Observation: the further out we get from the initial release of Apocalypse World, the more wildly divergent its hacks are becoming. As expected. That’s how mutation works.
There was a stretch there where I think folks who felt like they had a really strong grasp of what makes PbtA tick were looking at a lot of these hacks and going ugh, no, you’re fucking this up. I did! I’ll cop to that.
This week I got my copy of Uncharted Worlds. It is, in my opinion, the Dungeon World of space adventure games. That is to say, it’s a terrible Apocalypse World hack but a good, functional game in its own right. Just like DW.
I’ve been thinking about the things that make a game a bad AW hack. Obviously this is 100% subjective and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna piss off the “stop loving the things I hate” nerds. But here’s what jumps out:
It’s about the editorial focus of the moves.
The bad hacks (UW, DW, probably others) are super on-point and literal with what the moves do. They are, basically, old fashioned skills. And yes yes, I’ve heard the arguments that moves = skills anyway. Those arguments are wrong.
Apocalypse World set up the expectation that moves directly constrain the narrative. There’s no “shoot someone to death” move in AW; you’re either going aggro with a gun in someone’s face or you’re taking control. And I get, I totally get, why that’s frustrating to a swath of roleplayers. The game is narrowing the fictional context for violence, prohibiting the players from the “do anything you want!” decision space. In a very real way, the game is playing us. This is literal in games like Urban Shadows, which have snowballing mechanical triggers.
Then you’ve got the very easy and, at this point, common application of this methodology in trope reinforcement. So continue on to Monsterhearts. You shut someone down in that game; that move doesn’t let you do anything other than shut someone up. That’s it. It’s narrow and specific and certainly a trope of (supernatural) teen melodramas.
I think there’s a basic aesthetic divide, there. You’ve got the folks who just want to do what they want to do, and you’ve got the folks who want to play a game constrained by its editorial vision. For whatever reason, the first group does not want to have “the conversation.”
I think it’s pretty common for folks who don’t like the constraints to call them “clever” in a disparaging way. I don’t necessarily disagree; I think there are games that suffer from exerting too much effort on being clever, on striving for emergence, on mind control. There are also games that, for me, wildly succeed on those grounds.
You’ve also got the crowd who disparages the bad hacks for their maddening lack of cleverness. Or for just being “dull:” I can think of at least two Notable Designers who scream in anguish every time they see a roll +whateverthefuck type move (DW’s Defy Danger, the common moves in Uncharted Worlds). It’s an affront to PbtA! They don’t understand how it works! And yet folks playing those games probably aren’t having in-session arguments about just what the fictional limitations of Let It Out are or what all you can Seize Control of, either.
(And yes, of course, every game ever has an editorial position. Let’s not go down that rabbit hole. I’m talking about games that do so by design, not by default. I swear to god I will delete any effort to drive my thread down this hole; it is not a battle I have any interest in having.)
I went into Uncharted Worlds expecting to dislike it. Let me put that up front here.
And I did, in fact, dislike it on my first read-through. Like Dungeon World, it eschews the “cleverness” of the so-called “good hacks.” It has no distinct editorial position; it provides mechanisms to carry out the actions that you do in a space adventure, without any behavior-shaping economies or narrow thematic/trope focus. Just like how DW models “what you do in a D&D game.” It’s all very on-point and direct. There are no ethical tricks hidden inside how the moves work and interlock. I think, if you’re looking for behavior-shaping mechanisms, you’ll find it boring.
That said, I think Uncharted Worlds very much succeeds at what it sets out to do.
My first clue was realizing — at first with indignation! — that the game is in fact not a PbtA game. I went looking for the expected shout-out to Vincent Baker in the introduction, didn’t see it. Then I’m like how dare they! But he is thanked on the frontispiece for the inspiration. The game has lots of PbtA trappings — moves and principles, specifically — but it is not a PbtA game.
