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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

A System...or Just a Game?

CAVEAT: This post was finished early, early, early in the morning/late, late, late at night. It may or may not contain long portions of non sequiturs, insanity, and/or gibberish. There will most likely not be spontaneous outbursts of song, however.

Zounds!! I've left off my Friday post. You'll have to excuse me, then, this will have to turn into a Saturday post, and hopefully only that much of a delay. We'll see how it goes. There is something, though, on the ol' mind, that popped up during thoughts about small, independent RPGs. It crossed my mind that there's a lot of them, like 44: A Game of Automatic Fear and Dread, that are incredibly limited in scope, unlike some more well-known games.

A Blessing in Disguise?
This might throw off a lot of seasoned roleplayers. These games are in certain ways limited. It may be through the duration of the game (designed only to last a few sessions, or even just one). It may be through the content of the game (the players have a strictly defined role). It may even be through the capabilities of the players (specific types of actions are not supported by the rules). I've noted that very often, the moment these limitations come into play, many RPGers throw a fuss.

I don't blame them. It's something entirely different from most roleplaying experiences. I think, though, it sheds a light on a difference in RPGing that isn't often considered: the difference between a roleplaying system and a roleplaying game. It's an important one, and when that difference is resolved, a lot of systems become a lot more enjoyable. You can start to see roleplaying games in a more lenient and probably justifiable context.

What's the Difference?
Really, what sets these two apart is quite simple. A "roleplaying system" strives to set up, as is the name, a system of rules. It creates a world where there are endless possibilities, a free-ranging place where the players say what they want to do, and the GM tells them what they have to roll to do it. On the other hand, the genre which I am going to term "roleplaying game" (although that's in some ways an inaccuracy...bear with me here) contains a much narrower scope. It presents an adventure to the players, a specific genre, and is far more focused on creating an environment for a story to be told in. Yes, there's player freedom, but what's truly seen as important is atmosphere, a story to be told, and ways to advance it.

I think there's room for both, personally. Sometimes, you can go into roleplaying to tell a story of your own, along with other people. That's well and good. But why not also going into roleplaying as a sort of...entertainment? Maybe "interactive movie" leaves a bad taste in some folk's mouths, but that's somewhat what it's like. You sacrifice the ability to do whatever you want for the ability to craft a story around a specific core.

A New Market?
It makes me wonder. The market already has the big names out there, when it comes to roleplaying systems. There's a system for sci-fi, a system for fantasy, a system for horror... But there's not nearly as much territory that's been explored with the other side of the niche. Think about it for a second. When companies make video games, they don't make systems for players to play around in. Not usually. What they do is release games that tell a specific story, or that showcase a specific type of gameplay. Take, for instance, Portal. A small little video game with a simple story, and a very unique "core mechanic" at its heart. You explored that mechanic, and the story/setting of the game, and came out with a very good, very solid experience.

And you were still ready for dozens of other quality games. Taking that analogy...what if there were to be a focus on making games which took players on different adventures? I don't mean adventure paths for systems...I mean games which had rules tailored to that adventure. Granted, this would take a lot of work to put together. At the same time, it might be a refreshing new look at how RPGs are targeted.

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