RPG XRAY

001 Fun

September 11, 2023 The RPG XRAY Team Season 1 Episode 1
RPG XRAY
001 Fun
Show Notes Transcript

In our inaugural episode 1 we talk about the most critical factor at the RPG table: fun. What is it? How do we bring the most fun to every game we play? What is the relationship between fun and difficulty? Do different players experience fun differently? All this and more, coming up on RPG Xray.

Appendix X References:

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

his

Erik:

the

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

Thank you.

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

[ Silence ][ Silence ]

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

All right, this is our first episode of RPG X-Ray, and as such we wanted to do a little

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

[ Silence ][ Silence ]

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

bit of an introduction. I'm sitting here with Jason and Eric, and we're going to in a moment introduce ourselves.

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

But first of all, what is this podcast? Why are we doing it? In short, and I'm going to ask you folks for your opinion on this, but in summary, we really

Jason:

[ Pause ]

Ethan:

want to discuss deep nerdy theories about the nature of tabletop role-playing so that other role-playing nerds like us can better understand what great play is and how to develop it at the table.[ Inaudible ]

Erik:

I think that's great, thanks. So I definitely come to this feeling like I I wanted to understand my craft better and understand what does my craft have to do with creating great play at the table.

Jason:

(audio cuts out)

Erik:

And I felt like there was a lot of wonderful GM advice out there.

Jason:

Yeah, and that's kind of where I'm coming from too.

Erik:

And then there was also some places like the Forge where people were really just going into kind of game studies. But somewhere in between, I felt like there was something missing that has really just helped me understand role-playing

Ethan:

Yeah, we were talking a little bit earlier about what is it we want to do with the web.

Erik:

in order for me to be able to craft great play at the table.[inaudible]

Jason:

It's about table play.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

It's about what happens at the table.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

And while I think we'll talk a lot about prep and the things that happen before you get to the table,

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

the goal of it is really practical kind of discussion that you could make use of right away at a table with your players. Yeah.

Ethan:

want to get out of this. And I think we came up with the phrase that we're not architects or engineers, we're carpenters. Like we're not designing big structures,

Jason:

Yeah, and I think that's true even from a theory perspective.

Ethan:

we're not designing games.

Erik:

Mhm.

Ethan:

What we're doing is we're looking--

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

we may look at how things are designed, but we're really looking at sort of like that practical

Erik:

Oh.

Ethan:

carpentry level of role-playing, which is like, well, how do you-- OK, how do you really build the chair? Right? Yeah, I have a couple books on carpentry around here somewhere which include things like "How

Jason:

I think that when we may dip into game theory here and there, it's always going to become

Erik:

Oh. OK.

Jason:

from a practical lens, and that's really the goal.

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

Thank you.

Erik:

Totally.

Ethan:

Does Wood Grow?"

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

the back of the room. [PAUSE]

Ethan:

At some point you kind of want to know, "How does wood expand with humidity?"

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

And roleplaying games are like that. At some point, we've all been playing for years, which we'll talk about here in a second, but you get to the point where you really want to understand, well, wait, what are the

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

moving parts inside this thing that we do?

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

It's kind of crazy that it's just sort of received wisdom too, isn't it?

Jason:

Yeah, that's right. That's right. [PAUSE]

Erik:

Yeah. Well, and I think we'll talk about this a little more,

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

just that it is such a young craft, right? That I'm not surprised that there isn't a body of knowledge like this yet.[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Before we get started I think we should probably introduce ourselves a little bit and talk about our own background in roleplaying briefly. Jason, do you want to start that one?

Jason:

Yeah, I'm happy to. My name is Jason Beaumont. I work during the day at Xbox, which means I get to spend a lot of time

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

Yeah.[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

Nice, yeah.

Jason:

thinking about games and playing games and being in a community that's talking about how games are made and built. For me, for role-playing games, I really entered the hobby during this wonderful period of the mid-80s where the D&D box set was out, the basic sets were out. The first RPG I got was one that my mother picked up from Walden Books, which was the

Ethan:

Nice, yeah.

Jason:

old Marvel superheroes.

Erik:

Nice.

Jason:

That was a classic, right? from there we got really into Shadowrun for a while when that first came out. That was big with me and my friends. But then a long dormant period, didn't really play much in the 90s or anything

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

until 5th edition came out. And now I probably own more RPG books than I ever imagined owning in my entire life. So from all sorts of systems. I've rarely ever played.

Erik:

Jason, would you say that when you were playing when you were younger, were you principally a player, a GM, or like a mix?[inaudible]

Ethan:

I'm kind of curious, now I want to hear more.

Jason:

I don't think I actually played until I met you two. And when you ran game, I got to experience what it was actually like as a player, and it was a wildly different experience than I thought it was. No, no, it was great. It was definitely really good, but it was also one of those things where

Erik:

That's great. So...[laughter]

Ethan:

It was terrible.

Erik:

No, no, it was great.[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Yeah, the difference between riding the roller coaster and being the sweaty nervous guy on

Jason:

I realized how relaxing and enjoyable it was to be a player. And I think we'll get into this later in in the episode, but there's a very different kind of fun that players have than what Game Masters has.

Ethan:

the ground who's watching, making sure that it goes over that gap in the rails.

Jason:

That's right, that's a great analogy.

Ethan:

(audio cuts out)

Erik:

Yeah, I think, I think it's almost enough different that I would say that maybe they're really two different games.

Jason:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's a great way to put it.

Ethan:

(audio cuts out)[ Inaudible ]

Erik:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, hi everybody. I'm Eric Saltwell, and I also grew up in the tech industry.

