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Author Topic: Walking Eye interviews me  (Read 7413 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2010, 11:06:40 PM »

That party order isse in part 2 reminds me of the 'I hate compromise' thread, specifically there being no 'default' and especially almost a repeat of the 'oh but I was' stuff.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2010, 07:35:42 AM »

Hi Tony,

A few years ago, a thread here (its leading post by me) in the Adept Press forum resulted in some kind of extreme, silly reaction out there in the inter-space. You probably heard of it or remember it - the Brain Damage thing. One of the reasons I never paid much attention (or invested any emotion) in that reaction is that clearly no one - and I mean fucking no one external to the community here - read the post itself in any meaningful sense of the concept of "reading." The three things that I articulated for Kevin were the leading point in that thread, and everything I said after that was to be taken in that context. I've been repeating those things over and over for years, wondering why after posting them as the lead in what is probably my most notorious externally-read entry in fifteen years, they have not seemed to penetrate one inch into the wider discourse. Especially when as you know, this issue is probably the core of dysfunction in the hobby.

My presumption is that people were directed to that thread in a frenzy of gossip and self-victimized ranting, and instantly scrolled down looking for the "evil" phrase, neither with any intention of actually reading the post as such (or understanding why it came up as a topic in the forum) nor in any state of mind to process it anyway. But enough of that nonsense.

Regarding Traveller, I don't claim that it illustrates the very common early assumption of "RPG within a wargame," that I was talking about. I hope I didn't single it out as doing so in the interview (did I?). I'm pretty sure that I did not claim that every early RPG followed that model. As I realized a few years ago, my textual memory regarding Traveller is poor; I get supplements and editions mixed up. So to ask whether it did or did not conform, I'd turn to Christopher Kubasik who's extremely literate about the game and its history.

Hi Callan,

Definitely. It's also related to the Murk issue in Bangs&Illusionism - in which Ron beats down Confusion, which I followed up on quite a bit as in your original Molasses thread and in Mother-May-I and 20 questions: Games GMs play. You know, when I first published System Does Matter in 1999, I did not have any idea that this degree of practical dysfunction - one might even say "utter cluelessness" - was so widespread. My assumption in writing about what would later be called Creative Agenda was that by and large, people were competent at generating the basic medium of play, and that the open question concerned what we do with it. I'm pretty sure that the participants in the Threefold discussions (preceding and inspiring my essay) were in the same boat as me for that issue. So it turns out with 11 years perspective, pretty much to the day, actually), they and then I were talking about what to do, when the majority of the audience turned out not to know with what.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: March 11, 2010, 07:37:26 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2010, 08:14:31 AM »

Hello Ron

Lot's of good things in this podcast!

You talk about S/lay w/me and the intensive playtesting phase it went through in a relatively short span of time (6 months if I recall correctly). What did it look like? How did you go about organizing this phase? How many people helped out? Also, how do you know that a game has been playtested enough (especially since you mention a the year 2005 as a poor year designs-wise)?
We don't get a lot of discussion on how playtesting is managed at the higher level, and it's a topic that is becoming more and more important for my own designs.
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Regards,
Christoph
Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2010, 04:02:11 PM »

Hi Ron,

There's alof of history packed into that one paragraph.

I don't think there's just cluelessness though - there's a denial and assertion that everythings absolutely working. And the most important part, with no metric for when it actually isn't working fine. For example, if a car coughs and splutters but gets you from A to B, hey, it basically works. And if it breaks down and stops, and you admit it's broken down, cool. But when someone starts say 'Oh no, see this is another kind of journey that's happening here...and see also it's about the group dynamic, with the group dynamic working together as they push together...the car is totally working, when everyones together, pushing it...and that's the car working!' it's just a massive denial to not have any measure by which the can could indeed fail. It's like the car can not have failed.

And then if you try to make a game that doesn't need pushing, ironically people treat it as if it's failed somehow!

