On RPG Theory: D

I'm committed to spamming your blog roll. Hopefully these are somewhat entertaining. Now to do more writing no one will read due to noise overload!

Today's RPG Theory blog is about the letter D! Brought to you by the number spinach!

Death Spiral: Any mechanic with positive feed back. This is actually a pretty useful term. Usually it identifies something that sucks for either the players or the GM. Traditionally it's every time you get hit, you get worse at combat, leading to ineffective players. D&D nicely sidesteps the whole issue. On the other hand, few things are more enjoyable then saying "Lie there and bleed, ahahahahaha!"

Deprotagonize: A bit of useless noise, otherwise known as being a dick to a player. If you're all there to have fun, why shouldn't Bob get to have a bit of presence as a protagonist? You didn't invite him over to be set dressing.

Drama, Karma, Fortune: This is another instance of the words confusing the concept. These refer to resolution mechanics, where drama is when you pick what makes the "best" story, Karma when you resolve things using character abilities and challenge levels, and fortune when you use the dice. Not only is it best if you, you know, actually say the above things - there are few systems anywhere where the mechanics are as divided as this, usually more than one is a factor. Also: All are nearly involved in any game you probably are playing.

Diceless Play: Oh, man Amber is F&*k-win! This means no randomness, but that doesn't mean it isn't a game.

Diegesis: This is an actual word, but it's easier just to say 'the fictional reality portrayed by the game'. In other news, I believe this is a real place.

Director Stance: This is about the way you're running your PC. Director stance is where you take into account meta-game concerns (such as it's almost 10pm) and use them to drive player actions (so we leave the dungeon). Too often, it's where Larry has a crush on Shelia and decides to hit on her in character.

Dramatism: Meaningless words are confusing, no?

At first, I thought using a word like this to describe a type of play was a functional tool, but then I realized that a game like chess creates a satisfying story without setting out to do so at all. Stuff happens and we put it together in a form that makes sense later. That's cool. How's that different from Narrativism?


They apparently stopped using this word after it came to mean, let's sit down and listen to storytime from the DM. They found it problematic. The same issue will arise when we reach the letter N.

The Dream: The little catchphrase for the game style of 'simulationism' which is about 'exploration'. Both of these are poorly defined, if they can be defined at all. The catchphrase is intended to give a characterization of the player type, but I wouldn't call "The Dream" anything related to what I enjoy when I engage in what they call 'simulationist' play. (Which, near as I understand it has to do with rolling on tables)

Drift: When a game moves from one mode to another by literally changing the rules in play. Unsurprisingly this happens quite a bit ("We take our time and climb the mountain" is explicitly different then making a 'climb check' in combat.)

Dysfunction: And the core problem with Edwards GNS theory - his claim that most role-playing is not fun, or that most role-players are not having fun. I have not found this to be the case, so I wonder why he can state that it is? In fact, I believe it is the opposite.
A quote from Ron: "I have met dozens, perhaps over a hundred, very experienced role-players with this profile: a limited repertoire of games behind him and extremely defensive and turtle-like play tactics. Ask for a character background, and he resists, or if he gives you one, he never makes use of it or responds to cues about it. Ask for actions - he hunkers down and does nothing unless there's a totally unambiguous lead to follow or a foe to fight. His universal responses include 'My guy doesn't want to,' and, 'I say nothing.'"
Does this, in any way, shape, or form, describe anyone you know who role plays?

Part of the reason I'm doing this series of posts, is that I'm somewhat unfamiliar with the body of work the forge has produced, and this is giving me the opportunity to really examine it.

The more I examine it, the more I am convinced that the theory is a bunch of useless rhodomontade. This doesn't mean all the work the Forge produced is. I've played Dogs in the Vineyard, and it's a good game. I am interested in role-playing games, and the group dynamics of play and communication involved. There just isn't one little bit of scientific thought involved in any of this - it's just a bunch of people shouting back and forth at each other in empty rooms with no research, data, or proof.

In this, it's not totally useless. The vocabulary is a useful tool. Any sort of broad statements about the nature of players tend to be full of s&*t, but as I run across the definitions of the small things, I can remember instances in play when they came up.

I'm seriously convinced no one is reading these posts. C_c


  1. The Grue reads your posts. He looks forward to "K".

    It might not be the norm, but there is a lot of Dysfunction out there (and it is more than people who talk about themselves in third person).

  2. James from the Gazette (at work):

    I'm reading. :) I wasn't following the RPG scene on the net, when the whole Forge thing happened. So, I'm finding this series informative and entertaining. I'll also get a better idea of what the RPGPundit's on about when he's railing against the Swine. :)

  3. I'm reading. I haven't revisited the forge material since I discovered the OSR, so I'm interested in following along and seeing where I agree and disagree with the various parts of the dialog, and I'm finding this systematic approach fairly compelling.

  4. I think it would be interesting at the end of the series if you could look back and say "Hey, OSR, these terms might be useful/of interest to you." If there are any.

    I'm really interested in systematically getting better at DMing and giving my players a fun experience. So I'm open to analyzing our game, but yeah, it seems that a lot of these ideas are odd, self-congratulatory, and building off each other.

    It reminds me of certain lit grad students feeling full of themselves.

  5. I've been reading.

    I would point out Death Spiral has sources in others areas and is a borrowed word.

    I think a big thing the Forge suffered from in the end (besides Ron Edwards' ego) was they were so intent on larding up everything with theory and jargon that a lot of useful and powerful insights were lost if you weren't part of the in crowd.

    For example: GNS. It's really a simple model that says RPGs allow three kinds of fun: the game in the traditional competitive sense (even if just with yourself), immersion/exploration of something imaginary, and telling a story. It makes a much better game if we know the balance of that at the table and shape the game to match.

    Instead we get drift due to differing creative agendas.

    Both say the same thing but which is easier to say "hey, this can help my game"

  6. I'm skimming them. Mainly because I don't follow the Forge, nor does what I've seen of them really fit my approach to game praxis or theory.

  7. @ Telecanter, wouldn't you know it - that's my plan.

    @ Herb, yep, though I'd say that there's more than 3 types of fun to be had.

    @ Roger the GS, you may not be surprised, but I'm *very* interested in what does fit your approach. Also, more tricks from your stuff on Thursday.

    Clearly it's an activity that deserves some actual scientific analysis. The forge tries to pass itself off as that, but it clearly is not.

    I really appreciate everyone taking the time to read these - we need to strip out all the otiose jargon from their work and find what's useful.


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