Jul 28, 2011

The Hybrid Speaks


“A closed system lacks the ability to renew itself.”

When I look at how psychologists and cognitivists have broken down human performance, I see that our game (D&D) is not a simulation, because, in all reality, a simulation probably wouldn’t be all that fun. No, D&D is a game that has progressed from Chainmail concrete to abstract, and that transition, coupled with relative popularity, is when the floodgates opened, so to speak, of our multitudinous input towards an increasingly subjective social activity.

Existential Ability is one of the stats for a new role-playing/simulation system I’m working on. Existential Ability (E) is the ability to “contemplate phenomena or questions beyond sensory data, such as the infinite and infinitesimal. Careers or callings which suit those with this intelligence include shamans, priests, mathematicians, physicists, scientists, cosmologists and philosophers.” (Wikipedia) This is magic. While I hate shoving my own mismanaged words into other people’s mouths, I doubt Lovecraft, Ellis, King, Crowley, Lenape Shaman, or Gygax himself (happy birthday, BTW) would offer a logical disagreement that holds water.
However, E is a learning style. Learning style! I need performance styles for a game. You know?

Anyway, why even bother with creating a game system, aside from the mental masturbation aspect? There are a huge range of options that already exist; open game license and not, already. And besides, what is a game system, anyway? I’m going to eschew that question for now and focus, instead, on the purpose. What does a game system do?

We’re all looking for a game system that does… what, exactly? Replicate reality? Heighten reality? Highlight facets of a romanticized life that we dream about, but do not, in fact, have a realistic appreciation of? These systems, AD&D, B/X, D20 and so on, when coupled with the appropriate setting, feed our nostalgia, our egos, and inclinations towards strategy. But is there anything more? Can we learn from such activities? If so, what can we learn from such activities?

Why do most OSR pundits emphasize the player’s intellect in figuring out in-game mysteries when such characters, in the real world, could never wield a sword or face a demon without shitting their drawers? This, of course, is rhetorical, a red herring, and fallacious. Appeal to the past is independent of reality. The reality of mechanics, nostalgia, and cultural mores does more to explain such emphasis than I could ever dream of doing here.

Given such logical meanderings, how then do I create a simulation independent of the established norm? My answer is both simple and complex and comes from my background in learning theory. As a school teacher I am familiar with various method of intellectual evaluation. I am also painfully aware, at times, of the limited scope of such assessments and activities on which “public education” gives such great emphasis and which I, at equal times, neglect my conscious for the sake of making my mortgage payment.

Well then. I’ll stop for tonight. I’ve nearly finished another bottle and tomorrow brings more responsibilities illuminated by the light of day. What have I said here tonight, aside from grammatically atrocious meanderings? Really, not much. In fact, I must admit, Netflix has been roaring through the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica on the glass teat even as I compose.

My final thoughts focus on what I think was my biggest fallacy: This whole essay disregards the escapism and fantastic that these games may bring.

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Thanks for posting to the Digital Orc! Be sure to pick up a copy of one of my old-school modules available at RPGNow.com!