Eh, I had a point but I think I've slipped into just preaching to the choir at the end.
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The Dragon Master
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« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2010, 09:13:24 PM »

Ron: You didn't say that it did, but my understanding is that was about the second thing we'd recognize as an RPG that came out, and I didn't know if there was history behind that game that I was unaware of. Though really this one could well be an exception. It's one of the few games I'm aware of (pre 95) that had an explicit portion of the game being about trade and negotiation. Really that is what drew me to that game in the first place. There have been very few game systems where combat appealed to me. Sorcerer is one of the ones that did (because "combat" could well be me trying to domineer the guy who wants to shoot me). Dogs in the Vinyard is another, though I don't know anyone who has a copy, or whose shown interest in playing.  And traveller with it's rules for finding deals, buying and selling, interspacial travel... it felt like it had more to offer than just kill things and take their stuff.
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"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2010, 06:37:15 AM »

Hi Tony,

The middle-late 1970s saw at least a dozen role-playing games appear, and that's a very conservative estimate. If we include the weird body of short-lived half-and-half thingies that led up to and surrounded the 1974 debut of D&D at GenCon, then the number leaps up by quite a lot. Traveller was definitely revolutionary along the lines of what you're talking about, and I'd also point to the wide-open DIY character concepts and the life-path technique. However, I don't think it's accurate to say "It was the second RPG." Part of my reasoning concerns the many other games published at the time, notably the early versions of RuneQuest and Tunnels & Trolls but lots more too, and part of it stems from the difficult fact that there really was no first D&D in a practical, cultural sense - the boxed set that came out at GenCon was a very limited print run, and most people encountered the game over the next few years as a scattered set of semi-related secondary publications.

Callan, "yes."

Christoph, establishing a better shared understanding of playtesting has been one of my goals for the site since it was Hephaestus' Forge. You can see it in my earliest posts in Indie Design, in the eventual creation of the Playtesting forum to try to generate community effort there, in my "reviews" (actually just Actual Play posts, many of which were playtesting feedback) ... I don't know. I've done everything I can imagine to try to generate what you're talking about. All I can say is that the internet community hasn't really stepped up to it, although as long as people are asking the questions you're asking, at least that's something.

I don't mean to sound irritated at you, but the topic is indeed a constant source of aggravation. I really think the ease of publication and marketing, as well as a certain high-school level subcultural reinforcement, led to this issue of playtesting getting dropped in 2004-2005. Which is annoying, because excellent and rather severe playtesting characterized the development of Dogs in the Vineyard, Polaris, Primetime Adventures, and The Mountain Witch, all of which inadvertently became the gold standard of "cool game, cool game designer, cool game designer clique" that characterized the poor playtesting of the next wave of games.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2010, 05:48:38 PM »

Hi Christoph,

I forgot to add the actual answer to you personally: check out the S/Lay w/Me page at the new Adept site. The threads are laid out to help a person follow exactly that point.

Best, Ron
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Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #22 on: March 14, 2010, 03:39:10 PM »

Hello Ron

I understand your irritation, and didn't feel it was addressed at me. Just came back from reading the playtest threads, I had indeed missed the first one, which lays out a lot of what I had been asking about. Great stuff!
I think that what I really want now is to get a grasp of the scales at play. Numbers, or at least orders of magnitude. How many external playtesters? How many sessions were played? How many reports did you get back? (All this including your own testing.)
I understand that you have a lot of experience, which can speed up some of the steps. Of course, mileages vary, each project has its own demands, etc. But I'd really like to get a feel about this, number-wise.

