To Play or Not to Play: The Song of Ice and Fire RPG


Unless you have lived in a cave somewhere for the past couple of years or rabidly avoid the Fantasy genre entirely, you have heard about George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series published by Bantam Books. The novels regularly reside at #1 for Sci Fi/Fantasy when they debuted in the in the early '90's and the more recent books have made the top ten bestselling lists worldwide, despite being rather dark, adult oriented and dangerous to the lives of the main characters within it. Take note, this is not Tolkien or Jordan that we're talking about here.

In addition to the excellent novels, HBO has aired Season 1 of Game of Thrones, a television series that adheres very closely to the novels on which it is based, as the author not only writes the scripts but has complete creative control, this past spring. The show was a smash hit and introduced a whole new legion of fans to take a look at the novels which resulted in more sales and more popularity.

The premiere episode of the television show attracted 2.2 million viewers its initial airing on April 17 in the U.S., and totaled 5.4 million viewers across multiple Sunday and Monday night airings. It averaged 743,000 and reached a peak 823,000 in UK and Ireland on its April 18 premiere. HBO announced that they would be commissioning a second season on the strength of the reception of the premiere episode. By the final episode of the season, which aired June 20, the ratings had climbed to well over 3 million.

The majority of reviews for the show were very positive, with critics noting the high production value, the well-realized world, compelling characters, and giving particular note to the strength of the child actors. Tim Goodman's review for The Hollywood Reporter stated, "a few minutes into HBO's epic Game of Thrones series, it's clear that the hype was right and the wait was worth it." Mary McNamara from the Los Angeles Times called it "...a great and thundering series of political and psychological intrigue bristling with vivid characters, cross-hatched with tantalizing plotlines and seasoned with a splash of fantasy." New York Post's Linda Stasi gave Thrones 3.5/4 stars stating, "The art direction, acting and incredible sets are as breathtaking as the massive scope of the series." Many critics praised Peter Dinklage for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, with Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly stating, "...if Dinklage doesn't get an Emmy for his clever, rude Tyrion Lannister, I'll be gobsmacked" and Mary McNamara from the Los Angeles Times stating, "If the man doesn't win an Emmy, heads should certainly roll."[

On July 14, 2011 Game of Thrones was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards that included Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Dinklage as Tyrion).

And finally, the Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game (SIFR) has been released by Green Ronin Publishing, written by Robert J Schwalb. Weighing in at 225 pages, beautifully illustrated and extremely well written, this game has a lot of potential and I was very excited to try it out after the disappointment that I suffered with Dresden Files RPG, Anima and the free Fate Systems.

After reading through the book once, I sat down with a few friends and we set out to give the game a test run.

Before I get into game mechanics and the like, let me describe character creation. Now, for me character creation is the most important part of a roleplaying game outside of combat. A really complicated and hard to understand creation process like that found in Anima will turn players off before they even get to play the game. If the rules and creation process is too bland then the players will have no interest vested in their characters. And that's not counting all the other pitfalls that plague the character creations process like munchkins, rules lawyers and cheats.

SIFR starts by having the players create a House as a group before making characters. All the characters work for the House and the House is more important than any of the individual people within it. As the players create the House, they have as much invested in it as they do in their characters. More so even, as the rise and fall of their House directly affects the fortunes of the player characters.

After the group's House has been created, the players either pick or roll the age of their characters. Player Characters can start off as a child of less than 9 years or an ancient of 80 years or older. There are 8 Ages that a character can be. For example, a Youth is 9 years old or less while an adult is 18-30 years old. For each Age a character has, they roll a background for their character.

For the record, I HATE randomly rolled backgrounds. I love writing out detailed backgrounds for my characters and enjoy coming up with new and inventive NPCs and the like. However, the Background tables for SIFR are detailed enough to add flavor to a background while being generic enough to allow the player to write fully flesh out backgrounds of their own.

I HGHLY recommend using the background

While this is a point based system, the number of points is based on the age of the character and is divided between Creation points and Destiny points. Creation points are used for stats, which are a combination of attributes found in normal games like Agility and Awareness and skills such as Fighting and Survival. Destiny points are a combination of Advantages like those found in GURPS only better, and Plot Points like those found in Exalted.

Young characters get fewer Creation points and more Destiny points as they haven't yet met their Destiny while older characters get the opposite. Characters older than Adult receive Flaws or disadvantages automatically. As with most point based games, Flaws add points to character creation. Unlike other games though, none of these Flaws are "good" to have.

For example, in GURPS I can pick the Disadvantages Truthful, Honest and Cannot Harm Innocents if I wanted to play a heroic character with solid morals and stuff. While a little limiting, none of those Disadvantages really do anything besides give me points for the way that I already plan on playing my character.

In SIFR however, you have Honor Bound (compelled to tell the truth)... And that's it. The next weakest Flaws include Eunuch, Cruel Insanity (cannot see consequences of your actions) and Haunted (tormented by past memories). they get drastically worse from there.

Going back to stats, you have 19 combined stats and skills. You start with a Rank of 2 in each stat, which means that you are average in that ability. This is the first game I've seen where characters automatically have skills in everything. Going up a level or two in any stat is a big deal. "At rank 4, you have trained extensively in the ability, combining your natural talents with extensive training. Your skill in this ability far ex-ceeds that of the average individual, and you can confidently tackle challenging tasks without trouble and, with a little luck, can pull off some amazing stunts."

When rolling a stat, you roll a number of d6 equal to the stat and add up the results to determine success. If your Fighting skill is 3 you roll 3d6 and the sum is the result.

Each stat can be Specialized at starting levels. The specialization adds a number of dice equal to the specialization to the skill roll. The extra dice allow for low rolling dice to be subtracted before the dice are summed up.

For example, you have a character with a Fighting of 3 and a specialization of Long Sword 2. You'd roll 5 dice, subtract the 2 lowest and sum up the rest.

Example: Tomas hits Malakai in a sword fight. He rolls 5 dice for his Fighting skill (3) and Sword specialization (2) and gets 5, 6, 1, 3, 4. He removes the 1 and 3 and adds up the rest for a score of 15 (good hit).

This merging of stat and skill is new to me. The way specialization is handled is also new to me and seems much more balanced than other systems I've tried.

Where SIFR really excels though are the two areas that EVERY OTHER GAME I'VE EVER PLAYED DRASTICALLY FAILED. And here I am talking about mass combat and social combat.

As any experienced gamer can tell you, it is extremely hard to play a character in a battle of more than a few people. Most fantasy games have tried to include rules for mass combat because fantasy stories usually end up with a Helm's Deep or two, and a few have actually come up with rules that work, but none are fun to play.

While I won't delve into the actual rules in this already too long article here, I will say that as far as I can tell, the rules in SIFR will not bog the game down at all and will be fun to play out.

What I really want to talk about are the rules for social combat, called Intrigue in this game.

Most games have skills for social combat. Persuasion, Merchant, Fast Talk, etc abound in roleplaying games. However, these are static boring skills that boil down to a simple roll.

What sets SIFR apart is that the game treats Intrigue the same way that it does combat.

Very few games resolve combat with a single skill role. You never hear: "I rolled a 15 and he rolled a 12, he's dead".

Most games have a player roll to hit vs the opposing character's defense, then roll damage minus the opposing character's armor and the difference is the damage that character took, which in a lot of cases can be absorbed.

Some games are more complicated than others, but this is a fairly common generalization.

In contrast, these same games treat haggling with a merchant as a simple skill vs skill roll.

SIFR treats social and physical combat in very a similar manner. Both Intrigue and Combat have Initiative, Technique or Skill, Defense, and Hit Points. Intrigue goes a step further and takes into account each character's feelings for the other, the setting, time spent in negotiation (broken up into Simple, Standard and Complex) and the goals of each character involved.

The example given in the book is a knight trying to seduce a noblewoman. The noblewoman wants the knight to spy for her. They roll out the encounter and the noblewoman convinces the knight that if he spies for her and gives her something worthwhile, she'll sleep with him.

I have never played a game with rules for something that intricate. I've always had to roleplay things out and make up house rules for this kind of stuff.

This is the only game I know of where a smooth talking con artist, priest or princess is as powerful or more needed than a fighter.

Now, there are drawbacks to this game. The biggest drawback is the setting. The game is extremely faithful to the book series that it is based on and for you fans out there, this will be awesome. However, the setting and thus the game, does not have a magic system that you can play, so using these rules for your home brewed world or another published setting will not work as it is. You'd have to create a magic system from scratch that works with the rest of the game. The game does work in a fantasy or medieval setting that has no or extremely low magic.

The only other negative for this game is the lack of character sheets in the main book. I had to make my own using Excel. There is a Game Master Screen, whichmay come with character sheets, but I haven't checked into that.

And those are the only things that I didn't like about this game.

One last time, for the record, this is by far the best written roleplaying game that I have ever had the pleasure of playing out of the 30-something games that I've tried over the past 20 years. If you want to try something new, this should be something you consider. I give it my highest endorsement.

"SIFR treats social and physical combat in very a similar manner. Both Intrigue and Combat have Initiative, Technique or Skill, Defense, and Hit Points. Intrigue goes a step further and takes into account each character's feelings for the other, the setting, time spent in negotiation (broken up into Simple, Standard and Complex) and the goals of each character involved. "

Interesting. I've been working on something approximately similar as an extension to D&D, to put social interaction on the same footing as combat and with similar mechanics that my players are already comfortable with. There's only so far that you can draw analogies between social interaction and combat, of course, and then there's the elephant-in-the-room - the fact that the D&D combat mechanics are not very realistic in the first place. But it can be made to work, in a fashion. I haven't actually completed work on this yet, or tested it - I'm planning on bringing this in after the current campaign story arc comes to a close. I may have to take a look at SIFR in the meantime and see how they do it.

I don't the new D&D rules well enough to give advice on that game system. However, old school D&D (2nd ed) you'd create a system using THACO, Hit Points, etc only based off of IQ and WIS instead of STR, DEX and CON. It'd be a lot easier if you had a stat for Willpower (maybe a bonus per level?). Let me know what you come up with.

