thread: 2006-02-16 : Throwing It Open: Color

On 2006-02-17, Roger wrote:

I think the easiest way to see Colour on its own is to start by looking at games that don't have any.

These are purely abstract games, like Go, Reversi, Backgammon, Chess.  Alright, Chess has a very little tiny bit of Colour.

What I find interesting is that the pure system of these games tend to imply Colour, or lead us towards it.  The random mechanics in Backgammon have a different feeling than nonrandom Chess.

Now that we recognize abstract, Colourless, games, we can deColour other games.  We could start with something easy, like Monopoly.  Strip off the real estate veneer and it's just moving tokens around, acquiring or losing other tokens.  (Indeed, it's so easy to do this with Monopoly that there are a great many variant Colours available, which differ only in Colour.)

It's tempting to treat this as another back door into System Doesn't Matter.  Look, I change DitV into Jedis in the Vineyard just by repainting it!  I can turn MLwM into a morality play about androids!

And, yes, you can do that, with varying degrees of success.  But I would suggest that, ideally, the System harmonizes with the Colour.

For example, let's say we have a system in which there's always a 5% chance of failure, however expert the characters may be, and always a 5% chance of success, however terrible the odds may seem.  That's purely an artifact of the System, but it implies a certain Colour.  A system in which a more-expert character always triumphs over someone less competent implies a different Colour.

If these two things—System and Colour—are not in harmony, the entire product can seem vaguely unsettling.  Occasionally this is easy to spot, such as when a game ability called "Power Attack" turns out to be more useful when you're using a dagger than a sledgehammer.  Other times it's very hard to put a finger on.  I think the reason some people are unhappy with the Sanity mechanics in Call of Cthulhu arise from this dissonance.

If it's done really well, the author doesn't need to be very prescriptive when it comes to Colour.  He doesn't need to tell the players that the game is about uncertainty, distrust, and betrayal.  The System makes it inevitable that it will be about those things.


This makes NinJ go ""System doesn't matter" as an argument only works..."
... if you're talking about color and not situation. For instance, the situation in Dogs is that you have to judge violence with choices about violence. That fits very well into the Western, and it fits well into Star Wars. It doesn't fit well if you're running the game as a mystery, even with the same color. That's why system matters.

This makes...
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