It all starts with freeform. (Maybe?)

edited July 2016 in Story Games
Random idea:

Whatever RPG you're playing, whatever the ruleset and learning curve, whoever the players, if you're going to have a great game, you need to be able to play it freeform.

I don't mean you have to play it freeform. I don't mean you should play it freeform.

I mean that the creative and social agreements and understandings and habits and processes which support freeform need to be there.

I am not sure if this is true. But it strikes me that it might be. And if it is, that gives us some interesting ways to view rules. Not from a design perspective, but from a participant perspective. Once you're able to play a game freeform, then rules can be:
- reminders
- shortcuts
- inspiration
- chance arbitration
- channels for expression
- more stuff that isn't at the tip of my brain
- a sort of second game on top of the freeform game
- optional

This is sort of the way RPG rules have been traditionally used. Sometimes that goes great, and sometimes not. Maybe success and failure are less about the actual rules being used in this optional or supporting paradigm, and more about the freeform-supporting structures beneath them?

I'm not just saying "system (the whole system, including soft skills and social stuff) matters" -- I think it's a little more specific than that. I think maybe it's the case that:
- no ruleset will ever provide a group everything they need
- every group will always do some of their own work to optimize play for them
- when you're doing your own play-optimizing work, looking at rules as optional tools for that larger endeavor is natural, and independent of how "good" or "bad" the rules are

I am not sure how much of all this I actually think is true, but it just jumped into my head and I wanted to share and see what y'all thought.

Thoughts?
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Comments

  • edited July 2016
    Yep, I totally agree. This should be talked about and acknowledged more, having roleplaying groups being aware of what they are doing. This is why I always say "structured freeform" instead of just "freeform", because that kind of style is using structures in form of techniques.

    That's why I talk about structures as an umbrella term for techniques and game mechanics. Both provide structure to the game.

    When I realized this, it opened up my mind as a roleplaying game designer, where I could design structures where the players wanted to read parts of the game, how to create an environment where the players built on what they said on each other, on how to create all kinds of immersion, on how to slim down the playing process and also the rulebook as a consequence of that.
    - every group will always do some of their own work to optimize play for them
    And they will create untold rules for how to play roleplaying games, which they will use to interpret new roleplaying games and affect the decision if they will like the game or not.
  • In the context of this thread, what does freeform mean?
  • This strikes me as a very important and a very true observation!

    This post has made me think more than anything I've read for quite some time, and I'm sure it will continue to do so for a while yet.

    At the moment I'm thinking that if I take the example of something like Apocalypse World, I should be able to play the game using just the Principles and Agenda, before we get into Moves and more specific mechanics. This may or may not be closely related to the idea of playing into a specific creative agenda (please note the lack of capital letters; I'm speaking more generically than the Forge definition).

    However, I'm not sure about two things:

    - when you're doing your own play-optimizing work, looking at rules as optional tools for that larger endeavor is natural, and independent of how "good" or "bad" the rules are
    What does this sentence mean? I'm not entirely sure. Can you explain it a little more?

    Second, I'm not sure how to apply this advice. Some games are close to being freeform already, so seeing the rules as a kind of more specific application of a principle, or a momentary ruling which has been codified, makes sense. However, how could I apply this to something like D&D4E? Does that even make sense? Or does this logic go out the window as an RPG moves along the continuum from freeform play to "boardgame" or strictly procedural play?

    Worth thinking, in any case.

    (Sandra's question seems pretty important, as well!)

  • Yeah, with what I had in mind what "freeform" meant, I instant disagree so much that… it can't be what it means :)
  • And they will create untold rules for how to play roleplaying games, which they will use to interpret new roleplaying games and affect the decision if they will like the game or not.
    Yes! Great point.

    When asking why one or many groups might or might not take to certain games, I think this is a very important part of the equation.

    People who learn RPGs through D&D might not necessarily want other RPGs that superficially resemble D&D nearly as much as they want other RPGs for which their D&D-compatible "untold rules" also fit.
    In the context of this thread, what does freeform mean?
    I have two answers:
    1) I'm not sure. Some vague constellation of play techniques and attitudes and processes which are not reducible to game rules and instructions.
    2) Player-to-player communication of fiction without mediation, and the use of that action to effectively pursue a given group's goals. "Just talking, but not just talking."

    I'm more intending (2), but even (2) isn't rigorously defined, and I may have sloppily drifted into (1) at any given point.

