Mendel Diagrams for Roleplaying

The choice of “Old School” as the 2nd Anniversary post series on Gametime was a good one. It’s really helped tease out some possible fundamentals about how different eras have approached our hobby.

In my post on TORG I drew a distinction between the middle two eras: the Adventure Era (Old School) and the post-Adventure Era (New School). Morgue and Luke contributed their own responses to this idea, and Luke attacked the problem, albeit somewhat obliquely, in his recent post on WOD.

A reasonably obvious, but nonetheless interesting, part of the distinctions we’ve been making between different games is about their clarity of purpose. One of the common points raised in our Old School summaries was that games were explicitly intended to emulate some or other genre, but provided no mechanical means to do so. This is something which still carries on today, though better writing technique and sheer volume of practice have improved the situation.

Let’s talk then, about an incontrovertibly Old School game, AD&D 1st Edition, compared to a pretty undeniably New School game, V:TR. What is the difference between these games?

Well, really broadly, the mechanics in AD&D 1st cover only a small, a very small, part of what might go on in a game: combat. Nods are made in later supplements to skills and so on, but basically the idea of AD&D 1st ed is that you fight things. What you do otherwise is up to you.

There are two ways to look at it, and the way that’s been presented in our discussion of the Old School is that this offers poor genre support for “Swords and Sorcery” generally. It doesn’t tell you anything about the game that doesn’t involve going somewhere, killing what you find there, and taking it’s stuff.

The other way of looking at this is that it doesn’t prescribe any of those things. When I was still playing AD&D 1st, the need for rules outside of combat didn’t really feature too prominently in my thinking. If there was some NPC-negotiation to be done, we negotiated. If there was some ancillary skill, like repairing a cart, to be done we just adjudicated it. Does my hero have a background that supports the notion he could repair a cart? yes/no. Simple. It wasn’t important to the story, or to what we wanted to achieve, so why have rules for it?

Another important feature of the game engine is that it covers an extremely wide range of characters. The difference between a 1st level character and a 20th level character is vast: but surmountable. Anyone starting out as a 1st level Mage dreams of the day when he’ll one day command 9th level spells. So characters have an inherent trajectory built by the use of classes and levels.

One way of framing all this is that there are very few limits on characters in the game. In fact, a diversity of skills, races and attitudes is encouraged in most cases. The level-track provides an inherent story momentum (get XP, gain levels), but really not much restriction on what form that story will take.

I’d like to characterize this as having a strong Initial Condition, or starting point for a game, but weak Boundary Conditions, or limitations on the stories available.

You might think of this diagramatically as a string between two points: character level 1 and character level 20. Rather than a staight line, the string meanders above and below the axis defined by these two points. The easiest route is direct, but there is no real restriction on the string meandering as it pleases in between those points.

In comparison, Vampire: The Requiem, has rules for almost every aspect of the character and the game. From their ability to engage in violence, to their ability to repair cartwheels, from their personality traits to their special abilities.

Furthermore, it is based around a pretty major and fundamental restriction on the characters: they are vampires. The books give you some idea about what this means, but little idea of what to do about it.

If you think the point of the game is to maim and kill across your city, then you can do that. If you think the point is to hide in a basement in denial of your monstrous aspect, you can do that too. Whether submission to the Beast or ascension to Golconda is your aim, the system will let you strive for it; and you can move backwards and forwards on any “success” track that you pick for that story.

Rather than freedom, this represents a wide set of restrictions: the system restrictions. The

What this means, in effect, is that once you start the game there is no strong inherent story trajectory. Characters are dropped into a widely-specified and restricted situation. You are Vampires, you must feed leading to the attendant moral troubles, your actions are subject to systemic control – you will be forced to frenzy under some circumstances, and your humanity score will restrict how depraved you can be without penalty.

I’d characterize this as having a weak Initial Condition, as in it’s not clear what you’re supposed to do in the game, and a strong Boundary Condition, because what you can do within the bounds of the game and system are restricted.

