CreativityOctober 30, 2007
So what is it tabletop rpgs can do that no other medium can match?
I think it’s that tabletop rpgs have the ability for a group of people to quickly access their creativity and create stories and ideas unmatched by any other medium. Videogames require their content be built according to the software and hardware limitations. Boardgames and card games require physical components to be produced. And even forum, email, and irc chat games which mirror tabletop rpgs just do the same thing, but slower.
At first I was thinking about player buy-in, but what is it that the players are buying into? Creativity as a shared activity. This ultimately is what I see being the only long term viable road for tabletop rpgs. Maximizing on what these games can do. You want something to exist in the game? Say it and imagine it, that’s how easy it is. Now, I don’t think that equal input is always going to be the best choice, but I definitely think that input must be guaranteed and meaningful within the context of the game and its goals.
Good games come from a set of good rules in play (Whether you recognize them or not, in a book, made up, or unspoken freeform rules), because those rules are what you use to organize the creativity in a way the group enjoys. The role of a designer, then becomes to consider how your rules organize creativity, how they shape it and help a group steer their creativity to their own maximum enjoyment. The rules become the lens to focus the creativity.
The areas where you cannot input are boundaries, the spaces where you do input is where play happens. Vincent called it the Fruitful Void, and I’m thinking more and more that this isn’t just crucial for design, but pretty much the heart of our hobby as something more than what can be produced in any other manner.