Monday, December 14, 2015

Socratic Design Topical Index #2


Barring some radical change in my life, this will be the final entry for Socratic Design.  Here you can find links to all the articles relating to tabletop RPG design and theory.  It’s been a very fruitful 10 years on this blog, and I am thankful to everyone who took this journey with me.  For those coming to this blog for the first time, I hope that what you find is useful.  I will not be checking it, so I’m afraid that any comments or questions will almost certainly go unanswered.

SD Topical Index 2

On Design Aids

On Writing and Designing A Game

On Resolution

On Setting

On Publishing

On Rewards

On Character Death

On The Big Model

On Other RPG Theory

On The Community






Monday, November 09, 2015

The End Draweth Nigh

Greetings dear friends!  Back in September, I mentioned I had an exciting announcement to make about Socratic Design.  Here it is: my work here is just about finished!

The time has come for me to finally close down this blog.  I’ve been writing here for almost 10 years.  If all goes according to plan, SD will have had 10 years of life before I finally pull the plug. 

My life has changed a lot since I started this blog back in 2005.  At the time, I was single and very young.  I was playing RPGs regularly once or twice a week. I had a very solid core of fellow gamers who all shared a creative vision for each session.  However, as so many of you no doubt have experienced, life changes.  Everyone who was in my play group moved away or drifted away.  We got old, got married, and got jobs. While many can balance game-life and real-life, we came to realize that we no longer wanted to make the sacrifices necessary to do that.  And I personally, found other hobbies.

As a result, I am no longer playing tabletop RPGs, let along designing or even thinking about them.  If you aren’t playing RPGs, you can’t intelligently talk about them.  I have no wish to push off naval-gazing as practical advice, so I cannot continue Socratic Design in good conscience.

So where’s what I’m going to do: There will be one more Anthology then I will compile all my posts for a second Topical Index.  When I have that finished some time in December, I’ll post it as a final reference guide for Socratic Design.  I will not be deleting this blog, it will stay as a reference to anyone looking for answers to questions about RPG design.  I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished here, but it’s just time for me to move on.

I am writing for another website now.  If you’re interested, you can follow my exploits on eXplorminate.  I’d love to see you there.

Anyhow, this is pretty much the end for Socratic Design.  For those who’ve followed me or read my articles, thank you so much for being a part of my life.  I treasure each and every one of you.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Splitting the Party - A Lament


 This is a continuation in my series of lamentations about RPGs, mostly fantasy or sci-fi style RPGs to be exact.

 One thing I’ve always had veteran D&D (and, honestly, Call of Cthullu) grognards tell me is, “Never split the party!  It’s the fastest way to get everyone killed.”  I’m not here to criticize that.

They’re right.  It is a very efficient way to end up with a TPK (LINK from TPK entry).

 The thing is, I think we might be missing an opportunity for some really good play.  Let’s go back to the fiction that pretty much was in the inspiration for every adventuring party since the mid 20th century: The Fellowship of the Ring.

 Now, I’m not advocating AT ALL a FotR style party split.  I can’t imagine how boring it would be for the Same, Frodo, and Gollum players to simply be told, “…and you’re still walking.” week after week while all their friends get to do stuff like fight at Helm’s Deep, Isengard, or Pelinnor Fields.

 And yet, I think there are some things we can take from this.  First, Gandalf picks up some important info in the libraries of Gondor (how to reveal the script on the One Ring) and that a key ally has betrayed the good guys (Saruman).  Merry and Pippin pick up some allies for the freefolk (Ents).  Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas secure further reinforcements for Gondor (Rohan).  All of those are really cool plot points that would be very impractical and rather dull if 10 people were involved in each.

 So what can splitting the party be good for?  Here’s a brief, non-exhaustive list:
 ·         Getting some key information
·         Scouting a future destination
·         Planting a spy or trap
·         Securing allies or resources
·         Misdirecting an enemy
·         Division of labor
·         Accounting for a player’s absence
·         Executing a battle plan or magic ritual
·         Create a dragnet to capture a target

 Those are just a few ideas.  No doubt you can come up with more if you give it some think-time.  Splitting the party is not something you’ll do every session or even for a majority of sessions.  But it is a play technique that can be used to involve plot ideas that cannot be done efficiently or practically any other way.  Naturally, players may be wary of splitting up at first.  Don’t force them.  Let things play out, and let them build trust in their own way.



Thursday, September 03, 2015

What is Currency?


Back from summer break, and unfortunately, I’ve just got a short one today, guys.  The word “currency” gets thrown around an awful lot in RPG texts and on RPG design boards.  It usually gets taken for granted what it means, but I somehow get the nagging feeling at times that the other person I’m talking with doesn’t grasp the concept fully.  So, I’m doing this post today to help assuage my conscience.

The Provisional Glossary defines currency as “The exchange rate within and among Character Components. Currency may or may not be explicit (e.g. "character points"), but it is a universal feature of System, specifically as it relates to Character.”  Defining currency as “the rate of exchange” is partially unhelpful, I feel, because first it focuses people on the numbers involved instead of the game components involved.  It’s the components that really matter as far as the fiction goes.  And second, because it makes it seem like currency is something that can only be found on characters.  This is not necessarily the case.

So, for the purposes of Socratic Design, I’m going to define “Currency” as, “Any character and/or other game component that can be spent, lost, gained, or traded for some in-fiction effect.”  So basically, you’re trading something from the real world (that is written on the character sheet, GM sheet, or whatever else) for something in the imaginary world.

What are some examples of currency?

There are some pretty easy ones most are familiar with.  Hit points, mana, sanity, rounds of ammunition, attacks per round, gold pieces, experience points, etc. are all examples of currency.  But so are bonus die like in The Shadow of Yesterday, fan mail like in Prime Time Adventures, or Humanity in Sorcerer.  GMs can also have currency they spend to increase the danger of an encounter or to build dungeons that challenge the players.

Just remember, currency is simply some out-of-fiction resource you can use, spend, trade, or accumulate to get in-fiction effects.



P.S. I will be making an exciting announcement about Socratic Design later this year.  Please check back every so often as I prepare for SD’s next phase.