The Four Elements

April 10, 2008

Something I’ve been thinking about lately…

Design to Learn

Sometimes, I design games to learn something about roleplaying and its potential, to learn something about myself and my ability as a game designer, or as an excuse to do research about a topic I’m passionate about and share it with other people. Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan, Transantiago, and Mwaantaangaand are great examples of this.

Design to Play

Sometimes, I design games because I really want to create a certain kind of play experience with/for a specific group of people. Frequently, this involves hacking existing games because they inspire something in me but don’t quite do what I want. My Exalted hack, Geiger Counter and Sorcémon are great examples of this.

Play to Learn

Sometimes I play games to learn about the game (especially when I haven’t played it before), to playtest some design ideas I’ve been fiddling with, to explore the setting or ideas the game puts forth, to explore whatever new mechanical ideas the game contains, to play in a style I’m not especially familiar with or good at, to learn more about my fellow players, or to learn more about myself. A fair numbers of the one-shots I’ve run or played in at SGBoston fall in this category, where we played a game once or even a few times to experience it or get a handle on it and then moved on to playing other stuff.

Play to Play

Sometimes I play just to enjoy the act, enjoy the people I’m playing with, enjoy the act of creation, and revel in the beauty of something myself or someone else has made. This generally requires that most of the players be familiar and relative comfortable with the game, that we’ve played together a fair amount before, and that we’re all really interested in the play experience the game has to offer. This sometimes happens at SGBoston, but is more rare, since the stars have to align properly or one of the regulars just has to put their foot down and say “I’m running this for you, you, and you,” which feels less inclusive.

A Balanced Diet

I only feel really satisfied with the place of roleplaying in my life when I get a balanced diet of all four elements, not always at the same time, but at least sprinkled fairly evenly over each month or two. Interestingly, none of these necessarily involve designing or playing with publication in mind.

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