Tuesday, April 02, 2024

The Light Dawns

THIS!!!  Yes, a thousand times, this!


Back in the day, I referred to this as “neo-classicalgaming,” which is to say, the sorts of games that came out of various deep dives into older games to see what was actually going on under the hood, rather than what everyone assumed was happening.  (The ‘90s were a terrible time where dumb “conventional wisdom” ruled conversations about RPGs, but much of the thinking from those days still lingers, especially in professional spaces.)


Anyway, point is, if the core of gaming is making interesting decisions, rolling the dice isn’t playing the game; it’s putting the game on pause while a random element is introduced to force the players into potentially rethinking their approach and how they value their various resources.  So the more a game has rules about a thing, the less it’s potentially about that thing. 


This creates weird mechanics that kinda sidle-up to their topic.  On the one hand, if you want the players to be making decisions and talking around the table about a particular subject, you can’t gloss it over with a dice roll.  On the other hand, what rules you do have should encourage conversation about the topic.  Mothership wants you to spend time on being stealthy, so it has rules that make combat very dangerous, and creating spaces where you’re going to be chased by critters that want to engage you in combat.  So the game’s mechanics encourage stealthy activity and conversations because the alternatives (touching the dice) are much worse from a mechanical standpoint.


Granted, these games require a LOT of trust all around the table; lack of skill and lack of trust can ruin a game like this.  Luckily, it only requires a modicum of social skills to be able to put together a good group and engage in this sort of gaming.


Tommi said...

I wrote elsewhere and might as well copy it here:

I would approach this from the direction of the *fruitful* void, which means the thing in the game the rules point you towards and make consequential. http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/119 (Bonus points to the video for mentioning Ron there; attributing it to just Vincent is not rare.)

Negotiations in old D&D are in the fruitful void - reaction rolls and random encounters and the premise of the game make encounters with potentially hostile creatures pretty common, while not automatically turning them into violence, so you often get into these situations where negotiation is really tempting. It is also fun. It also is very consequental and important to the game.

This is not true of much anything in D&D 5;at least not «speaking as one's character», «going through a story arc», etc. Those are just voids, not fruitful ones. Nothing particular points the gameplay there and their presence or absence does not feed back into the game in any particular way.

So if the video means «narrative game» as a game where people speak as their characters and the GM creates a story for them to go through, then sure, D&D 5, or any other modern D&D or traditional or maybe even neotraditional game, is not really in the way. The art of a single person telling a story and the others adding colour and ideas is primary.

This, however, does not make for a game of consequential value choices and relationships that matter as something to play with, rather than as something for the GM to use to manipulate the players to go through particular stories and into particular directions.

Heath said...

The problem I have with this thinking is that games ARE about something. D&D is about exploring dungeons, fighting monsters, getting treasure - especially the modern incarnations. Mothership is about normal people encountering terrifying alien threats in the depths of space. Vampire the Masquerade is about adapting to being a vampire and and grappling with the horror of your situation while clinging to the remnants of your humanity.

Yes you CAN run a Vampire the Masquerade campaign using D&D 5E rules. It completely lacks mechanics for things like feeding and humanity. However you definitely SHOULDN'T do that.