tisdag 19 november 2019

Addendum to "Table-Centric Design" - On Mattering

I am extremely pleased and humbled with how many people responded so charitably and kindly to the recent Table-Centric Design, were I outlined some recent ways I've been thinking about design. I did however, make a tactically beneficial mistake of referencing the recently dug-up corpse known as  "system matters." Tactically beneficial, because a lot of people responded to it, gave good feedback and better criticism, but a mistake since it might leave people with a distorted impression.

This could have made the impression like I don't believe system matters, which is not true. It could also make the impression that I believe the tangential opinion - that system doesn't matter as much as people think it does. I also don't believe this. I am not trying to be obtuse, I swear.

System does matter. If you've played games published by other people a lot, you just know it. The pain of a clunky rule that constantly needs to be looked up everytime it is triggered. Character advancement systems that lock us into a style of play. The unwieldy subsystem and the arbitrary micromanagement. The resolution mechanic that should've been there, but wasn't added.

We also know the positives of system. The rule that simplified and made clear what other games were trying to achieve. The clever solution to a common hang-up. The two-sentence principle that got your science-fiction game to be more Flash Gordon, less Star Trek.

There are systems that are better suited for playing a certain type of game, or catering to a certain play-style. There are poorly-designed games, and well-designed games.

These are undeniably things that make a difference at the Table.

What I am suggesting is that the Designer is the most easily dismissed person at the Table. They exist in a book that can be closed. They are always in subservience to whoever plays their game, and no amount of harsh words about cheating and intended experience can change that.

We can be upset about that, or we can design around that. This isn't a statement of "players don't care, do whatever", it is a statement of self-recognition - this is how I, as a table-top game designer, exist at the table. I will make that matter, instead getting bogged down with things that either won't matter or matter too much for me to get involved.

So, system does matter, as do the people who design them, but they are as determinant to how RPG's are played as the ancient Hebrew Texts are to contemporary mainstream Christianity. That is, not very determinant at all, but we do not decide for that reason, that the texts don't matter. Anyone who wants to make a new Bible, or game, might want to keep that in mind.

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