Sunday, May 06, 2007

Weekly Review Apr. 29th to May. 5th

This week has been a productive week in terms of theory developments, including even some work on the purposes of RPG theory in general.

Design and Theory

Chris Lehrich put forward an essay on the present state of RPG theory and design, including ideas for better ways for theory to be supported by design, and in so doing drive innovative and explorative design. After introductory comments about the social situations around the Forge, he describes how theory is used in design. Commonly, theory is used to analyze existing games and as an implementation aid. He also describes how design can be used to test theory. He suggests that this is underutilized, and combined with neutral analysis of game texts and play, could be of immense help to RPG theory.

Teaching Mechanics

Troy Costisick discusses different ways in which examples can be used to help teach mechanics. In doing so he presents three classes of example text. Generic examples are just instances of a mechanic or situation, apart from any larger context. Faux-play examples show the flow of the mechanics, but don't impart social or creative structures of play. Actual play examples provide an authentic model of play, from the social to the mechanical.

Experimental Control

Joshua BishopRoby started a discussion over at Story Games about experimental controls for game testing. Specifically he suggests the use of free form, play, with only social constraints, as a possible baseline. Others point out the fluidity of any from of RPGs that could be considered a baseline - due to their minimal or non-existent rules. Which leaves the question of a baseline RPG open.

Drama, Game, and NPCs

Algi has recently translated into English several essays on RPG theory. Included have been a discussion of the dramatic game versus the parlour game in RPGs and a look at classic RPG adventures from the view of folk talk analysis. Between these is the thread of examining the purpose of Non-Player Characters (NPCs), and how they often take on vital dramatic roles more important than their mechanical presence.

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