One thing I'm trying to get at is the following: is there typically a kind of "plateau" of testing, where one might feel that it is done, but going beyond that will suddenly show stuff to be done yet? (So this goes beyond your experience of S/lay w/Me only.)
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Regards,
Christoph
Callan S.
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« Reply #23 on: March 16, 2010, 02:42:10 AM »

Hi Ron,

I got the time to listen to the first half just now. You've stressed the 'how' in 'how we agree' before. In terms of spoken fiction, do we really need to agree, for the how to become important? I mean, with the 'I hate compromise' thread it describes having a mechanical default if they don't agree on some fiction. Now totally they are agreeing in terms of rules, like one agrees a bishop can move diaganolly in chess. But you seemed to be describing the 'how' in terms of fiction and that we would indeed be agreeing and that makes the 'how' the important part? What if were not agreeing on fiction (though we are hitting the default then taking that on, making fiction, working something out - but in between were not agreeing?). You stressed the 'how' a time back in regards to the smelly chamberlain threads and I'm still squinting, so to speak. I'm wondering if you were stressing the 'how' in regards to fiction back then, because those threads were like (putting it briefly) someone taking the bishop and moving him horizontally, then a kerfuffle then some sort of agreement to someones spoken fiction that went along the lines of "a horizontally moving bishop".

I know 'how we agree' could just as easily cover the pure rules following stuff, like the diagonal bishop, as much as agreeing on fiction, but was it being used that way here?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: March 16, 2010, 06:48:29 AM »

Hi Callan,

I think one of points I've never been able to articulate effectively is that by "agree," I mean the most uninteresting, functional, unspecific thing possible for that term. Your phrase:

Quote
we are hitting the default then taking that on, making fiction, working something out


... seems very similar to what I mean. I can also say what I don't mean, as follows:

1. Coming to an amazing, emotional, uplifting, 100% consensual social moment among the people
2. Achieving a 100% correspondence regarding what's being imagined for everyone present

My view on "agree" is better described as "good enough for government work." As I see it, it's also synonymous with the term Shared Imagined Space, which has often been unfairly subjected to identification with one or both of the two objectionable concepts above.

My genuine hope with this post is to take the majority of pressure, expectation, and idealization off the poor term "agree," and for you in particular, to consider that it may be an unproblematic and ordinary concept, easily achieved by a group of people.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: March 16, 2010, 02:53:38 PM »

I think you may be taking me the wrong way and I wont get into what I might seem to have been doing. Not directly, anyway.

My first point is that how we agree to fiction does matter that much, since we can dip to zero agreement and given a strong procedure, keep on ticking. If I were graphing the amount of agreement it'd drop to zero in my example '(though we are hitting the default then taking that on, making fiction, working something out - but in between were not agreeing?)', but then cause were all imaginative and we can take the ball the rules punt to us, we'll start to think of something individually and onward we all start to work on something...so the fiction agreement graph would steadily rise from zero (and yeah it bounces up and down - like your government work example - I get this!).

Indeed in saying this I aught to appear pretty laissez-faire in terms of your 1 & 2. A bouncing graph line, totally!

But given it can drop to zero and nothing catches on fire, 'how' we agree on fiction doesn't matter that much. Yes, it catches on fire in your party order example, but that's due to an absence of chess like procedure (beyond 'the GM puts his foot down'). How we agree will matter in terms of what creation comes out of our activity, but in the purely physical terms of whether the machine/instrument that were all operating (and are part of) and whether that machine is working, how we agree on fiction doesn't matter. Does it?

The stress on the how of the fictional agreement made me think of the smelly chamberlain thread. What I'm getting at is if someone (or everyone, even) breaks the chess likes rules, but then if they come to a fictional agreement they act as if that fictional agreement is all that matters. Like they don't even have to recognise they broke the chess like rules, as long as they agreed on fiction.

That's what I'm seeing with stressing the 'how' in how they agreed, particularly when connected to fiction alone. The 'how' isn't even the most important part - yes, they agreed - but if they are sitting there as a group acting like they didn't break rules that they originally set out to follow, when actually they did and they are acting like they are following those rules and always have been...I dunno? Intellectual dishonesty? Denial? Some sort of error!

That's what I saw with the smelly chamberlain thread - it may have written to show something else, but it involved people agreeing on fiction while breaking rules they intended to follow (the GM decides X, but then the players just decide it themselves...but since they agree on how the fiction turns out, no one notes this contradiction) and not acknowledging that in any way. Not that I read, anyway - I might have missed something.

