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Author Topic: Mike's Standard Rant #1: Designers! Know your hobby!  (Read 17543 times)
Mike Holmes
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« on: March 13, 2003, 03:06:57 PM »

Well, Chris Passeno, recently asked me where Mike's Standard Rant #1 was. I informed him that I had numbered them sorta randomly, and had not gotten around to number one. That I was waiting for a special one to be number one. Well, it has occurred to me what that rant should be, so here it is. Thanks, Chris.

Before I start, I will make the usual disclaimer that this isn't being presented so much for debate as for a place for me to refer to when I have a point to make that I've made a zillion times before. Shorthand if you will. That said, I will discuss the point if needs be. I'm not sure how controversial this one is going to be. But I'm sure to sound like an arrogant bastard.
____

Mike's Standard Rant #1: Designers! Know your hobby!

Role-playing games are a hobby, a recreation, and an art some would say. And one can create an RPG with very little effort if one likes and have fun playing that game. But interestingly, most RPG designers professional, indie, armature, whathaveyou - they tend to like the idea that their game might get played by others. In fact most new games are built about the conceit that the designer can build a better mousetrap. And you know what. It can most certainly be done.

But not if you don't know the state of the art. In Ron's Fantasy Heartbreakers essay, he speaks to a particular example of what can happen when people make games without understanding the range of what exists in gaming. But I'd like to extend that principle. I often see people making innovative games - games that are most certainly not "heartbreakers" of any sort - that still are making errors simply because they haven't seen the solution in another RPG that fixed that problem long ago.

This frustrates me no end. Basically many would-be designers are creating with the notion that their limited knowledge and keen wit are all they need to produce a superior product. This would just not be tolerated elsewhere. Would you allow a doctor to operate on you if he'd not been through medical school, and was certified as having at least a basic understanding of medicine? Hell, would you even allow a non-certified plumber at your pipes?

What makes these people acceptable in their professions? They've all been through a certain amount of training, and have passed examinations that say that they've got at a minimum level of understanding of the subject matter that means that they aren't likely to make basic mistakes that they layman would make.

So, am I advocating a certification program for RPG designers? No, it's just a hobby. But what I do advocate is that if you want to make games, you need to educate yourself in what the current state of the art entails. Because otherwise, you will not be making a game that improves the art.

Now, again, a person making a game for his own use who doesn't care whether his game is superior in general terms, and only cares to make certain adjustments to his own game? No big deal. No need to be well versed. But if you want to make a game that is in fact superior - a game that people you don't know will prefer to play over others, for example - then you need to have had experience with a certain portion of the games that exist.

So I'm determining a reading list here. What's included below is just a sample, and far from the most stringent list one could assemble. But I think it represents the base level that a designer needs to know in order to be certified. And it is just a reading list. You don't have to have played each of them (I haven't), though to the extent that one can, it would be good to do so. Following each listing is a reason why the game is on the list.

Mike's Reading List for Game Designers
D&D - probably good to have played just so that you know what constitutes the majority of gamer's primary experience. Also, good to have read more than one edition to understand it's evolution. Best if you can actually contrast versions as dissimilar as Basic D&D and ADD3E. Also, it can't hurt to understand what d20 is, as well as the OGL. I include this because every once in a while, I run across somebody who's managed not to play or even peruse the game despite all odds.

Champions/Hero System - again, good to have read different editions and know the progression. Most important is to see the basis of the concept of "system first" mechanical design, and to understand primitive phased initiative (so you can do better). Contrast to V&V in this.

GURPS - it's seminal in that many, many games are based off its design priorities. If you can, read TFT to see it's roots. Still sets a bar for realism after many years (though it's certainly been surpassed long ago in that area). More important to understand for it's problems than for it's virtues. For example people should understand the stat/skill currency problem that the system generates.

Palladium Role-playing - the original Fantasy Heartbreaker (but has developed past that over time). How not to adjust a game from another.