I'm mildly hijacking the thread here, I know, but I feel like it's relevant to the discussion.

There's actually quite a few RPGs these that use the same mechanical approach to social and physical conflict. I've advocated the FATE system here on Gamegrene before, which does exactly that. All FATE conflict resolution is based on a roll of 4 Fudge dice to modify a base stat value on the character sheet (Poor, Mediocre, Average, Fair, Good, Great, Superb, Excellent, and Legendary, or -2 through +6 for the more mathematically inclined). This is compared with a base difficulty value for basic skill checks (Climbing that cliff is an Atheletics roll, Great Difficulty, etc.). Rolls that involve another person are contested, rolling an attack skill against an appropriate defense skill. In a swordfight, my Weapons against your Weapons. In a gunfight, my Guns against your Acrobatics. In a debate, my Rapport against your Composure. If the attack exceeds the defense, then the defender takes damage in their stress track equal to the difference.

There's also another method of resolving conflict, which involves the leading competitor making a skill check to define the difficulty for the second. For example, in a car chase, I roll my Drive skill, with a Superb result. You have to roll Superb to keep up, or roll better to close the gap. Roll less than that, then you fall behind, crash into a fruit stand, or take gunfire. This could similarly apply to a Deliverance-style banjo competition, or a political debate in which the focus is impressing the audience rather than beating your competitor.

The thing that really sells me on FATE is the way that story elements are incorporated within the mechanics. Players have a currency known as FATE points, which they can spend to "tag" story elements of their character which apply to a given roll. This gives them the option of rerolling their dice or adding two to the final result. "The ninja comes at you with a Great Flying Crane Kick, which overpowers your Good defenses." "I'm going to spend a FATE point to tag my 'Trained by Mr. Miyagi' Aspect. Mr. Miyagi was a disciple of the Smoking Dragon form, which was developed to counter Flying Crane. My defenses are now at Superb."

These story Aspects can be similarly "tagged" by the GM to encourage players to roleplay their weaknesses in a way that makes their life more difficult, which nets the player another FATE point to be spent in the future.

FATE 2.0 is available for free download at . FATE 3.0 is in the works right now, eventually available for free download as well. Spirit of the Century (a 1920's era pulp adventure RPG) and the Dresden Files RPG (modern fantasy noir) are variations of the FATE 3.0 system made specific for their genres. I highly endorse both, and they can be picked up at

Check it out!

While I appreciate the complexity of the system, and am definitely interested in the game, I've always roleplayed social situations, whether they be "combative" or not. Just to clarify, I've run some very political games, with a heavy emphasis on conversation and information and all that good stuff (I'm a little tired), the best example being a very successful gangster campaign I ran around six months ago. Personally, I love roleplaying these things out, as I'm one of the those people who's of the opinion that the longer the dice sit untouched, the better the game is going. My favorite moments roleplaying wise have been when those of us around the table have been so involved in the moment and the characters that there's no hesitation, no long pauses as one player figures out the best zing. The conversation is immediate, fully character oriented, and totally satisfying. Without fail, introducing dice into it has ruined these moments, so I keep the dice as far away as possible, using them only for things, like combat, I can't or am not willing to roleplay out (as much fun as it might be to shoot a player from across the table lol). So my question then is what is the benefit of having rules for social combat? Why should we make that aspect of the game concrete, and, therefore, limited? I clearly am coming from one side on this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it or defenses for the creation of such a rules set. Why is that necessary? Or even useful?

The reason for social combat rules is the same as that for physical combat. Players will play characters who have skills that they dont. If you're shy, stutter, and don't look good, then it'll be hard to play a smooth fast talking con artist, no matter how hard you try. Likewise, if you're 5'8" and weight 450 lbs with the above afflictions, it's gonna be kinda hard to roleplay out your handsome, charming swashbuckler hitting on the pretty young noblewoman. Especially if your GM is also a big hairy guy.

I might be pretty, but I have a beard. It's hard for some people to see past that for some weird reason. Lol!

Social combat rules allows players a chance to expand their horizons and play something different while allowing them the same chances of success that playing a warrior in a swordfight would.

I wouldn't expect my 450 lbs friend to be able to swordfight me and I don't expect him to talk me into anything. That's why we have rules for combat (and now social combat).

As for Fate... It is a free system and at first glance looks great. However, I bought and tried playing the Dresden Files and building a character so was overcomplicated and bogged us down so much that we dropped the game. None of my friends, even theones who love Dresden, are interested in playing.

Now, I don't know how the normal free version of Fate compares with Dresden, but we didn't like it at all. In fact, that's why we started downloading and testing out different systems before discovering the SIFR (it's too expensive to buy and test games, though we are in the process of buying up everything for SIFR).

As for Fate, look into Spirit of the Century. It's an awesome game and is kinda the thing they put out first. You should definitely look into it. Though Fate might just not be your style.

I see where you're coming from with your friend, but I've done all the things you've mentioned without dice. Even romances with a male player across the table. It can definitely be awkward, and I can see the use for the mechanic in alleviating that, but I still think it mostly gets in the way. I'm definitely willing to use dice, say to roll for something kind of social success (particularly for lying rolls), but I always insist my players play it out. We have the conversations in character and only pull out the dice when there's something at stake that can't be replicated sufficiently in the real world. This creates verisimilitude, I find. Of course, there are allowances. My players and I, when speaking in character, tend to speak much slower than the character actually would, with pauses and even OOC questions put to the group occasionally. Someone with a stutter, or is shy, again the same thing applies. It's all about courtesy and working together as a group. Sometimes you want the perfect comeback, but can't think of one. I have no problem with asking the group then. We're all creating this story together and so act in that fashion as a cohesive whole, helping each other when necessary and letting go certain things, such as the fact that in our current game, I, as a red headed youth of about 5'8'', look nothing like a 7' tall lizard man, whom I am playing. Certainly, when playing with a rather socially inept man who's playing a suave con man, I let some things go, make suggestions, and assume what he says in a certain light, as well as waiting patiently while he comes up with the good line. This is the process, and I prefer to let it play out naturally, through roleplay, instead of bringing dice into it, personally.

It's funny, but no one has commented about the game, book and tv show that I wrote the review on. All the comments are directed at the social combat. Maybe I should write a full article about that, expanding on it and giving examples and stuff.

At least we have people writing and commenting on things again. Gamegrene now has a population of 4... ;-)

lol, I might annoy Scott. You and him used to have interesting times, if I remember correctly. Of course, Scott had interesting times with everybody lol. That'd be really cool, to do an article on just social combat, pros and cons and such.

As for the source material, I'm totally unfamiliar with it. I haven't yet watched the show because I want to read the books first, just to see how they utilize the world differently and everything. The game looks quite interesting, however. I might just buy it partly because I would like a fantasy game that's not D&D, and also because the House mechanic is really interesting. Could you give more detail on that?

I'm sorry. :(

Largely, I feel fairly unqualified to comment on the game, since I haven't read the novels or seen the series (although I'm interested in both). I can comment a bit on your commentary.

I'm really intrigued that the mechanics support the creation of a House prior to character creation. I've played plenty of games in which character creation was so disjointed and "free" that characters were wildly divergent. It was a stretch to connect the PC's within the same story. In my experience, the creation of a "group template" (to use the Fear the Boot parlance) before character creation leads to a much better game. I've only seen one or two roleplaying games in which this is supported in the rules system, so I'm really interested in how SIFR handles that. Could you provide some more details on how House creation works?

The Creation vs. Destiny points system seems really cool too. I'm interested in the Destiny points in particular. What sorts of advantages/disadvantages do these Destiny points provide a character?

As stated in the SIFR roleplaying book:
"The Narrator determines whether the action requires a test. As a rule, if the intended action has no significant risk or no consequences for failure, there’s no need for a test, though the Narrator is the final word on what requires a test and when. Actions that might require tests include, but are not limited to, fighting, climbing, jumping, recalling a bit of useful informa¬tion, addressing the king, sailing a ship through inclement weather, and so on. In short, if the action’s outcome isn’t certain or it has dramatic consequences, it probably requires a test.

Once the Narrator decides whether a test is appropriate, determine the ability to be tested. Abilities are flexible, allowing both you and the Nar¬rator to use a variety of methods to overcome challenges in the game. A particular action may use one ability in one set of circumstances and another in a completely different environment. For example, you might use Persuasion to bluff your way past a guard or use Status to fall back on your notoriety and standing to remove the guard from your path. Even though these are two distinct methods, the intended outcome is the same—getting past the guard.

Generally, the Narrator determines the ability, but you do have some say in what ability you’d like to use. Just state what you want to use and how you intend to use it, and—if reasonable—the Narrator ought to allow it. Obviously, using Language to scale a wall or stab an enemy is ridiculous, so common sense must prevail.

Once the ability is determined, the Narrator sets the test’s Difficulty. The Difficulty describes the complexity and challenge of the action. To help assess how hard a task is, a Difficulty number has a descriptor, such as Routine for Difficulty 6, Challenging for Difficulty 9, and so on.

Knowing which ability to use and the Difficulty of the task, you roll a number of test dice equal to the ability. Many times, you may roll ad¬ditional dice in the form of extra test dice or bonus dice. Once you roll the dice, sum the ones you choose to keep and add or subtract any modifiers. The total is the test result.

Nicole rolls 5 dice (three test dice and two bonus dice from her specialty) and gets a 6, 6, 5, 2, and a 1. She discards two dice (the 1 and the 2 since they count for her bonus dice) and adds up the rest, getting a 17.

Once the outcome of the test is determined, the Narrator describes the results, providing any relevant consequences of success or failure."