    Your vehement disagreement might be real! I may have said something worth vehemently disagreeing with, I fully admit! I'm happy to hear what you think in either case.
    At the moment I'm thinking that if I take the example of something like Apocalypse World, I should be able to play the game using just the Principles and Agenda, before we get into Moves and more specific mechanics.
    I think that's a useful analogy. I don't think it literally holds -- there's stuff about talking fiction that's outside those principles and agendas, and there's stuff in the principles and agendas that's beyond "this group freeforming their way through the world of AW" -- but yeah, that's the general direction I'm thinking.

    Once our game is really rolling, we probably don't want to ditch the moves, but we probably could.
    What does this sentence mean? I'm not entirely sure. Can you explain it a little more?
    I can't figure out how to re-word it any better yet, but I can elaborate. I don't think that the various practices out there of treating RPG rules differently than board game rules -- e.g. hacking them, forgetting them, deciding not to use them -- are necessarily problems of bad rules or sloppy groups or bad game-group matches. Those things exist, sure, but beyond them I think there are reasons why a well-functioning group of players who genuinely like an RPG as designed will embed its procedures into an overall play methodology which makes some degree of hacking, forgetting, forgoing, etc. fairly natural.
    does this logic go out the window as an RPG moves along the continuum from freeform play to "boardgame" or strictly procedural play?
    I would say that hacking/ignoring/etc. boardgame rules does not strike me as natural, so, sure, the more an RPG is a boardgame, the less my musings in this thread fit. I have never played an RPG where conversational fiction communication wasn't a big thing, but I have heard that that's out there. :)
  • I am not sure what you mean when you talk about playing a specific game system "freeform." Which elements of the game get included and which are excluded? How do you make this distinction? Why?

    I'm thinking of a game as Character + Setting + Situation + Color + System. Are you excluding some (most) of those things in your definition of a "game" to be played "freeform"? Are you saying, take the Character and Setting and Situation and Color and use a different System? And use it "freeform," which is still ill-defined because it's unclear how people agree on what goes into the fiction here, unless you mean a sort of Pure-Nomic Agreement, to borrow from another game.
  • edited July 2016
    When this idea first occurred to me, I thought it was interesting in a fairly broad sense of "freeform". Honestly, I am happy to accept anyone's definition of freeform which makes these ideas more interesting and discussion-worthy. I'm not sure if my narrowing-down in my last post actually accomplishes that.

    I started out a bit half-baked. Help me bake!

    @Adam_Dray, in Character + Setting + Situation + Color + System terms, I'd say that in freeform, System is robust without using the rules and instructions in the book. People agree on what goes into the fiction here by... well, "unmediated speech" is the best shorthand I can come up with, but I dunno if that's useful. "Not explicit rule-following, but also not formless chaos," perhaps. "Structured freeform" as per Rickard's points, if you think that freeform play requires structure to actually get anywhere. If you think "Pure-Nomic" might fit here, could you explain what that is?
  • edited July 2016
    I'm not Dave, but I can take a shot at it.

    The "freeform" thing happens entirely in the "System" category. Of course we still have Character + Setting + Situation + Colour.

    I don't know if it's possible to define "freeform" strictly, but I believe that in this situation Dave means something like this:

    * Play an RPG without ever rolling dice, consulting rulebooks, or applying applying mechanical resolution.

    At least, that's how most gamers use the term "freeform", in my experience.

    Now, that's still a pretty sketchy definition (e.g. some people will write up a detailed character sheet and make sure their character is "points-balanced"... and THEN start playing "freeform"), but hopefully it helps.

    That's why I started poking at AW's Principles and Agenda. Most games don't clarify this kind of stuff; AW actually has it in the book.

    The question is, precisely, about how System is handled at the table (in Forge terms): how do the participants agree to the imagined events at the table? How do they communicate their game "moves" to each other?