Rolemaster - like Palladium but worse, this game actually started as supplements to fix D&D. OTOH, it has some mechanical details that are worth seeing. And if you can get them, the Rolemaster Companions show you the procession from D&D type games to GURPS, and all the myriad things in between. Some small nuggets of wisdom in that. Optional reading however.

Synnibar - if you can find it, a statement in how not to design an RPG. If that's not available track down a copy of deadEarth. If your game looks like these, you know you've been to the Ed Wood school of RPG design, and consider dropping RPGs as a hobby.

Harn - for the limits on what one can do in the direction of setting realism. To a fault.

Phoenix Command - for limits on realism of combat. To a definite fault.

Ars Magica - gives you an idea of what a magic system can do, not only in terms of creativity, but also in terms of metagame interaction. Also what not to do with a magic system. Also the introduction of formal multi-character rules. Also for campaign structure.

Aria - for world building alternating with adventures.

Vampire - and not just for what not to do. There are many, many interesting concepts in the WoD games that have set a bar for expectation for a lot of players.  Read as many WoD games as you can stomach.

Paranoia - drives home the power of the structured play session.

FUDGE - for how to create a simple Generic system. Everybody should have one of these under their belt. Seriously. If you can't create a game like FUDGE, you've got no business trying to develop more complicated games. At least try making your own FUDGE mod.

Pendragon - for understanding what internal personality mechanics can be like. Alternately, see Unknown Armies.

Whispering Vault - for "all unopposed" mechanics and another lesson in session structure.

Any Freeform game - not much to read usually, but everyone should understand and preferably have participated in some freeform. So you can understand that there are no mechanics that are necessary a priori, and that there are systems in all RPGs anyhow.

Once upon a time - not an RPG. And that's the point. The RPG box should not contain unless there's a good reason. You might want to investigate some Interactive Fiction as well.

Any LARP - understanding the dynamics of a LARP can provide all sorts of valuable insight, even if you're not designing one.

Hero Wars - for rock solid late stage design. Also people should check out Glorantha in any edition to see how to make a setting really engaging.

Nobilis - "diceless" done well, and other state of the art resource management.

InSpectres - discover the alternate way to get story while still having a GM. Also for the Confessional mechanic. Session structure again.


Now, many of these have substitutes. If you haven't read Phoenix Command, then a game like KABAL (Knights and Berzerkers and Legerdemain), will suffice. It's not the precise list that's important. I'm sure people will have suggestions to add to the list, and I'm certain I've made omissions (so please go ahead and help me out here). But the point is to give an idea of the range of games that are out there. If you have this sort of range you're in much less danger of repeating mistakes from earlier games. If not, I can only suggest reading up. Beg, borrow, steal; do what you have to. But get up to speed on this stuff.

The best designers study their art, and know it well. And that means knowing what exists, and what yet needs to be made.

Mike
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DaR
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2003, 05:32:02 PM »

Very interesting, Mike.  A lot of the points a I fully agree with.  A few I have questions on, though, mostly in wanting a better picture of your reasonings.  I'm going to deliberately break ettiquette slightly here and address some of these point by point.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Ars Magica - gives you an idea of what a magic system can do, not only in terms of creativity, but also in terms of metagame interaction. Also what not to do with a magic system. Also the introduction of formal multi-character rules. Also for campaign structure.


What not to do?  I have to admit I've played a fair bit of AM4, and I know I sort of mentally use the magic system as a gold standard for what a hermetic style magic system should be like.  What flaws do you consider it to contain?

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Vampire - and not just for what not to do. There are many, many interesting concepts in the WoD games that have set a bar for expectation for a lot of players.  Read as many WoD games as you can stomach.


This is another one that I'd like clarification on. What do you consider to be interesting, and what is unfortunate?

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Whispering Vault - for "all unopposed" mechanics and another lesson in session structure.


I believe the BtVS RPG (Cinematic Unisystem) is another example of this, and a bit easier to find in stores these days.  Cinematic Unisystem is a very pleasantly designed game system in general.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Nobilis - "diceless" done well, and other state of the art resource management.


