On RPG Theory: I

9 Letters in, it's time to spice it up a bit. Brought to you by the naked letter I. BLURRY LOW RES NUDITY OMG 1994 ALL OVER AGAIN!

My degree may be in the visual arts, but I come from a strong scientific background. I had never really looked at what the Forge was doing - I just heard a bit about the three modes of play and thought, "Hey that sounds useful." Taking a close look at it it turns out that it has to do with defining agendas, explicit creative agendas, stated by the Mr. Ron Edwards himself.

Anyone with the most rudimentary background in science knows that the agenda is the major bad guy of science.

What I find bothersome about this, is that Ron isn't saying "Hey, I think we should all play like this." or "Here's a way that I have fun." He's telling us, somewhat explicitly in his book, that "This is the true right way (tm) that role playing games work, and because you don't understand this, you aren't having fun." Only, the true right way isn't defined, and is less useful. And if you tell him that you are having fun, the response is that you're actually not, you just don't know any better.

If you believe that, I've got some land in Florida to sell you.

Without further adieu, the letter I:

IIEE: A rather useful tool obsured by difficult to remember jargon. It stands for Intention (announcing the action), Initiation (starting the action), Execution (completing the action) and Effect (consequences of the action). This is in reference to the meaning of statements in game.

"I'm going to jump across the cliff!" (Player intending)
"You fall to your death!" (Dm reading it as executing)
"Hey! I didn't actually do it yet!" (Player whineing because he's a terrible communicator)
"Too late you're dead!" (DM being a d*ck)

Normally this is something that is probably handled as social norms for your group. (I'm sure Alexis of the The Tao of D&D when playing in library mode assumes every statement is designed as execution) But having it be clear and explicit what the expectations are seems like a useful tool. On the other hand, IIEE is jargonriffic! Perhaps there's a better solution.

Illusionism: Already discussed at length in the OSR, including by me.

Immersion: Another ooze like definition. Meaning you're into the game, or perhaps in character.

The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast: Literally, "The GM is the author of the story, and the players direct the actions of the protagonists."  Interesting because it's a physical manifestation of Ron Edwards rage at the very thing he does with his GNS definitions. His frustration essentially stems from the words 'the story' and 'the actions' being poorly defined. Since they mean so many things to so many different people, how can this statement communicate anything of meaning to the reader? RIIIING, RIIIIIIIING. Hold on.
Yes? Hm?
Oh, Pot, Kettle is on the phone for you.

In Character: speaking, thinking or acting as your character. Also, I could define dice for you.

In Character Stance: One of the narrative stances from Kevin Hardwick's Narrative Stance model. Hint: it's the one where you are playing your character.

Incoherence: When I hear Ron Edwards say this word, it sounds racist. What's incoherent? What he decides is incoherent. He uses it to mean any play with incompatible priorities, either between players or within the game system itself.

I'm sure we've all ran into this, when all Tom wants to do is kill orcs and Sally wants to follow the prince. Tom is bored with the talking, and Sally isn't so jazzed by the fighting - but why shouldn't you give everyone a bit of what they enjoy. It's not like they are all the time miserable when they aren't doing the thing they enjoy most.

The idea is that a game like vampire is incoherent because they are interested in generating drama and somehow the mechanics are (supposedly) working against that. As you can tell, there might be a complete lack of factual statements and data proving this one single time ever anywhere.

But whatever, the forge says it, so it must be so, right?

Intuitive Continuity: Another term that's useful a bit. It's where you sit down a bit blind, and use player interest and actions to retroactively craft the story as you respond to their play. Just a note - this is exactly the advice given for the running of megadungeons, often quoted as, don't sit down and try to do it all at once, let it develop in play in response to your players.

We're making some headway, and at this point, I'm feeling pretty positive that we're actually going to get something useful out of this!


  1. Nice breakdown of Edwards' ideas. Like you, I found them a lot more useful and appealing before I really looked into what he meant by GNS.

  2. "I'm sure Alexis of the The Tao of D&D when playing in library mode assumes every statement is designed as execution"

    Don't be so sure you know how things happen at my table.

  3. Hi Alexis, :-)

    I'm not. I do remember a post you made about having the characters not speak unless they were declaring actions, and not rolling dice unless you called for a dice roll.

    I didn't re-read the article before writing this post, but I was reminded of it. My memory of it was that you create an environment where when players speak, they are, by virtue of speaking, initiating or executing actions.

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  5. In fact, when I first tried to get into GNS and that, the statement that Vampire was a broken game and the reasons why where one of the few things that struck me as true. The mechanics are to closely tied to the game-world, which makes them hard for players like me who like to make stuff up on our own to use.
    This was one of the reasons why I kept trying to understand all that big model stuff, but of course I never did. Everytime I thought I had the terms nailed, I read something that contradicted my interpretation. Well, you know what I mean.
    BTW I allways thought old-school play would be characterized as a gamist style. So, yeah, I don't get it.

    1. I was so enthused by forge theory, until I found out that, uh, it was all nonsense.

      I mean the proof is in the pudding. Plenty of 'coherent' games have been put out, and the general response has been "This isn't any fun" or "This has a lot of rules for things that we've never had a problem with, being that I play with adults."

    2. Part of the fun of roleplaying games actually comes from the rules themselves. I still get a kick out of rolling 3d6 for attributes, for example. This fact tends to be undervalued, I think.


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