The Bigger Circle

16Feb06

Okay, I don’t mean to get all Vincent-y here, but I’ve hit a situation that I think sheds light on how traditional gamers tend to veiw With Great Power… Trouble is, I need to draw some circles to demonstrate it. It stems from this thread in the Incarnadine Forum.


Okay, I think most of us can agree that three kinds of talking happen during play of an RPG: Out-of-Game talking, In-game role-playing, and Rule Mechanics discussions. I know they bleed into one another, which is why this diagram has no lines:

Traditional RPGs teach people to split these up like so (notice how nothing touches):

I also think that traditional play discourages people from seeing those blue and green circles as important. As with anything unimportant, people learn that they can throw it away.

When I wrote WGP…, I tried to bring more of what was traditionally outside the rules into the rules themselves, to make them organic, necessary pieces of the game. Like this:

When people who are used to thinking about traditional games bring that understanding to WGP…, they lay the old circles over the new game and this is what they end up with:

See those pieces outlined in red? They assume they’re part of the traditional green and blue circles and thus, they throw them away. This leaves:

Which isn’t a circle at all. They see the gaping holes and immediately want to fix it by cutting off the tail and corners to get it back to that familiar, round shape.

It’s all very understandable. Nobody learns a new way of thinking without lots of trial and error first. I’d be surprised if some people didn’t do this. But I think I now understand why they do it.

Thoughts?

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8 Responses to “The Bigger Circle”

  1. I’ve certainly encountered this kind of tendency. Think about the kinds of stuff you’ve got in the blue and green circles. Now think about reviews or discussion of Game X. You often see that stuff – when it’s included in the rules at all – dismissed as irrelevant or opposed.
    The blue circle is “just advice” – and I’ve certainly seen a whole lot of gamers who skim or skip entirely those sections of a game, because they “already know all that stuff” or because “the group is way more important than the procedure.”
    The green circle is often seen as opposed to the red circle – “the rules should just get out of the way”, “role-playing, not roll-playing” and so the whole idea of blending them or putting stuff that’s normally in the green circle inside the red one is wacky.

  2. I don’t know that this is the case — it’s quite possible that this is -some- of the problem. But the biggest problem I’ve seen (and had) with games like WGP that pull more of the other circles into the red one (note that -some- of the Blue circle is more or less always part of the red one) is that they’re so busy figuring out how the -rest- of the red circle is that they realize the blue and green circles are getting shorted.
    This is likely a different problem, though (and to be fair, of all the problems we had with the v.Beta version of WGP, losing the other circles actually wasn’t one of them).

  3. I think I need some specific examples that go beyond the thread. Seriously.
    Its too easy to generalize based on a small sample. Ron Edwards has made a career out of it. In this case, I think it might be a misleading simplification, s’all.

  4. mickey mouse
    I promised I wouldn’t comment on this thread till I gave it enough thought instead of just pointing out the obvious.
    But after reading Thor’s Algerbra of Setting:
    http://urdwell.blogspot.com/
    Which I know I’m going to need to print out, so I can re-read that sucker till I get every word.
    I’m seeing some parrallels between what He was saying about Setting andwhat tends to happen with WPG. There are other critisms made but the main critism about WPG is that the mechanics point to a direct card play strategy so clearly that why would anyone playing the game not play the strategy instead of the game and wouldn’t that unballence things and so forth. Ive gotten these comments at cons demonstrating the game, its the most popular question among those who have never played the game. Once you actually play the game that clear strategy is not so clear. As of yet I don’t know of anyone who recognized the “strategy” of card play and actully found themselves using it in the game.
    I think part of the reason is because the setting is built into the mechanics, much like Thor says the setting for Dog’s is built into Dog’s mechanics.
    NOTE: I’m not talking about the city scape or the background, i’m using Thor’s definition of setting here to mean Color + Character + System.
    WGP bleeds the system into in and out of character stuff in a non traditional way. It looks like old school game, but in old school game we can do away with out of character chatter,and most of the in character chatter is “color” or fluff, a valueable part of play for one, but not for the whole. There is no fluff in the color with WGP its all valuable to the whole, infact vital parts of the play.
    I’m with the Misunderstanding WGP group that doesn’t take out the merged bits, I think the game succesfully merges all three areas and nothing in the game is wasted.
    -kat


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