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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 34 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: The state of play, or refute-o-matic  (Read 6986 times)
GB Steve
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« on: November 09, 2004, 05:00:46 AM »

The next issue of Places to Go, People to Be is going to be carrying a small article by Balbinus. This is basically a reprint of a post to RPG.net in which he posited, semi-seriously, that narrativists are munchkins in theorists' clothing (I would link to the original but I can't access RPG.net at the moment).

I was wondering whether some hardy soul at the Forge would like, partially by way of response, to give an overview of the current state of play of RPG theory. A couple of thousand words should do, covering early ideas (advocacy newsgroup, A&E) and more recent developments (here and Scandinavia).

A humorous rant would do just as well, as long as it's funny, although I'm not sure anyone could beat Jared'd Haiku (http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/haiku.pdf).

I'd also like something on the whole Indie scene, there are so many great games out there, and whilst I try to buy most of them, I just don't have the time to write about them all.

Any takers can pmail me here or write to editors@ptgptb.org.
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pete_darby
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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2004, 06:56:50 AM »

The original thread is here

Bring a packed lunch. And a map.
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Pete Darby
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« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2004, 07:23:25 AM »

Steve, did you want any comments or hashing out of the issues here on the forum? The original thread is a fine example of an RPGnet furball, despite containing one of my better GNS posts on RPG.net, if I do say say myself.

And, I say guiltily, the coining of the term "Forgista".
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Pete Darby
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2004, 07:54:06 AM »

Hello,

Discussion of the topics in that thread can only be carried on here as new threads of their own, with specific inquiries and topics. The thread itself can't be continued here as such, and "So and so said this on the RPG.net thread, here's what I think, discuss," is not a valid topic.

Best,
Ron
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2004, 07:59:38 AM »

Steve,

I'm a big supporter of what you do - I think Places to Go, People to Be is one of the most enduring and best web-based RPG resources.

But, are you seriously asking, "Hey, I'm taking a big snag of a thread, intentionally written to be burred and pointy, and probably anathema to a lot of you, and was wondering if any of you'd like to respond?" 'Cause if so, why would anyone?

As for an overview of some of the hep new indie RPGs coming out, someone should jump on this. I've never enjoying a writing assignment more than the one I wrote for PTGPTB, and I'd take this one, except I have a little game coming out this month, so I'm a bit biased (and busy.)
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
GB Steve
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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2004, 07:59:59 AM »

I can't actually read RPG.net at all at the moment (some problem with my membership) so I don't know what the thread says. I've got an alternate identity which I'll try out tonight when I get home (as work blocks evil RPG.net but is fine with the good ol' Forge)

Discussing the issues here is fine, not that I could, or would want to prevent that anyway! If that leads to an article for http://ptgtpb.org, then even better.
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GB Steve
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2004, 05:09:02 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
But, are you seriously asking, "Hey, I'm taking a big snag of a thread, intentionally written to be burred and pointy, and probably anathema to a lot of you, and was wondering if any of you'd like to respond?" 'Cause if so, why would anyone?
Seriously, I am. It's a point of engagement. It seems to me that roleplaying theory either sits too far in the background or when visible is misunderstood - something which I'm quite capable of doing. I thought it might be a good chance for theorists to answer the general criticisms of elitism and distance from 'normal' roleplayers and to show the real benefits that it can bring.

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
As for an overview of some of the hep new indie RPGs coming out, someone should jump on this. I've never enjoying a writing assignment more than the one I wrote for PTGPTB, and I'd take this one, except I have a little game coming out this month, so I'm a bit biased (and busy.)


Also, I'd like to be more convinced myself without having to read the Forge every day to keep up with the multiplication of terms and theories. I think being more out in the open and engaging with the public is a good thing for theory to do. Theory into practice is my angle, which is why I suggested the second piece. It's clear that many indie RPGs have benefited from the discussions and support of the Forge, what is less clear is what the direct impact of theory has been.

Is the Beeg Horseshoe present in Lacuna, is My Life with Master another fantasy heartbreaker? This are good questions to ask, as long as the answers come in terms that are more generally understood (rather than having to explain every single term, or refer back to Ron's excellent glossary all the time).
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2004, 07:24:11 AM »

I see what you're saying.  And I'm sure we all appreciate the sense of justice and collaboration that motivates you to want to provide Forgistas a chance to (your word) "refute" a possible misunderstanding.  But I think you may be laboring under a misconception about attitudes 'round here, so that the responses you get may strike you as a little... strange.  

Many folks on the Forge (including myself on my good days) aren't trying to be understood.  They are trying to understand.  

Being understood is often confrontational.  It draws you into saying "No, what you have said is wrong, and here is why!"  That proves to the people on the other side of the discussion that they did not achieve their goal of being understood, which leads to further confrontation.

Understanding is cooperative.  It draws you to say "I see what you're saying here and here, but I'm fuzzy on that last bit, how would it apply in such-and-so a situation?"  That shows the other people that they have been understood, and also gives them a better chance to understand you in turn.

