On RPG Theory: P


Not really. It's just a picture.

Today we have a long post, backed by tomorrow's light post (like anyone is going to have a good Q day).

As an aside, it's a long post today, but a major point is made in my analysis of Premise, so you might make sure to gander at that.

I really like the whole gestalt of OH HAY CAUZ TODAY IS I AND THAT IS A HARD LETTER, OH I WRTOE SOME CRAP BECAUSE IT'S A CHALLNEGE! So much fun to know how this little 'feature' is wasting out time navel gazing. :-) At least our post counts are up, right?
On with the Letter P, brought to you by the letter resigned acceptance.

Participationism: Near as I can tell, this is a word that means, the DM fudges dice rolls, and the player's know it. Just typing that leaves a dirty taste in my mouth. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean this. In true Forge Theory style, here's a quote from one of the relevant threads.
Wow--we're still having trouble with [defining]  illusionism versus participationism versus trailblazing.
What it really means, is that under illusionism, the referee makes a choice that makes player agency irrelevant. Under Participationism, the referee makes it explicit that the players have no control over the outcome of the story. 


On the other hand, I think I might have done this once, long ago.

Pawn Stance: A stance, not mentioned in our earlier review of Author, Actor, audience, and in-character. This indicates a situation in which the character is taking an action and no motivation is given to the character. Basically means using your character as a game piece, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Pervy: The jargon gets pretty thick in here - especially for a term noted as obsolete. It has to do with 'the degree that "system" is explored'. Of course there is no objective metric for 'degree'. 

The essay Pervy is from defines it as:
upping the Exploration of System which in coherent play means reinforcing elements of the Premise at hand, or making such reinforcement possible, through the logistics of play. If this sounds familiar, it should: "System Does Matter" is only stating, "Coherent Pervy design helps focus play into group-understood goals."
So, translated, supporting moral or ethical questions concerning human interactions through the logistics of play.

I think I'm beginning to understand why Mr. Edwards doesn't like D&D. More on that later.

Points of Contact: Simply put, this is where the rules intersect play. A high point of contact event is grappling in 3.5. Low points of contact are conceptual steps, that may still be very strict. Then the statement is made that this is somehow different then 'rules-heavy' and 'rules-lite'.

I can't really provide any analysis of this because the terms 'system' and 'rules-heavy/lite' remain undefined. (in fact the definition of System in this glossary is 'a broadly used term with multiple meanings'.)

Postmodern: Self-awareness in RPG's? Hackmaster anyone?

Power Gamer: Another term that means a variety of things. Note that traditionally this is a detriment to clear logical rational discussion. Variously, people who make 'powerful PC's', one of the Barclow/Robin Laws player types, and Ron's definition "a potentially dysfunctional technique of Hard Core Gamist play, characterized by maximizing character impact on the game-world or player impact on the dialogue of play by whatever means available."

Premise: And this is really where we get to the first major point of discovery for me when reviewing these rules.

Premise is the focus of "Narrativist" play. All it basically means is examining a moral or ethical question concerning human interactions, obstinately (though not defined) through the rules of the game

The problem I have with this - is that it is unrelated to the A) play of a game, and B) game you are playing. This is simply a thing that can happen, during D&D (Should I kill the orc/wyvern young?) Vampire (Do I commit little evils now to not commit a great one later?) Shadowrun (Do I do da job, even if I don't trust the corp?) or any RPG of your choosing. So how is it useful in a discussion of gaming styles?

The thing is, these categories feel like a false choice - you could frame a 4e encounter with innocents at risk, and through gamest play force a moral question. You could include moral and ethical character motivators on a Megadungeon Motivation chart for exploring setting.  He says this doesn't apply because "these are all trappings of the genre. So, their inclusion in the game, part and parcel as they are to the Dream, isn't Narrativist because no one is creating a theme that isn't already there." What does this mean? That I'm not examining these issue because they are in theme? That I can't examine an issue unless it is out side of my genera?

I could see it useful for discussion on what focus you'd like the game you're about to play to have, but that is not how it is used. From the essay "Frankly, un-structured Drama turns out to be ill-suited to Narrativist play." !?!

What is Narrativist play!?

See, there's a hidden definition here - some specific description of how specifically you're supposed to address those moral or ethical human concerns- apparently alignment or nature and demeanor somehow prevent us from doing so, and in fact, because they are incoherent, make us not have fun when we play - in spite of what we claim.

The problem is, there's no sentence in the essay that tells us what that is - just vague assertions. I could go point by point through his essay and deconstruct all the straw men and false dilemma's. The point is this, he states that "Story Now" is one thing (specifically, establishing the issue in the game world, developing the issue as a source of conflict, and resolving the issue through the decisions of the players) and then says that neither Vampire, nor D&D can do this because their rules get in the way, without ever explaining why.

Read that list of what Narrativism/Story Now is and ask yourself if that's something the game you're playing can do? oh, it is - I'm not surprised, since it describes the very process of role-playing.

Prima Donna: A spotlight time hog.

Protaganism: Another word with two meanings - the character of main characters in stories, or power given to the character during role-playing.


  1. I have no Idea where that poster over at Forge is getting that story on the origin of HackMaster, but as far as Jolly and Dave have said, it is WAY off....

  2. That poster is Calithena of Fight On! if I am correct.


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