An rpg scene around design-aware system-collage

Over on G+, Abstract Machine asked:

If you could change one thing about the RPG scene what would it be?

To which I replied

A significant subscene where assumptions are:
1. The norm is that a GM hacks games a lot – that every GM is a designer in search of a few unique games that they and their players like
2. Design matters – good game design can lead to better games, and in particular to different games
3. Published materials are permissively open-licenced and available in a form ready for hacking and collage
4. The natural form of a ruleset-in-play is a collection of components put together by a GM – not a printed book with a fixed layout.

…and somehow they’ve found a way to ensure that despite the above:

5. People get credit for their contributions, often financially.

The OSR is very strong at (1), but often rejects (2) and is not ideal on (3) because it’s often under the OGL (which is quite restrictive in places and is an obscure niche licence that no-one outside gaming understands).

The post-Forge scene is often strong at (2), but often rejects (1) as a consequence. Indifference to (4) follows from that.

Everyone seems obsessed with the “not” of (4). I get that, but its not always helpful.

 

4 thoughts on “An rpg scene around design-aware system-collage

  1. You’re wrong

    OSR gamers know design CAN matter and CAN lead to better design. (Otherwise they would not have all these different rulesets, they would just keep using one).

    They just reject the idea that system _informs play automatically and always in the way Ron Edwards claimed it did in his ‘System Matters’ essay_ .

  2. Also: some of the Story-Games comments on this post imply some disjunction between “rulings not rules” and wanting good design.

    This is wrong.

    “Rulings not rules” is about 2 things (not one thing):

    1. _Customizing_ the game to the group. (my ruling is not _a better design_ than yours in a perfect world, it is simply one more tailored to my group)

    2. Making sure the rules are not so long that they require more search and handling than necessary (if we assume the GM is going to decide for themself whether a fireball sucks the oxygen out of a room or not, it is only wasting space in the rules–it would be poor game design to devote too much time to spelling this out)

    1. Thanks for the clarifications.
      I didn’t mean to slight the OSR in my comments in that thread, and I hope I didn’t. If I did, I apologize.
      OSR materials, games, modules, ideas, design principles etc are integral to my campaign and to my roleplaying as a whole.
      So let’s put any doubt on the OSR design ethos as a whole aside and let’s focus on the one facet of it, “rulings not rules”, I haven’t adapted as a rallying cry.
      Instead, I’m after a dielectic between rulings and rules.
      If something comes up just once and is never relevant again, an on-the-spot ruling is great. It enables tactical infinity. You want to tear the wallpaper from the walls and try to eat it? Sure, go ahead. I’d probably give you a condition (our game is mostly built on 5e) similar to “Poisoned” for the rest of the day as you’re stuffed up on a room’s worth of glue and cellulose. And, perhaps limit the amount you can even eat to as many wads as your constitution bonus (minimum 0). Or whatever, I’d make the call together with the group.
      Example on-the-spot calls from our last session:

      How long does it take to remove a little mud and silt in front of a door?
      How exactly does a “keystone” look?
      How does the floor look like in this room? There’s a pressure plate
      How does this NPC that doesn’t speak Midani react to being given peaches and figs by the PCs?

      But if something comes up over and over, such as whether or not a fireball sucks the oxygen out of the room, I do want a consistent rule for that. (My thinking is: “if it did, it would say”.)
      Example consistent calls from our last session:

      Can I rush up to it and attack it in the same turn?
      How often is there a wandering monster check?
      How many times can I cast Darkvision?
      How long does Darkvision last?

      Usually I’m mentally sorting all the aspects of the D&D game world into “salient” things vs not-salient things, and try to be aware when things cross over, and try to not have too many things in the salient category at a time. For example, you mentioned in your interview with Wick that, hmm, I can’t really remember the exact example but the color of someone’s shirt or whatever could be considered “crunch” instead of “fluff”, so that D&D had no fluff, everything was crunch; this was insightful, thank you for that.
      But I noticed that some things was crunch more often than not. If someone asks “which flowers are growing here” I might just make it up. But if it becomes salient – becomes crunchier, i.e. some noble is collecting a particular flower and presenting them with those flowers can allow you to pass or not – then “which flowers are growing here” moves from the realm of “I can just make it up” to “OK, I’ll make some random table, alternatively make it up ahead of time, from now on”. And then as that need passes, and flowers are just flowers again, it can move away back into the non-salient category and I can just describe whatever I feel like, as color, again.
      In practice, I don’t think this is so different from what you’re doing at your table. Right?
      I’ve just hesitated to call for “rulings not rules” since I’ve been really helped by rules.
      Also, as Rob says in one of the follow up posts, I want the rules for subsystems, I don’t want the moment-to-moment play to be bogged down by rules. Just like you added some rules in the back of AR&PL. That’s the sort of philosophy I’m after here. “Huh, we notice Dueling come up a lot; let’s codify it”.

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