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61

I resisted my initial desire to just jump in with the first answer I came up with. After a long period of consideration, I have the following to offer: A modern game is differentiated by design intention. Here's what I mean: Original games were designed to enable play. Period. They were creating a new paradigm, and the questions we ask about games today ...


39

This has absolutely changed over time in D&D. The balance between Dungeon Master discretion versus reign of the rules versus player empowerment has always been debated in D&D circles but there's a clear evolution of thinking across the span of time and game versions. The attitude towards rulings vs. rules in the game shows up: directly and ...


35

Definitions: Group: everyone wanting to build a character to a roughly similiar set of requirements. Everyone: A set of 1 or more players with sufficient system expertise who communicate in some codified way, e.g. through a forum or around a game table. Thesis: An option is overpowered if, when presented as a choice, it will always be chosen by members ...


30

Finite and infinite possibilities In regular tabletop games you have very tight rules, and a concrete number of actions and options that a player can do. Although generally huge, it would be possible to make a game tree with all the different outcomes of the game. A few of them has some infinite elements (like the answers on a trivia game) but the actions ...


30

The exposition of GNS theory itself denies that a "pure" game of any of those is possible while still being a roleplaying game, but we can easily talk about simulation-heavy games, even if we can't talk about "pure" Simulationist games. From the gist of this question as I understand it, you're just puzzled that you can find strong examples of only Gamist ...


29

A game theory answer A board game is generally a zero sum game in the game-theoretic sense: one players wins, the others lose. Cooperative board games (say, Arkham Horror) are pure zero-sum games: either the board wins or the players win. Sometimes board games rank players: one player has a higher gain that the others, we call them "winners". Other kinds of ...


24

Generally, Old School refers to a style of play. Modern, when used for styles of play, has a much more nebulous collection of meanings. Modern, when referring to settings, generally means anything set post 1975 (a 10 year difference from the official historical definition of 1965 and on...). That Old School style can be summarized with "Kill Them And Take ...


24

The key concept to understand the difference between RPG's fiction and written fiction is that of authority. In a written story, trivially the author has authority over main characters and the environment, so she can optimize the sequence of events (the plot) to hightens the emotional impact for the reader (if she knows what she is doing). But let's not ...


19

The Wikipedia entry on Role-playing game theory is rather comprehensive. It makes note of the Threefold Model, GEN Theory, The Big Model, Color Theory, Channel Theory, The Turku School, and The Meilahti School, each of which is an example of a particular theory of roleplaying games. The page leads with this definition of RPG theory: A role-playing game ...


17

Let me chip in with the blue collar guy's answer to this question, drawn from experience not theory. A rules option, character, gear, or other game element is "overpowered" if it gives you significantly more effectiveness than most other options in a way that impacts the fun of the game for its participants. As @Soulrift points out, the implication is that ...


17

To provide some further context, the phrase film theory is quite common. Film theory is an academic discipline that aims to explore the essence of the cinema and provides conceptual frameworks for understanding film's relationship to reality, the other arts, individual viewers, and society at large. Film theory is not to be confused with general film ...


16

RPGs and board/card games do have a lot in common, including the shared first goal of entertainment. I'd say what sets RPGs apart is that they make an effort to actively have their players attempt to envision themselves as being another person or being and step into that role - that RPGs have an acting or theatrical element that's wholly absent in non-RPG ...


16

The reason that constructing plots (for a GM) is different from constructing plots (for an author) is simple but profound: The GM is not in control of his protagonists. A game is not a book, even more than a book is not a movie. The players are in control of their characters. The Conflict / Rising Action / Resolution structure is still at the core of ...


13

Joe Normal For this disucussion, Joe is flat average stats for a human. He is competent in whatever it is you're trying, but not to elite nor professional (IE, Master's Level or equivalent) levels. For Level based games, usually assume level 1. Exemplars for Illustrative Purposes I refer to the following, so the precis is presented so you can follow the ...


12

There is no fundamental guide on "numbers of powers" as that doesn't exist on this level of abstraction. However, there are ways to quantify most of what a controller/leader does and apply it to the concept of party-as-character for purposes of optimization. Let us start with the most difficult to classify, controllers. (And some theory) While the other ...


