Personal insight concerning player goals and the blame of 'playing it wrong'

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  • edited May 2018
    So when I look at RPG RAWs as toys/playthings I instantly have a desire to experiment with them, to discover their features and possibilities. This is fun in itself. Also I dont want to stick to them exclusively because they are not in the focus of my activity, their function is to help me to 'project relatively unstructured play' on them.

    And when I look at RPG RAWS as tools ('a device or implement [...] used to carry out a particular function') I tend to use them exclusively. It's because I assume (sometimes I'm wrong) that they were made for a specific goal and I want to achieve that goal, every other activity could only derail my efforts.

    I can look at an RPG in both ways. And of course they are just platonic viewpoints. IRL I treat every RPG as a tool and as a toy/plaything at the same time, but their ratio could change.

    What my intuition tells me is that if I would go for the extremes then I could run every RPG as 100% toys/playthings and 0% tools and it could be fun. But I have a gut feeling that if I would try to do the opposite (100% tool, 0% toy), and would excusively do the RAW and nothing else (no extra roleplay, play pretend etc) then some of the RPGs would broke down. Not that they wouldn't be fun, I mean, it would'nt even work that way. Some RPGs are designed in a way that you need to fill out it's RAW to have meaningful play. So you need some 'toyness' in your attitude if you want to enjoy them.

    What do you think?
  • @Bedrockbrendan I don't think I ever got your take on this. Any thoughts?
    image
    I am not sure I understand this one. I may just have missed a pertinent conversation though.
  • edited May 2018
    It's just my attempt to put an image to "We're all friends here in RPG land!" Coming from the story gamer angle, attempting to dispel the idea that story gamers dislike other RPGs.

    Dunno if it's working or not...

    It's a riff off the HSBC ad campaign from a decade or so back, where they'd repeat images with different titles to illustrate how different things have different meaning in different crowds/places/contexts.
  • @Bedrockbrendan I can't speak for The Internet, or for A Side (which I doubt actually exists in any degree of unity). I can only speak for myself and for what I've seen on this website as a regular participant. So, from that angle:

    1) The purpose of referring to any RPG, trad or otherwise, as a "toy" is to acknowledge and discuss two things:
    a) Unlike a board game, not all participation consists of choosing between specified, finite options.
    b) The specific play group in question needs to make some decisions about how they're going to use the RPG.
    .
    I think rather than defining traditional games as Toys, and then defining toys as those 2 points (which seem largely unobjectionable and pretty much something people who play traditional RPGs just sort of understand from the get-go; I'd simply talk about "Traditional Style" or "Old School Style" and mention those two points as possible things to consider for folks who are less familiar with their underlying assumptions. Again though, I am just one point of view here and not sure what reactions you might get if you float points 1-2 among traditional gamers who are not also into SGs. I can say "that looks good to me", but not sure what reaction this will get when it is taken into other forums and other social media platforms of discussion. For me, this stuff is just about getting an accurate understanding of what people want and expect. I think one of the reasons people get suspicious of this stuff whenever they sense the forge in the background somewhere, is a lot of the categories and speculations from the forge, felt like they were projecting things onto styles of play associated now with OSR and traditional RPGs, that were inaccurate. So if you want to avoid that, talking about traditional style of play is probably going to be a lot more productive. Because then there is more opportunity for folks to weigh in on what that means and the conversation is always tethered around the thing we are trying to talk about (rather than getting lost in a metaphor or analogy---where you end up arguing about the 'toy'/'toolbox' rather than what you are trying to address with the 'toy'/'toobox').
  • edited June 2018
    Also NM.
  • @Bedrockbrendan I don't think I ever got your take on this. Any thoughts?
    image
    Aw, man! Good memories of making that thing!
  • When I say pretend play, I am trying to name the thing that makes RPGs distinct from, say, storytelling.
  • When I say pretend play, I am trying to name the thing that makes RPGs distinct from, say, storytelling.
    It's a good, solid, notable thing certainly.
  • edited May 2018
    I personally wouldn't call RPGs terribly distinct from say group storytelling. It's just group storytelling with a ruleset to organize how play happens, and to place creative limitations so it's not an endless space of unlimited possibilites, because of the fact that endless space of unlimited possibilities makes it a lot harder for people to get on the same page without a lot of discussion whereas if you say "Hey, let's play Chuubo's" or "Hey, let's play Apocalypse World", or "Hey, let's play Polaris" or "Hey, let's play Annalise" or even "Hey, let's play DnD", it narrows down those possibilities so that then everyone has a strong idea of the sort of creative constraints for this specific story, this specific roleplaying experience.
    It gets everyone on the same page about the sort of story they're going to tell much faster than if you say "Hey, let's play freeform. What kind of story do we want to tell in this roleplay?"
  • "Toy" is fine with me. It describes a type of play. That play is associated with children because Serious Important Adults think it's for children and stop engaging in it. That doesn't mean it's childlike in any sort of bad way, just like having a childlike sense of wonder is 100% good unless you're trying to signal to others that you're Serious and Important and since children clearly aren't Serious and Important then you can't have any properties which are traditionally associated with children.