Once I stopped trying to judge it for what it is not, I had more appreciation for what he’s actually done. Character creation provides for a lot of variety in the space opera mold. The faction-creation tools I think will set up a pretty neat relationship map to play within. It acknowledges the gear-porn aspect of traditional sci-fi gaming without going completely bonkers. It’s a toolkit, which necessarily means it’s quite generic. That’s going to work great for a lot of players.
Same with Dungeon World, although it is obviously a standard bearer of the PbtA thing. It’s also not clever, on point, mostly traditional. Also Blades in the Dark, which is probably closer in spirit to PbtA despite being the most mechanically distant of all these.
6-/7-9/10+ does not a PbtA game make. Principles and agendas, also not that special (although bullet-pointing what to focus on is really smart technology). Calling a die-rolling trigger in a game a “move,” also not especially needed. Taking away the editorial focus? That, to me, makes it a bad hack.
Which has nothing at all to do with it being a good game.
0 thoughts on “Bad Hacks/Good Games”
Yes, yes, and yes
PbtA is about controlling the conversation being had around the game, not mechanics.
SYNC is in the editorial, specific camp, obvs! I like indie movies.
I think your review (in the sense of observing the trends and overall structure) of what makes a PbtA game, and then what makes one good on your two axes, matches my intuitions pretty well. I was also a little shaken by Uncharted Worlds apparent refusal to force an emotional or otherwise editorial agenda on first read, despite the fact that it really does seem like a cool game that is going to probably be fun to play.
I’m pretty excited to get UW to the table and put it through its paces, because like DW, I want to play a game in that kind of fiction, without having any interest to play a lot of the games that already occupy that space. The 2d6+stat tech, even when divorced from PbtA, really works for me, because it’s easy to remember and easy to teach, even when the outcomes are pretty trad.
Heh, you say “bad hack” I say “fixing some stuff that really needed fixing” 🙂
It’s an interesting comparison to DW. For the longest time I described DW as “like Apocalypse World, but with moves that aren’t all borked up”
I once pondered doing a post apocalyptic setting for DW…in order to get to a version of AW that didn’t leave me in tears, renting my clothes and pulling my hair.
Ralph Mazza I think Legacy: Life Among the Ruins is exactly that, isn’t it?
You were definitely on my mind when I was thinking through this post. Hug it out, bro. Hug it out.
Let me ask for clarification as I am heading down this particular rabbit hole (as in making a PbtA game).
What you are saying, Paul, is that good hacks of Apocalypse world have moves that funnel choices that are consistent with the type of narrative the game sets out to tell. Is that correct?
In bad Apocalypse world hacks you have moves that emulate skills. So if you use DW as an example, it uses Defy Danger in lieu of a DEX check, instead of having moves that emulate fiction that you would normally generate in a game of D&D?
Let me know if I am on base here. I think I’ve got a decent understanding of PbtA but any and all additional information is appreciated!
That’s basically what I’m saying, yeah.
And if it’s not clear in my OP: do not get hung up about making a “good hack.” Focus on making a good game.
Absolutely, Paul Beakley! It just seems like PbtA is one of those things that everyone thinks is really easily hackable. It is really easily hackable if you want to make a crap hack. Teasing out what kind of story you want is a little more difficult! It is my first valid attempt to create something so I’m just being paranoid!
What’s really interesting to me here, though is that I’m not sure the distinction is just editorial vision.
It would be hard to imagine a game that enforced editorial vision more vigorously than My Life with Master or Dust Devils. I loved both of those games. More recently Psi Run managed to achieve that level of “this is the thing this game will be about” and there is virtually nothing you can do but do that thing. I love all those games to pieces. So I think there’s more to it than that.
This is me pondering out loud here, so I may just be waffling in the wind…but I feel like AW is more of a bait and switch. The heavy editorial vision of MLwM, DD or PR is right there, unmistakable. The buy-in is upfront and honest.
AW goes a long way into pretending to be something else. I mean the most brilliant part of AW is the GM advice. It’s pure hard core “how-to-GM like an OSR GM”. It takes the magic of old school GMing distills it down to core principles and then bullets it out in easily digestible nuggets of wisdom that allow anyone to run a game the old school way.