You might think of this, diagramatically, as an odd-shaped loop. The game can happen anywhere and move anywhere inside the loop, but there are lots of stories ruled out by the way the game is built.

These two axes give us a way of thinking about games that isn’t related to the historical D&D/Old/New/Indie epochs that I originally talked about. It gives us some ability to try and think about games in terms of the ground rules that the games set themselves.

Looking at our recent list of Old School games, we can see that they can be roughly described in terms of these pairs:
Stormbringer – has a weak Initial Condition, because there is no inherent story trajectory, and weak boundary conditions, since the rules don’t guide play particularly well.
Maelstrom – is confused about its Initial Condition: they don’t match the kind of game implied by the rule-set. Assuming you buy-in to its stated “adventure” purpose, it has a weak boundary condition, because the rules don’t particularly guide or restrict you.
Dragon Warriors has the strong Initial Condition of Adventure! but its rich setting details and built in story/world exploration also have strong Boundaries.
MERP – has that strong story trajectory, but rules which allow the same kind of meandering that AD&D does.

This can also be used to directly talk about comparing a lot of Indie games with Old School games, whereas our language up until now makes this difficult beyond a comparison at a fine level of detail. Games like Sorcerer would have both a strong initial condition, and strong boundaries. That would be, at a guess, the defining characteristic of Indie games.

Some games, like Spirit of the Century, despite their indie innovations and brilliant writing, then get pushed back into the same camp as their elder cousins Adventure! and the like: little real initial impetus, few real boundaries. Their story-grammar helps with this somewhat, but I think that this nails why some very good gamers I know have struggled with both games.

What names we would give to these four categories (strong/strong, weak/strong, weak/weak, strong/weak) I’m not sure. But I suspect that you would, in general, argue that games which can provide both a strong story trajectory and strong boundaries, are the games more likely to more consistently produce a good gaming experience. Those which are weak in both axes will produce extremely variable results.

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34 Responses to Mendel Diagrams for Roleplaying

  1. Good post. I am note sure I agree with much of this. I think there the Conditions you mention do exist, I am just not sure that you can use them like this to distinguish Old or New School.

    Firstly, I think you exaggerate in a number of places (probably unwittingly) in order to craft a distinction of which I am unsure has any real merit.

    For example, AD&D1e had rules for loads of things. Most were simply ignored or unwieldy. Reading back over the 1e DMG is actually quite a revelatory process.

    On the other hand, I disagree that VtR has rules for almost every aspect of the game. The rule system for VtR is fundamentally the same as its old school predecessors. A good majority of its rules are still devoted to combat. The main mechanical difference is the use of a core mechanic which is not, in and of itself, a distinction between old scholl and new school.

    Most of the innovative stuff in VTR that sets the “Boundary Conditions” are you call them is non-mechanical IMO

    This is particularly true if you extend the analysis to more recent trends like those from the Indie Scene, where the Boundary Conditions are of a considerably different nature.

    Also, I am not sure I agree with your conclusion either. I would agree that strong Conditions might produce a more consistent result but I think you are missing some major factors if you try and equate that with consistently good gaming experience.

    • mashugenah says:

      Good post. I am note sure I agree with much of this.

      Lol. If you don’t like it, you can say. I’m grown up, I can take it. πŸ™‚

      For example, AD&D1e had rules for loads of things.

      I too have a 1st Ed DMG. πŸ™‚ There are loads of rules that are stated in that book which, you’re right, are ignored. A lot of them are pretty baldly tacked on to the fighting/magic “system”, which was itself riddled with inconsistencies and things that needed house-ruling. Know anyone who played with AC modifiers for weapon types? Me neither.

      The game as played had comprehensive-ish rules for “adventuring”, but outside of that, you are pretty well left to your own devices.

      The rule system for VtR is fundamentally the same as its old school predecessors.

