For the past year or so, I’ve become increasingly preoccupied with the theory of tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs).  That is, how do they work in practice.  Shut up, I’m obsessive.

Imagine if you will, that sitting around your gaming table, are people.  This is the real game that I’m interested in.  It’s the behaviour of people.  Let’s call it the MetaGame.  The System is the rules that we apply to the behaviour – it’s how the queen moves in chess along with the shape of the chessboard, the number of moves per turn (1), and the limit of time to contemplate your next move (varies).  Lastly, there is the Shared Imagined Space (SiS).  This is the gameworld that you are playing in, and telling stories about with your companions.  The actions you describe occur in the SiS.

So, people play a MetaGame, in which the people, from the comfort of their chairs, talk to each other and describe what is occurring in the SiS.  Whenever they need to resolve a conflict, the people consult the System, whether remembering rules or looking them up in the system reference document, which informs them on what dice to roll or otherwise how to resolve what occurs in the SiS.

So, next time you’re playing a TTRPG, consider, how do the rules (the System) alter the MetaGame, i.e., the behaviour at the table, which gets mapped into the SiS?

As to the MetaGame, or player behaviour, there are three or four styles of play.

1) Gamist.  Gamist players love the aspects of the game – making characters, choosing abilities, using those abilities to overcome game challenges.

2) Simulation or Immersive.  Simulationists love to immerse themselves in the Shared Imagination Space.  They like to get in the imagined world and stay in it.  To a simulationist, the rules of the world (the System) must support the imagination – incongruent rules break immersion.

3) Narrativists.  Narrativist play is mostly about character dilemnas.  Players want their characters to be challenged with emotional obstacles, and want their characters to make meaningful growth over the course of a story.  Narrativist players are usually the least focused on keeping true to the rules, and instead will prefer handwaving away rules that interfere with the core story.

To be fair, few people are wholely dedicated to one category at the expense of them all.  But I think that I am probably more Simulationist than the others.  Runeslinger has 19 videos on Youtube which explain it handily, if you’re interested.

Choosing a Setting for Vampire: The Masquerade

Oblivion by Night.

This is a game about personal horror. In the interests of saving time, however, your descent into oblivion will be directly by you. As such, I am offering three scenarios:

Montreal by Night – the dark, seedy depths of the modern Montreal underground are like a cancerous womb that atrophies and poisons those it has consumed. A new Archbishop rules over the kindred of Montreal, but the plots against her run deep. Will she hang on to her title, will her competitors seize power for themselves, or is some darker fate in store for them all?

London by Night – In 1885, Jack the Ripper stalks between the gaslight zones in the London fog, awakening the horror for all. For the poor of Whitechapel, their very lives are at risk, but for the resident monsters of the centre of the British Empire, the attention of the world being drawn to the dark corners of London, threatens then all. The precarious balance of intrigues has been disrupted, and what shall emerge or survive, none can foresee.

Calgary by Night – Rising to global attention and power in the heart of ascendent western wealth and alienation, a growing imbalance threatens the suddenly nascent kindred of Calgary. As corporate greed extends the skyline, more and more wage slaves slip out of shrinking middle class and scramble for crumbs in squalor. Meanwhile, foreign money pours into the hands of eco-terrorists, student-socialists, and first nation insurrectionists. Can the Cainites of Calgary adapt to the rapidly changing environment, or will they be replaced by new blood?

So choose your path to Oblivion. Horror awaits.