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

I've mostly worked on programming languages and virtual and augmented reality. Um, I was a high school D&D nerd for my whole career. like a small group of three friends, and I was their perpetual GM, and we played two

Ethan:

[ Inaudible ]

Erik:

campaigns in eight years. I left it, much to my wife's relief, and never thought I would come back until 5e came out, and Jason, I started playing in your group.

Jason:

Yeah, and when I met your wife, she was really angry at me for reintroducing you to role-playing games.

Erik:

Yes? Yeah, I don't think that's any better.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

[ Inaudible ]

Jason:

Yeah.[no audio]

Erik:

And I think since then, though, I've really had a focus on not just playing 5e, although there's a lot of people who really that's what they want to play, but I really want to play as much as I can get my hands on, again, just so that I can get better at any of the games I play.

Ethan:

.

Jason:

Yeah, the more systems you play, you really learn kind of different lenses, different

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

.[ Silence ]

Jason:

ways of playing, different approaches. And yeah, I'm totally with you.

Erik:

Yep. Yep. You know, you talked about the GM and how those are really different games and how being a player was a different experience, and one thing

Jason:

I'll give a quick example from a recent session we had.

Erik:

I hope we talk about in this podcast a lot is that great play isn't just something that GMs create, but that, you know, great play is something that players need to focus on crafting as well, and I hope we talk a lot about that.[ Silence ]

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

We're all playing a Cala Cthulhu campaign together. There was this moment where you were all going to this big gala ball in England.

Ethan:

..[ Silence ]

Jason:

As a DM, I sat down to start prepping the non-player characters for that part of the

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

session. Because I'd read a multitude of different systems, like you mentioned earlier, I was like, "There's a different approach here. What I could do is just have players create some randomization tables themselves at the

Erik:

Yeah.

Jason:

table."

Erik:

[ Inaudible ]

Jason:

One of you created a table of appearances. Another created a table of backgrounds. And we rolled, almost like OSR style, and generated the NPCs at the table.

Ethan:

All right, I'm Ethan Schoonover and I have probably the messiest career among the three

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

The players were by far more authors of that part of the experience than I was.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

(audio cuts out)

Ethan:

of us, I don't know, it's a bit of a mix of three common threads throughout my life which

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

Beautiful.[ Silence ]

Ethan:

have been technology, design, and education. I'm a long time role-playing game player and GM. And I started off in rural Wisconsin in the early '80s

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

playing Pink Box, Moldvay D&D. And that really still, to this day, probably one of the peak experiences is opening that box on Christmas morning and just my eyes growing wide.

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

I think about that a lot. I think about that promise of what role-playing could be. And I think I'm always trying to achieve that expectation

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

of that 10-year-old kid. But I went on to play AD&D, Call of Cthulhu in the '80s,

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

and then really fell out of it once I went to college and played a little bit and then moved overseas. And I just didn't find a role-playing game community

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

to latch onto. So for 12 years of my life, I kind of did some-- we'll talk about it later-- but lonely play, where you sort of absorb RPG content, but didn't get into it. Moving back to the States was right around the time fourth edition was coming out. I just didn't latch onto it. That's not a comment on the quality of the system.

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

It's charms for sure. But then it got back into 5E. Yeah, so I actually moved overseas

Erik:

So when you were out of the US you were in the like Southeast Asia area? Mm-hmm

Ethan:

to teach at a university.

Jason:

Well, your teaching background intersected with your role-playing background not so long

Ethan:

Again, I was teaching internet development design and ended up having sort of an accidental career in advertising with a brief tour through anthropology, weirdly. Yeah, so I just didn't have a chance

Erik:

I've

Ethan:

to really dig into a lot of role-playing games at that point. Yeah, so back here in the States,

Erik:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jason:

ago.(audio cuts out)

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

after dipping in and out of software

Jason:

And this was a pretty critical role, I think,

Ethan:

and continuing my tech and design work, I ended up working at a middle school, a girls' middle school here in Seattle and that was a big moment because I somehow convinced them to start a D&D club, which was actually weirdly, you would think it would be fine now that we're in the 2000s, but even now there was like some question about whether or not this was a satanic thing?

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Ethan:

Yeah, it was just, yeah, just before critical role, right? And you know, we started a D&D

Jason:

when you started that.- Yeah.(laughing)

Ethan:

with I think we had like six girls sign up in this middle school.

Erik:

And then by the end, I remember, because my daughter went to this school, that it was like the most oversubscribed club.

Ethan:

There may have been a bribe, I don't know, I forget. And I think that the condition was that you would

Erik:

Ethan and I really met because I reached out to him to try to make sure that my daughter wouldn't get into the club.[laughter] Yeah, there may have been.

Jason:

(laughs)

Erik:

Yeah.

Jason:

Wait, 40% of the middle school was playing D&D.

Erik:

That's right.

Ethan:

yes if you can come help to run some games which you ended up doing. Yeah, we had about 40% of the

Erik:

Which was awesome. I mean, we were running three groups at one point.

Ethan:

school and that was actually that was the peak of that program was playing dnd yeah yeah

Jason:

That's incredible.

Ethan:

yeah and you know there was an elaborate system maybe some one of our episodes we can talk a

Jason:

(laughs)

Erik:

Oh yeah.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

little bit about kids and play but you know we had an elaborate system of dms picking dms and

Jason:

Ah, that's fantastic.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE][inaudible]

Ethan:

you know it was there was we had little ceremonies for the girls when they became a dm it was great

Jason:

That's so cool.

Ethan:

So yeah, so that's my background and I've really over the past couple years have branched out into

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

a lot of other non-D&D role-playing. That's really I would say where my interest lies now and still have great love for the original, the OG, but yeah a lot of other opportunities out there for gaming with you folks. Yeah, yeah. Oh, Nostalgia, there's a whole episode right there.