      The difference between new-school V:TM and old-school SR is thematic, not in the level of rules complexity/coverage. The difference between the extent of rules in V:TR and AD&D 1e is vast. Skills? Humanity? Nature/demeanour? And so on.

      The difference between V:TM and SR is simply this: in SR, you create a character and know what that character’s going to do. They’re going on runs against Mega-corps. In V:TM, you create a character and… do whatever you want.

      There’s an implicit story trajectory in SR that’s missing in V:TM.

      SR is a game which is strong/strong in my thinking… you could theoretically run other types of games; but you never would.

      which is not, in and of itself, a distinction between old scholl and new school.

      TBH, my thinking here isn’t “how to distinguish Old/new” as “is there some matrix of things which we can use to describe games” – I’ve referred to the old paradigm, but only to provide examples for the new.

      Most of the innovative stuff in VTR that sets the “Boundary Conditions” are you call them is non-mechanical IMO

      Agreed. Does that matter? The boundaries exist in the game as played… or at least in the game as intended to be played. And they exist in a way that’s more tangible and easily recognizable as the similar guidelines which exist in older, less well written games.

      • mr_orgue says:

        re: story trajectory – see also “core story”, per in 2005, which informed the development of D&D 4E.

        http://mearls.livejournal.com/97347.html

      • Lol. If you don’t like it, you can say. I’m grown up, I can take it. πŸ™‚

        I liked it, I just didn’t agree with it πŸ™‚

        The game as played had comprehensive-ish rules for “adventuring”, but outside of that, you are pretty well left to your own devices.

        That’s a pretty big call. Adventuring is a big part of what you do in D&D. As such, I think there are as many rules about what you do in D&D as you do in VtR. I think this is symptomatic of some problem with your analysis.

        The difference between the extent of rules in V:TR and AD&D 1e is vast. Skills? Humanity? Nature/demeanour? And so on.

        I beg to differ that the difference is vast. The difference is merely a product of a change in what you do in each RPG, not a fundamental shift of mechanics. Alignment can be as obtrusive and restrictive as Nature/Demeanor. Humanity takes up around 1 page in Vampire, where combat still takes up over 10.

        I think the above is more to do with the development of mechanics than a fundamental shift in the underlying RPG. The designers were going through similar exercises when inventing mechanics for these RPGs.

        The difference between V:TM and SR is simply this: in SR, you create a character and know what that character’s going to do. They’re going on runs against Mega-corps. In V:TM, you create a character and… do whatever you want.

        Sure, you know I agree with this from my recent issues with WoD.

        Whilst I agree that some games are more focussed than others, I am not sure that it supports your broader analysis or that a consistently good gaming experience results. For example, though I agree with you I have had much better gaming experiences with VtR than SR.

        Agreed. Does that matter? The boundaries exist in the game as played… or at least in the game as intended to be played. And they exist in a way that’s more tangible and easily recognizable as the similar guidelines which exist in older, less well written games.

        Its here again that something irks me about this line of thought. Whilst I agree with the idea, I am not sure what it is meant to be saying.

        So overall, I like this thread. It is an interesting categorisation. I am just not sure it amounts to anything.

      • I think there are as many rules about what you do in D&D as you do in VtR.

        I think that’s precisely what Mash is talking about regarding Boundary Conditions. Namely, what you do in D&D is “adventure” and what you do in V:tM is anything. It’s a question of scope.

      • mashugenah says:

        Succinctly put. AD&D confines the scope of the rules, but not the scope of what you do. V:TM seems in some sense to limit both.

      • I disagree with this. D&D’s rules confine the scope of what you do to going on adventures (normally in dungeons) for wealth and power. VtM’s rules confine the scope of what you do to dealing with the fact that you are a vampire.

        The differences is that VtM’s scope is different for each player. D&D’s scope is roughly the same for each player. As such, both RPGs have limited scope, the difference is that VtM’s is PC based and not party based. This causes a lack of nexus meaning stories have a higher chance of fail.