The character has 19 stats/abilities. In addition, each stat has specialties associated with it. These are:

Agility- Acrobatics, Balance, Contortions, Dodge, Quickness
Animal Handling - Charm, Drive, Ride, Train
Athletics - Climb, Jump, Run, Strength, Swim, Throw
Awareness - Empathy, Notice
Cunning - Decipher, Logic, Memory
Deception - Act, Bluff, Cheat, Disguise
Endurance - Resilience, Stamina
Fighting - Axes, Bludgeons, Brawling, Fencing, Long Blades, Pole-Arms, Short Blades, Spears
Healing - Diagnose, Treat Ailment, Treat Injury
Language —
Knowledge - Education, Research, Streetwise
Marksmanship - Bows, Crossbows, Siege, Thrown
Persuasion - Bargain, Charm, Convince, Incite, Intimidate, Seduce, Taunt
Status - Breeding, Reputation, Stewardship, Tournaments
Stealth - Blend In, Sneak
Survival - Forage, Hunt, Orientation, Track
Thievery - Pick Lock, Sleight of Hand, Steal
Warfare - Command, Strategy, Tactics
Will - Concentrate, Coordinate, Dedication

Each stat starts at a 2. Each level beyond that is a big leap. 4 would be pretty impressive.

When rolling, you take your stat, roll a number of 6 sided dice equal to it and add them up. Take the sum and compare it with your difficulty.

Specialties only add dice to the original roll. You then subtract a number of dice equal to the specialty (the lowest rolls). If you have a Cunning 3 and Logic 2, you'd roll 5 dice and then subtract the two lowest rolls before summing up the rest.

Does that clear things up?

T- I highly reccomend watching the show first. That way everything will come as a surprise. There are things that happen in the book that isn't in the show, and vice versa, but I feel that it'd be a more rewarding experience to watch the show and then read the book. There's a LOT of surprises in these books and I've found that my friends and I, those who read the books, had a hard time watching and enjoying the show as much as the people who watched the show first. Those who's first exposure to Martin was through the show loved the books even more because of the show.

As another oldtimer used to say, that's my two bits worth.

The Song of Ice and Fire's House mechanic is very long and extremely detailed. You can roll every single thing but can only choose a few. Thus a very large majority of your House is going to be random.

First you roll or choose what area of Westeros your House is from. The North? The Stormlands? Dorn? The Vale? Riverlands?

Then you choose or roll how old your House is. Is it a new House, from Robert's Rebellion? Or an ancient House bestowed in the time of Bran the Builder or Aegon the Conqueror?

Your House has 7 resources, which act as the House's stats. These are:

Defense describes fortifications, castles, keeps, towers, and other struc¬tures that serve to protect your holdings. Defense also describes the presence and quality of roads, representing the ability to move troops and supplies to threatened areas.

Influence describes your presence in the Seven Kingdoms, how other houses see you, and the notoriety attached to your name. A high Influ¬ence resource typically describes one of the great houses or the royal family, while a low Influence resource would describe a house of little consequence, small and largely unknown beyond the lands of their liege.
Influence is also important in determining your characters’ maximum Status.

Land resources describe the size of your House’s holdings and the extent of their influence over their region. A high score describes a house that controls an enormous stretch of terrain, such as Eddard Stark and the North, while a small score might represent control over a small town.

Law encompasses two things: the extent to which the smallfolk respect and fear you and the threat of bandits, brigands, raiders, and other ex¬ternal and internal threats. Law is something your family must main¬tain, and if you don’t invest in keeping your realm safe, it could fall into chaos.

Population addresses the sheer number of people living in the lands you control. The more people there are, the more mouths you have to feed. However, the more people there are, the more your lands pro¬duce. This abstract value describes the quantity of folks that live under your rule.

Power describes your house’s military strength, the ability to muster troops and rouse banners sworn to you. Houses with low scores have few soldiers and no banners, while those with high scores may have a dozen or more banners and can rouse an entire region.

Wealth covers everything from coin to cattle and everything in between. It represents your involvement and success in trade, your ability to fund improvements in your domain, hire mercenaries, and more.

You roll 7D6 to determine the starting value for each stat. Then you adjust the stats based on what area you live in. For example, starting in the North gives bonuses to Defense, Influence and Lands while subtracting from Law, Population, Power and Wealth.

After you have determined your base, you roll 1D6 +/- depending on the Age. The players take turns rolling for each age (which is really fun for ancient Houses) as determined by the above roll.

BTW there are only six Ages. New, Recent, Established, Old, Very Old and Ancient.

Once the House's Resources have been determined, the players choose what Holdings they want. While the first part of making a House was random, this is a point based creation system.

As an example, if you have 50 points in Defense, you can choose to have one Superior Castle (50 pts) or a Small Castle (30 pts) and two Towers (10 pts each).

The players have to agree on what their House gets.

After the House has been built, the players get to create a Heraldry symbol for their House and come up with a House Motto (Winter is Coming).

The final step in house creation is describing the household, those individuals who constitute the most important family members and retainers that make up the noble house. Most important are the lord and lady, but there are also the heirs, the maester and septon (if you have them), master-at-arms, castellan, steward, and anyone else who is more than just a common servant. Some of the characters may be player characters under your group’s control, while the rest are NPCs.

When defining these characters, the most important thing to worry about is their names, how they fit in with the rest of the family, what function they fulfill, and the most salient parts of their personal histo¬ries to shape their identities. Their statistics and abilities are relatively unimportant, and the GM may fill them in later as needed. Instead, focus on the narrative elements for these individuals, concocting a story that’s both appropriate for the house’s history and its current state.

PC's cannot be the Lord or Lady of the House. They can however, be the Heir to the House.

In addition to taking so much time and effort to making a House, which gives the players a vested interest in the House, the actions of their character has a direct effect on their House's fortunes. And what happens to the House has a direct effect on the characters.

Hope that gives you a better understanding of the game. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Yeah, I'm really interested in this game now. Is there a better place to pick it up than, say,

Having looked at some of the reviews on Amazon, there seem to be a lot of complaints about typographical errors in the book. Did you encounter this as well?

I'm still curious about Destiny points, and what sorts of advantages they entail. I'm envisioning a young heir taking on an older, experienced aristocrat. Obviously, the more experienced politician will have more sharply honed skills, as represented by stats and abilities. What advantages will Destiny abilities give the young heir in his political maneuverings?

I haven't seen any typos, but I haven't looked for them either. The artwork isn't the best and that's the biggest complaint that I can make. Destiny point can be used as Plot Points, give you advantages and do other things.

You can try finding the game at Amazon,, Ebay and others. I have yet to find it for less than $30.

The biggest limitation of the game system is lack of magic. However, the rest of the game more than makes up for that.

That's what playing with the rules is for :p

Thanks for this review, Calamar, you've definitely interested me, in both the show (and potentially the books) and the game. Now to get rich so I can buy it lol

LOL. No one annoys me. I used to pop by here from time to time to see if anyhting was going on and there wasn't. It would appear that changed sometime in September.

I've been using the True20 rules with a few little bits and bobs thrown in from Fear Itself (nothing mechanical, just some toher things). I've been running steady campaigns this whole time and developing further and further into the new setting I started working on a while back.

As to social combat. I use the opposed check results from True20 (which are not so different from d20/D&D) and am having fine success. RE: "make a Diplomacy check" and this is opposed by a Sense Motive roll. This does all we need it to do, and we only use it when it is clear that there is a vast division between the palyer and character. You are an orc with a slack jaw and no ability with people? You're rolling; I won't let you roleplay that and make a mockery out of the enitre web of verisimilitude. You're a flowery spoken bard, but the player is a soft spoken IT guy? You're rolling for that for the same reason. We just ask at any given turn "what would make this way more awesome and/or way more believable at the same time?" and then we do it.

An actual "combat system" designed for social situations seems, to me, to take away from the non-combat nature of social interaction. Emotional hit points? Perhaps a system of Face? Or maybe Shame & Guilt vs. Pride & Proof? LOL. I don't know. I don't find much use in it. To me and my players the nonmechanical way of handling this is table stakes; this is the entry bar to get in in the first place. It's what is expected to be extrapolated from more abstract rules in order to even participate. Whereas one group may make, say, 10 rolls each in an encounter...we likely only make about 2. Even in physical or combat situations. It's just more fun for what we are al there to accomplish together.

More and more I find myself narrowing things to the point where if you really need a solid "system" to handle things like social interaction you are not at my gaming table, and my players don't want you there either. Every time I *do* think "hey, this might be a neat little mechanic or rules gizmo" my players prove me wrong. They look at me and say "yeah...but why? does this effect the story? no? then don't waste our time, let's play." Any player that has sat in with us to see if they want to be part of an ongoing campaign either picks it up or has to put it down. None of us take the time anymore to concede to the needs of others, nor to find "that one perfect rule" that will suddenly make our game better...because it was never really a game to us to beign with, and has become far far less so over time.

Call us snobs maybe. We're just more interested in what happens next over how it happens or what it says in some book or in some equation. I can't even remember the last time I thought this long about game rules, or had this much to say about them (which is funny because all I've really said is that I don't have anyhting to say at all...LOL!).

Oh...and hello all.

Hello Scott! It's good to have you back, man, even if just for a comment.

We've had this debate before, and mostly I'm on your side, but I do feel like you can deprive yourself of an excellent tool by stripping down the system. I absolutely agree story is first and am more than willing to toss out the rules. In fact, my games usually run as something of a combination of whatever system we're using and the more free-form, pass the stick kind of thing. Generally narration is shared by the group and the rules, but sometimes I'll ask (or, more rarely, tell) the players to let me take over narration, which they always grant, and then we'll just describe what happens. This is usually when I want to make an emotional impression, say with a small detail, or feel, thematically, the story has to move a certain direction. By way of an example, in my last game a character had picked up something of a follower through rather violent circumstances. At the end of the season (in my group we tend to run our games like television shows, doing a season arc of 8-12 sessions or so and then passing the baton to whoever wants to GM next), I knew I had to kill off that follower, for thematic reasons. It was a gangster game, and that PC was trying to get out of the mob. He was going to get out of the mob, but there had to be a serious consequence for the violence he'd been a part of, and actively committed, while in the mob. So I took narrative control and killed the follower, who had formed quite a bond with the PC. It totally wasn't fair, in a rules sense, but it was satisfying and necessary in a thematic sense, which is far more important to me and the group I'm a part of. So they let me take control of that moment and kill that character because, ultimately, we're telling a story more than playing a game.