    For instance, if I was playing old-school D&D, I might be able to identify some principles like:

    * The GM acts, as much as possible, as an impartial "referee", using whatever methods necessary to remain as impartial as possible during resolution
    * The players work within that framework to achieve the greatest success they can for their characters
    * Long-term success is rewarded in a consistent and reliable way
    She should:
    * Clarify the possibility of mortal danger when asked
    * Play to find out what happens, not towards a pre-determined outcome
    * Clarify the probability of success when appropriate
    * Clarify when she is NOT able to share the probability of success
    * Ask players to detail their actions until she is able to resolve these actions without guesswork
    * Give as much information she honestly can in order for the players to gauge risk versus reward
    * Be prepared to explain her resolution method for upcoming challenges, if appropriate
    etc.
    Players should:
    * Do their best to succeed at overcoming challenges, but without seeking unfair advantages (like out-of-game knowledge - say, looking at the module before playing)
    * Gracefully accept defeat if it happens
    * Ask the GM to clarify any points which were not clearly expressed
    etc.
    * As a group, try to remember rulings and keep them consistent over time (this helps fulfill earlier principles, like impartial GMing and gauging risk vs. reward)

    Following a framework like this, I should be able to play something that resembles old-school D&D without any of the actual rulebooks at the table. Over time, if left to my own devices, I might even "evolve" a ruleset which could like entirely unlike D&D cosmetically (e.g. I might not choose to use random stats, or I might use cards instead of dice) but would be recognizable as serving a very similar creative agenda, so a long-time D&D player would feel comfortable jumping in to play.

    For instance, using some random elements to resolve particular situations could "evolve" quite naturally out of the need for impartial resolution.

    Dave, is this at all along the same lines you're thinking?
  • Just realized something: Whenever you read rules in the book and assimilate them, your brain puts them on the right place as a part of a specific procedure.

    Then on the game you have defined techniques that trigger other techniques or trigger these procedures. The whole procedure is of course, dynamic, and often uses cycles that feed new information to the next cycle.

    So basically what we do all the time is convert rules into procedures (often discarding the ones we don't get/can't familirize with quickly enough/find cumbersome or inefficient given our personal skillsets) and then use our own personal choice of techniques to implement those procedures in the required order. (we will of course assimilate any new technique offered by the book in the actual play examples, good advice or other parts of the book, even when we learn them subconsciously)
  • Nomic is that game where you have a set of rules that allow you to make up new rules. Sometimes with a victory condition. It's Parliament or Robert's Rules, weaponized and gamified. Peter Sober created the game a few decades ago. It's a couple dozen rules to start, some hard to change, some easy to change.

    Pure Nomic is a variation that has one rule at start: "All players must agree on all changes to the rules."

    I guess I'm referencing it because there are really two common types of freeform make-believe play. Let's call them "consensus" and "permissive" freeform, for ease of discussion.

    1. Consensus freeform: All players must agree on all changes to the fiction.

    2. Permissive freeform: When a player says something, it may not contradict what came before, but no one can say it isn't happening.

    Let's say we're going to play D&D 5e, but do what you're talking about, and play it "freeform" first. What does this mean? Even if we pick one of these as our "freeform" model, how do we all agree what we're doing? Do we have characters that are humans or dwarves or elves and stuff? Is it a pseudo-medieval setting with monsters? Do we go into dungeons, fight monsters, and take their stuff? Are we a group working together, or are we working at cross purposes? Heck, is each character a single person?

    How do we make any of those decisions without some basis of the D&D text? What do we include for context, and what do we exclude? How do you make that determination?
  • Maybe more simply put, what differentiates "D&D 5e played Freeform" from "Call of Cthulhu played Freefrom," as you say, "without using the rules and instructions in the book"?

    Does "rules and instructions in the book" mean part of the book or all of the book?
  • edited July 2016
    I'll try to offer an example, and then I'm going to butt out of the freeform-defining business. I don't think I'm ready to do a great job of that right this second.