        As such, its not so much a question of scope as a question of how that scope is defined.

      • mashugenah says:

        Yeah, we disagree on that. πŸ˜€

        But I think you’re on to something here in terms of thinking about “party” v. “character”. I think that’s a key insight as to why some games have worked for me compared to some that haven’t so well. Though… all the WOD games do come with a pseudo-party formation: one of each of the types of critter.

        I’ll need to think more on that.

      • But I think you’re on to something here in terms of thinking about “party” v. “character”. I think that’s a key insight as to why some games have worked for me compared to some that haven’t so well. Though… all the WOD games do come with a pseudo-party formation: one of each of the types of critter.

        As I went into some detail recently, the pseudo-party formation in WoD isn’t compelling as social groups outside of the PCs are given more mechanical weight. As such, being a Brujah tends to be more defining and important to a WoD PC, than what coterie they are in.

        As such, though WoD does have a party, it is very light weight. This is further undermined by the fact that the focus on VtM is on the personal journey of each PC to being a Vampire. As such, not onlt is it light weight but it also presents a barrier to the games natural focus.

      • mashugenah says:

        Its here again that something irks me about this line of thought.

        Well, let’s regress and try to get under the hood of some of my comments.

        What am I on about in this post? Fundamentally I’m trying to answer your question: why are New School games more difficult to carry on campaigns in?

        To do this, I’ve started to look at some of the conceptual tools used by the game designers, perhaps without even realizing what they were doing, that make some Old School games easy, and some New School (really, most New School) hard.

        Let me quickly clarity the word “initial” – I borrowed the term from the way to solve Differential Equations, where “initial conditions” just means “known outcomes at known positions”. So, “initial” can refer here to the start, or the end. I hadn’t really thought about that necessity when writing my post but I have now.

        The story you’ve identified as “working” in V:TM is the origin story, where you start as Mortals, or as very new Vampires, and end established as Vampires. Why does this work?

        Based on your post and other discussions, I think it works because people have an idea where the game is going: they know roughly what’s on the horizon, even if they don’t know in any detail how they’ll get there.

        The flaw you identified is that once you’re established as Vampires, the initial impetuses that drove the story fade away, and the GM can have difficulty finding replacements. Another way of saying that is that the game has no inherent story momentum. In the nWOD they’ve made this even more explicit by describing it as a “toolkit”. You can use it to make what you want.

        In summary, part one of my post is about understanding that games which provide no story momentum are difficult. We conclude that if there is no inherent story in the game, then it’s up to the GM and players to devise it almost in a vacuum.

        At the same time, while lambasting V:TM for giving no initial push to the stories it is used to create, there are a large number of restrictions that seem to creep in. The game is geared around a certain emotional tone, a certain set of outlooks. The problem is that these are all abstract or somewhat ephemeral, or not easily discerned. Some of this is built into the rules, a lot is not… but it all impacts the game.

        These intangibles should invest the game with some energy, but they don’t seem to. Mostly they seem to mark some stories as off-limits, they confine what the game can be about, but they still don’t paint a horizon and leave you to fill in the blanks.

        In the end, you find a game which is about “succumbing to the beast”, but without any really specific objectives. In AD&D if you want to go up a level, you know you go and kill a Kobold, and you get XP. But if you want to tap the beast in V:TM what’s your first move? Go and eat a baby? Or is that your second move?

        From the abstract it is difficult to derive the specific; so you end up either playing out some mundane melodrama, or you end up reverting to what you understand, even though it’s relevance is gone: the Adventure Quest.

      • Thanks for unpacking it for me. That does help. I understand what you are saying but two things still don’t sit right with me.

        1. I think there are more axes than the two you present Initial/Boundary and Strong/Weak, or at least those axes can be attributed to one RPG in different ways depending on which aspect of the RPG you are viewing. An RPG is made up of many elements and each of these can be focussed and restricted in a different manner. Also, RPGs can inherently include a range of Conditions and so the level of Conditions can be influenced by the group. As such, I still feel like there is some over simplification in your anaylsis.

