Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Role-Playing Game Run Down

As a writer, and therefore an editor I have cultivated a sense of judgment on various levels of what I read and watch. I put this to use as reviewer for the Bob's Reviews site. Likewise, whenever I set out to create a new product I use that critical eye to look at what is out there in the market and target concepts, methods, and procedures that could do with improvement. Familiarity with products in particular veins improves that sense of what could be done different or better--the two are not always exclusive with better being a matter of taste in some instances. I have a great familiarity with one product that I look to speak about specifically today and as long as it takes to cover the concepts I wish to discuss. That product is role-playing games.

Kevin Siembieda is famously known as saying that "RPGs are, after all, part novel, part text book, part instruction manual, part art book and all imagination." That's a good covering of the main facets of role-playing game books, but as far as games and their design goes it is not the entire story, not as far as I am concerned here. The games themselves are part collaborative story telling, part acting, part strategy, part chance, and all game. A lot of the time people gravitate to one of those more than the others, sometimes one or two. It all depends on the game, the personal goal in playing, and a likely host of other decisions and desires held in balance. A good game system, that is the core rules and setting, should offer many possibilities in each of those elements of the game.

One area where a game might fail, or not measure up is in the balance between strategy along with numbers and dice, and the art of telling a story. This can be a matter of one getting in the way of the other and bogging things down or hindering the smoothness of game play. The purpose of rules, and dice, known as the mechanics of the game, is to provide a framework upon which to tell the stories, set up the scenarios, make it a game rather than just writers or actors collaborating. There is a level of simulation involved, simulating physics, simulating character or psychology. How much it feels like a simulation or how much verisimilitude it doesn't or doesn't have is a frequent failure point for RPGs. There are a number of ways this can happen. Tune in next time for more.

Mood: declarative.
Music: Voodoo Medicine Man by Aerosmith and Harvester Of Sorrow by Metallica.
Aerosmith: Pump
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Metallica: ...And Justice for All
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