    Player: I look in my backpack for something useful.
    GM: You find some rope, a small knife, some flint, a box, a key... anything specific you're looking for?
    Player: How much rope?
    GM: Uh... Looks like maybe about 25 feet?
    Player: I'm looking for something I can distract the guardian with. Maybe... maybe something dangerous-looking, or shiny and valuable, or something.
    GM: Ah! Okay, yes, stuffed down in the most secure part of your pack is a big ol' smooth, shiny emerald.
    Player: Oh man. Do I want to risk losing that? I try to see if I could tie it up in the rope so it wouldn't come loose if I swung it around.
    GM: You could take a little time and give yourself a good chance, but it wouldn't be 100% guaranteed!
    Player: Okay, I'll do it! I tie the emerald up, get w good whirl going like (pantomimes arm whirling) with the emerald in my hand still, so the rope's like (pantomimes arc) and then I release! So the emerald goes whizzing through the guardian's field of view!
    GM: Okay! The guardian kinda flinches a tiny bit but keeps staring forward on the first whirl. Keep going?
    Player: Yes! faster!
    GM: Okay! After a few more, the guardian's eyes start to focus on the motion, and then they light up when the emerald catches the light! The creature starts to shift out of it's position in the doorway, heading out into the room toward the swinging emerald!
    Player: Everyone, run behind it into the doorway! I'll come last!
    GM: If you leave now, it might break the distraction!
    Player: I keep swinging until they're all through! If it turns before they're through, then I'll... uh... does it?
    GM: No, as long as you keep swinging, it keeps moving toward the rope! Okay, everyone is through the door, but not you, and you're not close to the door yet, and it's getting close to the emerald! it's beginning to reach to grab it!
    Player: I don't want to lose the emerald! I'll yank it away from the creature as far as I can, and then sprint full speed for the door, dragging the rope behind me!
    GM: The emerald might jar loose bouncing against the floor as you run! The guardian might be able to cut you off from the door if it reacts fast enough!
    Player: Has it been reacting that fast so far?
    GM: Probably not.
    Player: Fuck it! I go for it!
    GM: Okay! Your toss of the rope and emerald away from the guardian is awkward as you turn to run. The creature is close to grabbing the emerald but then sees you darting for the door. It grabs onto the rope to try to pull you away!
    Player: No! Can I pull the rope out?
    GM: It seems stronger than you! How are you going to get it out?
    Player: I could chuck something at it to make it flinch!
    GM: If you take time to dig something out of your pack, and don't let go of the rope, it's gonna yank you right over to it.
    Player: I could... I could drop the rope, chuck something, then try to re-grab the rope...
    GM: (Raises a skeptical eyebrow.)
    Player: Oh, but it's pulling pretty hard, right? If I let go, the rope will quickly be out of my reach?
    GM: Yeah. You'd need to then charge and-
    Player: Fuck it. Maybe there'll be more emeralds. Maybe that one was cursed anyway. I drop the rope and run for the door.
    GM: You're through!

    That's the first thing that comes to mind when I think "freeform".
  • (I'm thinking is has a lot to do with understanding and putting into action the game's specific Creative Agenda. Not just in terms of G/N/S, but much more specifically. What's this particular game, with these people, about, right now?)
  • edited July 2016
    Adam, thanks for that info on Nomic. My first reaction is that that's not at all what I had in mind. Maybe I'm wrong, though -- maybe it's just a way of making explicit some of the stuff that I'm used to being implicit in freeform. Not sure.
    Maybe more simply put, what differentiates "D&D 5e played Freeform" from "Call of Cthulhu played Freefrom,"
    Character + Setting + Situation + Color. :)

    And, y'know, whatever differences in System are necessary for those. Outcomes have Color and create new Situation, so resolving outcomes probably isn't gonna use completely identical System across all versions of monster-slaying vs horror-fleeing, I'd presume.
    Does "rules and instructions in the book" mean part of the book or all of the book?
    I was imagining "use 0% of the rules, and somewhere between 0% and 100% of everything else", but that may not be prescriptive.
  • I see no system beyond a conversation and full GM fiat. Never ever played freeform this way so no clue here.
  • So replacing any "mechanical" systems (dice, numbers, currency) with some form of fiat, but retaining all of the text related to setting and color and situation, for sure, maybe some of the character stuff.

    In your example, you still take from the D&D text:

    * the setting (fantasy, dungeons, magic)

    * the situation (you're trying to get past a guardian using brain and brawn and equipment; you care about wealth, maybe to the detriment of your safety)

    * the color (gems, rope, swords, magical guardians, chasms, backpacks, rope swinging)

    * a little bit of character, maybe? (rope skills, flexible weapon use)

    * way more system than I imagined was in "freeform" play (GM and player roles, and division of narrative authority! this is a big deal!)

  • edited July 2016

    * way more system than I imagined was in "freeform" play (GM and player roles, and division of narrative authority! this is a big deal!)
    No kidding! :)

    Edit: Since this is the Internet, I should clarify! That was a statement of strong agreement.
  • edited July 2016
    Adam, yes! Well said.

    Re: your last point, maybe "structured freefrom" is a better term for this than just "freeform".

    My example is not intended to describe "how functional freeform must work". But it needs to work somehow, and here's an example.

