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I believe that human beings engage in the playing of games largely because
good games can satisfy two very strong urges that motivate a human life,
namely the drives for control and competition.
Actually these two drives go hand in hand as competition could be said to
derive from the comparison of two or more control systems to see which meets
the goals of play in the "best" fashion.
Now I'm no expert in this area but I've found more and larger success with
my "campaigns (more like play-test sessions the past few years)" by bearing
these observations in mind when setting up my play sessions.
The control aspect of play is largely associated with the list of Actions a
player can pick from on a given turn while the competitive aspects are
largely derived from the mechanics of the rules (i.e. "fairness").
The dynamics of these related systems combine to describe the "Frame" of the
The simple example is tic-tac-toe.
The Action involved is the choice of where to place the player's symbol
which is the player's Control.
The Competition involved is in using the Actions of a player to meet the
overall goal of "three symbols in a row" to gain a "win".
The problems with tic-tac-toe involve a lack of "complexity". I recall it
took me less than an afternoon of play to master the electronic Merlin
handheld game in this.
Complexity is a requirement for the replayability of a game, but Complexity
is also more of a bane rather than a boon for the overall acceptability of a
In other words, Complexity tends to improve the level of Competition of a
game at the expense of its overall audience size (i.e. player pool).
This is all well and good for theory, but I've found that the Frame for a
standard RPG is at best poorly defined.
Much of what is promised in a standard RPG are platitudes. like telling
american citizens that if you only work hard enough and are frugal enough
you TOO can become wealthy and powerful.
There's a kernel of truth there. but not a whole one.
The way this lack occurs in the typical RPG, IMO, is that the game implies
that it's "modeling (with its rules to shape Competition)" a frame that
equates to the Control Actions a player might expect in the "real-world".
However, from a practical standpoint I feel that most RPG's seem to focus on
the "Dungeon Crawl" type Frame.
IMO, the major problem here involves the Fairness component of the
Competitive aspect of the Frames use of the Turn to describe Actions.
A player using a Figure with bureaucratic tendencies has little use in a
straight dungeon crawl.
Their effective Action-list is largely "grayed-out".
Frame your whole campaign as a series of dungeon crawls and you've framed
out most of the occupations of humans.
Captains and Kings (with the exception of Kirk-types) have little place in
the "crawls" themselves.
The reason being has much to do with the relative "timing" of the Actions
A "King" has an Action-list that is largely weighted to Actions that require
weeks, months, or years to implement while a POV Figure is choosing Actions
that are resolved in seconds.
Now the "resolution" (hee, hee) of this has slowly become obvious to me
here. if you bring a lawyer to a street-fight the you better hope said
lawyer spends a LOT of time at the gym in his rec time.
Without such a "duel-class" Figure this can still be considered "Fair" if
the lawyer has their Action-area to shine in the mechanics of the
Likely this would be between "crawls" for a non-buffed lawyer type Figure.
IMO, what becomes important here is the varied levels of timescales involved
in different Turn-scales of Actions.
I find that players with a "King" type control-Figure can have interest in a
"crawl" scenario from a couple of levels.
First, they probably ordered the "crawl" to begin with if their vested with
good control mechanisms, and second they can be assigned to play NPC's when
not actively involved in their direct Figures play.
Perhaps the most fundamental point when considering scales that may
eventually bring you to a Mnoren view is that "players need to be 'in play'
as much as possible", even if not playing their OWN Figures.
Let's see if this gets any chatter before I pontificate more!
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