A Realization about Game Design/Contradictions

Fair warning, this is kind of a personal revelation, so it may not have any value to a reader… but I realized something about my own gaming habits, something about game design and how it appeals to different audiences, and just an all around disconnect in my gaming perception.

I’ve mentioned before that at one point, I wrote a game I printed and sold, just about 100 copies of, called Legends of Ryllia. I really hated my work on that game. I never could seem to get it right. I’ve been told by others that it’s not a “bad” game, but it doesn’t even work for me, the game’s creator, so I’m not sure what that means…

Or, I haven’t been. I think I’m getting there. I spent some time recently reading a few of the more “indie” games again. Some stuff styled on FATE and PDQ. I realized that in a lot of ways, back in 2004 when I wrote my game, I was being influenced by the early precursors of those games. Not that I wrote a game just like them… my biggest influence was probably Castle Falkenstein, since I’m being honest… but I was trying to emulate the streamlined, player-defined form that many of those games achieve. I was trying to make traits player-controlled, and make the story important, especially in terms of advancement.

But today, it all kinda clicked. I read this post which led me to look at the little adventure linked from there, Lady Blackbird. And it hit me, as I was reading this… I made a game that is, pretty much, everything I don’t enjoy in gaming.

I really don’t mind “rules-light” and I tend to run games that work best with very proactive players anyway, but I really don’t like games built around mechanics like FATE. And I designed a game that was very much in that vein. No wonder I don’t enjoy my own game — I was trying to run a game that asked players to be a part of something even I don’t really believe in. I was resisting my own design.

No, I’m not sure what that really says about me. I do know that it makes a decent case for why — as much as I love the ideas behind Spirit of the Century, Houses of the Blooded, and Dresden Files, I’ll never run them, and I won’t play in a game that uses those rules (anymore). I’ve just discovered that they frustrate me as a player (and as a GM) too much. Instead of being freeing, I find this style of play nearly paralyzing.

And it’s not just a rules lite issue. Barbarians of Lemuria, Castle Falkenstein, and Amber DRPG are some of the best games I’ve ever played/run… so I guess it’s difficult for me to put my finger on the issues. I also think this is a big part of why I continue to default back to playing games like D&D4E and Pathfinder. But then again, maybe I’m just crazy… It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve thought so.

So why did I write a game I didn’t want to play?

Thanks for putting up with my ruminating… I’ll be back to posting something about Pathfinder — and hopefully a little more Dragon Age content, by next Tuesday.

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2 responses

  1. I’d be interested in hearing you expound on what rubs you the wrong way about these games. Is it the user defined aspects, the use of a currency like fate points, or is it something more nebulous like not putting hard values on things?

  2. cauldronofevil | Reply

    “I’ve just discovered that they frustrate me as a player (and as a GM) too much. Instead of being freeing, I find this style of play nearly paralyzing.”

    I’m ALSO curious about what you don’t like about these games.

    I feel the same way and for me, it’s just all the whining and arguing. “I SHOULD be able to do this because this Aspects means….” (“No it doesnt!” “Yes it does!” etc.)

    I can’t really understand ANYONE being able to play these games and the only game I ever knew anyone played was Spirit of the Century and it lasted maybe a month.

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