    Having a GM is a very, very handy way to organize the proceedings. There are other ways, but it'd take me a lot more thought to figure out which ones cover which bases how.

    Note: I think in my example, play is "fun for everyone" largely because of the limits on GM fiat. And by "limits" I don't mean explicit rules! I mean productive conventions. (Which of course could be made into explicit rules, if you consider "inform players of odds and risks before considering their risky and uncertain actions to be in progress" a "rule".) When I say "functional freeform", such productive conventions are a big part of that for me.
  • So what do you think of my (equally vague) formulation:

    Playing an RPG using the principles of the particular game (those that structure the conversation of roleplaying and shape the roles of the participants) without any of the specifics (which vary from action to action)?

    Even if it's not a good definition for your purposes, is it along the lines of what you're thinking, or completely out in left field?
  • edited July 2016
    Paul, I don't think that's out in left field. It is very far from the wording I would use, but maybe that's just me. If your phrasing sums up the part of this that you find interesting, then cool, run with it!
  • I must get to work now! I hope this conversation keeps going, but I will not be back to clarify what I meant about this and that before late tonight or maybe tomorrow. I hope things aren't too muddy!
  • Yeah, the wording is not great. Just wanted to see if I was on-topic or not!
  • edited July 2016
    Maybe more simply put, what differentiates "D&D 5e played Freeform" from "Call of Cthulhu played Freefrom," as you say, "without using the rules and instructions in the book"?
    How do the game master write an adventure to either game and, more importantly, how do the game master play these adventures?

    I remember when I playtested an early game I wrote called Med ljus och lykta (Eng. Burning the Midnight Oil) - a surreal investigation game. After a session, one of my players said "You can play this as a freeform game", and I realized that he was right. Everything I did, from structuring the scenario to how I described the environment were the actual game, and the players rolling dice were just something we did as a secondary thing, almost even not related to the game itself. I laid the game on ice because I didn't know how to write a freeform "rule set" at that time. That's when I started to dig into Nordic freeform, and discovered that it had lots of structures for how to play.

    I mean, even in a simple D&D game, where you roll dice, the game can get a totally different feeling depending on if the game master wants to roll the dice often or rarely.
  • "Free form " isn't that flow?
    like any skilled activity the flow is broken by resistance or blocks and the unusual. This is where the rules or system would be made conscious. Books opened character sheets checked.
    but what brought me to roleplaying games was this child like quality of grown up playing with the hope of not falling out over disagreement.
    The hope is the system would sort the break in flow or free form play.
  • I can't agree with the original premise.
    "Whatever RPG you're playing, whatever the ruleset and learning curve, whoever the players, if you're going to have a great game, you need to be able to play it freeform."
    For example, Mouse Guard comes to mind as a counterexample.
  • I take it in the vein of "at some point you should be able to play without the rulebook" and up to that point I certainly agree. Anyway, since it's not a "you should play this way" thing, let me say I still do enjoy some dice and a few random tables on my game.
  • Quote In the context of this thread, what does freeform mean?

    I have two answers:
    1) I'm not sure. Some vague constellation of play techniques and attitudes and processes which are not reducible to game rules and instructions.
    2) Player-to-player communication of fiction without mediation, and the use of that action to effectively pursue a given group's goals. "Just talking, but not just talking."

    I'm more intending (2), but even (2) isn't rigorously defined, and I may have sloppily drifted into (1) at any given point.

    Isn't this just playing? (role playing) like kids do ?
  • edited July 2016
    Isn't this just playing? (role playing) like kids do ?
    A good point. I would say "play pretend" instead of just playing, if you mean it in the context of children's play.

    In my game This is Pulp, I began looking at how a conversation works - the very basic interaction between at least two people. I then built a structure to steer the conversation, by adding topics to the conversation and how people would respond to each other. So I took something we all are familiar with, and then added a structure to it to turn it into a game. At the same time, I also added an end condition.

    I think this is interesting. How someone can take talking, or play pretend, and turn that into a game. I mean, talking and "pretending" is engaging in it's own but by turning it into a game, the game designer can give a specific sensation to the participants. And we have already structures for everything we do.

