Sunday, August 23, 2009

GNS Theories and RPG's--What a Joke.

I just read about the RPG theories of GNS and all the other crap Ron Edwards is puking out at the Forge. What a useless waste.

It reminds me of corporate group think. It reminds me of marketing departments and people with studies and excel spreadsheets and their fictional projections. It reeks of justifications for clueless corporate behavior. It's just some crap you tell your boss when your project fails, or to justify a new one and keep your job a little longer:

"It was obviously too Gamist, not enough Narrativist. We've brought in a consultant, and in the next book, we will have a chapter to address the Narrativist approach and expand the user-base. We project that because of this profits will go up by 4.7%, and we will meet our fiscal goals for the year."

In the meantime, you polish up the resume and start sending it out, because you know you only bought yourself a little bit of time before the new project crashes and burns. But hey, you'll be gone by then, right?

Or even worse, you're clueless and came up the ranks by kissing ass, being a good corporate pawn, drinking the Kool-Aid, and you believe the bullshit you spew out and the consultants that feed it to you. You use it to justify yourself in the eyes of people who actually ARE good at something naturally, while you just plain ol' suck at it. But hey, you know the fancy bullshit lingo, so you're just as good at it as they are, right?

Game design and great DM'ing is an art, not a science. Much like public speaking, sales, creative writing, painting, or other activities which depend on a person's inherent natural gift for something, you can't train someone without those latent natural gifts to be really great at it. You either have it in you already, or you don't.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach (and make up useless theories about RPG's.)


  1. Well, I agree that RPG theory can be very dense, and Ron Edwards is an easy read.

    But you are wrong to claim it's useless waste. Even though it might be that roleplaying is more art than science, that shouldn't stop us talking about it. Good art can be analyzed and even be enhanced by a critical perspective.

    If you aren't convinced by that, the fact that many designers have actually read and discussed Ron's theory of roleplaying and then used that as their basis for designing good games, should be evidence enough that it's not useless.

    That being said, much of what Ron and other GNS people (note that Ron has kind of left GNS behind) have discussed have had its root in specific problems and issues they have wanted to untangle. If you don't have that kind of issue, much of their activity will seem kind of useless.

    Personally I have had used rpg theory to enhance my view of what it is we are doing, and why some things work and some don't.

  2. Obviously I mena that Ron "isn't" and easy read. My bad.

  3. *sigh* well, you get the idea, right?

  4. I look at the forge stuff as a mixed bag. I think gamism is a stupid term that faction doesn't really exist in the natural world - of course all players want to have fun and all players want to win and will attempt to do so using the rules. Thus making the term irrelevant. But Simulationism and Narrativism, are genuine preferences that most gamers have a particular preference to. It's not always that simple but the fact is that those terms are relevant and people use them outside of the Forge, so while you may personally disagree with Edwards assessments, it's probably a good idea to at least know what he said if you travel in game theory and design circles.

  5. Joe: Have you read

    It's a coherent and well thought out analysis of RPG theory as it evolved pointing out the strengths and, well, ok, mostly weaknesses of each model. His general assessment of GNS is mostly the same as yours, though he is somewhat more vitriolic.

  6. I haven't read everything Brian have written about game theory, but I knew that he can sometimes be a pretty sloppy reader. Trying to understand Ron Edwards is impossible if you aren't wide awake and attentive.

  7. My overall take on it is that he could have summed up the whole "theory" by saying some people like this type of game, others that type of game. Simulation, narrative, or gamism.

    And the rest of the RPG community would have said "No shit, Sherlock."

    Any halfway decent DM knows that you have to design a game the players like to play or they will be unhappy. All you need to do is ask your players what they like about D&D games and they will tell you. No grand convoluted theories needed.

  8. Well, sometimes it's not very easy to nail down what you like...

    But, I agree that if you don't have the need Ron had when starting to think in those terms, all the stuff will look ind of unnecessary.

  9. Ooh! A critique of GNS and The Forge from 2009! Based primarily on information gotten from theRPGSite, a site who calls GNS's creator Swine! This will certainly be valuable analysis and not at all creepily biased.

  10. Well, if you encounter GNS first 2009, what can you do?

    So Ron is known as Swine at theRPGsite? That didn't give me a very high opinion of that place. Feel free to disagree, like Joe here, but name calling is just infantile behaviour.

  11. Well, he can't very well time travel and post it back in 2006.

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  13. Zachary The First said...

    "Well, he can't very well time travel and post it back in 2006."

    Well, there's this spell I've been working on called Retroblog---8th level, which ought to make me sound like I predicted EVERYTHING.

    As to the Swine thing, you're the first person to bring that term up here, Stealth GM. I specifically talked about the theory and the need for a theory at all in the post.

    As to your saying "a site who calls GNS's creator Swine", I doubt that all 3500 members of the site call the dude swine. In fact, that's a site that can't agree on much at all. We are like a bunch of irish brothers who get drunk, beat the shit out of each other, pass out, forget about it the next day, get drunk, beat the shit out of each other....

    Feels like home. :)


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