Friday, 2 December 2011

Game design solves game problems (or creates them)

1.
A couple of days ago I ranted a bit on G+ about how fudging was a symptom of dissatisfaction with the rules. What I mean by that is this: What you want is in conflict with what the game delivers.

When you accept that fudging is the way to go, you're closing an eye to the fact that the game isn't working for you.  People usually accept that, because it's easier than accepting you're playing the wrong game. Because hey, look, it can't be the wrong game, it's still working, we're still playing and having fun!

Yeah, except you're not really playing that game anymore, but a game you've created on your own. You've molded it, through fudging and GM techniques and willful ignorance or whatever into something that closer resembles what you want.

There's nothing wrong with that! I just want it to be transparent. Put it out there, make it clear. These are the rules we're really playing by. Houseruling is game design. Judgement calls are non-codified houserules.

Game design is about harnessing the rules to do what you want. Maybe a game doesn't work the way you want it to, or maybe you've never seen a game that does what you want (but look harder): let's call that a problem. Game design is about solving that problem.

Like, I dunno, whatever: "I don't like it when the PCs die in my game, because they're supposed to be the heroes."
Problem!
Make or change a rule, a subsystem. Or, heck, make a new game. Just please don't fudge and pretend it didn't happen. This is a personal request that I kindly make, so do whatever the fuck you want really. But please consider it.

2.
I've designed, off the top of my head, seven or eight games (and discarded at least three or four times that many). Each of them was to solve a particular problem. I made a gladiator game, because I wanted to be able to play a game that emulated the fights in the Spartacus: Blood & Sand/Gods of the Arena tv show, but didn't know of an existing one that could do it. And so on.

In simpler words: I designed them to scratch a gaming itch that no existing game could scratch.

We make rules - house or otherwise - so that the game fits our vision, satisfies our gaming goals, achieves something (instead of just hanging on), solves a problem we have.

There's a particular large-scale gaming itch, that I, as a player, do not feel very much or very often. It's mostly been in my peripheral vision somewhere. I tried to pin it down a couple of times but it was like trying to spear a fish - you keep going for the reflection, not seeing your real objective.

I think I see it now and I want to make a game to talk about it. It's going to be tough, because it's not something I explicitly enjoy, but I think I get it. It's also a test, because it's for a friend. If he likes it, then I guess I'll know I'm doing the right thing.

2 comments:

  1. I feel that you are right and wrong with regards to fudging rolls.

    The wrong, where you say: "Like, I dunno, whatever: "I don't like it when the PCs die in my game, because they're supposed to be the heroes."
    Problem!
    Make or change a rule, a subsystem. Or, heck, make a new game. Just please don't fudge and pretend it didn't happen. This is a personal request that I kindly make, so do whatever the fuck you want really. But please consider it."

    Personally, I've fudged rolls plenty of times because of a mistake or oversight on MY part as the DM. Example: I threw a BBEG at the party and made him too powerful, party almost dying because of MY mistake, it's my job to make in-game adjustments and if fudging a dice roll on what would have killed off the party is what it takes to keep the campaign going, that's what I'm going to do. This isn't something wrong with the system, it's part of the game where the DM has to make a split-second decision on whether to be prideful or to be merciful to his group and whether everyone is enjoying the campaign and would be upset if they had to start over with a new one.

    The right: Now I agree with you that if you are fudging dice rolls because of rule-set changes and other things that you want to hybridize, then maybe it's time to try a different system out, house-rule, or make your own system.

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  2. Paul: D&D is a great example, because it is predicated on challenging the party, but the (especially pre-4E) balancing of encounters can be wonky. And of course there is the simple matter of human error...

    I like to take extreme positions for the sake of debate, so take everything above with a grain of salt.

    In the case where the DM creates a monster that's supposed to be balanced to the party, but makes it too powerful by mistake or accident, I understand the need for fudging...but it's not really the game's fault, most of the time - the fact that you picked a monster that's too powerful doesn't mean the game is screwing up your expectations of play in general.

    But I agree.

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