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Author Topic: Roleplaying Theory In Person  (Read 18552 times)
lumpley
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« on: February 02, 2005, 12:56:28 PM »

This is more Dreamation 2005 writeup.

I had two hours on Sunday afternoon to talk about roleplaying theory. There were 3-6 other people there, depending on which bit of the two hours you happened to see. Shaun, Andrew, J, Eric, and a couple both of whose names I forget, forgive me. Of them, only Eric had never read the Forge.

I did my quick overview, scribbling on paper: Conversation over time, bound by social rules, sometimes exploring the made-up stuff of the in-game, characterized overwhelmingly by agreement, we either agree or are in the process of agreeing, with techniques in action to create and maintain said agreement, all of which in order to fulfill some Creative Agenda, which over the course of play we in fact will fulfill or will not fulfill. We will or will not get to have the conversation we're trying to have.

I drew my big preliminary conclusion, scribbling further: Character integrity, game-world integrity? Those live down here in the process of coming to agreement, like "dude your character wouldn't do that" and "I already ate those peaches" - which means, not way out here in the Creative Agenda. Who needs continuity, in-game causality and integrity? Everybody.

Then I rattled off a list of topics. IIEE, FitM vs FatE, GMing, rules, CA, Conflict vs Task vs Scale, the Forge, I forget what else.

What all did we cover, people who were there?

We talked about IIEE. I nailed IIEE for Shaun, I think - I had J say "I pick up the can of peaches" and pointed out the four ways I could respond to that as GM. IIEE means, when J says his character picks up the can of peaches, how much of that action do we consider true, and how much remains open to negotiation?

We talked about setting books and rule books. We talked about our own personal imaginations versus the shared communicated fiction; the former have to be compatible, not identical.

I drew my thought bubble <-> smiley faces <-> d6 diagram and we talked about rules. We talked actually a good bit about rules that depend on player skill - Drama, Fortune, Karma? We also talked about why there's no essential difference between your dice and the numbers and words on your character sheet.

We talked about kids, contributions to the game, and resolution rules.

We got into an argument, almost, about GMs. There was a little bit of it left over from the party the night before. I was surly. I think in the end we all agreed that there are jobs that have to be done, but how they're done and by whom is open to design. I switched sides a little.

We talked about Narrativism vs Simulationism quite a bit. I think that I communicated the difference, but you'd have to ask the participants. We talked about "what would Tolkein have said about race?" versus "what are we saying about race?"

Eric asked about escapism - why must you have a CA at all? Can't you just be having fun? I'm not sure we answered his question, but we established escapism as being larger than the picture: each CA could fulfill escapism, and a bunch of activities other than roleplaying could too.

He complained that now he was going to go back to his game and think about it way too hard. We agreed that the only reason to think hard about this stuff is because you want to, and if he doesn't want to, he really shouldn't oughta. I figure he wouldn't have been there if he didn't want to, really, but who knows?

Inevitably, we talked about the Forge. I'm kind of a jerk, did you know? I see divergent schools of thought here and I throw up my hands over the wrongness of those I disagree with.

I do have a shareable observation, though: over the three years plus I've been here, we've done an enormous amount of real work. That means that people coming here today don't get to participate in the groundwork. They have to learn it instead. They've been thinking really hard, really hard, about RPGs, just like I had. When they show up here they're all excited, at last they've found people who care like they do! But we respond to them with "yeah, old news, here's a thousand pages to read beyond your hard-won insight" or else with "nah, we used to think that too, here's a thousand pages to read refuting your lovingly-built construction."

The Forge today requires far more humility of its new participants than it used to.

I don't have a solution (and maybe it's not a problem at all). Just an observation.

We didn't talk about FitM vs FatE or Conflict vs Task vs Scale, everybody felt solid about those.

Anything I'm missing, people who were also there?

I never quite managed to land where I wanted to land, unfortunately. Next time I'll be sure to conclude with "what should I contribute?" and "how should I treat others' contributions?"

It was wicked fun. It was more efficient in person than in writing. No shock!

-Vincent
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ffilz
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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2005, 01:20:37 PM »

Quote

I do have a shareable observation, though: over the three years plus I've been here, we've done an enormous amount of real work. That means that people coming here today don't get to participate in the groundwork. They have to learn it instead. They've been thinking really hard, really hard, about RPGs, just like I had. When they show up here they're all excited, at last they've found people who care like they do! But we respond to them with "yeah, old news, here's a thousand pages to read beyond your hard-won insight" or else with "nah, we used to think that too, here's a thousand pages to read refuting your lovingly-built construction."

The Forge today requires far more humility of its new participants than it used to.

Frank
I don't have a solution (and maybe it's not a problem at all). Just an observation.

BINGO! This has been the center of my frustration with the Forge.

