thread: 2006-01-26 : A Public Service Announcement

On 2006-01-31, Nobody Special wrote:

Please help me understand, why are games with less focused thematic range lower quality than games with focused theme? Doesn’t a game without thematic focus give one the freedom to bring out any theme in play? It is analogous to play in which story emerges through player actions rather than being predetermined / railroaded, or isn’t it?

I understand the difference between the thematic range of RPG design and the thematic range of an RPG but I don’t understand how a single game, without reference to the whole of RPG design, must have a focused theme or be lower quality. Have I misstated the issue?


This makes DY go "_Ideas_ that expand thematic RPG design"
As I understand it, V wants to talk about ideas, like for example "Co-ownership of character" that will expand the ability of RPGs to allow Thematic Play. This is not the same thing as wanting a single game to allow a wide variety of premises/themes, because the goal is effective Thematic Play, not necessarily diversity of Theme itself. Or, that's what I'm getting.

This makes NinJ go "Because a lack of theme means..."
... what's the opposite of "support"? When a game design lacks any thematic focus, you wind up having to design rules, usually within the social contract, that allow you confront that theme. And those rules are usually much, much worse than the rules that were carefully designed to support that theme over the course of much playtesting. For instance, let's say you want to talk about people who are worth dying for, like in Sin City. And let's say you're playing GURPS. You have to devise a system whereby the more devoted you get to your rescue/vengeance, the mightier you get, up until the time you die, which is the only time you get to find out if you got your revenge or rescued your ward. At that point, you've written a new RPG. You're not using GURPS rules at all.

This makes NS go "Getting Warmer"
DY: I see what you mean but you might not be in agreement with the first sentence of comment #31. NinJ: Is "let's say you want to talk about people who are worth dying for" not illusionist theme, similar to illusionist story in which you predetermine the plot and impose it on players? I understand that a system can mechanically support theme (though I'm not sure how it fits with "if you want a game about honor you can't just add an Honor stat) but is it the belief that mechanics make it easier to address theme or that theme cannot be addressed effectively without mechanical aid? Please excuse me if I misuse the vocabulary.

This makes NinJ go "Theme can't be illusionist."
In the example I've given, everyone has buy-in both ways. "Illusionism" means that the GM makes it look like the players have choices, but actually don't. This is a case where everyone wants a story about what it will take to make your character willing to die.

I'm not talking, at any point, about the GM establishing a theme and keeping it secret. I'm one bazillion not saying that.

This is something all the players want to address, so they've decided to play this game. And the game is made of mechanics that are the tools used to address that theme.

You can't just add an "honor" stat to make a game about honor because it has to be tied into all the mechanical interactions you have that your character's honor will matter in.

Understand that, in the most hippie of freeform games, there are strict rules the players are following or breaking. Those rules are based on the relationships of the players to each other.

I'd rather risk Story Tokens or whatever than my relationships with my friends.

This makes...
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