I'll add another two on to this:

Amber - "diceless", an example of a nearly absolutely pure karma system with no fortune at all, and only the faintest whiff of drama.  Also an example of a system which appears to be simple, almost too simple, but has a number of exceedingly subtle interactions in it that don't come out until you've played for quite some time.  It ends up being like D&D in that everyone thinks "oh, it'd be so much better with just this one tiny little modification" and when made, it ends up completely changing the game balance, usually in a detrimental fashion.  Compare the game play of the system as writtern to any of the multitude of minor variants that are available on fan sites.

Adventure - Compare and contrast the effects of Dramatic Editing on play to the play of regular White Wolf games.  The BtVS RPG is also applicable here, with its use of Drama Points.

-DaR
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Dan Root
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2003, 07:14:42 PM »

This is a valid rant and it should be obvious but sadly it isn't for some reason. in order to write you must read. This is the first principle drilled into you in any writing class you will ever take. Even other hobbies which include creation of new ideas or product (like the war boardgaming groups or informal writing circles) understand this principle. I never understand why it is so often skipped in roleplaying.

But I'm glad you wrote this, Mike. I think we can all point people to this when needed.
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Alex Hunter
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2003, 07:23:35 PM »

Mike

Thought I'd add a couple of bits of mechanics families here that I consider good references. Mine are slanted more towards pure system monkery though.


DC Heroes/Blood Of Heroes -
===================
For it's elegant, consistent action resolution and AP scale rating, first use of underlying log scale for attribute ratings. Genre Rules, and use of Hero Points. Orginal system design by Greg Gordon,

a Variant of it was also used in Underground - by Ray Winniger notable for it's bizzarre super-hero setting, 80s political satire, Peter "Aeon Flux" Chung artwork, and interesting Social Parameter change system.

TORG/Shatterzone/Masterbook
==========================
A finer detailed AP scale type system, die bonus system. Interesting card system mechanic. Interesting wedding of a seamless abstract Measure/Value system with "dramatic" card use system. lots of Neat ideas in it. Did poorly because of use of detailed chunky system wanting a loose pulpy action emphasis relying on Action/Drama card mechanic to get there. It is a variant of the AP system developed by Greg Gorden.

Torg is also noteworthy for it's multiple-genre multiple-world fusion of elements, and axiom system.

Ghostbusters/Star Wars/D6
===========================
a simplistic D6 based system founded on a nice vanilla simmy type mechanic. The D6 book provides a good reference for bare bones "generic/universal" system Design.


Nexus:The Infinite City/Feng Shui
=======================
System designed by Robin Laws, first for a multiple reality/genre fusion game, nice basic die mechanic, attribute handling, later adapted for Feng Shui, with neat bit ideas such as mook rules and such.


WarpWorld/Timelords/Space Time
========================
System designed by Greg Porter of BTRC, very nice handling of lots of cruncy bits in dealing with all manner of weapons and vehicles with a finely detailed attribute resolution system, detailed chunky damage mechanics, just lots of hard-core sim goodness here. The Guns Guns Guns supplement was developed as a design tool for for this line of games.  

CORPS/EABA
===================
Also design by Greg Porter, EABA being his latest, End All Be All game. Very elegantly designed universal systems, good outline for streamlined functional game systems with a Sim emphasis. One of the better Purist for system types. Along with GURPS and Hero forms the holy trinity of purist for system design.


Call Of Chthulhu/Runequest 3rd/Nephilim/Elric/Stormbringer/Pendragon.
=========================================
Examining the various incarnations of the BRP system is always a good thing, to see how the base mechanics were added to altered to give each game it's particular flavor. Here how to get the system to support the setting.

Traveller:The New Era/Twilight 2000/Dark Conspiracy
====================================
THis family of games is interesting in seeing how the GDW house system designed for T2K was mutated to work for TNE and Dark Conspiracy. Case studies in fitting the setting to the system, or hanging it with it.

