Friday, August 15, 2008


I've been playing pen and paper role-playing games for the past few years.

I'd also been studying philosophy (I just finished my BA).

Most of the games I played early on were all part of the new World of Darkness. Occasionally I've had the chance to try out other games: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, Exalted, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, D20 Modern, Don't Rest Your Head.

With every game I've played or GMed questions kept coming into my head or other gamers would ask them: Do you need dice to settle conflict resolution? (Turns out, no). When creating a character how important is it to have the character's life goals inline with the game's premise? When ought a GM call for a dice roll? What's more important for social scenes - the dice roll or the role play the player contributes? When designing a game, how important is it that the mechanics highlight or underlie the mood you are trying to create? What properties are necessary for something to be labeled a "game"?

Questions of categorization have also come up, and I was happy to see that these have been addressed by a pretty smart group of guys already. Often I find myself using their terminology, and utilizing some of their views.

This blog will be dedicated to trying to answer those questions I've listed (and likely more) as well as offer advice for both GM and player. Using some of the ideas that get developed here, I plan on releasing some games myself. Occasionally, I'll ask for playtesters. I've included my email address onto this blog if you have any specific question you'd like addressed, or if you would like to playtest. Or, if you disagree with me, please write and say so. Philosophy is dialectic. There will always be different sides and opinions that probably have arguments in their favor. If you believe I'm being unfair or not seriously considering all the possibilities, please state so in the comments, or email me and I'll let you write a guest blog explaining your position. Or, if there's a gaming issue that strikes you as philosophical that I've ignored, and you've thought of quite a bit, then please write it down, and I'd be happy to have you post here.

That's all I have for now.

Up next will be a post entitled, "When ought a GM call for a dice roll?"


Greg said...

I think there are a lot of interesting thoughts in the dice blog.
I was thinking that some other options to rolling the dice could be...If you really like rolling dice then don't put your characters into all or nothing situations. If a character must enter a locked room give them options. Pick lock or break window knowing ahead of time that each option has different consequences. Then let the player choose and roll dice to determine the success of action. If picking the lock fails then player must enter through window.

Also you could change things up by, changing what a failed roll would mean. Perhaps failing to pick the lock wouldn't mean that the player could not access the room, but that it is done poorly and somehow effects the story from there....

Those are just a couple of thoughts.
Really like the blog so far.

Name: Jack said...

Replying to greg:

Your comment made me think of this:
What if in a system "failure is not an option?" A "bad roll" doesn't fail, it just succeeds in a horrible way: You're picking a lock, and the roll is bad so you leave behind fingerprints, break the lock, or do something else equally incriminating that puts you on the spot, raises tension, and gives possible future plot points.

Mr Greg said...

That's exactly what I was succeeds with negative consequences. I think that it would actually add a fun, and diffult aspect to the game.

Jack Phillips said...

The only major problem with removing "failure" in the traditional sense is that you would likely have to just say some things are impossible. This is true of virtually any game though, so this isn't a special criticism. However, some players would hear: you can't "fail", and take that to mean they can do any ridiculous thing they want and they have to succeed at least to some degree.

Anonymous said...

As far as playtesters are concerned, are you talking more face-to-face, or were you considering a play-by-post somewhere?

Because I'd be 100% down for the latter, but the former is going to be a little more challenging for me.

Jack Phillips said...

I meant playtest without me there. I'll probably try to run the games that I'm making myself, but I want to see if they work when I'm not there. If my rules aren't clear enough for someone else to follow, then something's wrong.