But then the game doesn’t support that sort of play…at all, except in the perverse way of defaulting to “GM fiat for everything not covered by rules”.
Beyond even that I think some of the problematic rules are problematic not because they enforce a vision, but because they’re just poorly designed. The problem with Going Aggro vs Seize by Force isn’t in the vision, or even the overly cute naming convention. It’s that the thing the move does (the list of options to choose from) doesn’t match the description of what the move does. Similarly, hardly ever have I had a player try to read a sitch where they thing they were actually interested in learning is on the list of questions they’re allowed to ask. The disconnect there is abrupt and absolute.
I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “immersion breaking”. But I can say I’ve never played a game that so regularly and thoroughly breaks any sense of immersion I’ve had while playing.
OMG STARCRASH. I actually saw this in the theater thanks to my dad when we were kids. 0_o
Noob question: cleverness (in this post’s case), just so I’m clear, refers to mechanics/rules editorial that drive/limit the fiction of play, right?
It seems like the “good” moves you want cover the character’s intent, while the “bad” moves cover their action. Is that fair?
Ralph Mazza, your example is exactly one of the things that I am really wresting with. I’m making a Cthulhu PbtA and the investigation moves HAVE TO WORK BETTER than I have ever seen them work before. I have always felt a gear grind when those kinds of moves happen because people struggle with asking what they want to ask through the filter of the questions presented with the move. I thought about just making it completely open ended and being done with it.
This discussion is so interesting 🙂 It’s great to see the differing perspectives on the topic.
I’m a massive fan of AW, it’s probably a good contender for my all time favourite RPG. I just always have so much fun playing it. For me its still the strongest PbtA game out there (at least of the ones I have read and played) and I personally love the way moves like Go Aggro and Seize By Force limit what you can do.
However there is one area where I find this frustrating. Broadly speaking its the “info gathering” type moves. I have to agree with Ralph Mazza that Read a Sitch is very annoying. I rarely if ever am that interested to discover the answers to the very specific questions the move allows. And what I also find interesting is that this feeling is common across most of the “info gathering” rules in PbtA games I have played. DW’s Spout Lore and especially Discern Realities share this issue. MotW’s Investigate a Mystery is another example – we had to house rule that you could ask any questions you liked for it to work.
I’m not sure why, but I feel like I’ve not seen a satisfactory “lets establish info my character knows or perceives about the world” move in a PbtA game so far. Is this something intrinsic to the way PbtA games play, or am I just seeing a pattern where there is none? Or something else?
Placeholding for later
Subby sub sub
Drew Harpunea I like Malandros’ basic info gathering move https://i.imgur.com/YxGFaju.png (Malandros is DramaSystem with some PbtA on top, using 6+/3-5/2- on d6 for Moves).
Similarly, Freebooters on the Frontier just gives you hold to ask questions, giving the GM the ability to simply say “you can’t find that out in the way you described” to make spending hold a bit risky and narrative-constrained.
Hmm. I think it’s important to differentiate between AW and PtbA. PtbA is a language that a game can be written in. Any game. It’s a codified way of organizing if/then statements in order to provide a structure to a conversation.
AW was the first game written in this language, but it’s not the language. AW also happens to be a good game. But it doesn’t need its rules organized as they are to create the same instances of play.
You can create a good or bad game in PtbA because PtbA is not the game; it’s the language the game is written in.
Very interesting. I think the distinction you draw between games that have a) an interesting editorial viewpoint about its genre/subtopic as opposed to being b) a game that doesn’t, and which (say) just uses -6/7-9/10+moves as a way of rendering skills.
I think it’s unhelpful to refer to the first category as PbtA and the latter as not; that seems both pejorative and, worse, confusing (in that it leads to confusing sentences like, ‘Half of these PbtA games aren’t PbtA.’)
I laughed when I read, “And yet folks playing those games probably aren’t having in-session arguments about .. [various moves’] fictional limitations”. That’s a really important point – we can get caught up in tasty game design and overlook whether that part of the game is functional in practice.