        I see Hamish below is equating Strong Condition with “same pageness” i.e. a group agreeing on the Conditions. This again highlights to me that Conditions as you describe them are not the same thing as “same pageness”. For example, an RPG like SR can have strong Conditions, yet the group may not be on the same page. As such, I think that if anything Conditions assist in getting the group on the same page (which is a more important factor to a good gaming experience) but don’t necessarily do so.

        2. I am still very leery of equating strong conditions as the primary factor if a good gaming experience as you and Hamish seem to be suggesting. I do think its a factor but just one of many.

        My thoughts are still vague though. Its more a general disagreement. However, I do think you are onto something here, so please continue.

      • mashugenah says:

        I think that in this form, I’ve said what comes to mind…

        I was talking about this post with last night, and he pointed out that I’ve, if anything, over-complicated my way of thinking about it. What I’m talking about are two impetesus:
        – the strength of initial story push at character creation
        – the limitations on the possibilities encouraged by the game

        We talked also about the relevance of system – I think I’ve muddied the water here by talking about system at all. It’s more a question of game philosophy, some of which is embedded in the system, much of which is not. Or at least, not successfully – which re-clarifies some of the old games as simply failing to execute their vision, rather than a lack of vision.

        I keep coming back to this Old/New divide… I intuit that as a historical break-down, my epochs are roughly right. But I think the divide is poorly framed for talking about new games.

        I am convinced that somewhere in this mess is an answer relating to the interaction between story and character, and that these are really what I should be talking about rather than Old/New or Initial/Boundary. I have long felt, intuitively, that games will gravitate either towards one or the other – only a rare few perfect games do both.

      • SR is a game which is strong/strong in my thinking… you could theoretically run other types of games; but you never would.

        I think plenty of people would, and have, but it probably wouldn’t be the first impulse of most players/groups, which is more important to your point.

  2. 8w_gremlin says:

    Why do you assume that the strong/strong would necessarily lead to a good gaming experience?
    Are you over simplifying and missing out on some important variables in this summation, such as the participants themselves?
    Would the assumptions of the participants about the games’ Initial Condition, and Boundary Conditions be more relevant in ascertaining the enjoyment?

    [these are initial random thoughts, but on the whole interesting reading]

    • I think the “same pageness” aspect can be attributed to Conditions, and “same pageness” is often associated with a good gaming experience. However, I agree that “same pageness” is but one aspect that contributes to such an experience.

    • mashugenah says:

      Why do you assume that the strong/strong would necessarily lead to a good gaming experience?

      I admit: mostly instinct.

      I expect there are examples where this is not the case. Capes, for example. Strong initial setup, strong boundaries, utterly unplayable as far as I can make out.

      Most of the games I personally like fall in strong/strong. The exception would be Spirit of the Century, which I off-handedly talked about as weak/weak.

      Are you over simplifying and missing out on some important variables in this summation, such as the participants themselves?

      Any specific game will depend enormously on the game participants. Any specific group could make any game system/setting good or bad.

      But if I was talking to someone and saying “should you buy this game”, I can’t really factor in to my thinking any participant other than the on asking my advice.

      There are lots of groups that played D&D in a “new school” way, and V:TM in an adventure-focused “old school” way… but that doesn’t mean those games were well suited to the purpose they were put to.

      Would the assumptions of the participants about the games’ Initial Condition, and Boundary Conditions be more relevant in ascertaining the enjoyment?

      No? Yes?

      One of the comments that’s come back to me several times about Spirit of the Century is that you create these fantastic heroes and then are a bit lost as to what to do with them. After chargen, it’s just the same old grind.

      In contrast, people report to me that Sorcerer works very well; character generation isn’t all that gripping in itself, but the games seem to generally lead somewhere good. The strong initial condition that Sorcerer has is half player-specified: the kicker, and half built in: the demonic pact. The boundary condition is the dynamic conflict between the demon and character over what they’ll do.

