RPG Design, Intent, and Pedagogy

The condition of CORE COMPLETE right now is:

  1. Mechanically — how to play it — finished and in active playtesting.
  2. Pedagogically — how to run it — still designing an optimal approach.

This is because CORE is built to facilitate a specific type of play: one I can’t assume your group is experienced with. Narrativism in general can be a tough pill for some people to swallow, and CORE presents a deliberately “hybrid” system that might – at first glance – be easily mistaken for a “Trad” game. But the Narrativism shows itself quickly, and the GM must have confidence in their ability to run in a loose and collaborative style. This may or may not be something you can just “teach” someone; but like any soft science, you can approach it a well-structured way, in order to provide the student with the right learning tools — in the right order — to understand the subject to the depth of which they’re capable. In other words, this is about pedagogy.

It’s pretty rare for a game design to bother teaching how to GM the experience pedagogically. It’s even more rare for a game to describe the designer’s intended experience of play phenomenologically. The assumption seems to be “an RPG is an RPG” and “you bring your own style to the table.”

While it’s true that all games are subject to playstyle, some games actually aim for an experience that’s qualitatively different than the things we usually think of when we think about RPG play (especially “trad” play).

The designers of such games must put in additional work to describe what it is about this game that makes the experience different, or requires a specific approach, rather than simply dumping some mechanics in front of you and letting you figure it out.

This can be hard to do, given the “omniscient” perspective of the designer.

But more of us should do it.

So that’s what I’m doing.

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