Games exist both as statements about design, and as tools to produce actual play – and a game could suck at one but be good at the other.
Somehow I have this idea of game designs like cheese. Man, I’m full on all this cheese I’ve eaten already, I want a tasty bit of cheese to finish off with. That? No, that’s mere cheese. It’s like it doesn’t understand what it really means to be an interesting cheese. Bring me something tasty!
“And yet folks playing those games probably aren’t having in-session arguments about just what the fictional limitations of Let It Out are or what all you can Take Control of, either.”
They are. They just don’t have any language to describe the argument and so it gets tossed under the heading of “that other player is a dick.”
Gauntlet thrown! I call BS. 😛
100% agree, and also, bonus points for acknowledging there are games that are too constrained.
The beauty of AW, and its Good Hacks (e.g. Sagas of the Icelanders, which encapsulates this perfectly), to me is the same as the beauty of certain types of euro-games: there are few choices to make, but every time you make a choice it’s
I’m coming to realize that this is my aesthetic choice in most, if not all, games. I love open-world sandbox games in theory, whether video games or RPGs or civilization-building board games with thousands of cardboard chits, but in practice I only have so much patience for games where only 1-10% of my decisions have a meaningful impact on my post-playthrough narrative. And my least favourite type of game, while I respect the form itself to death, is the visual novel where your decisions are all about characterization and only matter to your internal headcanon.
(that’s not entirely true – my very least favourite type of game is the one that pretends to give you agency but actually just handwave or funnel your decisions in the same way a visual novel does, while trying to distract you with another game, usually one in which you have to kill hordes of bad guys with twitch-skills or math)
AW and assorted Good Hacks walk this line perfectly for me. Don’t make me engage with a system when the choice and/or outcome is obvious, or doesn’t fit the narrative themes, or doesn’t notably change the state of the game. And given the core rule of AW – “to do it, do it”, and the reciprocal relationship between “clouds and boxes” – that also means that when I wish to tilt the state of the game for my own out-of-game reasons, I’ll have to do narrative positioning, make difficult choices, and be thematic about it. That feedback loop is entirely missing in the few “Bad Hacks” I’ve played.
I think Marvel Heroic ended up with a ton of editorial vision in its design which may be why some people couldn’t grok it or hated it.
Cam Banks it really did and it worked as well as it did because of that in my opinion.
Building on Mikael Andersson’s point, I think an important element of the “good hacks” is that there are a lot of things where there is no move, and that’s not an accident.
It’s not a mistake that there are a lot of questions you can’t ask in Apocalypse World: that’s the design. That’s the editorial voice. You can’t read a sitch and ask whatever questions you want because that’s not the move. That doesn’t mean you can’t find the answers to those questions. You definitely can. You just ask them, describe what’s happening in the fiction, and the MC either tells you the answer or creates a challenge for you to overcome.
So, even in the parts where people are butting heads with the design, that doesn’t mean it’s bad design; maybe it means the design goals are incompatible with what you want out of a game, and if so, so be it. But one of the beautiful strangenesses of a “good hack” (and maybe new language is going to be required soon, because I’m starting to feel like I’m making a “no true Scotsman” argument) is that sometimes a thing you do a lot will have no move, which moves it entirely into the realm of the discussion/the fiction. The very idea of a catch-all move mitigates the effectiveness of that kind of laser-focused design.
(Standard caveats apply, including the fact that I love Dungeon World and have run it nearly more than any other roll+stat game.)
Marvel Heroic had a strong editorial voice.
Also, Michael Prescott is correct that this language is prejudicial, and would not be uaed in any fair court of law.
But you know, in this case I’m okay with it because I’m pretty sure it’s going to piss off everyone on every side while I laugh and laugh and laugh.
Actually Adam D I rather disagree with that. If the thing players do alot in the game has no way to resolve it other than resorting to GM Fiat…that’s bad design. In fact, I consider it definitional to bad design…akin to designing a car that can’t make right hand turns because the designer thinks turning a complete circle to the left is more aesthetically pleasing.