Erik:

I think out of the three of us, I think I am the least nostalgic, right? Where like I have that old experience is like, Oh, that's dead for me.

Jason:

And I'm the one who's finding old judges guild modules to go read.

Erik:

How do I get some new, better thing? I'm always the shiny new. Yeah. Totally. Yep. Yeah. Yep.

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

Yep. Totally. Um, and then just to point out that,

Jason:

That's right.

Erik:

I think we will also occasionally be having other hosts on the show and so

Ethan:

Yeah, we've already tried to rope our buddy Brendan in, I think we'll be seeing him, he's

Erik:

We'll introduce them as they come and we look at other people. Yep. Yep.

Ethan:

another member of our gaming group here. And also just to clarify, we all do game together regularly, so we'll try to avoid any sort

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

That's right.

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

of inside information or jokes, but we're at the table all the time.

Jason:

Yep, that's right.

Erik:

Yep. Yep.

Ethan:

Let's move on to the next section now, we are calling it appendix X.

Erik:

Let's move on to the next one.

Jason:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

[audio cuts out]

Erik:

So, Appendix X is a reference, for those of you who don't realize it, to Appendix N in the original. Which version of D&D did the book?

Ethan:

It was the first edition of AD&D, Dungeon Master's Guide.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

And that was a... (audio cuts out)

Ethan:

[audio cuts out]

Erik:

And that was a list of all of the mostly books, but like fantasy books, that had influenced

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

the Dave and Gary in creating D&D.

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

And for us, here...

Ethan:

Nice shoutout to Dave, I don't think that he gets enough shoutout in that edition.

Erik:

Yeah. Put 'em first.

Jason:

That's right.[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

first. And so we're gonna have Appendix X every episode and the goal here is for

Ethan:

or any. Yeah. Sure, so in terms of gaming,

Jason:

(audio cuts out)(audio cuts out)

Erik:

us to talk about what is the other media that we're consuming that is influencing

Jason:

- Yeah.

Erik:

our game and making our play better or more interesting or what we're thinking about. So Ethan you want to talk about where you are?[no audio]

Ethan:

I'm doing besides role playing gaming, you folks have been talking endlessly about Disco Elysium. I finally picked it up.

Erik:

So good.

Jason:

Yeah, yeah, and I think it was actually a D&D campaign even.

Ethan:

Yeah, it's an amazing RPG video game and the quality of the writing and the world building is kind of staggering.

Erik:

[no audio] Now, did I hear correctly that that was actually based off of a group of people's role-playing game campaign?

Ethan:

Oh, I didn't realize it was D&D. That's interesting.

Erik:

Oh wow. Mm-hmm. Yep.

Jason:

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

Ethan:

Yeah, it's fascinating to me how, and again, this is about the maturity of the medium, but just as a segue for a moment, the number of mass media properties, IP out there today that have been spawned from role-playing games or like homebrew campaigns like The Expanse, which was a series of books before it was a TV show and before it was a series of books,

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Even if you look at Starfield, the game coming out from Bethesda this year, Todd Howard,

Erik:

I had no idea about that.

Ethan:

it was a big set of binders of world building or a roleplaying campaign. Yeah. Oh.

Jason:

the director of that game, has talked about how that's all based off of his Traveler campaign from the 80s. That's the primary inspiration for him.

Erik:

Me and my son, we love horror shows, and we just watched Archive 81, Archive 31,

Jason:

Hmm...

Ethan:

Oh yeah. Right, first it was a podcast, and before it was a podcast, it was a Delta Green campaign.

Erik:

and that is based off of a Delta Green campaign. Or, right, First of All. That's right. Or, it was a podcast. Yeah, yeah. Totally great. Totally great.

Ethan:

Besides video games, I'm reading a book called Only Yesterday, which is,

Jason:

(no audio)

Erik:

Thank you.[ Silence ]

Ethan:

it was written in the 1930s, feels like it was written in, could have been written 10 years ago, and it is a history of the 1920s, and I'm reading that specifically to sort of cover off, you know,

Erik:

[no audio][ Silence ]

Ethan:

Call of Cthulhu, history and world building stuff.

Jason:

That's really cool.

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

Well speaking of books, you know, Eric mentioned Dave Arneson earlier. I just finished reading Game Wizards, Wizards, which is a book on the history of early TSR to mid-period TSR, but with a focus

Erik:

(audio cuts out)[inaudible]

Jason:

on the protracted public and also legal battle between Gygax and Arneson about the authorship

Erik:

Totally.

Jason:

of D&D. So really fascinating book, really gets you in the mindset of just how small the gaming

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

Totally.

Jason:

community was during this era of playing. talking little hobby clubs in specific cities that are really the ones cobbling together rules.

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

You know, one of the more fascinating parts of it was just how much rules, RPG rules, were viewed as something that was a bizarre idea for a business to get into because all the money to be made was in miniatures. And they would just package rules for free along with the miniatures because they're

Ethan:

>> Rights.

Erik:

Totally.[inaudible]

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

like, "Well, I guess you need some sort of rules to play with your little figures." And boy, has that

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

changed.

Erik:

Yeah, although I feel like maybe Wizards of the Coast is still having a little bit of that battle

Jason:

Yeah, that's true.

Ethan:

[no audio][ Pause ]

Erik:

with the recent changes they've been doing to their license.

Jason:

That's true.

Erik:

(audio cuts out)

Jason:

I will say the other thing I've been playing recently is a video game called Roadwarden.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

I think all of us on the table are fans of the game Citizen Sleeper, which was a great

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

kind of mechanics forward, but also story forward video game from last year.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

Roadwarden is similar in style, but it's kind of a dark, dour fantasy world, and it leans

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

[no audio]

Jason:

a little bit more towards choose your own adventure. What that's really helping me when I think about bringing things to the table is, unlike

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

say a disco Elysium where you can maybe go anywhere at any moment and it's freeform exploration

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

within dialogue trees, Road Warden really is more like a chooser on adventure.

