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Keith Burgun’s Strategy Triangle

June 24, 2020

If you’re looking at doing gamist design, this is a pretty excellent framing for understanding the balance of strategies, which are usefully summed up as early/mid/late game wins.

This is a bit long of a video, and rambley, but you can check out the chart and a short PDF with the basic ideas from his itch.io site at the cost of “pay what you want”.

What I find particularly useful is that this sums up one of the key problems that often hits us in bad gamist mechanics for RPGS – where players are locked into a single strategy, there’s no meaningful choice in play.

D&D and many of it’s descendant games have this problem. In older D&D, when you move from having a group of characters per player, and a host of options on any given round, to only having one character, your options are rather thin. People have noted that “attack/heal/retreat” is not that interesting as an individual choice, but when you have 5-10 characters the question of how many do you pull back to heal, how many should be trying to get the damn door open and how many should watch the side corridor is much more interesting, even if each individual character has “one action” – the point is the player has many.

In the video, he talks about you don’t want to have a whole faction, or a character in a fighting game, locked into one strategy, though you might have a unit in a wargame do so (bc the faction provides other options). Again, the player has choice, even if a unit is narrow in capacity.

Feats and power-tree build games suffered from a different issue – you may have a few viable options, but the nature of the build locks you into doing one thing, almost all the time. So the amount of meaningful choice in play simply disappears.

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