    Roger Caillois "... places forms of play on a continuum from ludus, structured activities with explicit rules (games), to paidia, unstructured and spontaneous activities (playfulness),". (Wikipedia) - basically a line where ludus is at one end and paidia at the other. Raph Koster refutes this in Theory of Fun by saying that ludus and paidia is the same thing, it's just spoken and unspoken rules. A child playing in an improvised style is paidia, according to Caillois, but I agree with Koster that it's never purely improvised, but instead falling back on previous (unspoken) structures. (Also, as a side note, Keith Johnstone talks in Impro about how we all have a learned feeling of how to build a story - we know its structure.)

    So yeah, (structured) freeform bears a lot similarity to play pretend, at least if we're talking about the use of the normally unspoken structures. What the freeform movement did, at least in Sweden, was dragging paidaia techniques to ludus by speaking out the unspoken rules.
  • "Free form " isn't that flow?
    Flow is one emotional result of playing, where structured freeform is one set of tools to play with.
  • edited July 2016
    Rickard Said:
    "I would say "play pretend" instead of just playing"
    Yes that's what I'm trying to say.

    "Play Pretend" is a root of free form. That's good starting point. We play these games to pretend. We pretend were someone else or pretend we are in another world.

    Adding structure

    Richard said:
    "I then built a structure to steer the conversation, by adding topics to the conversation and how people would respond to each other. So I took something we all are familiar with, and then added a structure to it to turn it into a game."

    I would agree this is a great way to become skilled at Play Pretend .
    The benefits could,,, reduce out of time play, (sorting things out) and set barriers etc.
    When learnt and become habit. This could produce productive Play time.

    But is it a game ?

    If it is a game it is a truly freeform game :)
    I see a game more in the light of having a referee or substitute the referee for rules.
    Also you have opponents who battle with an element of chance, tactics, skill etc.

    Basically a game creates a level playing field, we all trust to be fair and just.

    This is harsh I know and resulting tricks have been created to save players like hero points beanies that sort of thing.

    Thanks for the post Richard will check out your interesting ideas and game :)



  • Man, I hate criticisms that amount to:

    "But is it a game"
    "Well, I guess it's roleplaying, but it isn't a roleplaying game, ifyouknowwhatImean"

    I've been seeing them come up for years, I get that they're honestly meant, and yet, they bug the shit out of me.

    It seems so un-self-considered.

    If a person looks at something, and says "Well, that's not a game-game", what exactly is the value in the statement? What is the larger value of separating something into Games and Not-Games? I mean, I don't think I'm being too presumptuous by guessing the speaker values the things they label as Games over the things they label Not-Games.

    So where is the value? What does that split achieve?

    Mostly, to me, it looks like pointless, reflexive gate-keeping.

    I would much rather see someone who is tempted to make that kind of statement of division to make an actual criticism instead.

    "Okay, it's a game, but it doesn't have enough of X,Y, or Z for me to enjoy it."
  • edited July 2016
    Hey Kommradebob I'm making a clear point not criticism.
    You have made a good point. I could have said I don't like that type of game because of x or y.
    But I was trying to show when pretend play moves into the realm of a game or ludus as Richard has mentioned.
    Or
    When free form (pretend play) is interrupted by rules dice chance the level playing field where we hope is fair and just.
    Hope this puts me in a better light :)
  • In my case I think I wrote such things because I see more problems in totally freeform play pretend than possibilities. My nephews (4 and 5 year olds respectively) do play often, but there's a toxic element in the way they play, that reminds me of when my cousin and me did play pretend at about their same age. It's when a competitive element arises and there are no limits to damage each other's creativity, and skills in manipulation is all it takes to win.

    In the case of my cousin, it mean that when we played war with huge amounts of toy soldiers, he would go for killing single units and small groups often, and then allowed me to kill or capture a big gropu, doing this in a way that prevented me from noticing that he was guiding the whole game and that the math didn't add. He was older, wiser, more subtle and by default I have never been able to distrust anybody who hasn't show any threating attitude at me from the start. Even today I start by giving anyone the benefit of doubt and a minimal of trust, and it takes several issues/fights for me to completely distrust a person.

    The case of my nephews is similar, the older one often tricks the younger in the same way, which 70% of the time ends up in a fight between them and the rest of the time in a derrailing into a different game.

    So, while for me pure play pretend can work (my cousin and me had a better time when we played with legos or made a team against an imaginary adversary) the moment some kind of opposition controlled by one player arises is the moment we start needing rules to avoid identifying ourserves as a players with one of the sides.