That all being said, I feel like mechanics can form a very interesting framing device for the themes of the game. It's like with a movie. In a well made movie, the audience is not aware just how deeply camera movement, editing, and framing affects their experience. In a well made game, the mechanics emphasize what the game is about and help illustrate those themes; vis a vis in Dogs of the Vineyard, the conflict mechanics emphasize the value of secrets, the weight of the particular conflict (given that weight through pushing), and the zero sum nature of the morality of the setting. There is something very elegant about a well made system that provides a subtle and powerful framing device. That being said, you don't absolutely have to have them, especially, as I get the feeling, Scott mostly runs one setting and one game with his group. It helps in our group, where every GM has his own thing and we have at least 3 right now, to differentiate. When I finished season 1 of my game and Lorthyne picked up the reins for his, the difference was immediate - my using World of Darkness illustrated the dark, morally problematic nature of my game, where his using DnD illustrates the fundamentally heroic fantasy of his. Like with film, you know you're watching a gangster movie because there's tommy guns, men in long coats and nice hats, etc. And you know you're in a fantasy movie because there's magic, swords, and wise old guys. They can serve as an excellent shorthand.

As a writer I just can't wrap my head around needing some set of rules to help define things like theme, tone, etc. I suppose it's because I can do all of that without them, it's what I get paid to do these days. I'm not going to run down this well tread path again, but if I ever find myself needing a change of rules to evoke a feeling of moral ambiguity or heroic fantasy or whatever else I'm going to hang myself. That is purely a function of storytelling ability in my mind.

I like rules well enough or I wouldn't use them at all. I just like my rules to be bland and generic so they stay out of my way. It's not a deprivation question, I'm not lacking any tools. My tools are vast and varied...they just aren't rules related. The more setting or theme specific the rules get, the more I'm giving up to them. Instead of me and the players engaging on a human level, and the characters engaging with the setting, it's just some people engaging with a rules set. It dehumanizeas the experience for me and it becomes clinical. It becomes "there's the roleplaying part, then there's the game part, and they only hold hands but aren't one thing". It doesn't gel well in my own experience.

In your example for instance, about swtiching from WoD to D&D. The difference was immediate as you said; but consider that even if you were using the exact same rules set the difference would still be immediate because one is a gritty urban tone with vampires and the other is , well...fantasy. Regardless of how profound the difference in rules may be it is nothing compared to the fact that one week you're playing a PC who is a vampire with all that goes along with that, and next week your PC is a gnome who lives under the roots of some trees. As you mentioned, we've had this conversation before; and I still assert that one set of rules that handle things in a generic way and don't try to wiggle their fingers into the setting is more effective *if* you have the ability to carry the tone, theme, etc on your own. If you don't have that knack I can see how your experience would be different.

I honestly just believe that many gamemasters (or just gamers in general) give the rules far too much credit when it is in fact they and their groups ability to create a meaningful experience that is setting up these differences of theme and tone and look and feel. The farther down the "let's make a system for this" path you wander the farther you get from that natural storyteller in all of us.
as an aside, this is another reason that i slowly slid away from this site sadly. no matter the initial topic it always seems to come down to some crunchy part or rules tweak around here. what do i actually have to say to further the conversation? nothing really. if there was talk on the elements of storytelling within the hobby, or character development that has nothing to do with classes or rules or systems or social combat mechanics, or how to try to stray away from Campbell's myth structure...these things i would love to talk about at length. everything i might say on the topic of the 'game' aspect of our hobby just makes me sound arrogant and i don't like sounding that way. i've given all kinds of thought over the years to world building and character development and plot imperative and open ellipse plot archs in articles i could write to post here and discuss afterwards...but everytime i went even close to it it would seem to inevitably slip into something system related and it seemed so...typical. we should be against that here but instead it's the same conversation as every other gaming website, only here with fewer participants. so really...any interest in reading my take on the other (and to me far more important) side of this beast we share as a hobby? or will it, if i write these kinds of articles, just turn into another conversation about how rules are good too and i should accept that?

If you want to talk story. We can leave your love of rules deeply in the closet.

Scott, how do you sustain a plot-line over time? I use elliptical storytelling -- I often have the characters return to the same places with new knowledge. It is the new knowledge that makes a game-changing perspective shift. These happen once every few years. If I want them to feel their achievements then I leave the village the same and this focuses on how the characters are different. If I want them to feel the inevitable grip of death... I change a favoured location. inside this basic structure I attend to plots and objectives.

When I am tired, though, it is all about the episode. Build up a bad-guy and tear him down.

Have you ever tried building up a bad-guy who is actually an unwitting pawn of one of his underlings? The "underling" has masterminded the pawn into a position of emminence and target of revulsion. When the players go to defeat him/her then the "bad-guy" makes a self-sacrificing final action towards the greater good. At this moment the players realize not all is as it seems and they have to re-examine the situation (or shrug it off as a change-of-heart).

Wow, really? Because we happen to hit some similar topics as other places, we're no different from them? Seriously? Last I checked both Kant and Mill talked about morality, and both were very different.

As for your articles, I'd love to see them. It gets annoying hearing you bitch about how much rules discussions go on here when this is a website about roleplaying games. Rules are a part of the discussion, as is storytelling. Often, we talk about them in tandem - because they exist in tandem within the art. Film is a medium of storytelling, but bitching about how much people talk about technique as opposed to storytelling is just foolish. They are the SAME THING. A talented director uses technique to enhance the story being told, to maybe set the audience on edge or give them a spectacle or a thousand other things. Similar with a talented gamemaster - I don't ever let rules overwhelm me, but I use them as another tool in my tool kit, something I can use to help tell a story. I don't need them, but they're damn effective when used correctly. It's not about necessity, and it never was about necessity, it's about telling the best story possible, and I never, ever waste something that can be put to use. It's true that the vast change between Lorthyne and my games was due in large part to the change of setting, but the rules served as a (sometimes) subtle way to reinforce that change. One is a game of half measures, of rolling 6 dice and hoping for as many successes as possible. Another is game of heroism, of innate and magical skills that help bring victory to you. In a well-constructed rulesset, they reinforce what should already be there, in a way that is not obvious.

My frustration here, Scott, is that I feel like you're putting me down. I look up to you as a friend on this website and have learned a lot from your posts. Right now I feel like you guys are acting like there are no rules in the games, like what I'm talking about doesn't matter, and you're refusing to engage with me in a discussion I've tried to have with you multiple times. I only bring it up when you bring it up (which is often), but I keep doing so because I never feel like we actually talk about what I'm talking about. So much gaming is based on this all or nothing approach to rules - either that the rules are everything (typical D&D) or that the rules are just a waste of paper getting in the way (the extreme side of the indie stuff). I feel like both, while certainly feasible, miss what could be useful with rules. We GMs tend to view rules as the manacles we put on in order to play the game. What the hell is that? Why would you limit yourself in that way when there's so much potential here? I do not put the rules above me, I use them as I see fit when I see fit and in the most elegant way possible. I don't love the rules, but I do see their usefulness. I'm not trying to convince you to, say, adopt D&D 4e for your game. Not only is that bad advice in general, but I can tell you're quite happy with what you already have, which is totally fine. I just merely want to have a discussion about this particular topic because it interests me, especially given you're rather extreme position on it.

So to the debate itself instead of the grandstanding and put downs - You're created a straw man in your argument. The basic jist of it is that you don't need rules because you can do all that as a storyteller yourself. I never said you couldn't, nor that you do need rules to do any of those things. My argument is that rules are a useful tool (similar to word choice, sentence structure, and even font type in writing, since you're an author) which one can use to reinforce the themes, etc., of a story. It is that argument I'd like you to meet me on. The main problem with your argument as it stands is your claim that the more we discuss the tools of storytelling the farther away we get from the storytelling itself. I absolutely disagree. Technique, in whatever medium, is a vital part of storytelling, sometimes the most vital part. For instance, Shakespeare sucks at coming up with plots. Hamlet's dad dies and Hamlet thinks his uncle did it. Hamlet debates killing his uncle. Hamlet finally does so and dies in the process. That's not very compelling, until you see the way he WROTE it. Shakespeare knew technique better than any other artist, excepting maybe a Michelangelo or others of similar caliber. Shakespeare's tools are what makes him great, what makes him possibly the greatest storyteller to ever grace God's green earth. You, Scott, are a student of verbal storytelling. Oh, that change of pitch you just used to subtly insinuate menace in a particular character? You really shouldn't do that, because it gets away from the story itself. Are you freaking kidding me? Dude, if I'm sitting before Homer, I want him to use every tool he's got AND tell me a great story. Can you change your pitch to fit mood? Can you carefully structure your words to imply meaning? Can you break poetic rules to create a jarring sensation, perfect for the violence being portrayed? Then do all those things! Don't hold back out of some misguided concept of purity! I think rules, in addition to virtually everything mentioned above, CAN be used by a talented gamemaster to help tell a story, to construct mood, to reinforce theme, to imply motivation, etc. Are they your only tool? No, absolutely not. Are you limiting yourself by using them only? Absolutely. But can they be useful? Very.

As a final thought, I would love to read those articles, Scott. You mentioned maybe a year ago talking about verbal storytelling techniques you use in your games. I have wanted to read that article ever since, and your thoughts that we have on that have greatly influenced my own gamemastering, and improved my technique. I've actually been reading Homer, and picked up some ideas of my own for gamemastering that maybe we can discuss in such an article. If you want to talk about something other than rules, create a place for it. Write or publish those articles.

