Game theory (or close enough)

June 4, 2006: 7:34 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Vincent’s big scary claim:

Character ownership arises from system. Character ownership does not underlie system.

That’s it?

That’s it.

That may be it, but he does take the time to explain what he means, and it’s an interesting way of looking at character ownership. In short, Vincent says that while character ownership may not be an illusion from either an actual play perspective or even a system design perspective, it is an illusion from “the point of view of a technical description of roleplaying.” It might not sound like much of a difference, but it’s an important one (at least for purposes of game theory).

May 17, 2006: 9:38 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

As has often been the case with game theory, it’s Vincent who makes me finally feel like I get it.

I suggest, finally, that push/pull is a big deal. It’s a true development – nobody should read me as saying “we already thought of this, let’s be comfortable.” A week ago, if you’d asked me whether we can and should examine Drama resolution in at-the-End vs. in-the-Middle terms, I’d’ve shrugged: “we can, but should we? Neh. Why bother? It’ll just be basically the same as Fortune.” I’ve said such things on the Forge. I was DEAD WRONG.

In fact, push/pull has given me, understood this way, whole new insights into my group’s long-term Ars Magica freeform game. Expect a comprehensive post here about that game’s breakdown. When I find the time.

It’s basically what Vincent came up with in reponse to Brand’s recent post, taken further (and with examples). Excellent.

Of course, in comments people argue that Vincent really hasn’t pinned push/pull down at all, so I may still not understand.

May 14, 2006: 8:41 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

There’ve been attempts over on Story Games to bring the whole push-pull thing back onto the front burner, so Mo has taken another shot at defining what she meant.

Here are your no-nonsense definitions:

Push is an assertion of individual authority.

Pull is a directed solicitation for collaborative buy-in and input.

After reading her post, and looking through some of the discussion, I think I’m pretty sure this isn’t something that’s going to be useful for me personally. Judging by some of what I read, I’m not the only one who feels that way.

ETA: Brand has an excellent post that builds on this in important ways. Be sure to read the comments too. Vincent manages to clarify some things quite nicely (at least for me). Very cool.

March 20, 2006: 9:41 pm: Game theory (or close enough), GMing

Starting with only Ron’s definition of Situation and material from The Cheap and Cheesy Adventure Generator, Vincent does a great step-by-step explanation of creating situation.

Dynamic interaction between specific characters and small-scale setting elements; Situations are divided into scenes. A component of Exploration, considered to be the “central node” linking Character and Setting, and which changes according to System. See also Kicker, Bang, and Challenge.
from Ron Edwards’ Provisional Glossary

There’s the definition, and here’s what we’ve got to work with:

* Locations: The secret central shrine of a temple to forgotten gods. (Magical)
* Characters: A hermit priestess, practicing obscure deprivations. (Wilderness)
* Threats: An order of magician-monks who punish blasphemers. (Magical)
* Threats: Field-vipers, wild dogs, loose bulls, and a variety of spiders. (Countryside)

How do you take these things and make a situation out of them? I’ll walk you through it.

It’s well worth a read, and, unlike some of the stuff Vincent posts, it’s immediately useful for people who aren’t especially into rpg theory or game design. Check it out.

March 13, 2006: 10:16 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

After letting the Game Chef theme and ingredients percolate in my brain for a couple of days, and looking at a few of the threads on the very busy official forum to see what other people are doing, I’m still feeling pretty uninspired. Given my schedule for the rest of the week, I think I should skip stressing about coming up with something and just accept that I’m not even going to make it out of the starting gate for this year’s contest. I think my major obstacle has been the time theme, as I don’t tend to be especially good at judging session length even when I’m just GMing, so I’m finding that requirement to be especially intimidating. Ah, well….maybe I’ll look at the next round of the Ronnies at The Forge, or maybe I’ll just stick with being an interested spectator when it comes to game design.

March 11, 2006: 11:49 am: Game theory (or close enough)

The theme and ingredients for the latest Game Chef have been posted:

The Theme is TIME.

That is not to say that your game will actually involve any time-travel, history or anything like that. No, rather your game must be completely playable within a certain time limit. Pick up a board game or a computer game and they tend to tell you how long it takes to finish “one game”. How long does it take to finish a “campaign” of your game? That’s what you’ll have to decide. And you will have to build a game that plays out with that time limit in mind.

