The mystic world heard my cry, evidently, and has delivered a glowy burst of conversations about what dice do, especially when rolled in profusion. This time I have the pleasure of talking with Ben Milton, in an almost completely unconstructed, non-interview-like chat just because we like these dice things.
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What is this table-top role-playing thing? How does it work, what does it do, what kind of designs do which things? I've got some ideas, and so do you. This is where we talk it over.
Some of my posts here present a concept, game title, or a historical hobby event for discussion in the comments, so join in with a will. You'll also find interviews and conversations. (Soon I'll amend the Hearts & Minds blue button so you can post these things on your own.)
I'm also running what I guess I call "labs," which are organized and prepared at the Patreon. I run them on Mondays using Discord, and anyone pledging there can participate when they feel like it. I post the recordings here the following Monday with ongoing discussion in the comments.
Evidently my Reflections by request video from Febuary 14 wasn't too badly done, as I've received a lot of inquiries about continuing the discussion, especially the topics raised at the end.
You can go all the way back to 1998 to see me saying, “I want to talk about point-builds and dice, so let’s get past some easy points about goals of play and get to the good practical stuff.” Twenty-one years later and people are still blubbering about “but but simulation." I’ve repeated this plea many times, ever more plaintively ... Can we fucking just talk about dice already?!
Our topic this time is the length of play as it relates to game rules. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not as simple as seeing what the rules say and obeying them; people play long or short in defiance of those rules (when present) all the time. The question is when or how the rules facilitate the decision to continue to play.
Justin gave me a list of questions or topics for this session, and I realized they made most sense in nested form. So I grouped IIEE and relationship mechanics into the larger category of Bounce and system diagrams (specifically their feedback or activity loops), then put the whole into the biggest category of design processes as an experience.
I've shifted our focus more fully into the concrete experience of designing a game. I'm also finding it useful to consider the practitioner's general outlook of "this is how I did it," vs. the observer's or analyst's outlook of "but how does a person do it," without falling into the trap of tossing it back into the observer's lap by saying, "well, you just do it and then you'll see."
The recent discussion in Actual Play has prompted me to what may be quite a lot of pointed looks at racism in role-playing content. I've made a little video to set local boundaries & standards for all of them, beginning right here. You'll be seeing that link again.
At this point, we needed to do three things at once. First, to make sure we filled in any missing points or caught up with anything Justin wanted to revisit; second, to lay down some important points about design as a process, as I thought we'd maybe strayed into play-theory at the expense of the real topic of "make a game;" and third, to take the time to address any topics as they occurred to either of us as we went along.
I’m looking now at the whole of fictional character identity. Classically, it’s composed of attributes, race, class, and a range of options concerning gear and spells. Many games have simplified or complicated this framework, and some have approached the idea from different angles, but it’s a simple idea that applies to any story-ish fiction and I don’t expect anyone to have trouble understanding it, or that it may have “hard” vs. “soft” vs. “emergent” parts.
I’m not making any claims about the logic or organization by this point in our talks, rather, I’m hoping Justin isn’t thinking that I’m totally making it up as I go. It's certainly been helpful to me to recognize what pieces I need to pull into their own how we play discussion so they can be treated as understood for a how we design presentation.