Aftermath
=========================
This game is the ultimate example of why consistent unified mechanics are better than individual mechanics. It is very heavily mechanical game system with multiple resolution mechanics, for all sorts of stuff, a 1-40pt attribute scale. This game epitomizes good mechanical concepts, poor executions. It is also one of the best examples of RPG's being rooted in wargaming, as an examination of the rules emphasis on characters as units that work according to detailed, comprehensive wargame like rules systems indicates. Nearly like Universe by SPI. Very, very old school. IF you've only seen D&D as an example of old school RPG's, check this game or SPI's Universe out to see how much RPG's have evolved from individual unit battle games.

Theatrix
==============================
Theatrix is full of ideas, most of them in the narrativist facilitating camp, tons of ideas on session structure, plot points, the plot points/reward system, interesting story priority skill system, etc.


Senzar
=========================
As an adjunct to World of Synnibar, there is Senzar, another great example of how not to make or market your game. State of the art Fantasy heartbreaker, heck with heartbreaker, it puts the merciless smack down on your heart like it ownz0rs ju.


Just to echo Mike's sentiment, a good designer should have a good library of games. Plus it gives everyone an excuse to buy lots of individual games.

Best

Rob Muadib
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2003, 06:30:17 AM »

A couple omissions that I would add (though Mike's list is amazingly thorough), which have been influencing me of late, especially as far as social contract and the actual structuring of player responsibilities:

Universalis - One of the first published games (as far as I know) built to run GM-less and support truly collaborative world building and storytelling.  Hopefully Universalis is the harbringer of many good things to come.  Also, having formalized "Rules Gimmicks" is one of the coolest ideas ever.

Rune - Another Robin Laws design, but this one attempts to simulate CRPG-style hack-and-slash play.  The players alternate being the GM and use a point system to create complications (monsters, traps, etc.) for the other players to deal with.  GMs get experience (for their character) if they make the characters lives difficult, and characters get experience for surviving the complications.  Not something I'd necessarily play regularly, but the design is a stroke of Gamist genius.

Mike's not kidding!  Do your research!  I've learned more about roleplaying since I joined the Forge than in my entire life before that, mostly from discovering games that I never knew existed.

Later.
Jonathan
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2003, 07:01:50 AM »

Quote from: DaR
b]Ars Magica - What not to do?  I have to admit I've played a fair bit of AM4, and I know I sort of mentally use the magic system as a gold standard for what a hermetic style magic system should be like.  What flaws do you consider it to contain?

The incoherent nature of Ars leads to problems with GM adjudication of effects. Ars does this great job of stimulating unique magic effects from the players. And then hands the GM full control to moderate their use. The GM has to be so arbirtrary that he's bound to make mistakes. Further it sets the GM up as opposition to the player in terms of deciding what happens. I've seen players crestfallen to learn that the spell that they've spent a lot of effort getting to work (both player and character) turns out to be a lot less impressive than they thought. Or the opposite, where the GM, tired of opposing player desires, just gives the players what they want, or worse, give them overpowered spells just to be sure there's no complaint.

See Hero System for "System First" mechanics that prevent this. Or Sorcerer for that matter.

Quote
This is another one that I'd like clarification on. What do you consider to be interesting, and what is unfortunate?
These things are going to be personal. But most analysts agree that there are good things and bad. This is due quite a bit to the incoherency of the WoD games. That incoherency is, really, the unfortunate part.

Some people disagree on this point. But that's fine. Either way they are important reading.

Quote

Amber - "diceless", an example of a nearly absolutely pure karma system with no fortune at all, and only the faintest whiff of drama.  Also an example of a system which appears to be simple, almost too simple, but has a number of exceedingly subtle interactions in it that don't come out until you've played for quite some time.  It ends up being like D&D in that everyone thinks "oh, it'd be so much better with just this one tiny little modification" and when made, it ends up completely changing the game balance, usually in a detrimental fashion.  Compare the game play of the system as writtern to any of the multitude of minor variants that are available on fan sites.
Amber is more important IMO, for being incoherent. That Drama you mention is what sneaks in and causes people to feel that it needs to be modified endlessly. A more coherent game would have seen less modifications.

