With luck we can all understand the hobby a little better. If you have a topic that you would like me to start a thread about, post a comment here. If you've got something to say about characters (my ongoing topic du jour), post a comment here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Games In Between

I have been a largely passive observer of the indie-RPG revolution for several reasons. One reason is the reactionary nature of much of the movement. That is, lots of people get into RPG theory and indie-games because they are unhappy with their current gaming experiences. They use theory (not always consciously) to lash out at the games that have let them down. Now, before you get all pissy with me, I'm not here to insult anyone. I have often been a reactionary myself, complaining about systems that don't work very well for me (e.g. D20). Anyway, one of the results of the dynamics that go into RPG theory and the resulting indie-games is a kind of extremism. Either your game is cutting edge and new , or it's the same old shit repackaged. Not everyone gets to this point, mind you, but I have heard it a lot.

I've played a number of the cutting-edge indie games with varying levels of success. I'd like to play more, but those that I have played lead me to believe that both traditional and radical designs have their place. So my concern is this: if all the designers that are paying attention to theory and giving serious thought to role-playing are hell-bent on making a game that fixes everything and exists on the very cutting edge, then who will help to bridge the gap? Where will the games be that are mindful of theory but build upon the firm foundations of RPGs as we know them today?

All of this is just to say that while a game needs to be different to set itself apart from the rest, it needn't be as different as you might think. Look at Burning Wheel and Dogs in the Vineyard. Both are games that are highly respected by indie-folks with some cross-over into more traditional gamers. Both present some new ideas while keeping much of the foundation of traditional role-playing intact. Dogs is perhaps a little hard for players to grasp at first, but it has a GM who sets up the situation and players the NPCs, it has players who each control one character apiece, it has enough elements of traditional RPGs to be palatable and accessible to old gamers (who, like old dogs aren't so good at new tricks).

Find the games in between. Use them to get your friends thinking about new ways of role-playing that will be more fun for everyone. Dispel some of the myths of role-playing.


Blogger John Harper said...

I'm interested to know what games you're talking about when you say "reactionary" and "extreme." Partly because I'm curious, and partly to know where your barometer is.

I certainly don't want to debate which games "should" be classified that way, so you won't be getting any flack from me about your selections.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 6:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typically the descriptors "reactionary" and "extreme" are more applicable to gamers and game designers, rather then the games and/or game designs themselves (which are children born of a person's motivations).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Find the games in between. Use them to get your friends thinking about new ways of role-playing that will be more fun for everyone. Dispel some of the myths of role-playing.

I suspect this part is denigrated a bit, due to the common wisdom being that "you can't sneak up on mode". If you play only "halfway" games, will that make it too easy to keep the old techniques? Will players just warp the new systems to match pre-existing expectations?

Thursday, July 14, 2005 8:37:00 AM  
Blogger Bankuei said...

I think the three big "extremes" that bug people out, in my experience, is GM Power, Stance, and resolution based on something -other- than physics. The closer you stick traditionally to these ideas, usually the easier of a swallow it is for the mainstream gamer.

Burning Wheel and Dogs both succeed well in these regards, because, although GM Power is more limited, Stance is more open, and that more than just physics can help resolve things- they're all very well disguised.

Thursday, July 14, 2005 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another issue is who it is you are trying to sell on a given game. If it's folks who are steeped in the trad. gaming conventions, a more conventional read may go over better. For people not from the culture, different things may make a game more accessible: simplicity, ease of use, familiar situations & contexts. Card games also do not have a gm.

Saturday, July 16, 2005 2:03:00 AM  
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006 10:27:00 AM  

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