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Author Topic: lumpley's design theory  (Read 6706 times)
timfire
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« on: May 31, 2004, 05:52:03 AM »

In another thread, lumpley said:
Quote from: lumpley
I've got a theory.

There's Setting, System, Character, Situation and Color, right? I think that you can start a game as soon as you've nailed down three of the five. That means that a game text must provide at least three of the five to be a whole game. But I really don't think it matters which three.

You can write a game that provides Character, Situation and Color but leaves Setting and System to be set up by the group, if you want. In fact kill puppies for satan is like that.

Or you could write a game like Sorcerer, providing System, Character and Situation and leaving Setting and Color to the group.

Ars Magica provides Setting, Character and Color, with maybe some Situation too, but not much System at all. (Call me on that, I dare you.) All the WoD games are probably about the same, there.

Obviously, the thicker your game the more you can provide. (Heh. Ars Magica provides pages and pages of not much System at all.)

I think I really like this theory, but I thought it might deserve more discussion. I think his theory is pretty sound, though I think a rudimentary description of all 5 must be given, or at least the description of the primary 3 will infer what the other 2 should be like.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2004, 07:19:03 AM »

My only reservation is the numbering may be a bit much. Why three and not two or four? And does "nailed down" mean?

I could imagine certain forms of play where all five are undefined until play begins.

On the other side of the coin, what about nailing down all five before play begins? Is this a good idea?
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sirogit
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2004, 08:32:51 AM »

A big exception I can immediately think of would be Univeralis, which is only System. It's always the exception to things.

Would GURPS by itself, being only System, be incomplete?

To make sure I'm on the same page: "alot of system" means, mechanical system detail that exists there to further actual aims of the game?

So you might say that Sorcerer has a lot of system in that it organizes alot of resoloution-detail in a way that accomplishes something specific.(Such as something I just read about using Humanity rolls to bring into effect your conscience in a situation or Will rolls to bring into effect your hatred, which just hit me as awesome.)
 
Wheras Ars Magica/WoD games have very little system, in that there's very few rules that do anything more than to say than "Buying dots in this means you'll succeed in relevant conflicts."?
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Jeph
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Jeff Schecter


« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2004, 08:45:39 AM »

Hmm. That "you need three" seems too entirely arbitrary for me. I mean, how are you defining a "complete game"? The only definition hinted at in the theory is a game which includes three out of the five elements... which is a bit too self referential for comfort. And, as others have brought up, there are games on the market which thousands of people certainly consider to be complete, but only provide two or (rarely) one of those elements.

In other words:

Vincent is full of it. :)
--Jeff
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Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
ethan_greer
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2004, 10:13:43 AM »

Quote from: Jeph
And, as others have brought up, there are games on the market which thousands of people certainly consider to be complete, but only provide two or (rarely) one of those elements.

Examples?

Personally, I would say that GURPS Basic Set isn't a complete game. Rather, it's a toolkit that takes care of System and Character and allows the user to tack on other stuff to make their own games. Same with Hero or any other "universal" game. Universalis is a toolkit that provides only System, and lets the players take care of everything else. Should one distinguish between toolkit and game? Dunno.

I look at the theory as more of a guideline, as in, "you can get away with only three if you want to." providing more might be better; providing fewer might be asking for trouble.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2004, 10:19:01 AM »

Hi folks,

I think the idea needs more exploration, but I'm inclined to agree with it.  I consider a "complete" game to be a game in which I can defined "what play is about" to another person.  In this way, GURPS is incomplete, because it IS just a system.  Universalis on the other hand makes Setting and Character part of System, something that is formally created as a part of play, not prep before play.

Chris
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2004, 11:55:29 AM »

You need all five to play.  In play, if any are missing, you'll fill them in.

Given three of 'em, my theory says, a game group can reliably fill in the other two on the fly.  (Given all five, does a group feel locked down and creatively blocked?  Excellent question.)

"Nailed down," "established," "given" and suchlike language: something is nailed down when the group communally gets it.  How much verbiage does it take to nail something down?  Variable.

GURPS, by the way, isn't where I'd want to discuss this.  Here's why: I'd say GURPS Basic has far more Color in it than System.  GURPS Basic + a GURPS setting book = Color, Character, Setting.  The group supplies Situation and (the real meat of) System.  But I don't know GURPS from a hole in the head, so don't argue with this, just write it off.  Please - let's use this thread to talk about my theory, and if you really want to we can argue about how much System GURPS provides in some other thread, okay?

So anyay here's a sweet little test: play Universalis.  Universalis has System + a Tenet phase.  My theory predicts that once your group has created Tenets nailing down any two of Character, Setting, Situation and Color, you'll feel comfortable leaving the Tenet phase and proceeding into play.  Anybody feel like confirming or refuting?

-Vincent
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2004, 08:14:28 PM »

I don't know, Vincent. Somehow I think if you have character, setting, and color, you've got the starting point for a short story, but absolutely nothing that makes it a game.

Now, if you mean that the average gamer can create a game if you give him those three elements, sure--the average gamer can probably make a game given one of them. That's not the same thing as calling any three elements, "nailed down", a ready-to-play game.

