Vincent “Lumpley” Baker (designer of such games as Dogs in the Vineyard and kill puppies for satan) has a good post on his weblog, anyway, about how to talk about RPG design with people who aren’t familiar with the discussions and terminology of The Forge.

I started posting at the Forge in August 2001. I was the 116th person to sign up. Now there are 3,854. I’ve written about 1200 posts there, almost one per day. Mine are less than 1% of the total. 300 pages of threads in the general forums, 30 threads per page, 2 to 100+ posts per thread. The Forge is on-topic enough that you can safely ignore only, oh, half of the threads, maybe two thirds. Let’s round down and say that to own the Forge you have to read 20,000 posts. Let’s be generous and say that reading the essays will substitute for 10,000 of them, so if you prefer: all the essays and 10,000 posts.

Now let’s say that I want to discuss RPG design with a friend. My friend isn’t a Forgie, but I say: “let’s talk Technique. Nailing IIEE is fundamental to your group’s apportionment of Credibility, which is the baseline of play. FitM is better than FatE in every circumstance I’ve examined (plus gives you many opportunities for in-the-moment Reward, there’s really no downside). And if you go with Task Resolution instead of Conflict Resolution, lordy lordy! You’re foisting Social Contract negotiation off onto the instincts of your eventual players, which is a massive setup for dysfunction. God forbid you have Task Resolution plus a GM; you might as well write ‘my game sucks’ on every page.”

My friend says: “sure thing, Vincent. Lat0rz.”

It’s a stumper. How do I tell people that Task Resolution’s dominance in design has been perpetrated by crap GMs to keep the people down, but Conflict Resolution will free your soul, when I have to start with “okay, so, first, the rules of an RPG are social rules that apply only to the actual human players, not to the made-up characters and things in the game…”?

The comments end up covering a lot of interesting ground too, and I think it’s all well worth a read.

As someone who has spent the last year or more slowly getting up to speed on The Forge, I certainly agree that the idea of talking about RPG theory with someone who doesn’t have any Forge background at all can be daunting, simply because of the huge pile of terminology and discussions that provide the framework for discussions there. It must be even worse for someone like Vincent, who has been on The Forge for years and has been a vocal contributor to a lot of the ideas that have been developed. It’s hardly a problem that applies only to RPGs, of course, as there are a lot of fields where it’s hard for someone whose knowledge is based on a certain framework or school of thought to discuss things with someone who doesn’t have that background.