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Understanding Roleplaying - Outline

Started by lumpley, October 21, 2004, 08:16:19 PM

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Quote from: IUnderstanding Roleplaying
Lets open role-playing up and muck around in its guts. I'll lay out a state-of-the-art description of what really happens when you role-play, and we'll go from there. We can dig into the nitty gritty of RPG design, playing and GMing, dealing with dysfunction, choosing and adapting rules, or even take on the biggie: creative agenda and social dynamics. Whatever way we go, we'll always fall back on the gold standard of RPG theory: actual play.

Guaranteed to kick conventional wisdom down and take its lunch money.

It starts with a drawing: "Roleplaying from the Ground Up." I'm'a reproduce the act of drawing it here.

At the bottom:==People Talking==>
{  Social Rules  }

Time goes from left to right. Hence arrows.

Up from that:|-About In-game Stuff-->
==People Talking==>
{  Social Rules  }

Then:|-About In-game Stuff-->
| |-Characters Situated in Setting, Doing things, all Colorfully-->
==People Talking==>
{  Social Rules  }

Then:|-Overwhelmingly Agreeing-->
| |-Negotiating-->
| | |-Overt-->
| | |-Covert-->
| | |-Rules-->
| | |-Mechanics-->
| |
|-About In-game Stuff-->
| |-Characters Situated in Setting, Doing things, all Colorfully-->
==People Talking==>
{  Social Rules  }

And finally:|-Pursuing a Creative Agenda-->
| |-Fulfilled or unfulfilled over time-->
|-Overwhelmingly Agreeing-->
| |-Negotiating-->
| | |-Overt-->
| | |-Covert-->
| | |-Rules-->
| | |-Mechanics-->
| |
|-About In-game Stuff-->
| |-Characters Situated in Setting, Doing things, all Colorfully-->
==People Talking==>
{  Social Rules  }

Now all while I'm drawing this I'm explaining it. People talking, right? They talk about pizza, movies, whatever, but some of what they say is about the things and stuff in the game. That is, Characters Situated in Setting, Doing things, all Colorfully, and I'll go ahead and give an example or two. Anyhow they're overwhelmingly agreeing with one another. At every moment, they're either in agreement or coming to agreement. More examples, the good ol' can of peaches. To make this happen, they've got some sort of System, which is a system for negotiation. It'll include both overt and covert negotiation of a normal, social sort, rules, and game mechanics. Lots to say about that in just a sec. Meanwhile, they all want to get something out of the game, and over the course of a session or a couple sessions or many sessions, they'll get it or else they won't. All of this happens within the bounds of our normal, well-known rules for hanging out with each other.

You can all see that this is the big model!

Next up, an arrow pointing to "About in-game stuff-->"People talking ... about in-game stuff:
-> People?
-> Capable of action
-> Relative to one another and setting elements
-> Emotionally, physically, thematically, intellectually, etc...
in Setting
-> Frames, responds to, resists, supports, sets off, provokes Character action
Doing things
-> Situation->Situation
All Colorfully
-> Concrete details
-> Provide and reflect meaning

Which I hope is pretty clear to everybody here, ask if you want.

Then an arrow pointing to "Overwhelmingly Agreeing-->"People talking ... overwhelmingly agreeing
How? That's System
Who Says What to Whom about What.
-> GM?
-> Dice?
-> Stats?
-> In-game Causality?
-> "Combat System"?
-> Rule Book?
-> Flavor Text?
-> Drowning Rules?
Technical Approach

-> Dysfunctional Negotiation
-> Failed Negotiation

-> What's a game designer to do?

What indeed.

Next up, an arrow pointing to "Mechanics-->"Negotiating ... using mechanics
Mechanics coordinate:
-> In-game, imaginary stuff
-> Real-world tokens: dice, numbers, descriptors
-> Real-world interactions: who says what

Conflict vs. Task
FitM / FatE

And I'm like, let's leave those for now. I'll define and describe them all in a minute.

Meanwhile, an arrow pointing to "Pursuing a Creative Agenda-->"People talking ... pursuing a Creative Agenda
-> Saying something interesting about people
-> Celebrating the source material (whatever the source)
-> Rising to the challenge

... Fulfilled or Unfulfilled
How long does it take?
-> A session or sessions
How can you tell?
-> Consistent and reliable
Barriers to fulfillment
-> Incompatible agendas
-> Breakdown of negotiation
-> Hit or miss skills
-> Probs at the Social Rules level

Then I'm like, now what? And I'm like: oh, but I gotta describe:DFK
Conflict vs. Task
FitM / FatE

So I describe those.

And then:What Now?
-> What's a game designer to do?
-> Fuctional & dysfunctional negotiation
-> Technique nitty-gritty
-> GMs, players & distributing credibility
-> Creative Agenda
-> Choosing and adapting rules
-> Cutting-edge games
-> Prove it!

