Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How we game

Finding out how we game as objectively and precisely as possible would mean a lot of self reflection, note-taking, and feedback from your players or Gms.

This is my notes on how I have observed others, myself (recording through hanouts on air, video, and exporting it to audio and listening to it), and experimentation on determining how we game.

I can say that there are two primary activities in running a TRPG and that is: Role-playing and Gaming. Roleplaying is the activities that are made up of Immersion, storytelling, visualization, drama, etc... Gaming is the simpler and faster paced feedback cycle that happens between players and GM.

These two elements blend together to make a game, and are rarely are they so extreme as to be divorced from the other. There is interplay with the most extreme of Role-playing and Storytelling, and there is a story and immersion in the most gaming focused activities in a session.

How are they measured:

We measure Roleplaying by measuring the amount of time we take getting into character, playing off each other’s character, “role-playing”, storytelling, and pursuing scenes to push one of the many story streams in the game forward (either the game’s over-arcing narrative, each player’s personal narrative, the narrative of the world, their adversary etc...).

We measure the Gaming by the amount of Feedback and Adaptation we do in the game and its circumstances. We normally measure it in the amount of combat we have in the session, but it can also mix with the other high action events where the Players feedback quickly between the circumstance or adversary or each other.

How the two are used:

Usinig these two conventions, we can use them to do the following:
  1. How we spend our time playing. to look at the amount of time we, the players, or the gm, spend their time in each one.
  2. Preferences. It helps track preferences and tailor the game more for all those participating.
  3. Focus. It helps focus on geting the most enjoyment when we transition or vasilate between the two.
  4. Description. It helps describe and work on a variety of blends of the two.


  1. Immersion. Lettiing the Players (and even the GM) get into character and the setting.
  2. Storytelling. When one of the many story streams in the game gets focus, relevance, moved forward, influences other stories, and becomes the one of the causes of the circumstance, happenings and events.
  3. Spotlight. Giving the Player or part of the story some focus. Particularly pushing the story forward. It clarifies and expresses the story, giving it the chance to get deeper in the immersion, and make events and action have more impact.
  4. Emotion and Empathy. Role-playing is an opportunity to display, express, and to feel a particular emotional tone for the scene and story. It takes time for certain emotions to be felt and expressed, and Role-playing builds to that opportunity.


  1. Interaction. Gaming is notable when the Players, Setting or World, NPCs, etc... adapt to each other. Their actions feed back and change the situation.
  2. Tension and Conflict. When events get complicated, setting up risks and threats, and incentives and penalties.
  3. Uncertainty. Uncertainty is one of the sources of conflict which muddies the situation and makes threats, penalties, pain, and peril disproportionately worse. Ambiguity also does this, leaving the quantity and quality of any threat or danger unknown and left to the sensitivities of bias and emotion.
  4. Small Wins. When the feedback gives small wins or gains. Small wins can also be some mental closure on other matters.
  5. Clarity and Simplification. Like the benefit of mental closure, there is the simplification of some issues, information that removes ambiguity, sharpening of focus on priorities or action. New information or events may give clarity, simplification, or focus.

What this post does not answer or help with:

  1. Defining how one really plays and how flexible their prefences are. These are arbitrary tools and conventions, and it does not apply to all or many not apply to most. Its hypothetical. Tools by which to self examine and improve are found in other books – particularly in self improvement books that work with practical activity instead of motivation and emotion.
  2. Defining the various mixes of the two. The mixed versions of them would be:
  3. Mass Combat or Warfare Focused Games. The story and roleplaying with large groups, the scale that goes with such groups (conquering more and more people, places, treasures, and affecting more of the world).
  4. Intrigue and Social Games. Games that have a very particular blend of Gaming and Role-playing when Emotion, Expression, and Relationships are to tools of conflict and conquest.
  5. Logistics and how it can be given the elements of both Game and Role-playing (Story).


Feedback is the limit by which we can know ourselves and surroundings. If I dont express and know how it tests against reality then I would never know what would be better or best. Feel free to give some feed back, ask, or comment.

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