So I have a question to ask (and perhaps this belongs in a new thread): Does the Forge want to be an elite think tank or a general resource? Right now it looks like it wants to be a general resource, but acts like an elite think tank. I think either is a grand goal, but it would be nice for that goal to be more obvious, and if the goal is to be an elite think tank, to publish conclusions occaisionally in a way that others can absorb.
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Frank Filz
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2005, 01:24:38 PM »

Quote
I do have a shareable observation, though: over the three years plus I've been here, we've done an enormous amount of real work. That means that people coming here today don't get to participate in the groundwork. They have to learn it instead.


As a newbie, I can attest to the accuracy of this observation. Though that's not necessarily a bad thing. In any field that's been theorized about, there will be a lot of groundwork to catch up on before one can make a contribution, standing on the shoulders of giants. And every now and then, someone with a fresh perspective can point out things that have been systematically overlooked or uncritically accepted.

It's just the way theory progresses.
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2005, 01:27:05 PM »

The disadvantage here is that there isn't a class called "Forge Design Theory 101" (although Vincent kind of just ran this). I think the call for more papers makes sense, but of course the Forge regulars are just as busy as the rest of us. I confess, I often sit out and observe because I just don't have a firm enough grasp of the theory to participate.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2005, 01:31:22 PM »

Quote from: ffilz

So I have a question to ask (and perhaps this belongs in a new thread): Does the Forge want to be an elite think tank or a general resource? Right now it looks like it wants to be a general resource, but acts like an elite think tank. I think either is a grand goal, but it would be nice for that goal to be more obvious, and if the goal is to be an elite think tank, to publish conclusions occaisionally in a way that others can absorb.


The Forge is okay as a general resource.  The problem with being a general resource is that it is non-interactive.  An interactive RPG theory board is increasingly hard to break into:

1) To add in any sort of meaningful manner to a theoretical discussion, you must understand the theory being discussed.

2) If a theoretical bulletin board has meaningful discussion, it will advance theory.

3) As the theory advances, there will be more to learn before you can add in any meaningful manner.

Fortunately, we seem to have no shortage of people willing to learn.  I wonder sometimes if we have a problem with a shortage of teachers (Ron does an enormous amount of teaching work about RPG theory, I fear that without him we would be lost.).

We could be aided by a book or series of essays about how RPG theory works, collating and breaking things down and making them pretty understandable.  Ron's essays help someone with this, and I think someone here is working on a project (or, perhaps, several someones.)

Also, we need to reconcile ourselves to whether or not RPG theory is done.  There are a large number of people here who seem to think that we are pretty much done describing what an RPG is and how to design it well, and that all that is left is applications and fiddly bits.  I, personally, think we've barely started.

yrs--
--Ben
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xenopulse
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2005, 01:32:24 PM »

Quick response to Frank:

I think the theorizing can and should happen on an elevated level, to keep from revisiting the same basic points in the daily activities (though they should be critically examined every now and then).

The point that might be important is: The practical application of the theory (theories) should maybe be paid more attention to. MJ's article is a good start. But overall, more resources that don't require an understanding of the latest high-level theory would be appreciated. That means, the main findings of the theory should be summarized somewhere in plain language (as much as that will distort some details), along with hints, tips and tricks on how to use that knowledge for gaming or game design.

That's just my newbie-ish wish :)
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ffilz
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2005, 01:57:34 PM »

Ben and Christian, both good points (and Christian, thanks for a better re-wording of the basis of my post). Some thoughts though:

One doesn't need to learn ALL of the prior theory if the theory can be broken up into distict parts. One does still need to be well grounded in the foundation of the theory though.

Teaching is beneficial to help people who want to be researchers get there.

Practical application can also generate new knowledge, which the researchers may occaisionally fold back into the theory.

Hmm, I have an interesting thought - alongside the think tank forums, have some "education" forums, where someone who doesn't quite get the theory can refer to a thread in the think tank forum and ask questions about it without disrupting the real research. Of course this is dependant on people who do understand the real research (either the actual participants, or people who just happen to have enough understanding) having the time and inclination to answer questions over in the educational forum (i.e. time to teach).

Frank
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Frank Filz
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2005, 02:24:40 PM »

Quote from: ffilz
Hmm, I have an interesting thought - alongside the think tank forums, have some "education" forums, where someone who doesn't quite get the theory can refer to a thread in the think tank forum and ask questions about it without disrupting the real research. Of course this is dependant on people who do understand the real research (either the actual participants, or people who just happen to have enough understanding) having the time and inclination to answer questions over in the educational forum (i.e. time to teach).
Something sort of like this was proposed not so long ago for splitting the GNS Forum.  One component was going to be called Big Model Discussion (or something like it) and the other wasn't (sorry, I forget the titles we came up with).  The idea was to split it like this:

(The Other Forum) -- thread titles
I Don't Get Gamism
Director Stance and Nar [are they the same thing]
Can Someone Explain Instance
Am I Sim or Nar?
etc.