Yes, this means that Drama mechanics in this game lead to Gamism. How counterintuitive is that?

Quote
Adventure - Compare and contrast the effects of Dramatic Editing on play to the play of regular White Wolf games.  The BtVS RPG is also applicable here, with its use of Drama Points.
Heh, just finished up an Adventure!, um, adventure. I was tempted to mention it as the one WW game that I'm aware of that fixes a lot of the problems of others. But you know what? There's still a lot of Sim/Narr mixing, not all of which I'm sure makes for a coherent hybrid.

Like why was our pilot limited in his flying ability by a rating for his plane's handling? That seemed to stick out like a Sim sore thumb. OTOH, the dramatic editing doesn't mean that you have to address issues. Still a very Sim game overall.

Mike
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2003, 07:28:23 AM »

Quote from: RobMuadib

DC Heroes/Blood Of Heroes -
===================
For it's elegant, consistent action resolution and AP scale rating, first use of underlying log scale for attribute ratings. Genre Rules, and use of Hero Points. Orginal system design by Greg Gordon,

a Variant of it was also used in Underground - by Ray Winniger notable for it's bizzarre super-hero setting, 80s political satire, Peter "Aeon Flux" Chung artwork, and interesting Social Parameter change system.
The log scale thing was extant in Champions (and even V&V, really), well before DC heroes. I tend to refer to Heroes as Champions divided by five. It interests me that these games work things on a log scale, but then they often do addition and subtraction linearly. This leads to the inevitable "normals punching through walls" syndromes. So, good for the ideas, but often not good for the execution.

Also, DC was a system that damaged itself with an adherence to symetry in stats. People often can't get past this sort of Gimmick. In DC you have nine stats, composed of cross-referencing each of three areas (pyhsical, mental, spiritual? something like that), with three modes (attack, defense, endurance). This just seemed silly to me, going to these lengths to maintain a mechanical symmetry.

Dirivative, and more what not to do, than what to do, IMO. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be looked at.

Quote
TORG/Shatterzone/Masterbook
==========================
A finer detailed AP scale type system, die bonus system. Interesting card system mechanic. Interesting wedding of a seamless abstract Measure/Value system with "dramatic" card use system. lots of Neat ideas in it. Did poorly because of use of detailed chunky system wanting a loose pulpy action emphasis relying on Action/Drama card mechanic to get there. It is a variant of the AP system developed by Greg Gorden.

Torg is also noteworthy for it's multiple-genre multiple-world fusion of elements, and axiom system.
Multi-genre is dime a dozen. Torg does it slightly better than Rifts in some ways, but not so much that I'd reccommend one over the other.

But, yes, in addition to the cards, check out the "video-game-esque" adventure structure (they actually refer to bosses). This is simultaneously empowering, and hugely limiting.

Quote
Ghostbusters/Star Wars/D6
===========================
a simplistic D6 based system founded on a nice vanilla simmy type mechanic. The D6 book provides a good reference for bare bones "generic/universal" system Design.
And a lot of nigh  broken rules. What D6 represents to me is the illusion that any system stripped to it's bare chargen and resolution system makes a good generic system. Not horrible, but also not great. It's like the great bland in between. I'm not sure what's to be learned here. Can't hurt to look, tho.

Quote
Nexus:The Infinite City/Feng Shui
=======================
System designed by Robin Laws, first for a multiple reality/genre fusion game, nice basic die mechanic, attribute handling, later adapted for Feng Shui, with neat bit ideas such as mook rules and such.
These are actually two very different games. Nexus is a close cousin of Fuzion and given the setting must be much more generic. Feng Shui is much more narrow in it's scope, and better defined. Interesting to see an evolution between the games going from more generic to less. Usually happens in reverse. See BRP.

