On RPG Theory: M

Only half-way through this Mess? My goodness, by science this is taking a long time.


Metagame: This is a word with, you know, an already established meaning (stuff involving the game that isn't the actual game), that Ron Edwards has co-oped and overloaded with new meanings.
In GNS this means "all positioning and behavioral statements about the character, as well as player rights to override the existing Effectiveness rules", 'effectiveness rules' meaning how the stuff written on your character sheet affects play.
And within the big model, things like Creative Agenda and Social Contract are considered part of the metagame, which if you'll notice is the pre-existing definition of the term.
Can someone tell me what is gained by the jargonistic sub-definitions?

Metagame Mechanics: Something simple and useful with a bizzare comment by Ron. These are rules and mechanics which are outside of the reality of the game. i.e. you earned a hero point for gaining a level, and you can use it to re-roll a die.  I fully believe that every reader of this blog can identify these with a high degree of accuracy.
How does Ron define it? Mechanics "where System and Social Contract meet, without Exploration as the medium". Yes, we agree that the players are heroes and so we give them mechanical tools to affect gameplay. Is anything gained from phrasing his definition that way? Clarity and specificity are certainly lost.

Metaplot: A feature of more modern RPG's where there are overarching events in published materials that the character may participate in. Exactly how is left up to the referee.

Method Actor: A term meaning one who plays his character by attempting to feel what the character feels. In role playing corresponds to the "roleplayer" of the Barclow types, and termed as such by Robin Laws in his seven player types.

Munchkin: A derogatory term for a disruptive power hungry player.

Now there's a thing to think about - the glossary defines it as someone who is into power gaming, gamism, or hard core play. Power Gaming is defined by Ron as a player trying to maximize their impact on play. Gamism is for fans of competitive play, and Hard Core is used to refer to especially dedicated players.

So I guess we should call a chess grandmaster a munchkin?

Personally, I think the term applies to people who feel dis-empowered in their own lives, and due to a modicum of social skill in traditional environs, they attempt to exert their control over a group of people within a set of rules - rules which, unlike people, can be understood and mastered. They lack awareness that they might be impinging on someone else's fun.

As I read further,Ron's theories make me think he's a scrub, in the David Sirlin's Playing to Win sense of the term. A person who sits down to play a game, and instead of playing the game, comes up with an imaginary set of rules. Then says that anyone who doesn't follow how he thinks  the game should be played, as opposed to the way it actually is played, is cheap or a cheater, or unfair.*

Why do I think this?

He defines Munchkin as someone who is interested in winning a competitive game.

This is not how I define the term, but it is explicitly how it is defined in the glossary.

I think that might be why it's so hard to pin him down on what any of this means - because if it actually had any meaning or real-world value, he might lose an argument. He takes a word with a strong negative connotation and redefines it to mean anyone who is interested in winning a competitive game. The last time you played chess did you play to lose? No surprise though, this is a person who says that Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: the Masquerade are incoherent  (i.e.the rules systems work against each other) and therefore that anyone who plays is is not having fun. **

Oh, you mean the two largest, most popular, gaming systems on the market?

Clearly, everyone role-playing must be wrong.

* When I started this, I was actually excited about learning more about role playing theory. As I dig into the work that's come out of the Forge in particular, I find very specific definitive things that are complete non-sense. I had expected to be fairly positive and in favor of the forge stuff, because I honestly didn't understand why everyone disliked it so. I didn't understand that, because I hadn't ever really read it and thought about it. I still think theory and scientific analysis is crucial to our hobby, and plan on investigating other aspects of this in the future, such as RPG design patterns, and continuing my work on adventure design.

** Just so you know I'm not putting words into his mouth, the following is from Chapter 6 of Ron's book.
Incoherent design
Unfortunately, functional or nearly-functional hybrids are far less common than simply incoherent RPG designs.

The "lesser," although still common, dysfunctional trend is found among the imitators of the late-1970s release of AD&D, composed of vague and scattered Simulationism mixed with vague and scattered Gamism. Warhammer is the most successful of these. Small-press publishers pump out these games constantly, offering little new besides ever-more baroque mechanics and a highly-customized Setting (Hahlmabrea, Pelicar, Legendary Lives, Of Gods and Men, Fifth Cycle, Darkurthe: Legends, and more). Another, similar trend is the never-ending stream of GURPS imitators.

The "dominant" dysfunctional system is immediately recognizable, to the extent of being considered by many to be what role-playing is: a vaguely Gamist combat and reward system, Simulationist resolution in general (usually derived from GURPS, Cyberpunk, or Champions 4th edition), a Simulationist context for play (Situation in the form of published metaplot), deceptive Narrativist Color, and incoherent Simulationist/Narrativist Character creation rules. This combination has been represented by some of the major players in role-playing marketing, and has its representative for every period of role-playing since the early 1980s.
  • AD&D2 pioneered the approach in the middle 1980s, particularly the addition of metaplot with the Dragonlance series.
  • Champions, through its 3rd edition, exemplified a mix of Gamist and Narrativist "driftable" design, but with its 4th edition in the very late 1980s, the system lost all Metagame content and became the indigestible mix outlined above.
  • Vampire, in the early 1990s, offered a mix of Simulationism and Gamism in combat resolution, but a mix of Narrativism and Simulationism out of combat, as well as bringing in Character Exploration.

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