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Author Topic: [Alien Earth] Am I making my game's social contract explicite enough?  (Read 5273 times)
Charles S

Posts: 1

« on: January 15, 2012, 05:34:43 PM »

I'm currently working on a game wherein I'm trying to capture a particular style of simulationist play that I tend to find was popular in older games but has largely fallen out of vogue and which I would like to refine with the tools of a modern game designer. My problem is I feel like my "What is a roleplaying game?" section (wherein I pretty much lay out the game's social contract) might still be a tad wishy washy. I don't want to dismiss other people's preferences for no reason, but at the same time I don't want my desire to be inclusive to seriously weaken the social contract. It's a fine balance, and I'm just too close to the material at this point so I'd love the opinions of some new people with fresh eyes (especially at The Forge, with it's accumulated knowledge of game design in general and these sorts of issues specifically)

I'm having a hell of a time trying to explain this, so let me just make my questions clear:

1. Does the section make it clear how a roleplaying game is played such that a group of people new to gaming would understand how to play?
2. Does this section make clear to old-hat gamers what this game's expectations of player and GM are and how they might differ from what they're used to?
3. Is the social contract clear enough to avoid conflicts over interpretation (assuming it is followed by all sides in good faith)?

And the bonus question

4. Is the example of play interesting enough that someone might actually read it all (I personally like long examples of play, but I feel others might not share my enthusiasm)?

Here is the section in question, What Is A Roleplaying Game?

Here is a pack with three other sections to give a "feel" for the game (two for it's mechanics, one for the setting). Feel free to comment on these as well, although I will likely start another thread at a later date specifically addressing the core system itself. I just feel like if I'm asking you to look over an example of play you should have an idea of what kind of play is being exemplified.

I apologize in advance if I'm butchering any of the terms I'm using here.

Posts: 657

« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2012, 08:06:30 PM »

If you want to include 'what is a roleplaying game?', I always thought of going back to childhood basica and tapping into that inuitive understanding of roleplaying that we all have.

Roleplaying is like when you play cowboys and indians - you imagine yourself as a cowboy, doing cowboy things, and you announce to everyone else what your cowboy is doing in your imagination, and everyone says what their cowboys and indians are doing in their imaginations, and at some point, someone will say "I shot you" and the other person will reply "oh no you didnt, I shout _you_' and thats when the rules kick in.

That certainly beats my wives explanation when someone asked her what I did when I was roleplaying and she told them "I think they trade elf noses or something".  I mean seruiously, what the fuck?


Posts: 657

« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 08:12:02 PM »

I dont think your spiel gave me any specific idea about how to play your game, btw.


Posts: 500

also known as Josh W

« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2012, 07:17:26 AM »

Your not butchering it at all as far as I can see; any social contract in a game text will only be a specification for a real life social contract among people, the real personal dynamics that come together and support the fact that they are playing at all.

As far as your game goes, the most interesting part of that example-play thing is the last sentence: "Anywhere you want" sounds nice, but it really is an ending, similar to "they ride off into the sunset", or "they lived happily ever after". I'd like to know what happens next, the very next few sentences and actions in that imagined conversation; do the players sit blankly looking at the GM, do they start kibutzing about where to go next out of character, do they roleplay the continuation of their argument in the back of the cab, does the "navigation mechanic" come out, does a map come out? That might say more about how the game hangs together, and then you could just fade out with an elipsis...
Josh Porter

Posts: 58

I want to be old.

« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2012, 07:08:40 PM »

I'm not trying to be an ass, but I really didn't see any specific social contract at all in the "What is a Roleplaying Game" section.  I have a pretty clear idea of the range of choices given to the players, but I'm not sure that's the same thing.

It seemed very vague about what specifically each person was to do.  The non-GM players will play their characters (maybe also taking some extra authorship in the world), and the GM will play the NPCs and the environs (and maybe back off a bit if he/she wants).  I don't think there is any social contract spelled out at all, just the roles of the players.  I think of a social contract as more of the "around the table" stuff.  "Don't talk when others are rolling dice."  "Show up on time, please."  "This game is trying to be an action movie, so please don't play your characters like the Three Stooges."  Are we just thinking of different definitions here?

I am playtesting Flawed and Caterpillar.
I am playing Dresden Files.
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