    But if we must differentiate the two almost identical types of play according to who is engaging in them, then I suppose we must. Can't have anyone believe we're associated with something that :gasp: children are associated with, after all.

    Sounds inflammatory, and I don't think peeps are consciously making this argument, but I do honestly think that's what's behind society saying "to say an adult is playing with a toy is demeaning".
  • Yeah, that's pretty much my take on it, Guy.
  • It gets everyone on the same page about the sort of story they're going to tell much faster than if you say "Hey, let's play freeform. What kind of story do we want to tell in this roleplay?"
    What if I said "Let's play freeform, based on 1980s Uncanny X-Men" or " Let's freeform what happened after the last aired episode of Firefly, but pretending the Serenity film never happened" or " Let's freeform The Clone Wars, but only using info gleaned from the original trilogy movies".

  • It gets everyone on the same page about the sort of story they're going to tell much faster than if you say "Hey, let's play freeform. What kind of story do we want to tell in this roleplay?"
    What if I said "Let's play freeform, based on 1980s Uncanny X-Men" or " Let's freeform what happened after the last aired episode of Firefly, but pretending the Serenity film never happened" or " Let's freeform The Clone Wars, but only using info gleaned from the original trilogy movies".

    You'd be narrowed in on what type of story you're telling then.
    You just wouldn't have the structural tools that are part of playing ttrpg.
  • Sorry, my reaction was mostly to what you posted reminding me of tons of posts about freeform play, where folks seem to assume that freeforming somehow starts with absolutely nothing at all.

    Which, I suppose is possible, but I do find it highly unlikely.

    In any case though, I do think you're touching on something important. One of the first steps in imaginative play is narrowing down what the subject matter is by some method.
  • edited June 2018
    Re: Treasue/Encumbrance-Picture

    Damn it! I've seen this a couple of times around here but I never noticed that the captions are flipped. Love it!
  • Yeah, definitely, komrade.
    And now, that's not what I was getting at with freeform. My background is primarily in freeform, and in ttrpg I specifically play games that emulate the feel of freeform well, because basically what I want for my roleplaying is freeform + structural tools.
  • EtE:

    That one cluster of flavors I like as well. It's an area that I also think would benefit, developmentally, from looking at RPGs as toys.
  • It's just my attempt to put an image to "We're all friends here in RPG land!" Coming from the story gamer angle, attempting to dispel the idea that story gamers dislike other RPGs.

    Dunno if it's working or not...

    It's a riff off the HSBC ad campaign from a decade or so back, where they'd repeat images with different titles to illustrate how different things have different meaning in different crowds/places/contexts.
    I don’t have a strong reaction one way or another, the HSBC thing flew over my head. I found myself trying to reconcile the two different image styles and see if a point was being made by them. I have no issue with anime, but I think with a lot of traditional gamers, it has associations that are very ‘not D&D’ (or at least associated with versions of D&D that are not traditional). You might consider going with something like Record of Lodoss War if you want anime (since that one is very D&D).

