Saturday, August 4, 2012

A game where anything can be attempted

From Playing at the World by Jon Peterson, Introduction
Jackson's supposition exposes a crucial difficult in defining role-playing games as simply any games in which one could conceivably prented to a role. The problem with so inclusive a definition is that nothing about the play of Monopoly changes if you adopt a role, however vividly we might personify our imagined tycoons. A desperate mogul cannot attempt to sneak into that hotel on Atlantic Avenue and set it on fire to undermine a rival, nor can unscrupulous plutocrat hire goons to include a wildcat strike over at B&O Railroad. The rules of Monopoly make no provisions of anything of the kind
Role-playing games however, aspire to an ideal where anything can be attempted, where the player can direct that a character attempt any action that one can plausibly contend a prson in that situation might undertake-the referee, a rolle missing in Monopoly and most comparable games, decides the result.
One of the better definition of roleplaying games I read. Playing at the World is a really good book for anybody want to read about the origins of wargames and tabletop roleplaying games. And the research is backed by original documents and interviews.

Peterson even able to trace the history of the idea that a game can allow for anything to be attempted.  It apparently started with Free Kriegspiel, a wargame used by the Prussian/German Army.  It was brought over by Charles Totten writing about the concept in Strategos: The American Art of War. Basically using a set of rules and a referee to adjudicate wargames. The addition of a referee allows both side to attempt anything their forces could reasonably do with the judgment of the referee as the final arbiter.

David Wesely discovered Totten writings and adapted them for the use of the wargaming groups of Minnesota in the late 60s. Ultimately using them to run the Braustein series of games. Which inspired Dave Arneson to run Blackmoor.

The consequence of having a game where anything can be attempted also means the promise that anything can be achieved. That victory can be achieved in ways other than dominance of the opposing force. This made these open ended games more interesting to the gamers of the time.

A lot of good stuff in this book and I just only got done with the first chapter.


Anonymous said...

Not only sums up gaming so very well indeed, but also why myself, and I'm sure a hell of a lot of other people, game at all.

JeffStormer said...

Oh man, now I really want to play a game of Monopoly where I can sneak into hotels, or send my goons to start labor strikes.