RPG Theory with Rigor, Part 2

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The problem with definitions
In the meantime, there has been a fairly lengthy debate of our first blogpost in which an old problem arose that has been marring the theoretical discussion of RPGs for a long time now: the question of how even basic terminology like games, role-playing games, story, etc. is being defined. Therefore, before continuing our efforts further below to introduce a greater amount of rigor into RPG theory, we need to have a look at these debates about definitions and the problem that definitions of even common terms pose… Read More

RPG Theory with Rigor (Warning: boring!)

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Rebuilding from the ground up

Role-Playing Game theory has a long, controversial history. A huge part of the problem is the lack of a solid foundation for theory – the establishment of some fundamental basics that can be considered largely uncontroversial, if not outright demonstrably true. Without such a foundation, things that should be uncontroversial become suddenly controversial in the context of heated debates about more advanced issues. This problem is being amplified by a prevalent lack of rigor in underlying one’s viewpoints or conceptions with argument: existing theories and models (or even just certain parts of existing theories and models) may or may not sound somewhat plausible, depending on your personal take, but without rigorous, compelling justification for choosing certain concepts and their relationships to each other, they have to be considered largely arbitrary… Read More

RPG Theory with Pornstars

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In a recent blog entry, game designer Zak Smith aka Zak Sabbath made a fairly exhaustive attempt at rebuking GNS theory. This post is a response to one of his central contentions. There is a companion blogpost that takes a further look at GNS theory and tries to boil its central components down so that they are easily understandable for everyone. Arguably, the core of Smith’s elaborate rebuttal revolves around a hypothetical scenario of Marvel’s Colossus and Wolverine fighting Mr Sinister, using the famed Fastball Special. This sample scenario is meant, according to Smith, to demonstrate that there are time and again situations in role-playing in which none of the 3 modes of GNS theory (Gamism, Narrativism, Simulationism) get prioritized over one another. A moment of complete blending of the three… Read More

SIC Theory of Roleplaying

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Towards a better understanding

Part of the confusion regarding GNS theory comes from its abstract (if not occasionally weird) terminology and unclear definitions. In the following, we will try to substitute the terms Gamism, Narrativism and Simulationism with the more readily understood player priorities Success, Immersion and Creativity (note that there has been a change in order to make for a better acronym)… Read More

The Adventure is in the Odds (Series on Crunch – Part I)

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The main staple of fantasy role-playing ever since its inception has been, of course, Dungeons & Dragons (and its direct derivatives). In fact, its success has been so comprehensive that it has spawned an entire class of (failed) imitative role-playing games dubbed fantasy heartbreakers. From a rule design perspective, the D&D family of games have always been prioritizing rules that cater to players who enjoy the ‘Game’ aspect in RPGs the most. In recent years, however, narrative games have become more widespread… Read More