Thursday, July 20, 2006

Editorial: Knowing the Limits

With something as complex as RPGs every theory will have its limits, places where the theory breaks down, or simply doesn't cope as well as a theory intended specifically for that topic. Accepting the limits of any one theory is extremely important, because to be fully effective in understanding and designing RPGs we must exploit multiple distinct theories, even if they contradict each other. To make this viable we must understand the limits of each of those theories.

This is a dual burden. On one hand, those of us who wish to craft new theories and codify different approaches to understanding RPGs must be careful to explain the field of application. This is much like a warranty. Ron Edward's Big Model is only vetted for the three basic creative agendas he presented. Beyond this, the theory may apply or it may be invalid. Thus we must make it clear where the boundaries of our theories lie, even as we attempt to extend them.

On the other hand, as we investigate and use theories we must always be wary of the boundaries and limits. Demanding a theory to apply beyond its regime is a dangerous path, and one where we must be responsible for the correctness of our discoveries. As we apply theory we must always search for the most applicable option available. While a pet theory is almost unavoidable, the more we are biased towards one perspective, the less we can see clearly. When you encounter a discrepancy always be willing to use another theory to resolve it. When we stop using theories as tools, they become ideologies, which leads to even more problems.

In short, you are well served by knowing both the limits and potentials of your theories, whether you developed them or not.

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