      What I’m thinking is that at the start of the game, there’s some or other strong impetus for forward story motion: that’s a strong initial condition; and that initial condition overshadows the game.

      Where there isn’t, there are limits on story possibilities… that’s a boundary.

      Better names may be needed.

    • I think an important corollary to Mash’s proposition is the strong does not equal inflexible. Frex: Prime Time Adventures has strong Initial Conditions and Boundary Conditions, but they are entirely decided by the play group when they sit down to create the game.

      I would speculate that if a group of players sits down and creates a strong/strong game, they are more likely to have fun than sitting down to any other combination.`

      Of course, you are right in that the assumptions of the participants must match and agree on the specifics of the Initial and Boundary Conditions.

  3. Actually I think I have worked out my issue.

    I think you analysis is correct. However, it is one part of the equation. In order to achieve a good gaming experience, the group must be on the same page. Strong Conditions in RPGs reinforce a particular story. However, this must intersect with where the group wants to be. As such, Strong Conditions will either make a break an RPG in terms of good gaming experience.

    As such, Strong Conditions make success easier to predict and if they are successful then the synthesis of RPG and group will generally be better. Weak Conditions however, can still produce a good gaming experience. In fact, with a group with a slightly broader “same page”, Weak Conditions will be preferred.

    In you last post, you have said that Strong Conditions produce story motivation and this in your opinion is something that makes for a good gaming experience. I am not sure that story motivation is necessarily everyone’s preference. As such, you seem to me to be mixing an analysis of your own personal prefences with a wider analysis of RPGs.

    • To give an exmaple, Jarratt has good gaming experiences with WoD RPGs despite the Weak Conditions as he is able to get his group on the same page.

      As such, I think Conditions can come from RPGs or the group. Though Strong is better, there is a break point where that strength will be smaller than the group’s preference.

      • mashugenah says:

        It’s about predictability. If I sign up for a D&D game, frankly I know what I’m getting. If I sign up for V:TM, I can’t be at all sure until I’m in amidst the game.

      • I agree that predictability from the RPG has merit, but I am unsure how far you can take this. You can still have a good experience by surprise or (preferably) due to something crafted by the group.

        I go back to my own recent experiences. I am enjoying Old School as its predictable fun. The fun to effort ratio is enormous. However, is this my favoruite form of gaming? No.

        As such, predictability only gets you so far IMO. It is one step toward getting a group on the same page but it isn’t the thing that makes a gaming experience a good one.

      • mashugenah says:

        Exactly: so the challenge is to find tools for structuring and approaching New School games so that they’ll be less effort and more consistent. Once you can get the result you intended consistently, surely that means you can work towards a consistently good experience more easily? Whereas if it’s all down to luck, you’re just hoping each new game to get lucky…

      • I agree to a point, after all that was what the Grand Experiment was all about.

        To be pedantic:

        “…so the challenge is to find tools for structuring and approaching New School games so that they’ll be less effort and more consistent. Once you can get the result you intended consistently, surely that means you can work towards a consistently good experience more easily?

        Though this is accurate, it doesn’t mean that the experience will be better. Predictability provides a safety net on the gaming experience. However, “good” is influenced by much more than predictability.

        In fact, predictability can in some ways hamper how “good” a game is. Again, my experiences with WoD RPGs have varied more wildly than my Old School ones. This is in part due to the unpredictable nature of them and the lack of set Boundary Conditions.

        Also, I still think there is a break point. Strong Conditions are good to a point but can go too far. Many Indie RPGs are examples of this IMO such as my experiences with With Great Power and Burning Empires.

        So, whilst I agree Strong Conditions can to a point improve predictability, I think this is one part of a much larger equation.

      • Another point I would make is that some of the best campaigns I have been in have evolved. So Conditions need to evolve if there is a desire by the group to do so.