I love elliptical storytelling! It's something I'll be using quite a bit in season 2 and 3 of an earlier game. I often find it comes to me naturally, almost out of laziness more than anything. Why invent and describe an entirely new place when you can use an old one they already know? Of course, my games tend to be more localized as well, so that works well. The real magic of it is that half the time I don't need to impress a particular thing. A casual mention (especially following a particular dramatic event) works very well. How do you build that sense of place, Gil, especially with a game, as I assume yours to be based on your comment, to be more travel based? I tend to use mood and particular placeholders, though I feel I could do better with that. So how do you establish something so fundamentally they don't need to be reminded?

As per my earlier and much longer comment, I think Homer has some tips here. He uses a lot of epithets as shorthand to create a character or place immediately, or resurrect that feeling in the audience. Hence, Odysseus is rarely just Odysseus. He is always Odysseus, sacker of cities, or clever Odysseus or something along those lines. I think there's a lot to be said for doing that with characters and places in roleplaying.

I let the game wander for a number of reasons. More now than ever because I don't have the time to really dig in and devote a lot of time to it. Sometimes it is easier to have a throw-away location than pollute an established place with contradiction. Managing continuity over the years gets difficult so I find the re-discovery process a quick out of all of the problems. By bouncing back-and-forth from several locations it allows them to play for a year or two in an environment and then move out of it. Some I "write" back into the story. Some I forget about. The players often re-visit a location that they like. The other reason I do it is for verisimiltude -- the characters are epic level. No one place can be a constant source of challenge. When they were low and middle level they could stay more tied to locale. Now they chase conspiracy and grander things.

As a device I will use a very specific description for some places. It will always generate that "we have been here before" moment. Places will have local dialects, so replacing some terms is often helpful.

Whale-Road (stolen from Beowulf)
Ring-giver (Lord - again stolen from beowulf)

Dwarven pairings I use

white-tempered (angry)
red-tempered (sad)
earth-spine (mountain range)

I love the idea of epithets -- I should weave some back into game. That is a great idea for getting the locals to explain a situation as they are short-handing fact and perception.

Given sleep and preparation time; I can improve my GMing craft. I haven't felt "on" for a number of sessions though. I find that a really good game is preceded with a good week of gestation. Then it oozes out at the table.

I'm on your page when it comes to rule and narration. I disagree with Scott, but would welcome his advice on story or game management.

Scott, I will stay away from any conversation around rules. If you can avoid mentioning them I can too.

Tzuriel --- I'll talk about rules.


lol I don't want to create some sort of wedge here but I think it's rather difficult not to talk about rules, at least occasionally. I'm not obsessed with the concept (out of everything roleplaying related I think about rules least), but I love roleplaying and love to discuss it, so I like to talk about rules occasionally as part of that. Hopefully I haven't driven Scott away. I do enjoy his input, which is why I talk to him about these things - because he has something interesting to say.

I haven't yet gotten to a game where they move around more, though I certainly have plans for that. I have to wrap up my current game beforehand, however, which means staying localized. The biggest problem I have with local things is the sheer amount of characters. Trying to keep their various motivations and personalities in my head, especially given that they're almost all interacting with each other off screen, is difficult, to say the least. It makes for a pulsing, living, and vibrant world, but it can be challenging. The advantage to a more mobile game is that you only have to worry about characters you want to. The other ones are back in town, doing town things that don't impact you a continent away. And you get to show off a lot of color and such. I have yet to run a successful mobile game, though I'm planning on doing either a Battletech (probably heavily modified system wise) or Dogs game once I'm finished with parts 2 and 3 of my gangster game. Even for my gangster game, however, I'm planning on coloring in wider portions of the world outside of the city that they operate in, expanding hopefully to most of America and parts of Europe. But that's a ways ahead now.

I also find I need at least a week to think it over and bounce ideas around before I'm ready myself. Even more time is needed on the first session of new game. The best first session I've ever had came after a month of preparation (it was Christmas break). Sometimes good stuff comes from the spur of the moment but I tend to need that week to figure things out.

I have a really hard time with dialects and accents, etc. I'm just not very good at that sort of stuff, though it can slip in when I'm around others doing it. We have one player who delights in putting on an Irish accent for the gangster game. That helps a little, but there's just too many characters and too little time to give each a unique "voice" in the form of accents and all. I do try to modulate the way they speak, either in tone or pitch or word choice, to differentiate them, especially when they're first introduced. All in all, though, I find myself severely lacking in this department. Any resources you know of that can help?

All my dwarves sound like Texans. Eventually all of my accents slide away. If anyone has some acting advice I would be glad to hear too.

"Hopefully I haven't driven Scott away."

I suggest that you don't feel one bit bad in any case. Scott and I tangled very vociferously. I respect his opinions and do my best to avoid personalizing any disagreement. To my mind a forum is a place to examine differences and express opinions. People drift in and out based upon their level of interest in the topic at hand. If Scott is interested in a topic, he will reply. I doubt either of us offended him by taking up a different viewpoint. If he isn't interested in talking about rules, we have no need to drag him into such a conversation. He can stay out of a thread about rules -- just as I can stay out of a thread about Pokemons.

"I do enjoy his input, which is why I talk to him about these things - because he has something interesting to say."

Me too. I suspect that we have a lot of "lurkers" out there who think so as well -- and not just the esteemed "Gherkin" of lurkers.

Highly esteemed, he is lol.

Well, hopefully he'll pop back up again.

My Boston accent is atrocious, as are the rest of mine. At least with fantasy settings you can just say, "All the races sound like me with higher or lower voices" lol. Trying to do a game set in 20s Boston with accents is just not fair to us with less acting talent.

I pop away for a little bit, and the debate explodes!

So, a thought regarding the discussion of rules as a tool or technique of storytelling. As these debates have rampaged across the Gamegrene forums, I've been pretty intrigued at how often different folks have used analogies as a way to approach the discussion and try to make their point clearer: Scott has talked about magic tricks, Tzuriel with filming technique, and I remember rather fondly a very heated discussion about musical instruments in the hands of an expert player.

Despite how ineffective these have seemed to be, I find myself returning to that same technique (lol) of discussion. I believe I'm approaching it enough from a different angle

Let's look at carpentry. I'm seeing Scott here as the old, experienced carpenter. He's spent his life working with hand tools, shaping and carving the wood to his liking with his hammer and chisel of oral storytelling techniques and. He creates beautiful work this way, and his methods are powerful because they are familiar to him.

Now comes the advent of power tools. Folk like Gil, Tzuriel, and I pick them up and say, "Wow, this power sander is really effective at providing the smoothness I want," or "This skillsaw gives me added precision," or "Wow, this chainsaw of D&D is really only good for hacking and maiming things." We heft them up, and say, "Hey check this out. This works for me." Scott responds, "I don't like it. I can't feel the wood nearly as well while using power tools as I can with my hand tools. The real skill is in the the carpenter, not his tools." The angry crowd responds, "Yes, the real skill is in the carpenter, but I use the power tools to enhance my craft, and it works."

All of us end up with something beautiful, a masterpiece. I'm reminded of a recent family pumpkin-carving contest. Using hand carving and some creative ingredients, my dad created a scene of a jack-o-lantern family rather morbidly eating a spaghetti squash dinner. My uncle used power tools to depict a large pumpkin monster trampling and eating several smaller ones. Both reminded me of the sort of snowmen that Calvin would create in Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Despite different techniques, both results were incredible.

There's a couple of things we all have to recognize. First, that we ALL use rules mechanics to some extent, which helps to shape the experience. Really, I think that the definition of the roleplaying game medium involves collaborative storytelling on the part of not only the group of people at the table, but the rules mechanics that provide a random or unexpected element. Second, that in this case, the difference in technique doesn't imply a difference in value. The very fact that we've argued about this topic shows that the mechanics have had some sort of impact on our games, and I'm pretty sure we've all had experiences in which we use rules when we find them useful, and other experiences in which we chuck them out because they get in the way.

I guess the short of it is, we're really not that different. :)

Well said. :)

You bring up an interesting thought, though, when you mention the purpose behind rules mechanics, saying that they "provide a random or unexpected element." I've heard this often, usually as a blanket statement on the place of mechanics in games, in that they simply make things go an unexpected way. Is this really the case? Or does it actually happen often enough to be the pure purpose for mechanics?

I think a great deal of the debate here is that we're arguing from different ideas of the place and purpose of mechanics. Should they only provide a random element when called for, which seems to be what Scott is saying? Or do they have a larger purpose? Is it even possible to limit rules to just providing a random element? In roleplaying, what do the rules actually do, what are they there for?

"The function of a fantasy role-playing game is to provide a medium of controlled interaction between players, characters, and an imaginary game world. This game should make it easy for players to act as they desire, and facilitate the imaginations of everyone without becoming false. It necessarily follows that a game of this description must be easy to use, so as not to interfere with the play or break the player’s willing suspension of disbelief. From this mandate it is clear that the ideal game system provides a framework for adventure and imagination, but never becomes the game. The best system can hope to disappear. Players should never feel confined within the rules. Neither should they feel that they can bend the false reality to their whims. In both scenarios the world becomes artificial. A good fantasy world is imaginary, un-real, often mystical, but never artificial. In order to maintain belief and encourage imagination, a game should provide a method of evaluating and understanding your character. When called upon, the game system should give you a method of plausibly returning random results. That’s it. The gamers do the rest. "

Rules should allow the gamer the ability to employ strategies with measurable results.

Rules should simulate a shared world of adventure and keep it plausible.

Rules should "get out of the way" of the narrativist when they are telling a story.

So I would argue that rules do much more than just give random results. They offer a framework to evaluate the action. Take Risk for example. On defence you can have two dice; on offence you get up to three. Ties go to the defender. This structure permeates the game with the value of defence. Leaving one pip in a country is less than half as strong as leaving two. It affects how you evaluate an opponent's position as everyone, at one point or another, has had an encounter with two defenders that just won't die. Like waves crashing on rocks, your troops get beaten back. It changes what you imagine about the game.

"Why would you limit yourself in that way when there's so much potential here?"