And the convo goes down one or more of those lines.

Please comment if you want!



Well, I'll just say it looks great, so far. Informal, easy, doesn't look like heavy theory, and covers loads of stuff.

Jonathan Walton

Hey Vincent,

Looks sweet.

Question: when you say "character" in this outline, do you mean it in Ron's sense of "agent" or the more traditional "imaginary person"?  Is that what your "People?" thing is addressing?

Also, any case you can throw a subsection in to deal with scene framing, since it as basic a feature of roleplaying as character agents?

I look forward to seeing where you go with this.


Scene framing, good. That'll go in with IIEE, Narration, DFK etc.

And yep, that's exactly what "people?" is about.



This looks good. It also looks immense.  How long is your time slot and how much crowd interaction do you want in this "laying out the points" part [say, everything prior to "What Now"]?  If it's a lecture style talk, you can probably whip through all the points in an hour or two (touching on them at least)-- but just laying out the simple definitions of everything you've written here... any idea how long will that take?

I like the evolving outline format-- I think it will serve you much better than pre-printed overlays-- the act of writing/creating at the moment is more interesting than just reading an overhead xerox.  You might want to write on 8 1/2x11 clear overlays, so you can switch in & out without destroying what you've already done.  I suspect you're already aware that writing on overheads takes much more space than writing pen & paper...  [Oops-- assumption check: what surface are you writing on? Chalk boards?]

"Drowning rules" sounds like a good topic-- instead of guessing your point, care to share it here?

Looks like a great workshop! If you want to take it on the road, say west of the Sierra Nevadas...
Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.


I have 4 hours, same as for a game, so I'm figuring a not too interactive first hour or hour and a half, laying all this stuff out, and then a couple-three hours of more interactive conversation. I don't expect to get too deep about anything, and the more "prove it!" I have to do, the shallower the whole thing'll be. I have no idea who my audience will be though, maybe they'll surprise me.

Oh and I'm 9:00-12:00, so if anybody's really digging it we can keep going over lunch.

I expect I'm writing on a blackboard. As far as I know, I have no AV!

By "drowning rules" I mean rules in the rule book that never make it into live negotiation. What's their deal? Do they count? If the group seems interested in RPG design in particular, "drowning rules" can also lead into discussion of fiddly case-by-case rules, why would a designer include them and why not.


Ron Edwards

Mildly asked: authorship will be attributed for some key points?



Oh yes indeed. With a bibliographical handout.

In fact building the handout is my next step, next week, and I'm'a ask for help doing it.



Oh Ron, thanks for reminding me. "Lines and Veils" has to go in there too.



Let's see. Here's my initial brainstormy stab.

Theory (the Big Model / the Ground Up, Characters Situated etc., Creative Agendas):
- Ron's essays: System Matters, Heartbreakers I and II, G:SOU, S:tRtD, N:SN.
- The Forge Forums.
- My own Roleplaying Theory, Hardcore.

Topical Games:
- DFK: Everway, Shadows, Freeform
- IIEE: Trollbabe, DitV
- Conflict vs. Task: Trollbabe, MLwM
- FitM / FatE: Otherkind
- Narration: the Pool, InSpectres
- Reward: Sorcerer, Universalis, PTA, DitV
- Currency: Sorcerer
- Relationships: MLwM, Trollbabe, Extreme Vengeance

- GM? Universalis, InSpectres
- Dice? Shadows, Otherkind, Sorcerer
- Stats? MLwM
- In-game Causality?
- "Combat System"?
- Rule Book?
- Flavor Text? Ars Magica, kpfs
- Drowning Rules? the Dying Earth
- Lines & Veils? Sex & Sorcery, kpfs

Please free-associate, make suggestions and kick my butt!

Especially the many theoretically interesting and/or exemplary games I left out, do please suggest them.


Ben Lehman

I'd be interested to hear your take on drowning rules.  If it has been discussed previously on the Forge, I missed it.



Heroquest and Trollbabe for scale, speed of resolution--Simple vs. Extended Contests.


Per Fischer

Vincent, is there any way that all us not able to attend the the seminar can benefit from it? I mean in the form of a written report or transcript or such?

I know it's a bit much to ask, perhaps, but at least I can offer some help in writing some of it down or editing copy, or whatever.

Maybe you should consider an online, chat-based, version of the seminar - not all of it within the same session, more like a series of seminars - heck, I would even pay a fee to participate.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Per, I'm under a certain amount of friendly pressure to write it up and submit it to this one particular e-rag I know about, so maybe it'll be published there. I have something a bit more ambitious in mind too, but I don't want to spill yet because who knows.

It hadn't occured to me to do a chat-based seminar. Hm.