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Jason:

The choices are really stark. One of the things that I find I often have to do just as a DM at the table is your table kind of loses its way sometimes talking and you almost need to re-present to them. like you are all talking about three different choices you need to make here, right? And kind of

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

box them in. So that's been a fun game to play just to watch how it plays with communicating players.

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE][ Pause ]

Jason:

(audio cuts out)

Erik:

Now, a Citizen's Sleeper, I remember, and this is what you said to me when you told

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

me about the game, largely as being kind of Blades in the Dark-like, in that only because

Jason:

The clocks are perhaps present, but they're hidden.

Erik:

they were so focused on clocks, and in the game it's all about what choices you make, and is this new one Road Warden, is it the same way?

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

Okay. Okay.

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

So there's definitely things that happen over the course of a number of days.

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

You're a Road Warden who's walking around this peninsula,

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Jason:

patrolling a peninsula. But in Citizen's Sleeper, like Blades of the Dark, it is showing you the clocks, right?

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

And I think both of them share something in common

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

where in Citizen's Sleeper, one of the things

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

that makes it hard for people to get into that game, I feel, is it starts when you're in really dire straits and you're barely surviving every day. And Road Warden's very similar.

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

And it reminds me a little bit more of when we've done like text crawls where you're just barely eking through every day and the payoff comes in the feeling of power

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

as you gain that mastery and additional power. So that payoff is much later.

Erik:

Yeah, actually I'm all about that tension in the moment before you get the power just like that is so

Jason:

Yeah. Yeah, I agree.

Erik:

Interesting and powerful to me. It's like a like the beginning of the original dark sun campaign a little bit. Yep

Jason:

Yeah, absolutely.

Erik:

Yep

Jason:

Good reference. We're on the knife's edge, right?

Ethan:

Something I want to mention for the listeners is that we all have very different game master styles. So when you're saying, oh, that moment of tension is really important to me. I 100% know exactly. When you say that, I can think of moments

Erik:

Yep

Ethan:

that you have GM'd for us where I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's Eric playing with tension,

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

modulating tension." Yeah, yeah. And I don't know, I actually feel like I could describe

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

Yeah. Yeah.(audio cuts out)

Erik:

Uh huh.

Jason:

Yeah, mine I would say definitely is I emphasize

Ethan:

your mode of GMing better than Jason and myself. I'm not sure how we would summarize it, because

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

Eric's all about tension. I think we should talk about that later on in this episode when we like maybe some of

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

the rule of cool more than anything. If the players are coming up with something that I think is gonna add, just an amazing, fun part of the narrative

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

that we're gonna remember for a long time, I will play fast and loose at those rules and the roles

Erik:

I totally agree.

Jason:

in order to get us that moment, because that moment to me is what we remember for years afterwards. So that's kind of more of the DMing style that I go for. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Ethan:

those key moments we can come back to.

Jason:

Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

Erik:

I feel like also, too, Jason, you-- and I think this is in alignment-- that you have a real focus on the character development of the PCs at the table. Like, and that's hard and that's not the GM's responsibility, but I definitely feel like it's something that shines in the games that you play.

Jason:

Right. Yeah, thanks, thanks.

Ethan:

>> That's great. If I had to pick a style for myself it would be world building forward.

Erik:

Yeah. Yep. Yep. That's totally correct.

Jason:

You want to create an art, right?

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

I would say, Ethan, the way I would describe your style is the world building is really

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

deep. You ran an incredible Yellow King, the Robin Laws game, and I felt like there was so much

Erik:

[inaudible][inaudible]

Jason:

more to that Paris than we ever explored.

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

That is a rare feeling when playing a game. Yeah, yeah.

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

What an interest to a certain level ofbank.

Erik:

Yeah. And I would definitely say I think that that, because I think about

Ethan:

Right. Yeah. Interesting. I was so nervous that was the first time you roped me into running that

Erik:

even the purist Gumshoe Trail of Cthulhu game that you had run for us. And what I recall really well is the sense of awe, right?

Jason:

Yeah. I don't know what I thought of your letter in front of you, but someone translated your

Erik:

This, like, there's something bigger than us.

Jason:

letter and it's sohealthful.

Erik:

That's right.

Ethan:

session. There's a specific method of salt well rope, roping people in to doing things.

Erik:

[laughter]

Jason:

( acknowledged )(laughing) Yeah, for sure.

Ethan:

you're going to run the session aren't you? Good luck. And I was so nervous because I didn't

Erik:

I'm definitely there with you.

Ethan:

understand Gumshoe and I'm still not sure I understand Gumshoe after having run many Gumshoe campaigns. We'll do an episode about that by the way. It does.

Jason:

I think that leads us right into the next section,

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

which is kind of the meat of this episode

Ethan:

..

Jason:

was talking about the nature of fun.

Ethan:

.

Jason:

You know, we wanted to kind of tackle this right away

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

because the reason that we're all getting around the table is to have fun with our friends. You know, sometimes I hop on some of these various RPG forums and I hear tales of people's tables

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

and they sound miserable. You know, one of the things I think sometimes get lost along the way is people think that the job at the table

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

is the mechanical job, following the rules,

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

versus necessarily having fun. And so we thought we would kind of tease apart what makes fun at the table from a player perspective, from a GM perspective, and then just kind of

Ethan:

[silence]

Jason:

as a group perspective when you're all together. Yeah, anyone else have any comments on why fun as a topic is interesting?