There was a lot said while I was working on finishing another book so I'll merely clarify my point by highlighting the above point I quoted.

The answer to this question is simple...the potential inherent in any given rule is overshadowed, for me, by the fact that *they* limit my style. I don't limit myself, that's the point. I don't suggest that they limit you, I only comment on what I know...and that's me. I only know me. And if I already have a perfectly good tool for the job I don't need to learn to use a new one because that would waste my time...which would limit me.

Every now and then I come across a very elegant little something or other and as long as it doesn't clash with what I already do (which now consists of using the most stripped down version of the True20 rules system ever) I will use long as it isn't MORE work or MORE effort or MORE involved that what we already do. The example of power tools vs. hand tools was a good one. I like to have my hands right one the story being told and guide my players to do the same. I show them where all the little grooves and bumps in the wood are with their fingers. In fact, it's more like working with wet clay. I believe in "show, don't tell" and I personally just feel the rules tell...they don't "show" anything. This is just me though, I don't claim to hold a higher authority, or an elitist snobbery. I just know what works for me.

I apologize, Tzuriel, for making you feel I was speaking down to you or something. I wasn't. You're correct, it's a roleplaying game forum and so rules must come into the conversation...but they also often end up dominating the conversation as debate over this or that crunchy bit spirals the topic up it's own ass and limits the potential for other angles. Perhaps that sounds overly harsh, but it is a comment based on observation. Suggesting a different way to handle it that doesn't involve relying on rules is often met with resistence. I don't know why this is, but it really is what it is.

A common saying in magic is this; "Effect not method". The method should be invisible to the spectator, and indeed the spectator should not even be a spectator...they should be a participant. If your effect is sound, stick to your method and don't worry about what I or anyone else says. I can't tell you what they are, who invented them, or even what they're called...but there are two very very different sleights used in magic that achieve the exact same effect; that effect being a card placed in the middle is suddenly on the top of the pack, face up, right there while everyone "burns your hands". One is incredibly technical and you could spend a lifetime on it and never call it "perfect", one is so easy a child could master it in less than an hour. There has been a very heated debate over which is actually "better" going on, literally, for centuries. No joke. To call it "devisive" would be a gross understatement. I would hate that to become the case here as it simply isn't worth it.

Effect, not method.

I do agree that a perfect marriage between what magicians refer to as "knack and patter" needs to happen to achieve a perfect effect (in this case rules and storytelling prowess to achieve a perfect campaign). Finding that balance is very individual thing and applying groupthink to it is almost more damaging than not thinking about it at all. What's more important, in my mind, is finding your own voice. Find your voice, learn to speak in it fluently, and rigorously enforce restrictions on anything that might influence that voice; this includes rules. Looking for the perfect rule to do this or that thing absolutely WILL NOT improve ones ability to tell a compelling story that the players feel they have as much control over as you do. It WILL absolutely improve your "game"...but many times something else is broken and instead of finding out what it is we as gamemasters go to the rules first because it's far easier to blame an external construct. In almost every situation I've come across in over two decades of gaming and gamemastering where the gamemaster (I base this mostly on myself, not others) is constantly tweaking and twiddling with rules it is a symptom of a deeper underlying problem that NO rules tweak or new set of mechanics can ever solve. No matter what is subbed in the same problem keeps coming up; it just isn't good enough.

I owned a car once. Every time I turned around something else was broken. I thought it was a shitty car so I bought a different one. Same thing. Now I walk everywhere and miraculously I have no issues at all. Life is good. Sometimes I have to go further than I care to walk and so I take the bus. If the bus breaks I just get off and walk. I told this story to a friend of mine once and he laughed in my face because, of course, that's just how it goes with cars. As it turns out my problem was not with my car, it was with cars themselves.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I'm going to tell you. Of course I am. LOL. See, I've at least tried cars. This friend of mine? He's never tried walking everywhere for a year, just to see if he liked it. He resists the idea because he likes cars so much...and yet he also complains all the time about always having to fix his.

"Scott, how do you sustain a plot-line over time? I use elliptical storytelling -- I often have the characters return to the same places with new knowledge. It is the new knowledge that makes a game-changing perspective shift. These happen once every few years. If I want them to feel their achievements then I leave the village the same and this focuses on how the characters are different. If I want them to feel the inevitable grip of death... I change a favoured location. inside this basic structure I attend to plots and objectives.

When I am tired, though, it is all about the episode. Build up a bad-guy and tear him down.

Have you ever tried building up a bad-guy who is actually an unwitting pawn of one of his underlings? The "underling" has masterminded the pawn into a position of emminence and target of revulsion. When the players go to defeat him/her then the "bad-guy" makes a self-sacrificing final action towards the greater good. At this moment the players realize not all is as it seems and they have to re-examine the situation (or shrug it off as a change-of-heart)."

I'm going to write something about this as I generally only run long campaigns and so sustaining the story over time is absolutely front of mind at all times for me. I just don't have time to write about it right now. Or maybe I do...let me see...clock clock clock...right! It's in the lower right corner of the screen. Gah! Okay. Elsewhere though.

Gil - Exactly. In a well constructed game, roleplaying or otherwise, the rules provide a framework for thinking about the game. Chess has endured as the premier strategy game because the rules it uses are extremely elegant, simple and effective. You cannot play chess without thinking strategically. I would argue you can't even lose at chess while playing by the rules without thinking strategically. The rules set of the game demands it, without even allowing the players to think about it. From the very beginning, when you choose to move the horseman instead of a pawn, you are formulating a strategy, even if you are awful at it. I've won at chess accidentally before, but I still won strategically.

I see what you're saying, Scott, I really do. You say rules limit you, and I can absolutely see that. Heaven knows I haven't met a rules system I didn't chafe at (except maybe Dogs, I'm such a fanboy for the game). But I think I've just had the wrong perspective mostly. By saying the rules limited me, I made it so. I gave them the power to do just that. Now, I know the rules never limited me - I limited me, and used the rules as a scapegoat for my problems. I think you actually said this yourself, though again from a different perspective - "many times something else is broken and instead of finding out what it is we as gamemasters go to the rules first because it's far easier to blame an external construct." I used to run D&D. I ran a horror campaign with an excellent set of players who had given me some of the most compelling characters I've ever seen. I totally fucked it up, if you'll pardon my french. I wanted to get my players to a certain power level so they could take on particular bad guys, etc. But, it being D&D, you have to slog through endless combat to earn the experience. So we slogged, and we all hated it. Clearly, the campaign ended badly, with other factors dealing the final coup de grace to what was already dying. It shames me to say this, but it never really occurred to me to just skip all the stupid combat, tell the players they'd leveled up, and then throw the super bads at them. Or, even better, to throw the super bads at them and make it a combat about strategy and high stakes, instead of a d20 slog, with equally powerful elements hitting each other until one dies. I limited myself, and never thought to take ownership of the rules. I don't hate D&D, though I certainly don't care for it. That being said, it was not D&D's fault that my campaign died. It was mine.

BUT many things went into this. I could have still used D&D, and my campaign could've become a success. I would simply use the rules as tools, taking what applied to the situation and using it to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. That is certainly a workable solution. But is it the ideal solution? What if I find a game, let's assume a good game, that's specifically well designed for fantasy horror? It's everything I want to for the game. Should I switch or continue fighting D&D, ignoring or heavily modifying the bits I don't like? I'm not saying that I only do what's "allowed" in any given system, or will only run, say, a cthulhu game if I have Call of Cthulhu, but, to go back to carpentry, when I need a saw, I pick the one that's the right kind of sharpness and length for the job I'm doing. Some people (read: Scott lol) prefer their single, trusty and well-tried saw. I appreciate that, I do. But I'll take five minutes to pick the best saw for the job instead, because it makes the job easiest and most natural. That doesn't mean that I'll have 300 hundred saws depending on every variable that could confront me when doing carpentry stuff. Nor do I keep many game books, honestly. I just take what I have and utilize the rules as tools to best achieve my desired ends. I never allow them to get in the way, because I control them, not the other way around. I do feel it is legitimate, within reason, to say one is limiting himself when sticking to only one rulesset for every possible game. d20 is and always will be essentially different from the Storyteller system, in more than the number of dice rolled. Each system emphasizes wildly different themes and storytelling values just by nature of their mechanics, without the fluff text. This is undeniable, if you ask me.

As far as show, not tell, I don't think that need apply here. Many rules do tell, instead of show. I think those are ineffective rules, and usually the product of a massive system that falls apart under its own weight. The elegance of a good system doesn't even show - it suggests in the subtlest ways the themes at play here. I would never use rules to substitute other methods of storytelling - they are simply one more thing used to buttress the structure and content of the game. As always, they are a tool, and not even a very big one. But, like all tools, they are important.

The debate about the trick is very interesting, though I have to disagree with your final conclusion. I'm certainly not experienced in magic, but I would argue that something like this debate is good, in that it brings contention, which brings change and growth. It might be ridiculous, but a central debate like this keeps the larger skill moving, changing, in response to these debates. I would hate for it to become stagnant and decline.

Effect and method, when properly considered, are the same. One leads to the other which leads to the other. They share a direct and unmistakable connection. It's important to consider that. The thing I feel you're fighting against, Scott, is the common overemphasis given to method, which I also believe is not only occurring, but negative in effect. But method is still important.

I would turn your example back on you, Scott. Yes, your friend has never walked everywhere for a year, but, based upon what I know, you haven't used every rules system in the book, or none at all. I would argue you have barely used five, at least not recently. Given your own argument, which I actually disagree with, you have no real ground to stand upon here.

"Effect and method, when properly considered, are the same. One leads to the other which leads to the other. They share a direct and unmistakable connection. It's important to consider that. The thing I feel you're fighting against, Scott, is the common overemphasis given to method, which I also believe is not only occurring, but negative in effect. But method is still important"

-They're not the same at all. If the desired outcome is that the method vanishes and all that is visible is the effect then which method you use is immaterial to those who perceive the effect. Don't make the mistake of thinking I haven't considered just because we don't agree. The thing I'm fighting against is exactly what you say; but I never said method wasn't important, I said *which* method is used is unimportant if the effect you deisre is the effect you achieve.

