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Soapbox: About the Industry

Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon

by Sandy Antunes
Mar 05,2004

 

Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon

Sergio resolved the Kilgallon Paradox, which has me pleased. If the paradox is:

RPGs emphasize combat. But if the game has problem-solving, I'm the best problem solver I know. Therefore, problem-solving isn't roleplay. So why have a non-combat character, since any non-combat details are just schtick.

Then his resolution is:

Our hobby is about roleplaying, it is not about character playing. That means that when I play a game I'm expected to play a medieval fighter in the court of King Arthur, or a vampire in New York, or a crew member of Captain Kirk's space ship (or a similar ship). From this perspective there is no paradox because we are not playing a different character (something we cannot be) but ourselves in a different role (something we can be or imagine to be).

With that in mind, it makes sense to make mechanically-focused characters and, in fact, to use as little of the mechanics that 'overwrite' what we do. So since Sergio resolved this, I can now go to bed.

No, wait, first, looking at what an RPG is. I just played in a live RPG this past weekend, except it wasn't an RPG. It really ended up being essentially a live Roleplay, rather than a Roleplaying Game. You need both parts.

My current working definition is that RPGs are goal-oriented improvisational dramas in a predefined setting. They're not just pure improv, character bits, or shtick (that's the "improvisational drama" part), nor are they just goals like 'get the most money' or 'win the civil war' (that's the game/goal-oriented part).

My motivation for working on this definition is, frankly, I'm tired of having to come up with new, lengthy explanations for what my hobby is. Why doesn't RPGing have a wider audience? Well, define each of the following (to someone looking for a hobby) in 10 words or less:

  1. Paintball
  2. Board Game
  3. Model Railroading
  4. Knitting
  5. Card Game
  6. RPG
  7. LARP

As far as hobbies go, LARP (and RPGing) are hard to explain, hard to define, require more overhead (as Mike Young pointed out to me), and worse, don't get the label of 'Sport'-- a label which is very handy in convincing people to do large-overhead many-people organized events.

I think LARP is more akin to Geocaching, in some ways, but that's another topic (i.e. an activity which actually drives an entirely unrelated market, GPSes, and requires high participation by participants).

Back to the Kilgallon Pardox. In a 70-person larp-that-wasn't-gamist, I had a great time, many others did not. This was largely due to using Sturgeon's Law ("90% of anything is crap"). I interacted with at least a quarter of the 70-odd players in what I deemed a significant manner, and many others in a quicker manner; others may have interacted with just a half dozen.

Since there wasn't much game-generated plot (by design), basically I hit up everyone and found the people doing 'stuff' (player- generated plot), thus invoking sturgeon's law and filtering out the crap. Others simply didn't have enough interaction to generate anything meaningful in the game.

To some degree, I did a post-Kilgallon, i.e. when the character sheet 'plots' failed, I went with "have fun with other good players" (finding said players by simply interacting with everyone and seeing who 'stuck'. Now, the John Kilgallon who came up with the paradox has a method of making sure he has fun in game, called 'bring in my friends'. Then, if the game part sucks, you can still have the player-player interaction aspect be strong.

Which in turn leads to a reverse of the Kilgallon paradox, 'if there is no combat or conflict of consequence using mechanics, and you don't want to do schtick, you need to create your own plots, and possibly import fun people to assist you'.

So ultimately RPGs have two components. Roleplaying (not character playing), which is the stuff that you do, and "game", which is stuff that is often heavily based in the mechanics. Therefore, focusing on the mechanics stuff within character creation (esp. combat) makes sense, because you'll often be doing the parts that you can do, as you.

Until next month,
Sandy
sandy@rpg.net TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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