Posted: 10 August 2012 in Administrivia
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve got a few different irons in the fire right now, maybe a half-dozen half-started posts.  Real Life — the stuff I do between thinking about and playing RPGs — has been more intense than usual lately, and that’s put a real drain on my energy.  So we end up with half-posts like this.

Some things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Initiative, and the flow of combat in general, is kind of wonky in most games.  I want a system that rewards a character for a high Initiative bonus as well as rewarding characters for a high Initiative score.  Some games do one or the other, but I’m not sure anyone does both. (Dr. Gentleman has a series of posts about combat that may cover some similar ground, or not; I haven’t read them yet.)
  • I want to get back to thinking about Hit Points in D&D 3.X; my first post was really just a preliminary introduction, and I haven’t gotten around to the real meat of hit points.
  • I don’t like the way Magic is split in D&D, or the way Class Spell Lists are broken up; but I haven’t thought hard enough about it yet to be sure that changing it won’t make ever caster just a Wizard with a funny(er) hat.
  • I’m intrigued by what I’m hearing about running RPGs through Google+ — my first gaming group (my brothers) is spread out over several states now, and the potential for running a game with them again is very attractive.  I may finally get a chance to play RIFTS.
  • More and more (and more) I get the feeling that system doesn’t matter, because the core of role-playing is making choices, and mechanics are just ways to arbitrate consequences.  A system is necessary, but does it really matter what system?  It seems lots of people answer that with an emphatic “yes!” and I need to do more research on that. Minutes after writing this I already feel the lie in it; I have to confess that system does matter, but I haven’t unpacked that concept enough to say how, when, or why it matters — that’s what I want to do research to understand.

Once life lets up on me a bit, I plan to address some or all of those thoughts.

  1. casewerk says:

    For online play, you could do Google+, which I have tried. I preferred roll20, though it’s still in open beta. Check out for that one. It’s quite interesting, and can also run through google hangouts if you like those.

    As for system mattering or not, you might check out Ron Edwards’ essay on the subject:

    • Jack says:

      Yeah, G+ is what I’m leaning towards.

      As to Edwards, I did read his article and it’s what made me back away from my original comment. Still, I think he and I disagree on why and when (and how) system matters; I think Edwards is wrong. I also found this article (one-page version here) that echoes some of the thoughts that got me to my original comment, and though I have some more thinking to do I’m tending back in the direction of “system doesn’t matter (except when it does).” that probably sounds incoherent; it’s still a half-unpacked idea.

      • casewerk says:

        I’m not saying I agree with Edwards either, but his writing is interesting and has been pretty influential, and has gotten a bunch of people at least talking about whys and wherefores in game design. I am more of a “System matters (except when it doesn’t.)” type myself. 😉

        • casewerk says:

          To expand a bit lest I sound like I’m defending an ego-maniacal, trollish pedant (IE Edwards): I get that system doesn’t necessarily matter to most people, but I do personally prefer to use systems with strong support for what I’m looking for in a game. A highly detailed modeling of strict reality is not one of the things I’m looking for, for instance, so I don’t really care for deeply granular systems. I’m more interested in character interaction and interpersonal drama, plus character development than I am in lots of combat encounters and the looting of dungeons, so I don’t care about random encounter/treasure/whatever charts. I do tend to prefer a more drama/narrative oriented approach (to use whichever term one would rather not remember from those old debates).

          So I prefer to look for systems that actively support lots of high drama and flowing play with input from all players on where things are going and ability to introduce plot elements etc. Prefer, not necessarily mandate. I don’t go in for shuffling fans of games I don’t care for off to some sort of oubliette or think their games are inferior… I just am not interested in playing certain styles of campaign, and so I tend not to get engaged in groups that play systems that are apparently designed to support styles of play that I don’t particularly enjoy anymore. Level-and-class based advancement annoys me on a pretty basic level, and is one of the fastest turnoffs to a system for me.

          These are big parts of why I no longer care for DnD (any incarnation), Palladium, Exalted and the like, and also contributes to my fondness for a number of comparatively obscure systems like FATE’s various incarnations, The Burning Wheel, Capes and the like – yes, I discovered some of those thanks to exploring The Forge and back in the day, but I think they’re strong systems in any case regardless. Could I enjoy a DnD game? I’m sure that I could. Would I be satisfied with playing through the typical published DnD module full of traps, monsters and treasure but without much in the way of a focus on character development for the PCs? No.

          So that’s pretty much where I am.

          • Jack says:

            And this is probably best left to address when I actually address it. :p I would argue that it’s not the system so much as the application that chafes you, but I can’t really put words in your mouth, and this isn’t yet the post where I talk about such things.

            • casewerk says:

              I appreciate not putting words in my mouth. 🙂 Naturally, you’re right that it is the application that bothers me, but the systems that I don’t tend to like are generally designed with assumptions and applications in mind, that predispose their use towards play styles in which I have minimal to no (or even negative) interest. Accordingly, I’d rather go for systems whose design focus is closer to where my desired play style thrives.

              If a GM that I know and trust to run a game that I am likely to enjoy but who uses a system that I am not crazy about invited me to play in his group, I’d at least hear him out and consider whether or not said game would fit in my schedule and interests, despite my systemic preferences. Heck, three of the last four games I was invited to and joined were of this variety (a DC Heroes game set in WWII, an oWoD game that collapsed and led to my picking up and running a spinoff when it imploded, A WFRP2 game that barely got off the ground – the fourth is a FATE game. 😉 ))

        • Jack says:

          Yeah, Edwards definitely controlled the dialog for quite a while, from the looks of it. I grew up on GNS as far as Game Theory goes; my thoughts have changed over the last four or five years of actually playing, though.

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