"Yes, your friend has never walked everywhere for a year, but, based upon what I know, you haven't used every rules system in the book, or none at all. I would argue you have barely used five, at least not recently. Given your own argument, which I actually disagree with, you have no real ground to stand upon here."

-In the last 23 years I have used at least 15 different rules systems for various campaigns; some rules heavy, some rules light, some diceless,
and some that weren't even rule systems at all. I've tried everything from "use every die in the tube with a different mechanic for each situation" all the way to "we aren't using rules, this is just collaborative storytelling". My point of view is based on empirical evidence and results, not conjecture.

And certainly not on blatant assumption.

Your mistake is thinking I am worried about having "ground to stand on." My results are all the ground I need, a debate on a messageboard doesn't carry nearly as much weight for me as over two decades of gamemastering.

lol nor should it. But I would hope the debate isn't worthless. I certainly enjoy this and find much to learn in these debates.

The desired outcome is that the method vanishes, but it hardly follows then that the method is immaterial. Method leads directly to effect - a faulty method equals a faulty effect. If you're talking to someone about storytelling, yelling, "Just tell a story!" at them doesn't usually help. You can't just preach the effect at someone because the point is they don't know the method which leads to said effect. In terms of definition, yes, method and effect are different. But in practical terms they are so closely related they might as well be the same thing, especially when it comes to something as fluid as roleplaying. The efficiency and skill of my method is very important when it comes to effect. To relate it, as I always do, to film, the method of Hitchcock is all but invisible, except when he doesn't want it to be. But even invisible, it is omnipresent and very well thought out. If someone were to ask Hitchcock how he achieved, say, a Vertigo, it would be absurd for him to make them watch the movie and then go, "See?" Clearly they don't see it as self-evident, else they wouldn't ask. The method becomes invisible precisely because it becomes the same as effect, and just as important (actually, to argue importance is absurd, as they are totally co-dependent, and, I believe, practically the same). Effect and method, but never forget either.

And which method can be quite important, though often certainly on a personal level. The method chosen says a lot about the chooser and effects things in subtle ways that are near impossible to tell but can be quite important. It's that last bit that's why the debate has raged for years in magic. The devil is in the details.

And I'm glad you're so experienced :P It is quite interesting your experiences with games have been so different from mine, but it's hard to determine such things. I have tried multiple systems and certainly tend to relatively rules light systems, but can enjoy them all. That being said, I do enjoy the rules, as part of method, and I enjoy both method and effect in almost all the art I experience.

"In terms of definition, yes, method and effect are different. But in practical terms they are so closely related they might as well be the same thing..."

-Wrong again. There is no "mught as well be the same thing" when discussing two things that are vastly different. If you can't grasp the subtelty that seperates them enough to stop insisiting they may as well be the same then we don't have much to talk about with each other on the subject. This is precisely why I see no value in the debate. We're not even having the same conversation.

"You can't just preach the effect at someone because the point is they don't know the method which leads to said effect..."

-Even when it's explained to them that the method for the effect they are attmepting to achieve is not the method they are trying to use to achieve it, nor will any tweaking of that method change it into the one the person is looking for. You cannot place a nail through a board by hitting it with a fish...I don't care how tweaked the fish is. So you're absolutely don't know the method because you refuse to accept that a fish is not a hammer. What's left to debate? Different kinds of fish? I won't debate simply for the sake of debate or because the act of debate entertains you. For me to engage in a serious debate about the virtues or flaws of something I need to feel we're talking about the same thing. If it's just a semantic circle-jerk or an excercise in tedious hair-splitting I'm not interested. And it has to give me the feeling that further conversation on the topic will actually lead somewhere...

...this does not.

... and now for something completely different.

Has anyone any thoughts on how to make NPC's seem more different. *Accents. Patois. Hats?

I have tried using unusual phrases that tie to a character like..

"My muddy mother!"

If only one NPC uses that phrase and you start a statement with it all the players know who is talking without you having to say "Garvin says..."

Gil - I have a hard time doing that, because it just doesn't feel right. That being said, I'm not very theatrical in my games. If I do use that technique, I usually use it as a player for a shorthand to get into the character, though even that's rare and I usually don't have the presence of mind to keep up any real attempt at it, honestly. For one character I wanted to try and speak in a mash up of Biblical, Shakespeare and sailor speak. Clearly, that was a doomed project lol.

Scott - Wow, really? Can we go back a little bit to the part where you give me the respect of assuming I can hold a conversation and have something to offer here, where the underlying assumption is we're both intelligent people talking about this, and I'm not trying to jerk either myself or you off? The fact that I have to even ask that of you is aggravating.

I don't know where you're getting the idea that the effect and the method don't line up in particular. I'm going off the assumption they do, as in the magic example you gave wherein there are two different methods to do a trick, both of which work, but one of which is infinitely more complicated than the other. I'm not, as you so kindly implied, talking about hitting a nail with a fish, but about different hammers, or perhaps a different hammering technique. This, in fact, is an excellent example of what I'm getting at. We use one word for many things - "hammering" includes placing the nail, getting the right grib on the hammer, swinging it as you see fit, and hitting the nail into the surface. It, quite literally, is an example of effect and method being melded into one action. It's true they're different, but for all PRACTICAL purposes, it's just hammering.

The difference between what I'm talking about and this example is the measurement of effect. It's easy to know when a technique works for hammering - the nail is in the board. It's much harder to judge art, because of the subtlety involved. And so the debate continues, as well it should. It's not that I lack the subtlety as per your comment (which was a magnificently unsubtle way of acting like an ass, by the way), it's that I'm talking about subtlety itself, which is difficult to describe. Whatever method you use, whether faulty of not, is going to have a massive impact on the effect you have. You yourself show this consistently. You've just written a so far two part series all about using particular methods to achieve the effect you want. Yes, effect is the endgame, but method is the path you walk to get there, and, as all good philosophers know, the path you walk and the destination are actually the same thing divided semantically for ease of discussion.

It's all "storytelling" - effect and method, and everything else you can think of. Neither is to be disregarded. I really don't feel like I'm saying anything radical here. This is common sense, and fairly undeniable as far as such things go.

"Scott - Wow, really? Can we go back a little bit to the part where you give me the respect of assuming I can hold a conversation and have something to offer here, where the underlying assumption is we're both intelligent people talking about this, and I'm not trying to jerk either myself or you off? The fact that I have to even ask that of you is aggravating"


"It's not that I lack the subtlety as per your comment (which was a magnificently unsubtle way of acting like an ass, by the way..."

-Don't make the mistake of starting a name calling competition you smug little shit...I'll win. Notice how at no point have I called you down personally in this conversation despite all the things that went through my mind as I read some of your comments? Seriously dude...stick it.

"Yes, effect is the endgame, but method is the path you walk to get there, and, as all good philosophers know, the path you walk and the destination are actually the same thing divided semantically for ease of discussion."

-I can't explain the inherent difference any better than I've already tried. You just don't get what I'm saying...and I can live with that. Part of the problem, I think, is that you are trying to look at this from TOO philosophical a point of view.

"It's all "storytelling" - effect and method, and everything else you can think of. Neither is to be disregarded. I really don't feel like I'm saying anything radical here. This is common sense, and fairly undeniable as far as such things go."

-Gah! This is the last time I'm going to point out that I'm not disregarding any part of it at all...I'm stressing that the thing that came up isn't achieved with rules; it's achieved otherwise. No one is disregarding anything...but if I see you holding a fish while scratching your head and trying to figure out why the nail won't go in I'm going to say my piece. It's not "different methods of hammering" or even "different hammers".

It's this: "I'm having trouble getting my screwdriver to cut wood, so I'm thinking of changing to a tape measure. This'll probably get the wood cut better. Wait, it didn't work, I'll add a stiff handle to the tape measure, and maybe some serrated teeth, and then I'll sharpen the teeth. it's still to flexible and bendy to cut well, but it's better than before".

Meanwhile I'm standing there, looking at the handsaw and scratching my head, holding it out to you, and you're like "No! The screwdriver had precision! The tape measure has even more because of all the numbers on it! So I'm going to make this work! Stop faulting my method! It's the same as yours!"

I can't talk about this anymore; I feel like I'm going to have a seizure trying to see things from your point of view. Please don't even reply to this.

"It's not that I lack the subtlety as per your comment (which was a magnificently unsubtle way of acting like an ass, by the way), it's that I'm talking about subtlety itself, which is difficult to describe."

I lol'd here, mostly because of the irony in trying to clarify and quantify subtlety.

Reading backwards to try to get some more context for the conversation (about method and effect), I reread this post from Scott:

"A common saying in magic is this; "Effect not method". The method should be invisible to the spectator, and indeed the spectator should not even be a spectator...they should be a participant."

I think the comparison here is invalid, because there is pretty significant difference between stage magic and roleplaying: In stage magic (which, I grant, I know very little about), there is one performer presenting to an audience, whereas in roleplaying, everyone at the table is a performer. Certainly, as Scott said, in stage magic "the spectator should not even be a spectator... they should be a participant." That's a large part of why televised stage magic doesn't work: The skill and the artistry of the magician becomes immaterial, because the "magic" is in deceptive filming techniques rather than the showmanship of the performer. The spectator should be a participant, but they are a superficial one, one who doesn't see or understand the methods, and is entirely investing in the effect. I'm thinking of that scene from The Prestige in which Alfred Borden teaches a young boy a coin trick, and then says, "Never show anyone. They'll beg you and they'll flatter you for the secret, but as soon as you give it up... you'll be nothing to them. " Stage magic is dependent on the illusion, on the hiding of effect from the spectator so that they become a happy participant in the effect, in the magic. As Cutter says, "Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts... The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled."