--M. J. Young
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pete_darby
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« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2004, 04:11:37 AM »

I'm looking at this, and wondering wether we're mistaking ready to play with ready to publish.

In so much as gamers are used to providing any number of the five elements before play, but tend to view games without at least, say, three of them as "incomplete" and are reluctant to buy.

But it's a sliding scale. Check the number of folks, especially in RPGnet discussions, who back away from Sorceror when it's apparent that it doesn't come with a pre-built campaign. Or the comments on say Nobilis, or Mage, or Fudge, or Uknown Armies (but oddly, not GURPS, IME) that they're incomplete because they "don't tell us what to do."

Okay, MJ:

Quote
I don't know, Vincent. Somehow I think if you have character, setting, and color, you've got the starting point for a short story, but absolutely nothing that makes it a game.


What's the difference between enough prep to play an RPG and enough prep to write a short story?

Of course, what's missing is a system, but if we take Ron's view that system is the time element to apply to situation, or even the Lumpley Principle that system is merely the means of agreeing the contents of the SiS, then you can certainly supply any applicable system to those three elements and get a game.

That being said, those three elements are present in The Well of Souls, with system only implicit, and most of the setting sketchy at best, only present insomuch as it supports the situation and characters. Does this, in Lumpley's definition, make it a game, sufficiently entire of itself?
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Pete Darby
lumpley
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« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2004, 12:11:33 PM »

Yikes amighty!  I'm defining what's a complete, publishable game now?  That's not good!  

What I am saying is: if I grabbed a couple of friends and we all read Well of Souls, we could roleplay.  You could too, if you wanted.  I know you could.

Would it resemble HeroQuest in any mechanical or Systemic way?  No.  Would it fulfill the true potential of Well of Souls?  Who knows.  Would it fulfill our Creative Agenda?  Only if our instincts were good.  But could we play?  Absolutely.

If you want to know what I think a game oughta have in it before you publish it, I'll tell you.  At length.  Waving my arms and spittling foam, no doubt; it'd be a manifesto.  This thing about three fifths is just a theory.

-Vincent
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quozl
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« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2004, 02:49:42 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
If you want to know what I think a game oughta have in it before you publish it, I'll tell you.  At length.  

-Vincent


Please do.
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John Kim
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« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2004, 02:55:51 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
  So anyay here's a sweet little test: play Universalis.  Universalis has System + a Tenet phase.  My theory predicts that once your group has created Tenets nailing down any two of Character, Setting, Situation and Color, you'll feel comfortable leaving the Tenet phase and proceeding into play.  Anybody feel like confirming or refuting?  

This seems like it goes back to the age-old question of "what is role-playing"?  A group of people get together.  I think we are agreed that they don't require any of the five to be externally provided.  They go through some amount of time which is considered "setup" and then at some point this moves into "play".  It seems that "setup" is part of role-playing but not considered "play".  

I would say that at the start of what most people would call "play", then all five elements are present.  I'm not familiar with Universalis so I can't comment much on that.
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Jeph
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Jeff Schecter


« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2004, 04:28:28 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
You need all five to play.  In play, if any are missing, you'll fill them in.

Given three of 'em, my theory says, a game group can reliably fill in the other two on the fly.


Ah.

Ah-hah.

I get it.

I even think I might agree.
--Jeff
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Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
M. J. Young
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« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2004, 06:13:19 PM »

Sorry for the misunderstanding, Vincent. You were quoted as having said,
Quote
That means that a game text must provide at least three of the five to be a whole game. But I really don't think it matters which three.


I'm not really challenging what
Quote from: Pete
What's the difference between enough prep to play an RPG and enough prep to write a short story?

Of course, what's missing is a system, but if we take Ron's view that system is the time element to apply to situation, or even the Lumpley Principle that system is merely the means of agreeing the contents of the SiS, then you can certainly supply any applicable system to those three elements and get a game.

However, if we're talking about having a "complete game" in the "game text", then this isn't sufficient.

Put another way, if all you need is three of the five elements, then every novel and short story ever written is a "complete game". Why, then, aren't billions of people who read these "complete games" playing them?

The answer is that they aren't complete games. There's no game until there's at least the suggestion that you're supposed to play them, and some clue as to how that is to be done.

What Vincent is saying is that given the initial understanding that you're reading a book that describes a game and that you know how to play roleplaying games of some sort already, any three would be sufficient to get the game started, and you could fill in the rest as you go. I've no objection to that, except to say that you don't need three. Gamers already know how to play, and so all you need to do is suggest something off which they can riff, and they'll play.

It's an interesting theory, Vincent, but I think it's going to need some development. Perhaps the correct statement is that once three of the elements are developed to a certain level of clarity, the other two can be left relatively vague and they'll create themselves in play.

--M. J. Young
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2004, 05:39:42 AM »

M.J., you're right; novels aren't complete games. But that's not what the theory discusses - all it says is basically what you're saying - gamers could play in the shared imagined space of a novel. As I read it, the theory is only about Actual Play - the specific presentation of the three out of five is not at issue.

So yes, novels aren't games. But since they usually provide setting, situation, character, and/or color, you could "play" the novel according to the theory. Right? Not just gamers. People. Anybody.
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