Erik:

I definitely just-- I mean, I think

Jason:

Yeah, that's a good way to put it.

Erik:

I'm amplifying you when I say that if you don't understand the type of fund that you're creating at the table, then your ability to create it is, of course, going to be less. Yep.

Jason:

[silence]

Ethan:

This was a big change in my thinking actually, you know, from as we slowly

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

evolve out of sort of childhood RPG experiences. You know, as a kid it was really we really focused on just like what is this weird thing what are these rules we have to apply these rules and somehow we still managed to have fun

Jason:

Right.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

[silence]

Ethan:

which may have actually been accidental or incidental to the whole process of

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Mhm.

Erik:

So, would you say that maybe some of the reason that that early day's fun is that just the novelty of role-playing was enough?

Jason:

[silence]

Ethan:

like oh you can't do that or you can do their rule of cool was not a thing for

Jason:

Right. No, yeah.

Ethan:

us whereas today it's that's everything yeah

Jason:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Ethan:

the

Jason:

Yeah, for me it was.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

For me and my group as kids, I mean I would say we were constantly looking things up in a worldwide field. we were because I also I just think our capacity to understand the rules was was less right.

Ethan:

uh a

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

Although I think you can make that argument about me now as well. But like I would say that it was just cool that we were even playing D&D like that was what was like the fun the thrill of it. Whereas now we were adults and you know the things that we're looking for is not just did we play that thing it is what was the experience like. And I think that to me is part of what changed it. hmm

Erik:

That's really interesting.

Ethan:

Yeah, for us, I grew up, we would play superheroes all the time running around our small town.

Erik:

So you're not talking about the role-playing game there.

Ethan:

No, not roleplaying, but just pretending to be Spiderman.

Erik:

We did that all the time.

Ethan:

Yeah, right?

Jason:

yeah yeah(audio cuts out)

Ethan:

I think that's a typical childhood activity.

Erik:

Yeah.

Jason:

Yeah, that's right.

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

There were rules to that, but the experience of playing D&D was just somehow so much more

Erik:

Yeah.[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

magical. because we had a book.

Erik:

Yep. Yeah.[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

And we sensed that inside, trapped inside of that book,

Jason:

Yeah, and I think right now,

Ethan:

there was a whole world or worlds. Yeah, so just that magic. I think that was enough to sustain us for sure. Right.

Jason:

we're talking about the emotions of fun, but there's a lot of different people who've tried to canonize that or kind of create a system to describe how fun works.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

And so Eric, I think you've done more reading about this than anyone I know.

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

Sure.

Jason:

- Sure, so Eric.

Erik:

So I think that there's a few systems of-- a few frameworks

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

[ Pause ]

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

that people used to talk about. Fun, the most prominent one by far in terms of getting the most academic thread was Ron Edwards in the early days of the Forge

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

had created what he called the GSN framework, which really half a description of fun, but it's half a description of players, and

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

so that stands for "gamist, simulationist, narrativist," and the thought was that some people or, you know, some of the fun comes from narrative, and I think that's

Jason:

[inaudible][inaudible]

Erik:

largely correct. I think some of it comes from being a game, and some people write,

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

really, you know, Ethan, you just talked about having the book, and one of the values of having the book is it meant, "Oh, I might not win," right? And it became challenge, and so that sense of game was also very big. And then the third one was

Ethan:

Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Erik:

simulationists, and I actually think this one, I don't know if like the Forge

Ethan:

>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Erik:

community or Ron would agree with me on this, but the simulationist I think

Ethan:

>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Jason:

That's right.

Ethan:

>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Erik:

really has gone by the wayside. It was the fact that in those early days so

Ethan:

>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Erik:

many people came from wargaming, right? That there were people who thought, "Oh, I

Ethan:

>> Yeah.

Jason:

That's right.

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.

Jason:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.

Erik:

I want to apply this the same way I applied Chainmail or whatever it was.

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Erik:

I really think today there aren't a lot of people who really,

Ethan:

>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.

Erik:

when they think of simulationists, it either becomes a part of the gamest fun,

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah, yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.

Erik:

which is like by sticking to something real world, like, Oh,

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah, yeah.>> [inaudible]>> [inaudible]

Erik:

if this is doable in the real world, then I can do it in the game.

Ethan:

>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Erik:

That increases the challenge or it increases the story element where it's like a

Ethan:

>> Yeah.

Jason:

That's right.

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Erik:

role-playing thing where I want to embody what it was really like to be a civil

Ethan:

>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.

Erik:

war sharpshooter or something.

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.

Erik:

So yeah,

Jason:

That simulation is part of the genre, of the history of the hobby.

Ethan:

>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]>> Yeah.>> [inaudible]

Erik:

yeah,

Jason:

You know, I love that you tied it into wargaming, because it really was, we're just playing

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

another wargame, it just happens to be with individual units, as opposed to, you know,

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE][INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

at the platoon or the squad level or whatever.

Erik:

yeah,

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

yeah, maybe there's some story elements, but what we're trying to do is figure out how

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE][ Silence ]

Jason:

these units would move through a dungeon, let's say, right, and fight these monsters. It's interesting that that GSN framework is very player motivation focused because that's

Erik:

It is. That's a A.