Big Model Discussion -- thread titles
Sim Dream Rethought
Stance and Mechanics
Scene-Framing: Technique or Social Contract?
etc.

I don't know what happened to this idea.  It sounded like most people wanted some sort of split like this.  I must say in passing that I don't love the term "Educational Forum" or the like, because it sounds mildly patronizing, but the concept seems solid to me.
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2005, 02:36:51 PM »

Let's not turn this into a Forge-bitch session, shall we? If that's what you want, why not start a Site Duscussion thread.

Anyway, Vincent, this isn't the first time you've done this sort of thing, right? Do you feel that non-Forgies 'get-it'? What types of questions do they (non-Forgies) usually ask? Are there any 'typical' questions they ask?

Thanks!
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2005, 03:22:50 PM »

Timothy,

It was never my intention to "bitch" about the Forge. This place has been a wonderful source of inspiration and knowledge for me these past few weeks, and I could not expect anyone to do any more voluntarily than the old schoolers here already do.

What I mean to point out is that I am in agreement with others in that the theory is not often presented in a dumbed down version for beginners. Now, there was a post of MJ's I found intensely helpful in response to a thread I posted in. If someone could gather those more easily accessible explanations in an easy to find place, I think it could be a great help for people who are new to all this.

Now, an educational forum would be great. But if at any rate there would be a place where newbies don't feel like idiots for posting stupid questions, that'd be a great start. I felt that, once I started posting, I found everyone to be very helpful and understanding. But to get to the point where I dared to do that took a while.

Again, no negative criticism here, just some ideas on how to think about the practical side, and the new people who (according to the statistics) seem to be constantly streaming in.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2005, 04:37:39 PM »

Quote from: inthisstyle
The disadvantage here is that there isn't a class called "Forge Design Theory 101"


From reading certain posts on RPG net, I was thinking there rather should be some sort of 'How to get something out of the Forge' article.

This isn't about teach GNS or whatever, its about teaching people how to pick over Forge material and get something they can use in a short period. Advice along the lines of just looking around till you find something of interest and use, then work on it.

I don't think you need to understand everything on the forge to get something out of it. Hell, even a 'sight seeing' tour might be good...just nifty little one paragraph snippets (along with thread link) that are interesting to read and could prove useful.

It's sort of like teaching people to teach themselves. Or teach a man to fish. Or something!
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Philosopher Gamer
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Shawn De Arment
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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2005, 05:16:00 PM »

I was at Vincent's talk.

Although I have been lurking here for almost 4 years, until he explained it, I was still having trouble getting my head around simulationism verses continuity/in-game causality and integrity. For me, 30 minutes of talking with Vincent was more effective than years of reading.

One problem I have is that terms and ideas have evolved over time and there is no simple introduction. Older treads contain terms that have changed and ideas that were dropped, but you have to read them to understand the bases for what is being discussed today. Threads are a great way to have and preserve a discussion, but they aren't the best teaching tool.

[I have to admit that I have not read Ron's glossary. It came out at after I had "given up" reading the GNS forum.]

Now I have to re-read Ron' Simulationism essay to see if he and Vincent agree (and I didn't get it the first time) or if they disagree (and I have to side with Vincent and his heresy). :-)
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2005, 08:15:12 PM »

Quote from: Vincent
This is more Dreamation 2005 writeup.

I had two hours on Sunday afternoon to talk about roleplaying theory.

Gee, Vincent, you always get to do the fun stuff.

Quote from: Brennan
The disadvantage here is that there isn't a class called "Forge Design Theory 101"....

How odd. "Theory 101" is the title of the three-article series I submitted to Places to Go, People to Be recently. I'm waiting to hear from the editor on those, but he liked the outline.

I think we're still doing stuff on all fronts.

--M. J. Young
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2005, 04:10:39 AM »

Man, almost makes me want to call Chris Lehrich and try to get our frickin' Handbook Project off the ground again...
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2005, 04:29:28 AM »

Quote from: Noon
This isn't about teach GNS or whatever, its about teaching people how to pick over Forge material and get something they can use in a short period. Advice along the lines of just looking around till you find something of interest and use, then work on it.


There should also be a lot of easily availlable "system conversion notes", for those of us who find the current GNS-fixated state of the site (almost) completely incompatible with the views of role-playing we have - which means we can neither utilize anything here nor even partake in the discussions without getting slapped by pre-constructed jargon.

So in addition to the vocabulary that now exists, a translation guide would be crucial in the future (see the Turku School entry in the vocabulary for what I refer to here).

-Jiituomas
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