Things I Think About Games

Inspired by Things We Think About Games.

1. RPGs can be pretty much anything. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2. Genres of games are not discrete categories. Think in terms of a continuum. Whether you’re making an RPG with board game elements or a board game with RPG elements isn’t nearly as important as whether you’re making a game that’s fun to play. Besides, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the things RPGs could do with board and card game materials.

3. The Real Rule Zero: Don’t be a douche. This rule can solve a lot more problems than the “Rule Zero” of other RPGs ever could.

4. In RPGs as elsewhere it really pays to appreciate the old and the new in equal measure.

5. RPGs have a strange relationship with anime. With most other media people intuitively understand that they’re free to use as much or as little of whatever they come in contact with for inspiration, but American fans have a tendency to see “anime” as a separate, exotic category with ridiculously high standards of authenticity. Japanese TRPG players don’t see “anime” style as a separate category, since most everything geeky in Japan has that style to some degree.

There’s a lot of potential in addressing this American view of anime on purpose, but pretending anime is a discrete and pure category is counterproductive.

6. Three to six heads are better than one.

7. Geek culture is referential, intertextual, post-modern. In English, that means that to a large extent things are made of up of references to other things. Don’t let Monty Python and Simpsons quotes become a distraction, but do take advantage of your common subculture to engage and communicate with fellow gamers.

8. Some people complain about how White Wolf brought a bunch of goths into the hobby. When I take a brutally honest look at the people who make up the hobby, I come to the conclusion that adding a bunch of goths to the scene was neither a step forwards nor backwards, just a shuffling to one side.

9. 4e did not kill Gary Gygax. Cardiovascular problems killed Gary Gygax, and we will all miss him. Get over yourself and have fun playing games.

10. The thing about character death is that it eliminates a player’s ability to have input into the game. That doesn’t mean PCs should never die, but it does mean that putting other things at stake besides life and death can be far, far more interesting.

11. Play a game with rules that meaningfully address the things you want to do.

12. When a resource is limited, players hoard it unless you give them a compelling reason to do otherwise.

13. “Balance” doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) mean “everyone is the same.” A game can give radically different characters really neat things to do.

14. Munchkinism isn’t necessarily a problem with the rules, but it’s definitely something that good rules can address.

6 thoughts on “Things I Think About Games

  1. 10. Agreed. This is a thought I came to about two years ago. I feel when a character ‘dies’ the GM should look at the player and ask him if it’s all right for his character to die.

  2. Your number 10 is an excellent point that I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me to articulate. But what a fantastic piece of GM advice.

    We’d love it if you’d post some of these—or just a link to your page, here—over on the Things You Think thread on Gameplaywright.

  3. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote this post, because it’s become so ingrained in how I think about RPGs, but #10 comes from a combination of this post by Nathan Paoletta, and disagreeing with one of the points John Wick made in Playing Dirty about the threat of PC death being necessary.

    In terms of the range of fiction out there, stuff where violence solves problems is less common than people think, and stuff where protagonists die even more so. For example, I’ve been enjoying watching Bones (the Fox show) on DVD lately, and so far none of the cast has croaked, but it’s certainly not lacking in interesting conflicts.

    On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with having a game where sudden PC death is a possibility, if everyone involved agrees to it up front. I’m not interested in Fantasy Fucking Vietnam style D&D where long-lived characters are a rarity, but my groups D&D4e campaign where Shit Sometimes Happens, Deal With It, is proving to be a lot of fun.

  4. I’ll have to check with Andy, but last I checked he was nearly done compiling the corrections, after which they’d go off to the layout guy to be implemented.

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