Jason:

exactly what you see in the Richard Bartle stuff where he talks about, and this was a

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

paper that he wrote a long time ago about MUDs, Multi-User Dungeons, that I think many people have had experience in, but they were text-based kind of versions of World of Warcraft back in the day. And that framework really focuses on player motivation as well. And

Erik:

that's great That's the what is that for

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Jason:

E-frames it as killers, achievers, explorers, and socializers. And it's really, you know,

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

you're playing a game as a player in order to fulfill some sort of desire. So a killer really

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

enjoys killing monsters or other players. Achievers like to make progress. They like to see their character progress and those numbers go up, right? Explorers like to understand everything that's

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

going on in the world. They're the ones who will look at a mountain and be like, "Well, let's go find out what's over there." The reason they're wanting to go in the dungeon is not necessarily to get gold, but to find

Ethan:

[ Inaudible ]

Jason:

out the mysteries that are in that dungeon.

Erik:

and then finally, those types of things.

Jason:

And then finally, the socializers, they're there for talking to other people.

Erik:

Now, all of us

Jason:

Now I think all of us move in between all of these different motivations.

Erik:

move in a way that's very

Jason:

What interested me about when Fifth Edition came out is they tried to click stop back

Erik:

easy to do.

Jason:

a bit and it wasn't so much about player motivation, but it was here are kind of three modes of

Erik:

But it was I think that's super interesting.

Jason:

fun that happen in the system.

Erik:

I did have a question for you about the Bartle thing, though.

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

Do you think that those four types,

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Erik:

like killer achiever explorer socializer. Do you think they all apply because they

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Erik:

it was for mugs do you think they all apply equally

Jason:

Yeah, that's a good question.

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Erik:

well to RPGs or there are some that are an easier fit when thinking about

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Erik:

tabletop role-playing?

Jason:

I think they all apply.

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Jason:

I mean, Killer, you definitely see a lot of games where there's not some sort of combat happening. I think maybe your players sometimes leave disappointed, right? Not necessarily our

Erik:

yeah yeah[inaudible]

Jason:

players at our table or all tables, but there's I think many tables out there where the combat is the thing, right? And then I would say that for the achievement motivation, that's really what

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

they want to see. They want to see their individual characters progress. Where I think RPGs are often

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

the weakest, oddly enough, is in the exploration part. Yeah, that is a part that they describe

Erik:

I agree[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

these amazing worlds that everybody wants to go learn about and explore, but mechanically,

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT][AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

there's not a lot of heft there unless you dip into the simulationist world of a hex crawl or

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT][audio cuts out]

Jason:

something like that. And then I think socializing is a great part if you have a table where you can

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

get player to player interaction happening. And that's not the easiest thing for a game master to kinda coax to happen on the table.

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

And it's not always the most comfortable thing for players to do. They sometimes have a difficult time

Ethan:

..

Jason:

getting into a head space where the fun can be generated

Ethan:

.

Jason:

from player to player versus being received

Ethan:

..

Jason:

from the game master.

Erik:

I think though too there's Jane McGonagall in Reality is Broken. She talked about playing together alone, which happens in World of Warcraft all the time.

Jason:

Hmm.

Ethan:

..[ Silence ]

Erik:

I used to live in New York City, and I loved in New York City this feeling of being together alone.

Jason:

Hmm. Oh, yeah.

Erik:

I was surrounded by 10 million people, but I didn't have to talk to any of them. But I still felt a part of it. it. And I feel like in role-playing games, even if they're not doing... like player-to-player

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Erik:

interaction is clearly the stronger socialization, but even if you're not doing that, I feel like

Jason:

Yeah, so would you say RPGs fall into like the pizza roll, or even like bad pizza is

Erik:

it's just a structured way for people to get together and socialize. And there's, even if

Ethan:

[silence]

Erik:

we're all playing together alone and it's just you and Ethan the GM and then me and Ethan the GM, that it's still... it can have some social aspect.[audio cuts out]

Ethan:

Interesting. Yeah, it's all...[silence]

Jason:

still good pizza because it's pizza?

Erik:

I definitely think when I was 16, it was definitely the pizza rule.

Ethan:

[laughter]

Jason:

I definitely would.

Ethan:

Interesting.

Jason:

Yeah. Okay.

Erik:

I think that maybe I'm a little more discriminating with my time now.

Jason:

Maybe it's my role.

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Ethan:

I had never heard the Beetzle Rule before, but I'm going to cite it all the time now.

Erik:

Yep. So, Jason, I had interrupted you.

Jason:

Yeah, okay. Yeah, yeah, 5e I think does a good job of laying out these pillars of how fun works or attempts to work within the 5e system.

Ethan:

Yeah, those three pillars.

Erik:

You were talking about 5E and kind of how 5E...[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

the other hand. >> Yeah. Like if you had to rewrite 5E and

Jason:

And that is exploration, role play, and social. And I think we covered kind of some of this ground, but really it's exploration is the one where boys are the tricky one to pull off. Right.

Ethan:

I mean somebody is somewhere, you know, they're sweating too. Why are they -- their hand is

Jason:

Yeah, right.

Erik:

Yeah, right.

Jason:

(laughing)

Ethan:

shaking as I put pen to paper.

Erik:

[laughter]

Jason:

That's right.

Erik:

Hmm. Yep.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

I'm not sure that you put exploration in there. Is it one of the three pillars? Is drama one of the three pillars now?

Jason:

That's a really, yeah.

Ethan:

If you had to recreate D&D and recast those core elements,

Jason:

Yeah, that's right, I have been, yeah.

Erik:

And why do you think it is that it doesn't? I think that's super interesting.

Ethan:

I'm not sure that it makes the cut. Going back to what we were talking about at the top of this segment, when you were talking about simulationist theory, Jason,

Erik:

Yep. Yep.

Ethan:

least you were for a while reading the going back and going through the early dragon magazines and I spent many a day skipping school and going to the

Erik:

He's not.

Jason:

I love it.

Ethan:

university where my mom worked to read dragon magazines in the library

Erik:

Oh my God, there was literally a university across the street from my high school,

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

yeah yeah it's I the fact that they had them in a library lent them both like

Jason:

It's part of the adult world.