    To this particular, randomization not only introduces unexpected situations, but a good way of dissociating the opposition from the player: It isn't the GM harming your character, it's the dice. Rules do the same thing: it's not the GM being unfair, he's just doing what rules demand.

    So well, I admit that this is a personal feeling, mixed with perhaps a bit of a personal trauma, but as I have lived it myself and seen it reenacted by my nephews, you can't say it isn't a possible bad outcome, that can be averted with the right tools.

    Can those tools be minimalistic, unnoticeable, easily internalized? Yes, I totally believe they can be.
  • Yeah, I think there's a really big downside to the OP which could be stated like this:

    "The best way to play a RPG is to manipulate, seduce, lie to and connive to viciously undermine your fellow players in order to achieve the imaginary outcome you want. Under only the most dire circumstances should you ever permit yourself to be forced to abide by the rules of the game, since you will be unable to socially wheedle, whine or bully to get what you want."
  • @ Warrior monk, I've experienced such child hood joys :)

    My brother was older and even so lazy I had to put the game away after his boredom of winning. Ha ha

    JDCorley has it right:

    "The best way to play a RPG is to manipulate, seduce, lie to and connive to viciously undermine your fellow players in order to achieve the imaginary outcome you want. Under only the most dire circumstances should you ever permit yourself to be forced to abide by the rules of the game, since you will be unable to socially wheedle, whine or bully to get what you want."

    Trouble is I'm only good at half those things. I need a character sheet and die to do the rest.
    Were not perfect. But you can make up for that with good faith.

    getting back to the OP, David Berg said:

    "I am not sure if this is true. But it strikes me that it might be. And if it is, that gives us some interesting ways to view rules. Not from a design perspective, but from a participant perspective. Once you're able to play a game freeform, then rules can be:
    - reminders
    - shortcuts
    - inspiration
    - chance arbitration
    - channels for expression
    - more stuff that isn't at the tip of my brain
    - a sort of second game on top of the freeform game
    - optional"

    Aren't we pretend playing or free form.
    To learn.
    To try to be like someone else.
    To try be more perfect :).
    To have shared fun.

    or are we already shit up at everything and just need to hang out with some dim wits we can make look even more dim. I think that last synopsis is an illusion of the highest order and belongs with the best way to play suggested by JDCorley.

    I think David has tapped into a new interesting way of looking at rules.
    From a place of play.








  • FWIW, Nomic strikes me as the opposite of freeform. Nomic is a whole game that's about rules, whereas structured freeform play calls on rules only when necessary.
  • Jangler I haven't heard of this game before.
    But I wonder if Rules help to achieve what Warrior Monk suggested:
    "Rules do the same thing: it's not the GM being unfair, he's just doing what rules demand."
    Basically rules help to dissociate.
    Remove responsible.
  • edited July 2016
    FWIW, Nomic strikes me as the opposite of freeform. Nomic is a whole game that's about rules, whereas structured freeform play calls on rules only when necessary.
    Rules are always called upon when necessary. Nomic is no different to structured freeform in that case.

    But I kind of get what you're aiming at. Nomic could be said to build a consensus between players; it's in a way a way of building a social contract; creating rules for how to act within the game. In Nomic, the rules are typically mechanical(?) but lets say it's would be about creating purely social ones. A game master could have a specific style to play, and the players adopt to that (read: the game master is creating rules for others to follow), or the game master can see what kind of players that person got and adapts to that.

    One thing that stroke me when reading the Wikipedia article was the following: "The game is in some ways modeled on modern government systems. It demonstrates that in any system where rule changes are possible, a situation may arise in which the resulting laws are contradictory or insufficient to determine what is in fact legal."

    I instantly thought of game styles colliding within a roleplaying group. You can compromise, and have different playstyles, but it will probably crash sooner or later at some point.

    I guess @Adam_Dray brought up Nomic as an example of how to build this social consensus of how to play within the group. It's a slightly different topic than what @David_Berg is talking about. Building a group consensus is, however, something I'm missing in 99% of all roleplaying games, and I think that having structures for that would actually make people understand the game (read: how to play it) better. It's not something people would think they need, but I think they actually do.
  • Social rules. Oh I see how difficult the problem is.
    Like you say Richard building a consensus is missing.
    I find most players just want to play amd aren't that interested in rules physical amd for social that could be even worse?

