Sunday, May 23, 2010

Innovation is Not a Threat

So I've started a bit of an argument over at It was not my intent to make anyone upset or feel threatened by my "collaborative vs. competitve" argument.

The idea originally was to seek out other games or mechanics people have found that work well to produce a give-and-take between players and the GM to move some popular, more strategic games towards the storytelling potential of GM-less games.

I wanted to find a term that would be opposite of collaborative other than "non-collaborative" games since non-collaborative really isn't the sense I was trying to express. The first page of the thread, as you can see, got some great replies, and I'm looking into their suggestions, but from there, it kind of went in another direction. You see, this is what we in the biz refer to as thread hijacking. My purpose for the thread was to discuss how we can move strategic games towards storytelling style games, not if we should. The whole idea that this purpose could be threatened or something someone "shouldn't" do is just ridiculous.

Innovation is not something to be feared, but revered. It's the only way we get new blood into the hobby both intellectually and physically with brand new players. If we don't innovate and build up, we wind up just creating heavier and clunkier versions through our "improvements" over a long period of time. Innovation is how we're going to make the old that's something exciting and new. The innovation of D&D 4e was one of the main factors that kept our group going strong towards heavier RPG playing. I don't really know why I was surprised that the thread went in the direction it did - it's far easier to disagree and tear down than it is to help and build up.

Oh well, how about that Lost finale, huh? That was... something... (just in case you read this tomorrow or the next day, or whenever :)


  1. I'm not going to try to bring an argument to your blog, and nor am I even acqainted with the argument on (I've been at AnCon since Friday, and haven't even looked at a screen till now), but I'm inclined to disagree with your post.

    This is because I do not believe that "innovation" needs to necessarily come from the removal of a GM. Rather, innovation can equally come through an exploration of the role of GM-as-adversary or GM-as-player arbitrator.

    4e is many things--both good and bad--but aside from the good advice of Robin Laws and many other quality GMs, it didn't do much in the way of "revolutionizing" or "innovating" the role of a GM. Yes, tools were put in place to make the job easier, but it's not really a great example of innovation--at least not in terms of GMing.

    Rather, I'd sooner look to something like CthulhuTech, Icons, or WEGS, all three of which include different GMing styles and perspective. While CthulhuTech encourages storyetelling, WEGS looks at GMing as one part croupier-one part adversary-one part casino pit boss.

    I'd be interested in hearing your counter-point. Cheers!

  2. There are some bizarre people out there. I remember reading a thread on the FFG forums about the Horus Heresy game in which he related how his 40k friends made fun of him for wanting to play the new board game. Why did they mock him? Because it was hideously expensive for a 2-player game? Because it didn't involve any aspect of miniature modeling skill?


    They made fun of him because it was *card based.* That's right, he was mocked by his friends because he wanted to play a game without dice. Apparently it made him homosexual.

    Ignore the haters dude; they're too many to fight, you can't ever win, and victory would mean nothing anyways.

  3. @PlatinumWarlock:

    I appreciate the feedback! I agree with you that GM-less isn't the only way to innovate and be original with game design. Some of my favorite games are very GM-centric but also are, what I would consider to be innovative games such as Dread (using Jenga as the conflict resolution system) and Mouse Guard.

    When I refer to D&D 4e as being innovative, I mean how exciting the power card/powers system was to our group. We were used to board games that had very similar card powers, and including this in the core of the game seemed much more exciting than the more-simulationist rules of 3.X.

    I also agree that exploring the different "hats" GM's have to wear is another area rich for innovation. Even roles such as GM-as-Adversary have a lot of room to be explored (even if it's not my favorite role for the GM to play).

    I still stand by my original point though - innovation, whether it comes from GM-less play or new directions to take the role of GM, is still good and can't hurt the RPG industry; it's necessary and healthy for the hobby. Thanks again for your feedback!


    Agreed on the Bizarre People comment. I think more than anything, I was really surprised to see how people were actively campaigning against diversity in RPG's like it was something that would make them personally feel bad. Ya win some, Ya lose some. :)

  4. Agreed, man. The hobby always has room to evolve, and the spot behind the GM screen (if you use one...GM or screen!) is a great place to start.

    My worry is that some of the innovations can tend towards the needlessly extravagent. I'd file Warhammer Fantasy (3e) under this. I enjoyed the revisions made for Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader (which are, admittedly, more traditional), but the Fantasy rules seemed entirely too "fiddly" and gimmicky to be of real use. Plus, the focus on cards and cardboard tokens led to the organization of the books suffering greatly. I actually like the dice mechanic the system uses, but the game itself has turned me off.

    I'm not saying it wasn't worth a shot, but my frustration comes out of innovation "for innovation's sake". Too many people--not just game designers--have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater, in search of the next new thing. But, as with anything, good ideas will come to the surface...


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