        I think a lot of this comes from my valuing group consensus as the most powerful and indicative source for a good gaming group. What we need are tools to achieve group consensus. Predictability is one such tool but if left unchecked can actually prove to be an issue.

      • mashugenah says:

        What we need are tools to achieve group consensus.

        Absolutely agree with this. I’ve been thinking a lot about that issue, and will post on it when I’m feeling slightly less bitter (Hamish’s endorsement of bitterness notwithstanding). Because I feel the single biggest problem with both Space Western II and Ivan’s BHS were me being on different pages to the others in the game (SWII had everyone on their own page IMHO).

  4. Here’s a question. Is it possible to read Steve’s criticism of Stormbringer or Malcolm’s criticism of Twilight 2000 as being that their own preferences lay outside of the Initial/Boundary Conditions?

    What I am trying to get at here is the idea of a break point, where Strong Conditions actually prove a problem.

    It seems to me that with Malcolm’s criticism in particular, it is a break point issue. Twilight 2000 was clearly about X and he wasn’t into X, so it grated with him.

    • mashugenah says:

      I’m starting to think you’ve thought about this more than I have! πŸ™‚ Your basic idea here, of conditions being unappealing, seems right.

      I think in Malc’s specific case you’re probably right. I’m less certain in Steve’s case, because it seems like there was some good old fashioned interpersonal stuff making that game tough, and it’s not easy to separate that out.

      • Essentially, these ideas are related to the Grand Experiment and did come to my mind when I spent the last 2 years enjoying the easy predictableness of Old School gaming.

        FWIW I agree with you that Steve’s issue seems more like a lack of boundaries, where Malcolm’s is the wrong Boundaries.

  5. superlate says:

    I’ve felt like I wanted to comment on this for a while, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was I wanted to say. I think it’s all been said already and my main issue was with the idea that a Strong/Strong system would = a good gaming environment. Two of my most recent campaigns (one played, one ran) were effectively systemless and were great gaming experiences, however I see what you mean that this sort of individual experience has no bearing on your ability to decide if you should buy a system.

    I suppose I’m not sure that this strong/weak observation has any influence over my enjoyment of a game. I suppose I’d have to reflect more on what it is that causes me to have enjoyment in a game.

    • Actually, I think the response (based on Mash’s post) would be that a good gaming experience with an RPG with a weak/weak condition is that it was a product of the situation on the day and therefore it is not able to be consistently replicated. As such, the RPG itself effectively had no input into the result, except perhaps giving the players unfettered freedom to achieve the result they did.

      • superlate says:

        I suppose, but I don’t feel that a Strong/Weak or a Strong/Strong RPG will necessarily influence the gaming experience. I suppose it comes from a sneaking suspicion I’ve always had that the RPG has no particular influence over the enjoyability of the RPG experience.

      • I think that fact that an RPG has little impact on your gaming style is most likely due to your particular playing style. I think this view is quite common mostly due to a consistent historical failure of RPGs to address these kinds of issues.

        Both Old School and New School RPGs are incredibly vague and esoteric about what they are intending to do. As a result, most RPGers simply choose their own style and get on with it.

        Those this is a good thing to be able to do, and a virtue of RPGs, it is also one of the main reasons why RPGs are so difficult for newcomers and a cuase of strife in many existing groups.

        FWIW a big part of the Indie Scene is about making RPGers more explicit and transparent. Though I think this is a very good thing that all RPGs should be doing, it can go too far. In fact, many RPGer have an initial negative reaction to Indie Style RPGs due to their attempt to be explicit and transparent, as those RPGers tend to see the designer trying to dictate to them how they should play a game which, due to historical reasons, is a taboo.

        What people should recognise is that if an RPG with strong/strong conditions doesn’t suit them, its OK and they should look elsewhere. No harm no foul. However, the advantage of a strong/strong condition if it also suits the group is that the RPG can actually step up and contribute to a consistent good gaming experience for that group with much less effort.

      • superlate says:

        Nothing to add but *nods* interesting.

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