Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Including Social Issues in the Rulebook.

Started by Andrew Cooper, August 02, 2005, 01:27:35 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


I think that presenting instructions as if the reader were new to the subject also helps a writer avoid a lot of pitfalls:

1) assuming that the reader understands roleplaying the same way you do.

2) skipping steps in a procedure "because everybody knows that's the first thing you do"

3) failing to explain the relationship between this chapter and the next one


Believe it or not, it's possible to do this without handholding.  Just tell em what they have to do.

- Alan

A Writer's Blog:

Andrew Cooper

Thanks for all the replies.  They were very helpful.  I fully intend to buy quite a few of the games mentioned in this thread at GenCon this year.  I'll peruse them and see how they handle this issue.  It seems like an important issue to me and it will definately make its way into my ruleset somehow.

Thanks again.

Jake Richmond

One of the big things I've learned is that if you don't tell people how to play your game, how they're supposed to play, what their supposed to do; then theres a good chance they'll just play it the same way they did the last game they tried. If they dont know that they're supposed to take a certain aproach, that they're supposed to play a certain way, then chances are they won't. If the last game they played was Vampire and now they're playing Dogs in the Vinyard... well, its a good thing Dogs gives you a good idea of how your supposed to play it.

I think its good to spell stuff out for players (without being an ass about it if possible). You cant assume that people are going to have the same game experience or approach to playing as you. The game I'm working on right now is all about playing little kids and having fun adventures in  fantasy world. Its not about fighting or cool weapons or leveling up or really much of anything else. So I'm having to think of ways to get this across to players. Make sure that they know that their supposed to be playing kids. Making sure that they each understand their purpose within the game, and the relationship with how the game works. Making sure they understand the games objectives. I think its perfectly fine to spell all of that out. Someone else said that board games always do this. Works there, works here.

Adam Dray

I think I must not have been clear. I mean to say, Yes, tell players everything they need to play your game, but write it in such a way as not to insult them if you expect most of your readers are experienced role-players. Say all the same things, but don't talk to newbies like they're veterans and don't talk to veterans as if they're newbies. And let's face it, a lot of the people who play indie games these days are not newbies. Your game may be different, so know your audience and write accordingly. But, by all means, include all that material about how to play your game.
Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777


In JAGS I put almost no advice (and I'm glad I didn't--my experience with the online community has greatly expanded what I would've written). In JAGS-2 I put in some notes about taking over people's characters with defects.

Here is a game with a very comprehensive list of social contract issues spelled out pretty explicitly. GEAR is sort of my thesis on the GM-Player dynamic in traditional RPGs (it isn't completely finished--but it *is* a play-testable RPG). I will note that while there is one piece of systemitized advice (the Situation Framework) it does not "tell the players how they are expected to play" but rather expects that they will adapt the game to whatever they did last time that worked (insofar as that is possible, at least).

One of the reasons I think that traditional RPGs usually don't have the kind of advice that some of the less traditional games do is that the traditional RPG dynamic is very complicated. The GM's role as a facilitator is a complicated animal: the GM has both sublte and overt powers (and may expected to be a referee, moderator, opponent, and ally at different times or by different people).

Attempts to mechanically reduce that variety to a simpler format (as seen in GM-less games or games like MLWM) does reduce those misunderstandings--but (IMO) at the expense of some of the richness of the traditional RPG experience.

JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland

Josh Roby

Yes, put it in.  Here's me, one more voice in the consensus.

Consider any game other than an RPG, and check out their instructions.  They all tell the potential players what the game is about, what the players will be doing, and lays it out simply.  It's not demeaning, it's complete.  No veteran gamer is going to take offense at "The guy who handles the NPCs and rolls dice for falling rocks is called the Game Master."  If you don't put that inoffensive line in, however, the "total newbs" will be confused when you start explaining "the GM then rolls 2d6 and compares the result against the Critical Mediocrity table..."

And if you don't include it, Chris will jump up and down because your book is incomplete.  And you don't want that, now, do you?
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog

James Holloway

Quote from: Jake Richmond on August 09, 2005, 04:00:18 AM
One of the big things I've learned is that if you don't tell people how to play your game, how they're supposed to play, what their supposed to do; then theres a good chance they'll just play it the same way they did the last game they tried.
Robin Laws was talking in his livejournal ( about a similar phenomenon called the "unrule," which is when people apply a practice from one game to a seemingly similar but very different-in-play element of another. Worth a read.


One other thing to consider---in The Mountain Witch, I am very explicit about what the players need to do to make the game work. In addition to that, I am very explicit about what doesn't matter. In other words, I am constantly saying "You can do this whatever way you want."
--Timothy Walters Kleinert