Sunday, February 04, 2018

My Take On Great RPG Design

I respectfully disagree with the concept of game design that says "the world has to be created so that it's fun for the players". Nope. Don't agree. I know that sounds totally counter intuitive. However, the best world's I've ever played in were not designed with that in mind at all. They were designed from the point of view of the NPCs who existed in the world before the PCs ever showed up. They created the civilization, the cities and towns, the dungeons, the culture, the artifacts, the tricks and traps, and everything else for their own pleasure, and for their own purposes. When the PCs showed up we were challenged by the world in ways that would be antithetical to the game design being proposed, and it would have been a lot less fun for us. The world was a deadly place, and we often got slaughtered. But in most cases it was due to bad luck, which we accept because it's a game of dice and bad luck happens, or bad decisions, which we accept because we all make bad decisions sometimes. In either case, the victories we had were earned, and they were usually the result of good decisions and/or good luck. We enjoyed the world immensely. And no, it was not in the least bit designed for our pleasure. It was definitely out to kill us (euphemistically speaking). In other words, the world's logic was based on the goals, desires and resources of the NPCs who created the conditions. If traps were deadly, it's because the NPCs who created them were not stupid. The traps were intended to be deadly to keep people like us out. But we were resourceful, persistent, and determined. As anguish-inducing as our defeats may have been, our victories were glorious. And that's what made it a great world, and the GM, David Kahn (RIP) such a great GM.

My own World  works on this principal as well.  Sometimes my players are miffed by the fact that their missions are not as successful as they had wanted.  But in most cases the reason for it is that they made poor choices, or had bad luck, and usually both.  In other cases they work through the challenges and achieve their desired victory.  But one thing I've noticed, the players who don't give up and say "that's not fair" are the ones who actually enjoy the game most.

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