It’s also bad design because it breaks the XP system. If i have a highlight stat which I never get to use, because the GM keeps just giving me fiat answers and I never get to roll…bad design.
Ralph Mazza – So I should have my players roll dice when they hail a cab or tie their shoes? We all do this: GMs decide where uncertainty lives in a system, navigating the constraints established by the designers.
My issue with “bad hacks” is that they often don’t understand the function of moves and the roll of uncertainty in the fiction when holding an AW conversation. It’s possible that a game can be a bad hack and a good game, I suppose, but I think that’s really just a function of us having such a shitty word for this kind of game design to begin with anyway. Anyone who is “hacking AW” is really doing their own game design, and they can do that well or poorly by the expectations of the system they create.
I should clarify that I think “good/bad PbtA” is entirely a construct of the PbtA fandom community. There are factions of players who feel like they’ve got a clear bead on what the framework does well, so they measure PbtA games based on that rather than on whether the game does what it says on the tin.
And that’s why you can have bad hacks that are good games. I’m not sure you can have the inverse, though!
If you have a game where players hailing a cab multiple times a game has some kind of meaningful impact on the direction of play (the way reading a sitch is used multiple times a game and has meaningful impact) then yes there should be a mechanical interface for that (whether its a roll, or a currency spend, et.al.)
A comedy of errors rom-com might call for just such a roll.
A feature of good play testing is discovering what activities players are engaging in the most that are insufficiently supported by the design and then supporting them.
I love it when my PbtA buddies tell me a PbtA game I’ve been playing happily for months is bad design.
Its like when font wonks freak out over the kerning on highway signs without actually doing usability testing.
Or talking to beer nerds about hops.
Paul Beakley – At one level I agree with you. tremulus is judged differently by the masses than by the l33t haxxors because those two communities are looking for different things. But I’m not sure there isn’t a minimum bar we’ve got to clear here. AW is supposed to snowball; if the game doesn’t snowball it’s hard for me to say it’s a good game.
I guess my point here is that most of the hacks that are really different (like Dream Askew) are so different that I have to judge them completely on their own merits. I don’t really think much about AW when I’m thinking about whether or now Dream Askew works. It was clearly designed to be its own thing and should be judged by how well it accomplishes its goals, regardless of what parts of AW it lifts.
But most hacks aren’t like that. Most AW hacks are just repackaged moves draped with the thin veneer of a new genre. The play doesn’t produce snowballing fiction in line with the genre or the tight experience that Mikael Andersson describes. Instead its a sort of soft push through a new setting with a lot of 10+/7-9/6- moves. And I’m not sure it’s a “bad hack,” but I know it’s “bad design” because it’s sloppy, uninteresting design.
Ralph Mazza –
Yeah, we agree for sure on the goal! We added Escape to Urban Shadows precisely because people kept trying to run away. We needed a move to address that uncertainty. But there are lots of situations that aren’t uncertain, and the GM needs to issue rulings to resolve those situations and move along. (BUT THIS IS A DIFFERENT DISCUSSION and we should have this conversation on a podcast or over beers or somewhere more interesting than Paul’s feed.)
Brand Robins – Your ability to make a game work doesn’t transfer to other players and groups. Also, you gave us the most insightful critical feedback on US so now you’re just trolling.
Oh but my dear Brand Robins . You of all people should know that “happily playing”, much like “having fun” has zero relationship to whether a thing is well or poorly designed.
I harken back to the days of my childhood, blissfully playing with homemade weapons in the back yard (kids would call them “boffers” today). We had hours and hours of wondrous good times pummeling each other nigh senseless.
Our weapons were not attractive, no. Nor were they particularly sturdy. And they certainly were not remotely safe.
That didn’t stop us from having fun with them anyway. But no one would mistake them for being well designed.
Brand Robins – STOP MAKING ME AGREE WITH Ralph Mazza.
What is clearly pbta?a kind of franchise, a social move? What is clearly common between this games appart a spirit and a 3 splitted outcome on dice roll. It’s light. The intention may be. (beware troll inside)
Do all good games need to snowball? Or just “good PbtA”?