Erik:

and I would go to their cafeteria and just read all that. Like, that was like a super big experience.[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

credence and like authority at this university I was like oh yeah university

Erik:

Oh, sure. Yeah.

Ethan:

students read this stuff and it's in yeah it's an academic thing so I'm

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

Yeah. Yeah. That's right. Right, exactly. That's right. No, no, I'm so with you on this, and

Ethan:

totally justified in skipping school to read that. I remember reading through and Xeroxing page after page of tables of simulation material and it was always like okay if you're in a windstorm you know or if you're we're gonna simulate

Erik:

right

Ethan:

weather conditions you know and they it would go into deep there was a ton of that material, you do not see that anymore, I don't think. At least it doesn't seem to

Erik:

you don't

Ethan:

be the popular material.(laughs)

Jason:

I love your flip into, if you were rewriting it,

Ethan:

(laughs)

Jason:

it's such a good, provocative question,

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

because I do think that you would probably pick something like drama instead of exploration. Because the other thing I would say is, I think players have a hard time holding some of the world building in their head that would make exploration pay off in an interesting way. I'll just kind of talk about our table briefly. I can barely get you all to remember the names of non-player characters half the time, right?

Ethan:

- For sure.

Jason:

Let alone that they're from the land of Gondor, right?

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

be like whatever, you know? Yeah, there's a payoff for exploration, yeah. That's right, yeah.

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

I think too there's an element of, about what makes it hard, I think there's an element of

Ethan:

Sure.

Erik:

aesthetics that if you look at video games, right, where I think exploration like a game like Firewatch has very strong exploration mechanics, but that's because they have such strong visual aesthetics in a way that is super hard to do in role-playing games.

Ethan:

Right.

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

I mean, Skyrim, you can just walk around endlessly.

Erik:

That's right, and it's beautiful.[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

and it's beautiful and you're just kind of in awe of it.

Jason:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Ha!

Ethan:

I think-- now that's interesting because this may come back

Jason:

Ah.

Ethan:

to GM styles, but I wonder whether or not the-- one of the experiments I used to do, or trainings I used to do with the girls in the middle school was to have them do the five senses as game masters.

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

And I would present them with either a written or visual

Jason:

That is crazy!

Ethan:

or something like that, some sort of prompt,

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

and have them describe it to somebody else using all five senses.

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

Three senses is not too hard. Two, three senses is not too hard. But when you start getting into how things feel,

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

or even how they smell, those are not common senses

Jason:

I would say one of the things where WotC really did a good job attempting to do this with

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

that are necessarily brought up at the table.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

And I wonder whether or not there is something about game masters who

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

can present all that kind of exploration material

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

using a very rich-- can you create Skyrim in your players' minds?[silence]

Jason:

exploration was using that exact kind of sensory description you just mentioned and that was in the Curse of Strahd adventure. there's actually an entire chapter at the beginning that's largely just lines and phrases that you can use

Ethan:

Yes! Right, I remember this. Yeah.

Jason:

and pepper throughout it. Really well done, yeah, really well done.[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

I will, I think an interesting case study is, and I'd like to ask a question at the

Ethan:

..

Erik:

table about, in a second, about why do you think WotC keeps it in, why is it important

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

to them? But if you look at Five Torches Deep, which is a relatively new kind of half-OSR, half-modern game, but what they do is they take a different approach, which I think also Dungeon World takes, which is don't try to add in the aesthetics to make exploration interesting, don't try to add mystery, instead add game. And so they do it by like, in Five Torches Deep,

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

you're always, your actions are using up cargo, and that resource management game

Ethan:

Interesting. Right. Okay, and for the benefit of our listeners,

Erik:

of like, "Am I gonna live through being out in the forest?" is how they bring exploration back. No, it's a game of game. Yeah, yeah, totally.

Jason:

Which isn't a simulation attempt.>> That's right, exactly. Yeah, yeah.[ Inaudible ]

Ethan:

we clarify why it is not simulation, and why it is game. Because you're simulating a torch,

Erik:

Uh-huh. Yep, that's right. So, and in fact, so I'll start maybe by talking a little bit about the rule.

Ethan:

But it's not that in this case.

Jason:

[INAUDIBLE][inaudible]

Erik:

It'll be even clearer. In Five Torches Deep, they abstract away and have a concept of cargo, which is

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

torches and food and arrows, and when you do things, you just end up using cargo.

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

And so it's not an attempt to simulate, but instead it's an attempt to add tension. And when I think of gaming,

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

It's like, I could fail during the exploration phase because like, Jason, when we were doing

Ethan:

...[ Silence ]

Erik:

Saltmarch, right?

Jason:

Yeah

Erik:

And you're like, oh my gosh, like the T-Rex knocked all of our cargo out, and now all

Jason:

That's right

Erik:

of a sudden we have no cargo and it becomes a real scramble and you have to get creative

Jason:

Yeah

Erik:

to think about how do I live through it?

Jason:

Yeah, and what what what Eric's referencing is we did a during the pandemic when the pandemic first started, you know

Erik:

How do I win from a game perspective? It is a type of hard fun that we'll get into in a little bit.[AUDIO OUT][silence]

Jason:

we had lost our ability to have an in-person table and so we hopped on discord and

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

I'm going to just toss out a hypothesis for some backburner, let it lay fallow for now,

Jason:

And I ran a Ghost of Saltmarsh session. In the midst of it, I decided to add the Isle of Dread,

Erik:

[silence][silence]

Jason:

the old classic module Isle of Dread. Yes, one does. That's right. That's right. And that very

Erik:

[inaudible][inaudible]

Jason:

much XCrawl simulation's way of exporting.