11

I don't think so. Designers who accept the Big Model's validity are going to operate on the premise that the Big Model is just how it is. If you've bought into the Big Model, you're accepting that it is an accurate and portable way of describing games, like the quantum mechanics of RPGs. In that context, it would be odd for a designer to state that they're ...


11

Without an implied setting? Sure I'd argue that GURPS, Rule of Cool's Legend, and several other systems are sufficiently generic to not have an implied setting at all. But... Without an implied genre? No A game's mechanics imply things about the stories told within them. As you noted with GURPS, for example, systems with an emphasis on "realism" tell ...


10

It's a semi-false trichotomy derived from minis-game-mode D&D play... and goes back to Gygax. The Gygaxian mode was broken down that way because Gygax saw exploration as a meta-function, not an inherent part of roleplay, and mis-categorizes roleplay as being character-to-character interaction only. Under Gygax's scheme: Combat: encounters resolved by ...


10

Let me try to boil it all down to one sentence. A role playing game is a subset of all games that features the players taking on the roles (actions and/or affectations) of characters in an attempt to tell a shared story. All other defining characteristics have exceptions, but this is the core of what an RPG is. Games have a few defining characteristics of ...


10

Yes, completely setting-agnostic games do exist. The trick is that none of the truly generic systems that have no implied setting manage to do it by either being very rules-light about how tasks are accomplished, or they have a more normal amount of rules but the rules are about managing players' control over the action rather than what individual ...


9

Overall, The Big Model is theory about play, not game design. It talks about what happens when a group of people sit down with the purpose of playing an RPG, and how that play unfolds. The various layers should be understood in that context. They are not directly descriptions of a game text, a game design, or (God forbid) a player's preferences. That said, ...


9

There's a very popular post on ENWorld about "Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War" that discusses this dichotomy. I don't feel that eliminating combat rounds "removes the fun." In this week's game, we spent a long enjoyable time planning a combat strategy to use with a keep's end boss (Kikkonu the yamabushi tengu from Jade Regent) and when it came off we ...


9

While I appreciate Brian Ballsun-Stanton's explanation in so far as it cites the concepts of Game Theory that arose in the 1930s and '40s to explain rational decision-making in economic systems, I believe that it fails to capture the emotional thrust imbued in the notion of "Overpowered." Games Theory is primarily concerned with dominating strategies - that ...


9

I don't think someone really coined the term, for RPG Theory is, well... the theory that stands behind roleplay games. No less and no more. Whenever you don't talk about a game but you talk about how a game has benn made, why some design choices have been taken or whenever you look for some ways to analyze games, you fall into the game theory field. I guess ...


9

Who Drives the Game Forward? Whoever Steps Up The fiction of tabletop RPGs is, at its foundation, collaborative. Rules and social structure shape who gets to say what about the imagined space, but the core appeal is that it's shared. Roleplaying games thrive on fruitful creative interaction between all the participants, mediated by useful structure. Since ...


8

Mike Mearls says: 'While the rogue may have a lot of exploration abilities, the customization may allow more "stabby" rogues.' From this I understand that he uses "exploration" to mean "thief business," locks and traps and ten-foot poles. This contrasts directly with combat and with "roleplay," i.e. "bard stuff." It has its own roles and its own rolls. ...


8

I think the main pillars of D&D can be described in terms of relationships: Combat and Role Play are primarily functions of the PCs' relationships towards NPCs. Either friendly or banter ridden (Role Play) or swords and spells type stuff (combat). Exploration deals far more greatly with the PCs' relationships to the environment. Ultimately there are ...


8

You may want to consider involving a level of abstraction. For example, rather than resolving a hand of poker by actually sitting down and playing a hand of poker, you could simply allow all participants an opposed bluff roll. If the game is truly random, then just roll for the outcome. Abstraction of this type allows you to include fairly complex games of ...


8

First of all, It is impossible to bucket all of the role playing games every conceived or played into a single group and then say that in this group, the story is driven by environment (GM) rather than characters. It is very possible that some role playing games are in this category, but I am sure many are not. Regardless, of whether it is a role playing ...


8

Disclaimer: I play systemless narrative games. Most, if not all, the games I run follow the same structure: There is a cast of NPCs and factions that have certain goals. Clearly, this generates a conflict of some kind. As a GM, I know what the various NPCs can do, how they react, and how they behave. If there were no players, I could tell who would ...



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