  • I personally wouldn't call RPGs terribly distinct from say group storytelling. It's just group storytelling with a ruleset to organize how play happens, and to place creative limitations so it's not an endless space of unlimited possibilites, because of the fact that endless space of unlimited possibilities makes it a lot harder for people to get on the same page without a lot of discussion whereas if you say "Hey, let's play Chuubo's" or "Hey, let's play Apocalypse World", or "Hey, let's play Polaris" or "Hey, let's play Annalise" or even "Hey, let's play DnD", it narrows down those possibilities so that then everyone has a strong idea of the sort of creative constraints for this specific story, this specific roleplaying experience.
    It gets everyone on the same page about the sort of story they're going to tell much faster than if you say "Hey, let's play freeform. What kind of story do we want to tell in this roleplay?"
    I would have to disagree here. Again I can only give my experience, but the thing that instantly struck me the first time I played an RPG and that lasted with me, was the sense that I can try anything I want in this world. I felt like I was there, and able to try anything. Whereas in a video game or board game, I was limited by whatever the designers had planned before hand. The key element is the game master, who in part has to play the setting/story/etc.

    In terms of getting on the same page. That can be important, but it is very easy to negotiate. I call this the 'franchise check' in my groups (as in 'what franchise are we gaming in'). While it usually won't result in rules overhauls, it very much informs how the GM adjudicates what passes muster for a given situation. For example, how easy it is to turn the tide of public opinion against the local baron and rouse people to rebellion. If we are playing in something meant to feel more like a classic 50s swashbuckler franchise, that is going to be very different from something like Agora (where it may take a whole campaign to even get to that point). My experience here is most groups naturally find this point in their games without even having a discussion. I have found it helpful to hash that over before hand though.

    The thing to keep in mind about D&D and traditional play, is it is foundational for most players. It is like a base, but you can put a lot of different approaches on top of it. It is played all kinds of different ways. It definitely has some core conceits. But back to my Ravenloft example, you can take it in all kinds of directions. The only times I've been annoyed at D&D is when things were added in that made that kind of flexibility difficult for me.
  • You can try anything you want in storytelling games-- even those with rules. Take Universalis, for example.
  • Re: Treasue/Encumbrance-Picture

    Damn it! I've seen this a couple of times around here but I never noticed that the captions are flipped. Love it!
    Thanks, Johann. Dave and I put that together a few years back, during one of these discussions. @Bedrockbrendan is correct that I got the idea from HSBC ads, and it seemed like a good way to get the point across.
    I have no issue with anime, but I think with a lot of traditional gamers, it has associations that are very ‘not D&D’ (or at least associated with versions of D&D that are not traditional). You might consider going with something like Record of Lodoss War if you want anime (since that one is very D&D).
    The whole point, from my perspective, was to contrast "D&D" and "not D&D", so we chose two images; one which clearly had to do with D&D-like things, and another one which represented the "story game" side. Then, the reversed captions allude to our ability to appreciate different things, in turn.
  • Re: Treasue/Encumbrance-Picture

    Damn it! I've seen this a couple of times around here but I never noticed that the captions are flipped. Love it!
    Thanks, Johann. Dave and I put that together a few years back, during one of these discussions. @Bedrockbrendan is correct that I got the idea from HSBC ads, and it seemed like a good way to get the point across.
    I have no issue with anime, but I think with a lot of traditional gamers, it has associations that are very ‘not D&D’ (or at least associated with versions of D&D that are not traditional). You might consider going with something like Record of Lodoss War if you want anime (since that one is very D&D).
    The whole point, from my perspective, was to contrast "D&D" and "not D&D", so we chose two images; one which clearly had to do with D&D-like things, and another one which represented the "story game" side. Then, the reversed captions allude to our ability to appreciate different things, in turn.
    Okay. That never occurred to me as a thought when I saw the image (but again, I think I missed the ad campaign it was a reference to).
  • edited June 2018
    It's bit of a quirky thing, admittedly; I'd fully expect each reader to draw their own conclusions. :)

    To me, the last two panels illustrate a typically "D&D" mindset, whereas the former two show a typically "story game" mindset (although both are partially parodies, as well).