Or alternatively I think the 'how' is not being used in a big enough sense - that if someone/several people make an agreement that breaks a prior one, and yet they never talk about breaking it, then they didn't agree to breaking it. But in that case there is no 'how' they agreed, since they didn't agree to break it. So I'm not sure 'how' is the right word.

Okay, that post went longer than expected. At least in terms of it's foundation, would we both agree it's physically possible a pair or group of people (doing any sort of activity, even outside RP) might agree to do something that contradicts/breaks their previous agreement on what they intend to do, yet not acknowledge that break?
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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aka Sean


« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2010, 08:06:51 AM »

Anecdotally checking in to help with history:

1) The design culture that produced Traveller, D&D, Chivalry and Sorcery, etc. was a design culture primarily of wargamers. Many RPGs started as man-to-man wargames, as interlude scenarios in wargaming campaigns (the origin of that word in our hobby, where it actually means more or less what it means), or as an alternative kind of thing to play set in the same imaginary worlds as the wargames. Furthermore, stuff like Chainmail (D&D) and Trillion Credit Squadron (Traveller) etc. shows the early existence of a kind of hybrid wargame-RPG mode of play that existed in the early days of the hobby. However,

2) This kind of play was in my experience very rare 'in the field' even by the late seventies. The people who played these games usually - again, not always, but usually, and OMMV - played them as RPGs or proto-RPGs without the same connection to wargames by and large. It did happen but it was not common - the party of adventurers doing its thing in fictional space (even if it was just killin' and lootin') was the dominant paradigm. But,

3) I'd love to see some self-conscious design that moved back and forth between an RPG level and a war/kingdom/campaign management level functionally. TSR tried it many times and it never really worked right IMO. I'm one of those 'good GMs' who occasionally pulled it off at the table, but unlike some of the things people try to formalize in gaming, this one could use more serious attention. It's fun.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2010, 02:44:48 PM »

I was surprised to hear of an alternating sessions of wargame/fictional adventurings, even if it only lasted a short while. Or did it? I mean, what do we traditionally have now - usually quite formalised combat rules being played out, then some alot of fictional stuff, then a combat, then fictional stuff...that alternating is all just happening in the one session, nowadays, rather than being spread over game sessions.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2010, 05:16:58 PM »

Documentation of the phenomenon actually happening is scarce. Some blend of assumption, ideal, or default that's evident in the game texts of the day, but that's all.

Best, Ron
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #29 on: March 23, 2010, 09:12:33 AM »

[Not enough of an AP to merit a posting there.  Think of this as an empirical addendum to the play style discussed in this post]

Two (3?) years ago, year-long Burning Wheel game using the "Valley of the Mist" campaign pack for the FGU game Bushido as the setting.  Players were deeply invested in their well-developed characters, webs of allies had been built up, lots of in-fiction detail had been built up.

Penultimate session was set up as 4-5 simultaneous Fights!  One entire session was devoted to the PC's confronting the massed evils of the Valley of the Mists.  The Fight! mechanics always involve some beliefs and instincts, but the inter-player or player-GM in-character dialogue was quite succinct.  Most of the session involved scripting and determining results.

The players had done some tentative scouting of the Valley earlier.  This was the showdown.  Rather than play out fight after fight with the denizens of the Valley, we decided to play out the military campaign in one big session. 

We knew that the following session would be devoted to detailed RP-ing of the consequences of that big dust up, with the future of the province at stake (would the warrior monk return to take his place at his ducal father's court?).

I found that, in this case, alternating a big all-fight evening with acting out the consequences to be highly satisfying.

The Circles and Relationship mechanics oblige you to link social interaction to stake setting and dice-governed resolution, so Role Playing is closely linked to conflict mechanics, character sheet details, etc.  So the "war game" and the "role play" are rooted in the same procedures.

1st gen playgroups might have had informal procedures or written rules mechanics (XPs, gold to buy rumors and training and magic in RuneQuest) to allow quick switching between one part of the dyad to the other.

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