I think I see what you're saying about the importance of... well... proselytizing for Forge-theory.  People benefit from the Forge.  Ergo giving these ideas a broader circulation will help more people.  Have I got it right?  Is that just about what you're saying?  And if so, how do you propose to achieve that in a "refuting" context that is so heavily slanted toward being confrontational and disrespectful?  It seems a very worthy goal, but perhaps an impracticable method.
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2004, 07:38:07 AM »

Quote
s the Beeg Horseshoe present in Lacuna, is My Life with Master another fantasy heartbreaker? This are good questions to ask, as long as the answers come in terms that are more generally understood (rather than having to explain every single term, or refer back to Ron's excellent glossary all the time).


Actually those are pretty silly questions... as is the original question of "are Narrativists munchkins?"

Wanting to talk about theory and practice is fine, but discussing juxtapositions of random bits of terminology with random game examples or popular concepts isn't the way to go about it. You'd end up arguing a whole lot of negatives. It would be like trying to write an article carefully refuting the proposition "black holes are actually cartels" without explaining a lot of astrophysics and economics terminology. About the most you can say, with that limitation, is "no, that notion makes no sense."

To write an article about Fantasy Hearbreakers, for instance, one would likely look mostly at examples of games that are Fantasy Hearbreakers, as well as examples that resemble the Hearbreakers in important respects but are not Heartbreakers themselves. (Which, not surprisingly, is exactly what Ron has done in two separate articles already.) My Life With Master is completely off that radar. Explaining why it it's not a Fantasy Heartbreaker is like explaining why the Supreme Court is not a dessert topping.

An article about what Fantasy Hearbreakers are and what lessons game designers and game consumers should take from them sounds great (though again Ron's articles already cover that pretty well). An article about what current theories (if any) were used in developing My Life With Master also sounds great (though perhaps only Paul Czege could or should write such an article). But focusing on the question "is My Life With Master a Fantasy Hearbreaker?" would severely hamper either article. Likewise, a relatively terminology-free article about Narrativism might be possible (though problematic, as the concept of Narrativism is understood in the context of a much larger model and was never intended to "stand alone"). Articles about munchkins might also be of interest. But focusing on the question "are Narrativists munchkins?" (even in the form of "why Narrativists are not munchkins") would just obfuscate both topics.

- Walt

"Are you saying that a Supreme Court justice isn't physically capable of climbing on top of a medium-sized pastry?"
"No, but the average Supreme Court justice weighs 205 pounds. That much weight would crush any dessert, so the Supreme Court cannot be a dessert topping."
"But you could make many desserts stronger by increasing the egg white content, and redistribute the weight using a thick fondant."
"No, even that wouldn't be strong enough."
"I doubt your analysis on that, I'd want to see the figures you're using for compressive strength. But it doesn't matter anyway. In principle, you could make the desserts out of concrete. That would certainly be strong enough."
"Then they wouldn't be edible."
"Why is that important? Does your definition of 'dessert' require that it be edible? Not everyone's definition is going to agree with that."
"In any case, no Supreme Court justice would have any desire to stand on top of a dessert."
"Ah, now we see the arrogance of your position, presuming to tell me what every Supreme Court justice would or wouldn't want to do. Have you ever served on the Supreme Court? Then how would you know?"
"That's ridiculous. You've entirely missed the point of what the Supreme Court is."
"Ah, you call my arguments ridiculous but you've not shown a single citation backing up your assertions. You've failed to prove that the Supreme Court is not a dessert topping. I'm going to continue to regard the Supreme Court as a dessert topping. Perhaps you'll understand my reasoning better when my article on the topic is completed."
"Whatever."
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Emily Care
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« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2004, 08:06:41 AM »

Hey all,

Thanks very much for making this overture, GB Steve. I hope someone takes you up on it. Something like the workshop Vincent Baker was going to do at a Con in NY would be just the thing (no, Vincent, I'm not volunteering you).  Steve, I think you're pointing to a real need.  

However, as Tony pointed out, it could easily be perceived as a shouting match (esp. given the incendiary nature of the "other side"), so I can understand why folks here might be hesitant to get into it.

Walt, the fact that the questions being posed about the state of rpg theory here don't match up with current theory speaks volumes about how wide the gap is between the forge and the larger rpg community.  It is surprising that there isn't an analog to the FRPAdvocacy FAQ for current theory. The articles and glossary are steps toward this, but the articles are less accessible in structure than a FAQ, and a glossary does not put the ideas into a conceptual framework.  Someday that Role Playing Handbook project will come into being.

Taking an analytical look at one game as it exemplifies current theory might be a good idea, especially since it is a common feeling here that the way that these ideas are or even should be communictated is specifically through design.

yrs,
Emily
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2004, 08:46:13 AM »

I think before we can answer the question "Are Narrativists Munchkins?" we need to answer the question "What Is A Munchkin?"

