thread: 2011-02-21 : Into the Unknown?
On 2011-03-28, Vincent wrote:
Paul: That’s an astute question.
The answer is probably “they aren’t.” It seems to me that principled freeform admits only the designer’s insights into roleplaying as a practice - that is, the principles, whatever they happen to be. “Your right to say what your character does ends at my character’s skin,” for instance.
But what’s interesting is that if David is, indeed, making a principled freeform game, that casts the design questions in a whole new light. It’s not “how do I design my game?”, which is what I’ve been answering. Instead it’s “given that I’m not designing a game, how do I communicate to my audience what to do? How do I inspire them to want to do it? How do I give them something reliable, instead of just telling them to practice and keep trying and work it out for themselves?”
Is there a market for a well-presented principled freeform game? Principled freeform is such an easy, natural thing to fall into - just leave the character sheets in the drawer - that I wonder how many people out there would like it but haven’t already figured it out. “How do I inspire them to want to do it?” becomes the crucial question. “Hey Vincent, given that I’m not designing a game and not going to, how do I inspire YOU to want to do this?”
Interesting stuff! An interesting tension. I may do a front-pager about principled- vs structured freeform vs non-freeform rpgs.
David, Valamir: I’m with Valamir. When nothing happens, I’m pretty sure it’ll either confirm my working theory or point out a hole in it, or maybe suggest a new direction, or at least use up some of my resources. Won’t it?
I think that the least important thing is what the probabilities are and who knows them. Take a look at the savvyhead’s workspace in Apocalypse World. Say that you want to reverse-engineer a pair of deep ear plugs. I have NO IDEA what the probabilities are for the various possible outcomes. Nobody does! Nobody needs to.
The savvyhead’s workspace, since we’re here, is Apocalypse World’s take on how you learn how things work. You can see that I wouldn’t handle it the same way I handle reading body language, for instance - no roll+sharp & choose 3 or whatever. I do call much more directly on the GM’s judgment.
And finally, about the player knowing the range of possible outcomes: we all already know the range of possible outcomes. The question is, does the game give them to us? We need it to. How does the game assure us that it will?
Here’s a story. Joshua, Soren and I were playing my game Mechaton. Soren had never played before. In turn 1, he was like, “okay, guys, it seems to me that the best thing for me to do is to move this mech over here and attack this other mech. Is it? Is there some disconnect between what should be a good idea and what the rules make a good idea?”
And we were like, “no such disconnect! You win Mechaton by making a good plan and following through as hard as you can, not by knowing the rules better than the other players. If it looks like a good move to you, then yes, do it like crazy.”
He took our word for it. He played very well, and at every turn the game’s rules were right there for him. At no point did they undercut his tactical play or steer him false. I don’t remember whether he won or J did, but I do remember that I lost, and that his read of the game’s evolving tactical situation was always very sharp. He was just learning the rules, but he still solidly outplayed me.
“THIS GAME IS GREAT!” he said. “HOLY CRAP!”