Started by Ron Edwards, February 27, 2011, 09:15:04 PM
QuoteSo: convince me that both are possible at once. Please.
Quote1. In the world of ideas, it might surprise people to know that my key concerns in RPG design are Color, reward systems, and Currency - all very techniques/ephemera oriented. In other words, brutally practical. I originally wrote "System Does Matter" as an orienter toward the eventual goal of discussing these things and applying them in new ways.In other words, I considered, and still consider, GNS to be a no-brainer - obvious, clear, and simple. However, it took almost six years and the construction of the Big Model in order to explain it to the Body Internet. As far as I'm concerned, all that effort was a detour. I wanted to discuss Color, reward systems, and Currency. It is extremely frustrating to me to be labeled the "theory guy" and for a bevy of self-perceived young turks to congratulate themselves for getting "practical" as a form of rebellion. Inevitable, socially speaking, I suppose, but aggravating, especially for the author of such practical designs as Sorcerer and Elfs, and especially since I dug deep into the mechanics to help out many young turks with their games when they were pretty crappy drafts.Now, the Ronnies permit me to get my hands dirty, at last, very publicly. I can illustrate the questions that need to be asked, and especially - especially! - illustrate that game design can begin from nearly any starting point (level, detail, etc) of what will eventually be the finished product. There is no "start here" on the board, in terms of techniques or procedures. The only really reliable one (and it's not universal) is Color.2. In the world of enjoyment as a role-player, Paul Czege and I shared a major frustration by 2004. We missed the time about five years ago when we'd cruise through the internet and find cool little RPGs sitting there like islands, play them, and blow the author's mind by giving feedback. "Wow! Someone played my game? I didn't put it up there for nothing?" And for us, it was the best way to discover and consider what did and didn't work in given systems, and also to consider what issues needed to be addressed for a given game-in-draft. It was amazing what system innovations you might find sitting in some little crappy HTML Geocities webpage, as well to identify the crust of previous assumptions that were now so obviously mismatched and unnecessary. Does anyone here remember Ghost Light, by Doug Bolden? You should.So the Ronnies are a way to get back there, and to remove the whole bullshit notion that the hobby is divided into Piddly Players and Noble Designers. Inspiration + Guts + Thought = a game to play, and Paul and I, and then Clinton when he joined the conversation, agreed that in early 2005, we'd had a bellyful of design that was based on solely on a debased form of Thought alone. It was time to get the Forge back to discovering the Inspiration simmering out there.3. In the social/creative world, the current hobby is a cottage industry, and in such industries, mutualism is the key. People talk about the "Forge community," and the biggest internal steps to getting there so far were (a) the publication of the big essay ("GNS and other matters of role-playing theory"), (b) establishing the GenCon booth, (c) the Infamous Five essays,and (d) the Iron Game Chef contests. The trouble with all of those is that they facilitated people playing insider-ego status games on each other, and facilitated newcomers to exclude themselves unnecessarily ("Oh, I'm just a newbie," etc). So we needed a new step. Clinton and I have annual powwows about what to do with the Forge, and every time, we've implemented our ideas successfully. 2005 was the year of stripping-down the forums, encouraging the Diaspora, recovering our original sense of snarling determination, getting a little clearer about ourselves at the personal level to all of you, and emphasizing our expectation of mutualism. You can review our posts throughout this last year in that light, and you'll see it.That mutualism was the toughest one; no one can make anyone else want to help others. The Ronnies are a kind of reversed way of fostering it - people see me being mutualistic, and join in. It looks like a me-centered thing, but ultimately, it's clear that one man cannot, alone, review and play and help with all these games, even if we did restrict ourselves to the winners (which we shouldn't). People can see that they simply have to help, or they won't themselves get the real feedback they need.4. I have been tremendously impressed by the Iron Game Chef and the 24-Hour RPG endeavors. Mike Holmes' work on the first was stellar, and the first round of the latter produced great stuff. However, by 2005, I was a little dissatisfied with both. The power was still there, but not the quantity and simple clarity that I'd hoped for.The former had become "twee," with tons of terms and constraints that seemed messy to me rather than elegant. Yet it still produced a small number of awesome designs ... not enough, in my view, but the awesomeness was there. And it did indeed facilitate the "newcomer from the canebrake" effect, most dramatically Tim Kleinert and The Mountain Witch. And the latter, after an amazing start, trickled into a kind of desultory, low-yield endeavor, especially because people were making it harder than it had to be.So, I took the elements I liked the best from each. From Iron Game Chef, I hooked the choose-from-terms idea, which I thought was great, but boiled into a more concentrated form; I wanted more thematic/Color unity among the entries rather than less, because interpretation of something like "rat" is what Inspiration is composed of. Four terms in combos of two seemed perfect. I also hooked the whole idea of a contest, because the competitive angle is important ... but as you can see, I muted it by making the Ronnies less about beating others and more about being good. I also decided to own the judging wholly myself, thus accepting that any subjectivity was simply up-front and unavoidable. Oh, and I added the money to give the whole thing bite ... you see, I mean it.From the 24-Hour RPG, I took the whole basic concept, obviously, similar enough to be able to boost the success of that site through the awards. But I also wanted to emphasize what I saw as the primary opportunity of the idea, which is this: getting the whole vision of one's game into one place, in relatively few pages, is actually not all that hard. The hard part is getting over the mistaken and humpbacked misapprehensions that persist out there, even after six years of the Forge in place, about how to write a game.Even more importantly, this little document is eminently usable. It may have holes, but you know where the holes are. It may have fucked-up mechanics, but you can see how they need to be fixed because the other parts are in place. I was deadly sick of projects like Fang Langford's Scattershot, in which he wrote and scribbled and re-tooled and refined, yet ignored the big picture because it was somehow too vast or too amazing ever to profane by being written out simply. I was similarly sick of projects like Jonathan Walton's notions, which as I saw it, got tangled up in deconstructive self-reference without ever actually becoming a set of 1-2-3 do-this procedures. My mantra is, fucksake, summarize in ten pages. Who cares if it's not all detailed yet? If I can see the bigger reward system, grasp the Currency, and get bug-eyed to transform the Color into System through play (think about that one!), then the hard work is over, and it's all playtesting and refinement from here.
QuoteThe only perpetuation I hope for after the Ronnies are over (as I can't do them indefinitely, obviously) is for an improvement in the culture, the general dialogue, of game design. I said, a Ronnies-like culture, not for people literally to run contests like the Ronnies. In such a culture, what's in it for any given person is exactly the same, for everyone - heightened quality of discourse, heightened attention to one's own works in reciprocal fashion, and heightened awareness of multiple possible connections and comparisons among a far-flung community of experimental (and inspiration-heavy) game design.