Here on the interwebs there is allot of talk allot about game system and by extension "edition.*" Back in 2004 the System does Matter essay was a must read, many of us who enjoy games and game design did read that essay, that essay still rings true in many ways.
If there is enough investment players don't need system at all. For role-playing games player investment is as key to the quality of the play experience as any system.
Reader, "Well duh.."
Me, "hang on, I'll get there."
So what breeds investment? I think it's the feed back loop both overt and subtle. There's something about passing around character sheets or verbally going over characters at a table. When the other players grin and say, "yeah that's a cool idea," or "I like that one!" It's a reassurance, its party building.
Project Ninja Panda Taco goes so far as building that passing of papers into the character gen system. When the other players have some part or some connection to everyone else character if breeds an environment for role playing.
Where have I seen this taken to What I think is a very high form?
(stick with me.)
With World Wide Wrestling the apocalypse world based wrestling game coming down the tracks. Having backed the kick-starter I have been thinking about how will I use the game once I get my hands on it. That got me thinking about my time doing e-feds.
I have never seen better community for developing characters and role playing than the Fire Pro wrestling Arena group I have been involved in over the years. Admittedly the group has fallen off in the past two years or so, but when they are in full swing there is an amazing fed back loop for role playing that is just not seen that often.
Here's what happens:
Wrestlers (called edits) get booked against each other, usually by a Booker putting a show together.
The shows when done well take a while to put together so the players who created the involved wrestler edits write promo's back and fourth.
These is a thread on the forum dedicated to promo's
there is a separate thread dedicated to promo critiques and reactions.
The promos can get competitive, the simulated matches are not, usually the winner is known before hand, and the person doing the simulating just tries to capture the best match.
When in full swing the whole community will chat about how great or not so great a promo was. The worst feeling in the world is to write what you think is a great promo then ... silence ... Or worse some one comes along three minutes latter and puts down a fantastic promo that lights up the board and you get buried.
I imagine much like real pro wrestling performers.
|Talk'm into the seats|
How does this relate to system?
There is none, that's the point, these Role plays happen in their own space, with no numbers to fall back on, no system promoting the role playing. It's creative writing sure, but it's also learning a character. And the Fire pro club / arena has been around long enough that charters have grown changed and developed over the years. It's because of the feedback loop, It's because when a player posts a good RP people jump to it , the character gets a bit of a push. What happens in the match is almost secondary.
I can barely remember any in match moments from the fire pro e-feds, a few here and there perhaps. But I know characters, I know what the Wonderhole is, that NSL got double crossed, that illusionists from Germany can really wrestle, who the Street Samurai is, I know why Dolla Bill retired, the rise or Riggs, and that Chrome is not the joke he started out as. (So many more, like crazy how many more.)
It's a credit to the people playing the characters and to the discussion within the community afterward.
(for the record the matches are simulated on a 9 year old wrestling video game which features an in depth logic editing feature. There are no role playing rules / story mode in the game at all)
Back on familiar ground:
To relate this back to paper and pencil games. If everyone at the table is looking to create a similar experience and are willing to offer and take feedback to and from everyone else, (which can be tough, no one like to have their feelings hurt, or their ideas criticized.) Exciting role play will happen regardless of the system running in the background. It's human nature to move towards positive feedback, if the flow of the group is towards a heavy role play based experience, that flow will begin to pick up it's own momentum.
In a very basic way if the GM is running a low magic version of colonial New England and a player shows up with a dragon kin cleric, the gm and the other party members should have a chance to say "sloooow down there buddy.." Further if a player nails a Role play, the other player should stop and say so, even if it's just a simple, "That was Awesome." Or a gm extolling how well a character concept "fits" the party. OR the other players telling each other how cool the though such and such a role-play moment was after the game.
Not to crack a different nut but this is one of the (many) reasons I like table play more than internet play, the feedback is so much more immediate, and much more real.
So this sounds simple.
It's what we all do.
Or is it?
There is a sort of assumption that, one shot narrative games, rules light games, micro-games, old school games, or whatever happens to be the flavor of the week promote role play differently an more successfully than other games. This assumption might arise in the online rpg community because let's face it it's what we do, we think about these games, we try to make them better, and that's good.**
I contend that role play, that moment when the player is talking as his or her character in their mind for a few brief minutes. When everyone at the table is listening, getting it, and learning something new about that character. These golden moments happen because of the group more than any system. The group needs to want that moment, it can't be mathematically forced or even guided without the feedback of the group.
* I hate Edition squabbling: The editions are all different game system with D&D written on the jacket. Treat them like separate games and most of the bitching goes away. I don't see as much Gurps vs Rune quest as I do everything D&D vs 4th edition. It's silly.
** As an aside: If a group wants their game to be solely about poking every 5 feet for traps, checking door frames, managing iron rations, and murdering ropers that's cool. All the ideas above still apply. The feedback will be positive towards smart ideas, keeping alive, solve puzzles, finding traps, and all that good stuff. The concepts of role playing and game playing are not mutually exclusive. Most games I Have been involved in fall happily into a kind of blended style of play.
Thank you for reading!
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