As far as I can tell, munchkin is a broad pejorative term that means, roughly, "gamers I don't like."

So, if you don't like narrativist play then, yes, all narrativists are munchkins, by definition.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  There could be more specific defintions of munchkin, dealing with desired methods and goals of player power distribution but, frankly, that's another thread.
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2004, 09:01:32 AM »

A single article covering 'Forge Theory' including GNS and concepts such as Bangs, Step On Up, etc would be nice to have, but the reason I say that is that I'm not realy up on all the terminology myself. Hence I wouldn't be a very good person to write such a summary. Frankly I find many of the seminal articles on these concepts very hard to get into because they don't realy summarise the concepts very well. Perhaps they were written at a time when these concepts were relatively new, and a new article could take advantage of the last few years of refinement to better articulate them in a more approachable manner.

I agree with the points that Munchkinism isn't realy anything to do with gaming theory or narativism. Narativism is just about the structure of the rules in an RPG. A Narrativist game will still have rules, which are still potentialy open to minimaxing and hence munchkinism.

Things like Hero Points and such can be seen as a munchkin's paradise, but in fact they're just a resource like any other. All characters genrealy get them, and the Narrator will presumably structure the challenges in the game taking them into account.

I recently read a Pendragon scenario in which the scenario's author presented a nhumber of ways in whcih the GM could intervene and alter the flow of the scenario: giving the characters extra healing if they're too injured to carry on; having arbitrary NPC magic slow the players down if they're progressing too fast for the drama of the narrative; taking note of new relationships and loyalties; taking note of the player's interests and actions in assigning rewards. All Hero Points and such do is put a little of that metagame power into the hands of the players, so that rather than leaving all this stuiff to arbitrary GM fiat, the players can become involved in many of these narative and character development issues aside from traditional RPG 'Leveling Up' or skill advances. Narative game design simply acknowledges that these issues are important to many players and narrators of RPGs and gives us a framework of game mechanical tools to help manage them (as much) recourse to arbitrary GM intervention.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
timfire
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« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2004, 09:43:20 AM »

The problem with writing a comprehensive article on Forge theory is that's too much of it. We really need an entire book. I mean, all of Ron's article's combined - which don't even cover everything - are like 150 pages or something. That's why I'm hoping that the Role-playing Handbook Project works out.

What you really need to do is specify a topic you want to be addressed.

I do think a thread on the current Indie scene would be cool.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
M. J. Young
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« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2004, 02:29:29 PM »

I've been following this thread with mixed thoughts.

I would certainly be willing to write another piece for PtGPtB; I have a lot of respect for the e-zine and its editorial staff. I've been here at The Forge for some time now, and was present at Gaming Outpost when a lot of the seminal events occurred. Also, I don't have a current new game to push in the process (although much of what has been discussed here has impacted my understanding of my "old" game).

On the other hand, my direct exposure to the games here is somewhat limited. Most of my knowledge is second hand. I have a solid grasp of the theory, but little experience with the games that have sprung from it.

That puts me in much the same place as I was with the law article: I don't have strong handle on the practical examples.

So take that however, you will, and feel free to e-mail me if you want to pursue the matter. I'll give some thought to how I might handle such an article. Meanwhile, you might find some value in my http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/23/">Applied Theory here at The Forge, and if you still have a Gaming Outpost subscription, http://www.gamingoutpost.com/GL/index.cfm?action=ShowProduct&CategoryID=54411&ProductID=79230&publisherid=54849">Game Ideas Unlimited: Credibility. Both articles attempt to put theory into the hands of gamers in more practical ways.

--M. J. Young
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GB Steve
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« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2004, 09:20:53 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Many folks on the Forge (including myself on my good days) aren't trying to be understood.  They are trying to understand.
I think possibly that when I say "refuting" a lot more is being read into it than I mean. I tend to be a bit freer and looser with my vocab thanks folks do round here. I'm a much more chatty "write first think later" kind of person, and the same goes for my remarks about the Beeg Horseshoe etc. I'm trying to stimulate a debat, and find out what the debate is.

But if refuting and defintions are too confrontational, then what about a road map of the theory project? I'm not expecting an exhaustive article on where theory is, that would be a book any way. But something that started out by saying "these are some of the issues in roleplaying" and answered this with "these are some of the theoretical approaches" should not, I hope, step on anyones toes.

From the way The Forge operates it seems that there is a natural progression, almost evolutionary, in the way theory arises, is discussed, then either sticks or falls away. I'm not sure that, much as with evolution, there is much clarity in the aims of the project (except perhaps in some of Ron's writing - but I could be wrong here) so some, as it were, literature review of the current ideas that are floating around, and their geneology would be very interesting.

I wasn't aware of the Handbook project but, if that's also this http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/push29jul04.html , then I guess what I'm talking about would be the introduction to such a thing, or at least the part about theory.

The other thing, a review of existing games and their relation to theory would then be the part about theory in practice.
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