« Home | Itinerant Exorcists » | Agyris - Maps » | What is the GM's job? » | DungeonPunk Report » | World's Largest Dungeon » | DungeonPunk XD6 Characters » | DungeonPunk XD6 Concept » | A Riddle In Words and Pictures » | GeekList: Games that should have zombie expansions... » | The Subtle Rules »

Explaining the game

Over on his own game design blog The Mighty Atom, John has posted a rant about True20, a new product that apparently purports to be designed for role-playing newbies, and to be "narrative" in style. John focuses on how the product alludes to the objectives of the game and the methods to achieve them without ever actually explaining what those are.

We had a thread on the dearly-departed forum about how people learn to role-play, in which we looked at the random sampling of games I happen to own and discovered that only the 1978 "red box" edition of Dungeons & Dragons actually set down clear objectives for the players and clear explanations for what you do in actual play. It would seem that our hobby is still so insular, it doesn't occur to most designers that they need to explain these things the same way that Monopoly for example does so.

(Posting this in the off chance there are people reading this blog who aren't also reading John's.)

As usual, I have to trot out the list of games in my collection that do explain how to play in a clear way.

- Primetime Adventures
- Trollbabe
- Dogs in the Vienyard
- The Shadow of Yesterday
- Capes
- Universalis
- Feng Shui
- Rune
- Dying Earth
- Over the Edge
- Pandemonium

Add your own...

It might be worth noting in that list, how many of those games just came out in the past year or two, and also how many of those games have "mainstream" exposure. (Though realistically what besides D&D, White Wolf, and GURPS could be said to have that?) This is not to critique your list, just to further argue the point: the mainstream of the RPG industry still doesn't understand how to explain itself to the masses.

Actually, along those lines, it'd be worth taking a look at the current introductory D&D set to see how well it does the job. But does anyone even ever buy that? Maybe some parents do for their kids, but I imagine any gamer would tell his non-gamer friends, "oh don't bother with that, get the proper books and I'll teach you myself, it's easy."

Good point about those boxed sets, Phil. We should check those out.

And yeah, most of those games aren't "mainstream". Even Feng Shui is pretty small compared to White Wolf and D&D.

Has anyone read the revised Vampire and/or World of Darkness books? Any procedures for actual play in them?

Post a Comment