Time will be represented by SESSIONS and HOURS. You will choose one (and only one) of the following ranges for your game:

1. Your Game is completely playable in 4 Sessions of 2 Hours each.
2. Your Game is completely playable in just 1 Session of 2 Hours.
3. Your Game is completely playable in 3 Sessions of 3 Hours each.
4. Your Game is completely playable in 10 Sessions of 1 Hour each.
5. Your Game is completely playable over any number of sessions, but lasts exactly 8 Hours total.
6. Your Game is completely playable in 2 Sessions of 6 Hours, with exactly two weeks passing between the first and second session.

Decide your time range from the list of six above. Build the game so that it takes both session count into meaningful consideration, and build it so that it’s a completely playable experience within that timeframe (it can be played again afterwards, but it will be a completely different experience, like in board games).



This year’s Ingredients are in two “packages”. Choose the package that you want to work with. Within that package, pick THREE of the ingredients listed. You must use these ingredients somehow in your game.




Again, simply choose one of the packages above, and from that package choose three ingredients.

Currently….I’ve got nothing. I guess I’ll need to stare at it all for a while and see if inspiration of some kind strikes, then decide if I have the time to both write a game by the end of March 19th and then also review and score 4-5 other entries in the two weeks after that (which is a new requirement this year).

March 6, 2006: 9:42 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

This post is mainly a reminder to myself about the existence of Troy Costisick’s Power 19, which looks like it could be a pretty useful tool if I ever actually sit myself down and design a game. It’s certainly something that seems to be getting a lot of play both on The Forge and out in the diaspora.

1.) What is your game about?**
2.) What do the characters do?**
3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?**
4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
9.) What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
19.) Who is your target audience?

February 21, 2006: 10:23 pm: Game theory (or close enough), Miscellaneous

This year’s Iron Game Chef contest will held from March 11th-19th. I’m looking forward to finding out the details of this year’s contest, and to seeing what excellent news games emerge from it. Who knows….I may even be inspired enough to give it a shot myself.

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February 12, 2006: 2:58 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

In this thread on The Forge, Ron Edwards attempts to further expand on some of his more recent remarks about RPGs that cause “brain damage.”

In terms of role-playing technique, at the group level, the inability is expressed in two brands – the ones who persist in rolling dice periodically, often not especially correlated with any importance to what’s going on, and the ones who make a big point out of abandoning the dice, claiming a thespian ideal of “getting into it.” As story-facilitating techniques, neither work. This is the roll/role dichotomy, which I see as the distinction between syphilis and gonorrhea, or perhaps, having had one’s legs blown off by a land mine, pulling oneself along on the ground by one’s left arm or one’s right arm. Which is to say, not much distinction at all. Both are the rather appalling result of trying to carry out a social, creative activity in the absence of the above three principles.

When I first starting reading The Forge a couple of years ago, I thought Ron was pretty cool. He had some really insightful ideas that talked about aspects of RPGs that I’d never really thought about before, and I personally have a liking for people that are ornery. Lately though, I don’t know, I think I’ve just gotten tired of his schtick. He still has plenty of good ideas to share, but the way he presents them has started to grate on me, and it’s gotten so I’m happier hearing his ideas translated by someone who is trying not to sound like a jerk.

I’ve read all the comments about how that’s just the way Ron is, and how he’s a really cool guy to sit down and discuss things with in person. I’ve seen the comments by Ron himself about how he doesn’t really care how he comes off, and how he’s not trying to be liked, and how he doesn’t see himself as some sort of representative for a gaming movement. That’s all fine. I’ve just decided that I, personally, have reached a point where I tend to find his posts and comments annoying more often than not, even when I agree with his underlying ideas.

ETA: I pretty much agree with Clinton’s comments in this thread.

February 10, 2006: 8:42 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

I’ve been reading Deep in the Game for a while now, so I have no idea why I seem to have this urge lately to point toward almost everything Chris posts. This time it’s The Fun Now Manifesto.

1. Not everyone likes the same thing
2. Play with people you like
3. Play with rules you like
4. Everyone is a player
5. Talking is good
6. Trust, not fear or power
7. It’s a game, not a marriage
8. Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes
9. Fix problems, don’t endure them

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

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