This is an offshoot from this thread GNS thread
As far as GNS goes, I think its more worthwhile to consider what is common to all types of RPGs and discuss the various flavours of those commonalities, than it is to come up with categories such as GNS, and look at all games through that lense. I think that approach is going to be limiting and kind of arbitrary, being based on the perception of whoever comes up with categories. But you do get to have all the fun arguing about which is the best category and where a particular game falls in the schema I suppose...
Anyway, one essential commonality for all games, RPGs included, is the players must be making meaningful decisions
. By meaningful I mean simply that if/when the player makes a decision, it matters to the game. Take a slot machine - you pull the handle, stuff happens, you might win or lose. Rinse and repeat. It doesnt matter when or how you pull the handle - it has no bearing on the outcome. Whereas playing an automated poker game - you get to decide to hold or fold cards, bet big or small, etc... You are given choices, and your decisions matter.
I think in most cases where I have emphatically not enjoyed a game is when my participation amounts to basically just 'pulling the handle' when required.
Id like to see if we can make a list of the various types of meaningful decisions players can make in RPGs, Ill start:Character design choices concering effectiveness
. In tactical RPGs you are given a list of design constraints and your initial task is to design a character that will be effective in the context of the party and the challenges the party will face. You have to consider various tradeoffs, allocate design resources -- in order to create the character that will best fit the role you want to play and strategies you want to employ. This is where I think min-maxing gets a bad rap. min-maxing is just a design choice. Its just as valid as creating a jack-of-all trades character for instance. If it results in a broken game, its the design constraints that are to blame, not the player for finding the flaw.strategy and tactics
: These decisions are a natural extention of character design decisions. Having designed your character, you now employ its capabilities to try to maximise its effectiveness in overcoming challenges set by the GM. Its part validation of design and part on-your-feet adapting to circmstances as you make chocies about husbanding resouces, select and time the use of your characters capabilities and cooperate with other players.
If you want to talk GNS, games that prioritize this type of player choice are associated with the gamist category. But of course games can include these kinds of choices without them being the top priority. What other kinds of meaningful choices can you think of and how do they work? Associate them with a GNS category if you like.
I think poor RPGs dont conciously offer the player any type of meaningful choices. Players get a bunch of choices, sure, but they arent real choices. Whatever they decide simply amounts to 'pulling the handle' -- stuff happens, you pull the handle occasionally, but nothing the players do essentially matters. These types of games are really unsatisfying and boring. As an example, they often have combat that amounts to a repetitive battle of attrition with a randomizer thrown in. Support for meaningful choice in the game of any kind has to brought to the table by the GM, because there is no system support for it.
Phew, thats enough rambling for now. sorry about the unstructured post. Too late in the day...