    The juxtaposition puts how minor our differences in opinion might be into perspective (or, at least, that's how I interpret this kind of visual metaphor).
  • edited June 2018
    I just realized how strong are my own attitudes toward gaming (RPG-ing).

    I wanted to run a trad campaign again so I was searching for a fairly conventional system of rules. Nothing was good enough.

    What I was really trying to do is to relax and play casually without worrying about the 'system', and concentrate on other aspects of gaming. To look at RPGs as a toys again. But I just couldnt do that! Even 13th Age which is very close to the category of 'D&D for me' felt somehow too cruchy and too 'slack' at the same time.

    What I ended up with was a lightweight homebrew AW hack with elements from City of Mist, The Watch and The Veil. Everything in it serves the purpose of my agenda. It's definitely DIY and looks lame as a toy but it's also sharply focused. For me, it's a good enough tool.

    Nearly at the same time, a nice little flame erupted on the Hungarian interwebs about the topic of 'cheating' with dice to save PCs/story. What I realized that the opposing sides do not understand each other because they have different attitudes toward our hobby. For me it's pretty obvious that a d20 game and crits will often results in PC death and if I would want to run a non lethal campaign I should use different rules (tools) for it.

    But for the other side of the debate changing over to another game, learning totally new rules and mindset etc. just doesnt make any sense. They just dont really care about the rules, it's okay for them to cheat here and there for the sake of saving PCs and not ruining long sessions of play. They fall back to the RAW when it's fun and serves their agenda but immediately diverge when they feel it's in their way. They dont need specific tools for their gaming they just use what they have and improvize when they have to.

    The funny thing is that we both homebrew a lot :)
  • i missed this thread when i was off sulking
    great point hamnacb. in the op i mean. really good thread
    but

    i spent a decade trying to get RPGs to tick from trad games (hadn't read D&D, if i had had something like b2 or b4 i'd have been golden i guess). the incoherence was an obstacle for me to get it. i had a couple of crashed fate campaigns, we never got it to sing

    when i read fiasco we started having good games right away

    then OSR meshed better with me then trad. clearer prep & procedures. the turn order from the old B/X, BECMI etc games was something that i liked, for example (which is something that we don't use anymore, but it was valuable training wheels for me).

    and, the lessons from OSR (prep situations, locations and life) can be applied to many trad games too. i can dust off those old WW games or w/e and give them new life.
  • I think the word toy is as loaded as the word game.
    I mean, some people refer to guns as toys... which I find... strange.
    Most words come loaded, after experiencing life, with preconceptions.
    The word toy usually denotes something for children, and adults can find this as off-putting as telling them that most role-playing games are games without a win condition.
    Maybe I'm wrong?
    Maybe one day, the strangely fertile mule that is rpgs, will have a better noun to describe itself?
  • The reopened spicy roll thread mentioned the term bricolage which I was not familiar with.

    It totally nails down what I tried to articulate not in the OP, but in later posts: The dichotomy of viewing RPGs as toys or as tools.

    Maybe it would be less offensive (but unfortunately more academic and less clear) if I would postulate that we usually see RPGs as the product of bricolage or of engineering, and most of the serious clashes in our hobby culture (Is fudging against the fun or not? Etc) could be traced back to this fundamental dychotomy!

    Originally bricolage was the dominant framework but since Forge we have a subculture and jargon for engineering RPGs! Its not the next level, its a totally different thing!

    I feel content. I understood something important here!
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