There’s also the not-insignificant role of branding something PbtA, and the expectations that brings. That’s more of a marketing question, I guess, but it was also in mind when I was thumbing through Uncharted Worlds. When I realized that Sean Gomes had in fact not stuck his flag in the PbtA sand, that honestly let the game off the hook a lot on my evaluation. Now I don’t really care at all if moves snowball or if the moves are prompting an interesting conversation.
I mean I like those things! But the conversation-having, specifically, is a point I’ve always been super skeptical of applying to all RPGs.
OTOH when a game knocks those things out of the park, like Urban Shadows or Sagas of the Icelanders, then my expectations are fulfilled and, I suppose, reinforced for the next poor game that has to compete in that space.
It might actually be a super terrible idea to try and ride the PbtA coattails if you can’t deliver on that promise. And maybe that’s why the “bad hacks” thing is so virulent.
Also, Mark Diaz Truman, there is nowhere more interesting than Paul’s feed.
It’s like you’re new here or something.
The Philadelphia Behavior Therapy Association, of course. Sorry I didn’t clear that up earlier.
Certainly I would agree that objects and concepts being used to fruitfully fulfil their functions is no measure of quality. Only aesthetics can being quality.
We all know this, both from Critique of Pure Reason and from the Forge.
Or perhaps I wasn’t saying that, but was suggesting that games like Tremulus and UW are good games, and that the snideness to them from parts of the community isn’t actually about quality of design, but about quality of meeting community standards being mistaken for quality of design.
Because, and let me be clear here that I am being an elitist asshole here, I don’t play and keep playing bad games.
So if I am playing a game ongoing, I think its a good game. If you disagree you’re welcome to your stance, especially when couched subjectively, or even objectively according to your own criteria.
But if you’re going to suggest that the game is objectively bad for me, or others you have no experience playing with or context for analysis of, as based on your own aesthetics of assumed design instead of some hard target analysis of how the game actually functions in play, then chances are good that you are wrong and are mistaking your own theory of design for actual analysis of structure.
::sips coffee, side-eyes Adam D::
Brand Robins – I SAID STOP IT.
But seriously, it’s hard to have this conversation in the abstract (Are we talking about tremulus her or Night Witches? UW or Monsterhearts?) and it’s hard to have it in the specific because the “BAD GAME” tag seems like an insult.
I think we do have a problem in the PbtA community of critique. We’re not good at it, we take everything too seriously, and there’s not enough learning going on. I think we’d be well-advised to stop saying “bad game” and “bad design” and start articulating specific critiques that might teach us all something valuable.
What, specificity and context matter?
I thought the internet was for good/bad judgments.
I just remember Mark Diaz Truman telling me I was doing moves wrong and since then I’ve been mental cramping so it’s his fault.
Ralph Mazza I literally can’t understand what you’re trying to say. If I am designing a car for my own purposes and all I want is for the car to turn left and it turns left, then I have accomplished my design goal. That’s good design. It might not be attractive, and it’s definitely not universal in its appeal, but it’s not bad.
Brand Robins, I’ll take some of that coffee.
Cam Banks – Moves are tricky things. All slippery and definitive all at once.
Mark Diaz Truman I have yet to see a really good set of instructions and guidance on how to write them better. Even the rules in AW and Simple World aren’t particularly informative.
Cam Banks – Andrew Medeiros and I wrote most of what we know in Urban Shadows, but I’m sure we could say more. You should start a thread somewhere with questions you still have. 😀
Adam D not if you sell it for money to people who aren’t you, and not if you sell it as a car which those people have every reason to expect can make right hand turns.
Ralph Mazza only respects cars that make only left hand turns.
Straight is right out.
-.– -.– –..
Is it the moves which are primarily responsible for the direction and themes the game produces? I’m speculating that it could be more a function of the faction, front and NPC rules.
Blades in the dark might have more generic skills than AW, but i’m betting that Blades games will always contain similar conflicts, as the players collide with the controlling factions.