Quote
WarpWorld/Timelords/Space Time
========================
System designed by Greg Porter of BTRC, very nice handling of lots of cruncy bits in dealing with all manner of weapons and vehicles with a finely detailed attribute resolution system, detailed chunky damage mechanics, just lots of hard-core sim goodness here. The Guns Guns Guns supplement was developed as a design tool for for this line of games.  
Eh, I'd toss this in with other complex sim stuff like Phoenox Command and Twilight 2000. People should know a couple of these, but you don't have to read them all to get a perspective on how this sort of things works. Of course, if you're trying to top these games...

Quote
CORPS/EABA
===================
Also design by Greg Porter, EABA being his latest, End All Be All game. Very elegantly designed universal systems, good outline for streamlined functional game systems with a Sim emphasis. One of the better Purist for system types. Along with GURPS and Hero forms the holy trinity of purist for system design.
Eh, I'd throw in Tri-Stat and call it a Quadrity. Actually there are lots of these. I would only recommend needing to read GURPS amongst these to get the generic part. I reccommend Hero System for entirely other reasons. Could toss in Risus, as well as something between GURPS and FUDGE.

Quote
Call Of Chthulhu/Runequest 3rd/Nephilim/Elric/Stormbringer/Pendragon.
=========================================
Examining the various incarnations of the BRP system is always a good thing, to see how the base mechanics were added to altered to give each game it's particular flavor. Here how to get the system to support the setting.
Yes, there is something to the idea of these as an evolution. But the real lesson is that adhering to an old generic model just slows development over time.

Quote
Traveller:The New Era/Twilight 2000/Dark Conspiracy
====================================
THis family of games is interesting in seeing how the GDW house system designed for T2K was mutated to work for TNE and Dark Conspiracy. Case studies in fitting the setting to the system, or hanging it with it.
Well, or again, how not to apply a system to everything. I felt that Dark Conspiracy really suffered from the system which still was affected by Traveller's original wargaming connection with games like Striker. PEN values for Trolls? I always played GDW with GURPS. And lo, who's the GURPS line editor now? Mr. Wiseman. Took 20 years just to convert to GURPS, which is hardly state of the art.

Quote
Aftermath
=========================
This game is the ultimate example of why consistent unified mechanics are better than individual mechanics.
Along with Multiverser (>looks out for MJ and ducks<). I loved playing Aftermath in some ways. But, yes, definitely one end of the detail spectrum. Can't get enough of the rules for making ethanol.

Quote
Theatrix
==============================
Theatrix is full of ideas, most of them in the narrativist facilitating camp, tons of ideas on session structure, plot points, the plot points/reward system, interesting story priority skill system, etc.
Hmmm. Lots of debate on this one. But certainly seminal, and certainly worth a look.

Quote
Senzar
=========================
As an adjunct to World of Synnibar, there is Senzar, another great example of how not to make or market your game. State of the art Fantasy heartbreaker, heck with heartbreaker, it puts the merciless smack down on your heart like it ownz0rs ju.
Yeah, exactly. SenZar doesn't make it into the dysfunctional game category because there's every evidence that it represents a quite functional Powergamer's wet dream. Might not be for everyone, but, OTOH, there are some gems of Gamist design in there. EXP for catching the GM not applying the rules correctly? Wow. That's different at least. Beat Hackmaster to the punch by years, and out-Rifts Rifts.

Mike
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2003, 07:31:43 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Universalis
I'm flattered. But Once Upon a Time does make the points well.

I do think that Gimmicks are interesting, however, if I do say so. Rules to change the rules instead of having to resort to the social level.

Quote
Rune - ...but the design is a stroke of Gamist genius.
Absolutely.

Mike
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2003, 07:37:33 AM »

I've posted three replies in a row above not including this one (just mentioning here so they aren't missed).

Good additions everyone. What the list needs is not neccessarily even the best games, but ones that are educational somehow. Ones that solved prior problems or created innovations. Or ones that created the problems in the first place. I'm sure there are still a few important ones that haven't been mentioned.

It's amazing the variety out there. Knowing a large cross section can only give you ideas, and ensure that you don't repeat the mistakes of the past. When you read, read with a critical eye. This should be easy, I think as most designers are tinkerers to start, and are always looking for the problems in systems, anyhow.