    @Richard your game moves in this direction I gather.
    I see its still in development. Are you still looking for play testers ? :)
    Would be very interested in trying it out.
  • I remember those same kinds of problems with childhood Play Pretend. I also remember thinking that rpgs would solve those problems. As a kid anyway.

    Years later, I started thinking about it more. Mostly, while those problems were memorable, they didn't actually represent even the bulk of the time Playing Pretend, just some more emotional, unhappy times that stuck out.

    I realized though, I wasn't a child anymore. Neither were the people I was likely to game with.

    So, I thought, maybe those things I was looking for in game rules as a kid were no longer as necessary ( and largely hadn't provided them anyway in practice). I also started to think about what it meant to Win/Lose in the context of RPGs and similar stuff. The upshot, there was a lot of re-consideration of the basics for me. I started to think, Freeform might be really viable.

    Really, from what I can tell, RPGs exist in a constant state of Game/Not-Game at the same time in practice.

    Ah well, more thoughts later.
  • Really, from what I can tell, RPGs exist in a constant state of Game/Not-Game at the same time in practice.
    There are plenty of games out there that don't have a win condition, or have a primarily non-mechanical agenda, or some combination thereof. Think truth or dare, or shiritori, or any one of a variety of drinking games.

    Even freeform role-playing has some sort of ground rules, or at least tacit assumptions! But, like a lot of this thread so far, the question of whether something is a "game" is just a question of semantics ;)

    Anyway, while I don't agree that you must be able to play a system freeform in order to have a great game, I'm 100% on board with that being a quality I'd want the game to have. Although maybe "quality" isn't the right word – it's more of an approach, IMO.
  • edited July 2016
    Yeah, I think there's a really big downside to the OP which could be stated like this:

    "The best way to play a RPG is to manipulate, seduce, lie to and connive to viciously undermine your fellow players in order to achieve the imaginary outcome you want..."
    I think you've strongly supported my point! This isn't the downside, this is the example of the failure state: a group which is not able to functionally play freeform.

    Remember, I didn't say folks should play freeform, I just said they should be able to!

    I suspect that the group you're describing is one that isn't gonna produce my kind of fun regardless of the ruleset. Roleplay which relies on references to rulebook authority to keep it from turning into Lord of the Flies, in my experience, never stays all that fun for all that long.
  • I remember those same kinds of problems with childhood Play Pretend. I also remember thinking that rpgs would solve those problems. As a kid anyway.

    Years later, I started thinking about it more. Mostly, while those problems were memorable, they didn't actually represent even the bulk of the time Playing Pretend, just some more emotional, unhappy times that stuck out.

    I realized though, I wasn't a child anymore. Neither were the people I was likely to game with.

    So, I thought, maybe those things I was looking for in game rules as a kid were no longer as necessary ( and largely hadn't provided them anyway in practice). I also started to think about what it meant to Win/Lose in the context of RPGs and similar stuff. The upshot, there was a lot of re-consideration of the basics for me. I started to think, Freeform might be really viable.

    Really, from what I can tell, RPGs exist in a constant state of Game/Not-Game at the same time in practice.
    Very similar to where I'm coming from.
  • Yes.

    While I do think that unstructured freeform ("make believe") certainly can be extremely challenging for a group to handle functionally, I don't think that looking at our experiences as 5-yr-olds is a good model for how it *should* go.
  • Oh no, what I describe is someone who is incredibly skilled at playing freeform! Bullying someone through fiction is pretty hard. You have to be good at it to accomplish it.
  • Really, from what I can tell, RPGs exist in a constant state of Game/Not-Game at the same time in practice.
    Interesting. Never thought about roleplaying games in that way, but you're right.
  • Oh no, what I describe is someone who is incredibly skilled at playing freeform! Bullying someone through fiction is pretty hard. You have to be good at it to accomplish it.
    More accurately, you have to be good at it, and your opponents have to be bad at it...
  • Agreed. Like winning a game!
  • edited July 2016
    Really, from what I can tell, RPGs exist in a constant state of Game/Not-Game at the same time in practice.
    Perhaps we could say that an RPG session tends to be a Game that's embedded in larger Play, and that the thing I'm talking about with freeform is essentially the Play part.
  • edited July 2016
    Komradebob thats a craking observation and sums up the whole discussion for me.
    Know how do you make a group of players aware of this shift effortlessly and enjoyable for all?
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