Perhaps AW’s moves constrain the conflicts that occur to a certain scope of resolution.
I find it interesting that people are saying that AW and DW’s moves are bad at letting you know things. I would argue that is because they are not games about knowing things. AW is a game about survival. Every move in the game is geared toward survival. DW is game about getting loot and shiny things, primarily. Every move in the game is not geared toward that, which is why you could argue that it is a “bad hack”. But neither game is about knowing things. If you wanted to make an investigational game with PbtA, you would need completely different moves, not just reskins of read a sitch or spout lore.
Yeah I don’t really understand the fixation gamers have on investigation expressed as “now tell me what to do next” type events. I speculate it’s CoC/BRP’s fault. And now it’s encased in amber.
See gamers confusion on how to investigate in Urban Shadows.
Carrie Ulrich is working on some neat investigation mechanics for a CoC-style PbtA hack. I was pleased to see that she didn’t just throw in Read a Sitch and figure it would work out. 😀
I think we have only cracked the surface of what the engine can do with mysteries, but we’re going to need to develop some new tools in order to make them really work. When I eventually return to By the Book, I might make some progress!
Hey, thanks, Mark Diaz Truman! I think the core issue is that AW is about what the PCs do, and investigation is about what the PCs know. Plus, the moves in AW are all based around conflict, and investigation isn’t necessarily about conflict. It can be, as Urban Shadows shows. But just looking for clues in a library isn’t a conflict. Not every investigative moment translates into a grabby move.
Investigation may be a thing to gamers, perhaps not just because of CoC. Maybe the collective unconscious of the hobby has accepted or come to expect mysteries because of how long RPGs had the traditional GM approach, where the GM presumably knew a whole bunch about the world and players had to make rolls or query the GM in order to get information about that fictional world in order to proceed. Take OSR games for example where you have folks talking about a lot of stuff and not as much rolling – if you roll you have probably done something wrong. The game is about investigating mysteries in every room in the dungeon in order to move forward, though the end goal is to gather loot.
I think investigation rules ultimately come down to narrative control. The player asks for information so they can then do things in the world – I need to know what something is in order to know what I can do, for example. Because they have been trained to assume they don’t have much narrative control beyond their own characters (and some folks want it that way). Even when folks are shifting paradigms, we are still living in the context of others that came before
Thank you for this. I have several AW derivatives, but not the OG. It looks like I should probably get that.
The more I think about this, the more it seems like a fruitful void vs explicit direction issue. AW has no rules concerning “what it’s all about”. All of that is between the lines. Whereas DW and others have no real “between the lines”.
It seems like there are two schools of thought here. One might be called Singular Design, while the other could be Plural Design.
I make a car that only turns right, and I love the hell out of it. I let my friend take a ride in it, he tells my other friend, and pretty soon there are five of us driving around in a car that only allows San Francisco lefts, and having the time of our lives.
To me, it is a mistake to suggest that sharing this idea more widely can result in determining it’s absolutely bad. It determines only that it’s not absolutely applicable, and/or appreciated.
Sharing the idea is the only way to find out how to make it more widely accommodating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the idea will get better.
Selling such a car would actually limit the amount of input received in a way that giving away the car, or at least the design would not, because fewer people can afford to pay, than simply receive such a gift.
Asking for money is a custom in our culture, and I don’t see it as obligatory. Someone can ask me for a buck all day, and I never have to give it to them.
Simply associating a dollar value with an idea doesn’t mean that idea is then required to have greater appeal, and not having greater appeal doesn’t make it bad.
So, if one was trying to avoid biased, or insulting language, something along the lines of singular, and plural schools of thought might help. If not, absolutism away ; )
It seems to me that if we play a game, and we have “bad” feelings about the experience, that it’s easy to conflate those with the game itself, especially, because playing such games is usually a huge investment of time.
More on topic:
I am speaking from the outside in, so forgive me, but the Move Read the Sitch…can a player introduce ideas on a success?
I mean, that seems like a potential fix for any concern about limits upon what questions might be answered.