Mike
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2003, 08:11:45 AM »

One more that struck me in the shower, for a number of reasons...

Continuum - Both for what it does and what it's not able to accomplish.  Required reading for anyone writing anything about time or time travel.  "Time Combat" is a fabulous example of using mechanics to simulate something you can't actually do in play.  It makes the impossible possible, in a limited fashion.  However, the amount of paperwork required by its "temporal realism" is intimidating.  A reminder that there's a limit on what you can expect players and GMs to willingly do.  Shows that high concepts are often limited by physical limitations.

Hey Mike?  I think it would be really cool if you wrote an article (or maybe brainstormed with Clinton, Ron, and others) that served as a kind of "Reading List" for would-be game designers.  I've at least heard of most of the games on your list, but there are many that I don't feel I know enough about.  Aside from this thread, it'd be nice to see a permanently posted list (that could be occasionally added to), to serve as "the history of game design" covering major innovations and tweaks to existing concepts.  Just a suggestion.

Later.
Jonathan
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2003, 08:32:15 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Aside from this thread, it'd be nice to see a permanently posted list (that could be occasionally added to), to serve as "the history of game design" covering major innovations and tweaks to existing concepts.

Um, that sounds like a whole book to me. In fact isn't there something like that our there now?

Mike
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Rob Donoghue
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« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2003, 08:39:07 AM »

Hnh.

If that's the reading list, is the playing list shorter or longer?

-Rob D.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2003, 08:53:38 AM »

Quote from: Rob Donoghue
Hnh.

If that's the reading list, is the playing list shorter or longer?

-Rob D.


As I said, one should play as many as possible. That said, I assume that people will have looked closely at more games than they've played, and to an extent, just knowing the system is OK. Not as good as reading, but certainly better than never having played.

Of all the games listed, there are about a half-dozen that I've only read, and a few I haven't seen much of anything of.

I expect that few people will have read the whole list, and practically nobody will have played them all. And, again, if you've substituted in the right games in the right place, you're probably fine. For example, having played Marvel Supers is probably as useful or more than reading DC, IMO. GURPS Time Travel is probably as good as Continuum for these purposes (and in any case are both very specific in their application). Any Heartbreaker can substitute for Palladium pretty well. Any WoD game is as good as the next for these purposes. Nugget is as good as FUDGE for a small generic game. Fuzion or Action could cover for either light or complex generic.

Again, it's not so much the particular list, but the elements that are represented in them.

It also doesn't hurt to at least have a notion of what a lot of other RPGs are about in general terms. So that you can refer to them if your current project might be affected by their designs. So, I've never even read Ghostbusters. But I'm aware that it's a D6 design and obviously what it's about in general terms. If I needed inspiration for that sort of game, I'm sure I'd want to look at it and dig up a copy.

Mike

P.S. OTOH, this list isn't intended to be exhaustive for study; it's just the primer. If you really want to be an expert, I'd think you'd have to double to triple the number of games you'd played or read. I've played or read at least three times this many different RPGs (heck, I own copies of, or have downloaded, more than 100), and am always looking to try more in order to get a better understanding. That might not be for everyone, and you can be a good designer without that much breadth. But I can only recommend it.
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Sylus Thane
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2003, 09:31:50 AM »

I think people should look also look at games that tended to create the early genre expectations. For example there are people who feel that D&D is the only true Fantasy sword and sorcery game because it kind of set the bar in their minds. In the case of sci-fi I would use the old Traveller and Space opera rpgs as they kind of set a standard of what people felt a space oriented game should be like.

Basically, don't just look at the system but also look at what kind of impact the game made in regards to the genre of rpgs.

Sylus
Personally I think Space Opera RPG is a big reason why we have to differentiate between hard sci-fi and "Space Opera" sci-fi when talking rpgs.
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lumpley
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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2003, 09:44:50 AM »

Over the Edge, for its approach to representing characters.  If it wasn't the first trait-based game, it was certainly a pioneer.

-Vincent
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