Roleplaying is different, because you're not trying to craft an illusion for your players as much as you are trying to craft a story with your players. It's less about trying to put on a show for an audience, and more like a group of magicians grouping together to pull off an incredible trick in which the only audience is themselves. If we're talking about "methods" being storytelling techniques, narration techniques, and rules mechanics (or practiced sleight of hand and misdirection technqiues in stage magic); and "effect" being the overall story, the emotional experience (or, in stage magic, the showmanship, the "magic"); in roleplaying, by necessity, the method CANNOT be hidden from the audience, because they are the very ones implementing that method. Simple, streamlined, and low-key rules systems are certainly *less* obvious than crunchier systems, but they are still pretty obvious. Fred Hicks from Evil Hat games talks about the "Secret Language of the Character Sheet" all the time: that is, the idea that the decisions that players make in the creation of their characters (either in fluff or in crunch) are the #1 way that players communicate to the GM what they want to see in the game. The very fact that your players have a character sheet in front of them ties them irrevocably to the rules "method" in a very visceral way. To take that one step further, players use their character sheet (which is the personalized rules system for their character) to inform their decisions. In my group, we often joke about one player who time after time found her character in physical conflicts, and each time would declare: "I have 3 Gunslinger!" The player never could remember what mechanical bonus that skill actually granted, but was very aware that she had *some* sort of bonus. In other words, she used the method of rules mechanics to inform her decisions within the game. This is a "method" producing a specific "effect," and one clearly follows from the other.

Essentially, within a roleplaying game, it is impossible to conceal the rules method from your players unless you do all of the number crunching behind the GM screen, which tires me out just thinking about it. Because making the rules method invisible is impossible, it follows that the next best action is to find a rules method that facilitates the style of play you want. Scott, you've done that yourself, saying that the best way the rules can contribute to your game is to make them simple, streamlined, and universal so as to not be learning new systems with each new game. This allows your storytelling methods to come to the fore. Others say that rotating systems to fit the style of their game works better for them.

"I think the comparison here is invalid, because there is pretty significant difference between stage magic and roleplaying: In stage magic (which, I grant, I know very little about), there is one performer presenting to an audience, whereas in roleplaying, everyone at the table is a performer..."

-Your response is also invalid because I wasn't talking about stage magic. That's a different beast altogether. I was talking about closeup magic where everyone is right there like at a gaming table, and often are made into perticipants instead of just spectators. I'll admit this was a bad example or comparison because none of you avhe the slightest clue what I'm talking about despite your certainty that you do.

Seriously...I'm not going to talk about this anymore because I am the only guy speaking this language in this conversation. I'll stay in my own little corner where rules don't get mentioned so no one feels the need to either call me an ass (do it again, I f'ing dare you) or break it down like they think I don't know what's going on in the conversation. The alternative is that I leave again and stay away for months at a time because this seems really really typical to me...the antithesis of what this site was founded around.

I don't understand the hair splitting down to a particle level and I don't understand the agonizingly semantic runaround. You don't need to explain it to me either...I don't care.

Gil - Why shouldn't dwarves sound like Texans? It makes as much sense as them having a Scottish accent. If you use the D&D Dwarven stereotype, try sounding gruff and foul tempered rather than using an accent. The dwarf in LotR (Gimly? Forgive me for not remembering his name) didn't have an accent. When playing Elves I pause after each question and never abbreviate. "Do not" instead of "don't". You'd be surprised how far little things like this go.

Hey Scott, I can sense your frustration from here and I'm in Colorado. If I remember right, you're in Canada somewhere. I understand what's bothering you, but you gotta cool off a bit. Lol!

While I have to admit that the game rules do have bearing on storytelling, the elements of good storytelling are universal. One thing that has helped me immensly as a storyteller (GM) is having a solid setting. It doesn't matter if you build one from scratch, use a pregenerated world, or a combination. What matters is that you know the world enough that if the party goes somewhere unexpected, you don't have to make everything up as you go.

I can't make maps. It's my biggest failing as a GM. So I created a fantasy setting using the Earth as a base. I use physical maps of the world, my main kingdom's capital is San Fransisco, which allows me to have an extremely detailed map that I can zoom into almost anywhere. And if the party goes in some random direction, I know whats there. All I had to do was place a few major cities, link them with roads and set up borders. Then I could have fun developing the governments, religion and everything else. It's simple and very effective.

One of the easiest ways to make a fantasy world stand out is to have different governments. Each kingdom in my world has a different government and/or religion. I actually looked up "types of governments" and decided to use all of them.

It's preparation like that which makes it easy for me to adjust on the fly to anything that the players do.

If you guys want to talk about basic storytelling techniques, universal ones, this is the kind of stuff that you'll get. I can give you examples for days, as can Scott and a few others.

So let me know if you have storytelling questions and I'll be happy to answer them.

That last post doesn't make a lot of sense. Forgive me. It's late and I keep getting interrupted. I'll do better next time.

"I understand what's bothering you, but you gotta cool off a bit."

-As long as we were having a comparitive conversation about various styles and their implications I was perfectly cool. Once I get called an ass for simply expressing my take on things, and that conversation crosses the line between "talking shop" and "being a smarmy little shit" I stop being cool.

I don't mind Dwarves sounding Texan, but eventually any accent I try slides somewhere else. I am just not that good at it.

At the end of our last gaming session the guys and I sat around and talked politics. One of the members of the group ran in the last provincial election so it sparked some discussion. Politically we run the spectrum from Libertarian, Green, Conservative (Republican), Liberal, and New Democratic. We talked about everything from health care, role of government, to stimulus, to bank regulations, to the privatization of the liquor control board. We drew analogies from the States, Europe (specifically Greece and Spain), and talked about the income gap and programs from England like Co-operative Businesses.

One would imagine that with many polarized viewpoints it would have been a tricky conversation. It wasn't. We could "park" differences and get at the reason behind things. No one thought that anyone at the table was stupid, but we all had some pretty firm beliefs. We got to the root of our positions because we trusted each other enough to express fear. "If we privatize healthcare I am afraid that the resulting system would let poor people suffer. " "If our government infrastructure is too big we won't be competitive on the world stage."

Because we were having the conversation face-to-face we would work around an impasse and approach the problem from another angle. I assume that there is a good reason for my friends opinions; and that all of us will take a position on an emotional basis first and then justify it with logic. We had a lot of fun debating the merits of each others positions. We also did not have to pander or tipey-toe around any issue. The debate was strong and dynamic. I hope that when someone disagrees with me they are thinking "That is an interesting opinion, but the logic is flawed -- it is built on an incorrect assumption, or draws an inconsistent conclusion." not "This guy is a tool."

A website can be impersonal. The best way around conflict is to have a short memory and communicate respect for each others opinions. Scott, you are going to always spark a debate about rules because people disagree with you. That people want to debate it with you shows respect for the opinion. If they thought it was stupid they wouldn't respond. It is a polar opinion so people love to try and draw you away from the extreme. It is a way of exploring the boundary of their own beliefs. You get tired of the discourse; but look at American politics -- people love the extremiphile (sp?).

Ahem. I'm still watching.

I was joking Scott. I wrote that late last night and didn't mean to poke at you. What did you thing of the rest of what I wrote though?

Gil; I just don't drink sour milk. Worthwhile debate or not, I have strong opinions and I express them strongly. I don't make them personal though so when I am responded to in that way for whatever reason I walk the other direction. There's playing to win (which I tried), playing to lose (which is for losers)...and then the third alternative most people don't know about for some reason; which is to just not even play at all.

Cal; to the rest of what you wrote...I completely agree. It's the way to achieve what most gamemasters look elsewhere for.

I won't say anything else on it here though, nor can I effectively debate it with the people who don't agree, because I'm not interested in defending my point of view for the sake of someone else drawing their own into new light nor for the entertainment value of a healthy (or unhealthy) debate. I don't get any enjoyment from that; I get enjoyment from sharing on a topic, not proving and defending between apples and oranges. The mistake was mine, and that mistake was entering the conversation to begin with...because no one asked for my opinion.

Well hey, as a contributor to the problem here, I want to apologize. One of my favorite things about Gamegrene has always been that it's been a mature forum for conversation and exploration of differing ideas, the last bastion of civility left on the Internet. I'm sorry for contributing to the devolution of the discussion here, and I'm hoping we can all forget about the ugliness here and move back to the Gamegrene-y goodness that has been pretty inactive for quite some time.

Scott, I want to thank you for contributing your thoughts and ideas. This whole discussion has been immensely fascinating for me. The frustration expressed from all parties was pretty evident, but overall I came away having gained a new perspective on the idea (I'm mentally placing far less importance on the rules system than I ever have before). I'm glad that you expressed your opinion without being asked, because this would be a pretty bland community if we all waited to be invited to speak up. I'm sorry that the conversation was not enjoyable for you.

"I have strong opinions and I express them strongly. I don't make them personal though so when I am responded to in that way for whatever reason I walk the other direction."

I feel ya. I think it's fair to say that ALL of us here have pretty strong opinions are are interested in expressing them. I think most of us can recall the frequent head-bashing that I had with the now-absent Gazgurk a few years back about the impending release of D&D 4E. When that sort of thing happens, emotions can run pretty high.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm over it now, and that I'm grateful that the community here is mature enough to bounce back from this sort of dispute. Over the last week it's been pretty entertaining for me to hop between this thread and the discussion on Scott's articles. It's almost like there are different people using the forum handles, because the discussion is so vastly different. And I must say, I prefer the other discussion to this one.

lol Gazgurk.

I've emailed Scott so we can discuss this privately. Thanks to everyone else for your thoughts and advice. :)

"lol Gazgurk"

I was thinking about him the other day. True story. I kinda miss him.

"'lol Gazgurk'

I was thinking about him the other day. True story. I kinda miss him."

Yeah. He always seemed like he had a really interesting perspective and a lot to contribute... and then he didn't actually say anything other than "4E sucks."

Sounds like an up and coming gamegrener! :P