I ask your pardon in advance if you find part of this post hard to swallow. I am not trying to offend anyone, but are writing out of frustration with the use of the terms "mechanics" and "system" on this forum (and others). I would like to present you with a fresh perspective on role-playing games. Please try to read charitably.
From a thread on mechanics I quote:
Posted By: Upstart-In the games you play, can you trace the fiction back to mechanics ("Jo shooting Jim clearly means that Jo's player used her Condition: armed")?Mechanics
-If not, does it imply you're creating the fiction without much help from the system, mechanics and fiction each staying in their own realm?
-Do easily reskinnable mechanics mean there was not that much flavor in them in the first place?
-In the games you play, do you ever have things happening in fiction that you absolutely didn't want or couldn't foresee happening, as in, you can't just always interpret the mechanics so that you get something you wanted in the first place?
-If some mechanical element doesn't come up in the game fiction at all, can it still be relevant in some way?
I consider that term to be responsible for the mechanical focus of indie-games in your gaming culture, in lieu with the term "system", which carries much of the same connotations.
The way these questions are phrased is typical of the mechanical focus; a lot of people talk about games as if there was no tools outside the mechanical range. Of course there is, and they know it, but it does not show in their writing! Why? the answer is easy; you lack terms for them, mainly due to the dominance of the terms "system" and "mechanics". The dominant use of these terms indicates that there is nothing but dice/coins out there. As a result you largely ignore the tools that may be had outside the "mechanics".VISION -> INTERACTION -> FICTION- a simple model of how to get from A to Z, when thinking of role-playing games
The habitual use of misleading terms in rpg-discussions, has enormous impact on your vision
when designing a role-playing game. Envisioning game-play is part of the vision every designer has when toying with ideas of a new game. If you are limited to the mechanical range of tools, your vision will be left with little but intuition when it comes to how your game is really played; the real game-play of the game is not in the mechanical range; it takes place in the communication between players; in the verbal, physical and social techniques used by players in a game-session.
of a role-playing game is a kind of ritual. Everything you do in that ritual counts; talking, touching, grimacing, rolling dice, shuffling coins, consulting rules, doing mathematics, etc. The way you do every single of these things, and the way you bind all of it together, has impact on your game. The interaction of a role-playing game is as diverse as any inter-human interaction, with the added spice that we engage our imagination on a
The goal of the ritual is the creation of an engaging fiction
. Every participant in the ritual goes away from it with his/her own fiction. Even though we build our fiction on the same elements, in cooperation, we do not share the fiction. It is internal, and individual. The fiction consist of more than the narrative; it is the thoughts and expectations surrounding the happenings of the game, your subjective point of view, the emotions it stirs in you, what you care about and not, etc.METHOD- an old term that can help open your field of thought on what a role-playing game is, and how such games are played
When designing for interaction you have to give the players a method
. The method is how they are instructed to play the game, in full, the use of mechanics included. Included are also all elements described in the interaction-pharagraph above, especially the use of inherent skills of dialogue. You may group the elements in three main fields; mechanics, techniques and setting. The method
is the totality of all you do, and all you make use of, to make the game happen.
There is no need to leave anything out. Everything that has, or may have, an impact on your game, is worth considering as a part of the game-method. If you need to have the game played with hats on; then make hats part of the method. If how players talk is essential; make it part of the method. When you really get this, you may start designing new tools, exploring the possibilities in other parts of the interaction; you may build a method with a new balance in how mechanics and techniques work in your game. SYSTEM AND MECHANICS- two terms which are habitually used wrong, to the detriment of clear thinking on role-playing games
I have discussed "lumpley system" before, and even though I am in agreement with most of what it stands for, I am not very keen on using it. It is far from intuitive, and too close to the term "system".
I am as opposed to the general use of "system" as I am to the general use of "mechanics". These two terms are habitually used as terms for the totality of play
, and therein lies the problem; they do not represent the totality in a good way. They tend to cloud the matter at hand, leading to a lot of unchecked misreadings, when used to discuss the methodology of role-playing games.
The design of a role-playing game is a huge challenge. It is a challenge that is best met with clarity of thought. I suspect that the unfortunate use of "system" and "mechanics" is a problem for budding designers in the English speaking area. The clarity of thought that is so important when designing a new game, is clouded by the use of these terms.THE SIMPLE WAY OF THINGS
No role-playing game has ever been played by mechanics alone. To play a role-playing game the players need to make use of techniques
, first and foremost. In most games these techniques are supported by mechanics. In most discussions of role-playing games the techniques are forgotten about, and mechanics rule the field alone. Strange ...