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

But I wonder whether or not simulation is not really part of the tripod, but whether or not it must always function as a support or mechanism by which you develop either the gamified component or the story component.

Erik:

...or the story component.

Jason:

That's right.

Erik:

That's exact- I totally agree with that.

Jason:

That's a good way to put it.

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

Somebody's shaking their head.

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Some listener right now is shaking their head no.

Erik:

[laughter]

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

All right. So before we lose this section, though, I

Erik:

[silence] Yes, before we get there, I had just a quick question at the table because I think everybody

Jason:

.

Ethan:

thought we should talk maybe-- somebody mentioned drama,

Jason:

.

Ethan:

We should maybe talk a little bit about Robin D. Laws.

Jason:

(silence)

Ethan:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

gets that the role-playing element of RPGs is strong, the combat element is strong, the exploration is weak, you know, like people talk about it all the time. Why do you think WotC is--and I don't think it's just WotC--why do you think people really

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT] Why not just drop the exploration?

Erik:

want to make it? Like, why not just drop it? exploration as being something that you try to do in a game. Yeah, go for it. Yeah.

Ethan:

And by the way, WotC is Wizards of the Coast, Seattle based company.

Jason:

Ethereum. Right. And it skips ahead maybe a little bit to the next session, which is, I think for

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT][AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

Game Masters, the exploration that's happening is actually more in their heads. They're the ones

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

who've read all the Splatbooks and all the sourcebooks. They know the different kingdoms

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

of Greyhawk, and they know that you just met an MPC that actually has a rich history that they've written down in their yellow legal pad, you know, but that's GM fun, I think, more than it is player fun. I think the players only are like, "Okay, that seems like maybe an important person," but for the GM, they're like, "But you have no idea. That person." And they have a whole background.

Erik:

Totally. I think that's really astute.

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

I think that's really, really great. Sorry. I interrupted you, Ethan.

Ethan:

Not at all, no, no, I'm just head nodding the whole time.

Erik:

You're

Jason:

Yes, you will love this backstory I created.

Erik:

yeah.

Ethan:

I was thinking, we'll get back to this when we talk about fun for game masters, but I think that it is a risk that game masters take what has been fun for them and try and make it fun for the players.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

If you just venture over the next three barren plateaus, there's a cool city that I built.

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

I spent hours here.

Erik:

Yep. Yep.

Ethan:

It took me a year.

Erik:

Yep. Yeah.

Jason:

It's

Ethan:

You better get there.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Going back, we talked about those models from Bartle about killers, achievers, explorers,

Erik:

Player types. Uh-huh.

Ethan:

socializers, player types, and that reminded me of Robin D. Laws, game designer and writer,

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

or writer and game designer, I never remember what order that goes in, and he designed a number of games and the gumshoe system, which I love, although maybe don't understand, but

Jason:

(laughs)

Ethan:

love.

Jason:

Uh huh huh.

Ethan:

And he has a book that came out ages ago in terms of game time and game years. Game years are like dog years by the way.

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

Called Robin's Rules of Good Game Mastering, sorry, Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering

Jason:

that's right yeah yeah

Ethan:

a play on his name. You know he has one overarching rule which is that role playing games are really entertainment they should be entertaining which is something that surprisingly people forget all the time

Erik:

Mm-hmm.[silence]

Ethan:

and that goes back to like our you know applying the rules right?

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

[silence]

Ethan:

he created a list of player types which was a little bit more nuanced I guess,

Erik:

Uh-huh

Ethan:

although I really like Bartle's simplified model, I think that's the one I would gravitate to, but this might be splitting some hairs in that model where he lists things like the power gamer,

Erik:

Mm-hmm. Yep

Ethan:

and these are the guys who want to buff, they want to max, they're min-maxers right as we say,

Jason:

Mhm.[silence]

Ethan:

butt kickers, people who just want to like go out and hack and slash, they might be a wizard,

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

Mhm. Yeah. Yeah they'll be your barbarian character, right? Yeah.

Ethan:

but they're going to go on hack and slash. Yep. Tacticians, the guy who reads a lot of military

Erik:

[indistinct]

Jason:

[Laughter]

Ethan:

history and it shows on the table and that could be fun but that's sort of your war gamer route

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Oh. Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

[silence] Mmhmm, totally.

Ethan:

right? Specialists, that would be somebody who favors a particular character type they only

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

ever play the ranger or the druid whatever. The method actor which is interesting because the

Erik:

Yep, yep. Yes. I think that would be great.

Ethan:

the method actor is now also a whole industry in actual plays.

Jason:

Yeah. It might be bigger than the entire RPG industry itself at this point.

Ethan:

Yeah, and I think we should have it, we'll probably have an episode where we talk about this.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

And very important in the industry now, obviously. There's the storyteller,

Jason:

Oh yeah, great point.

Erik:

Yes. That's maybe, sorry, we talked about that, like, there's two games, there's the player game and the GM game, and I feel like the actual play is a third thing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Jason:

Bowser.

Erik:

Two Game laws, right?

Ethan:

And that is a little bit like the method actor, but more inclined toward the role playing side and less, I guess less involving any sort of simulation. I'd have to dig into that a little

Jason:

Uh-uh.

Ethan:

bit more, but then there's also the casual gamer, which is sort of the, I don't want to say that the

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

person who leaned back, but they're just there to have fun and roll some dice occasionally.

Erik:

Yeah.

Jason:

Yeah, be with some friends.

Ethan:

Yeah. And he also has a whole model of analyzing role playing games based around what he calls

Jason:

yeah. yeah.

Erik:

Yeah. Heh heh heh. I think that is a great lead into the next segment, which is that all of these so far,

Ethan:

story beats which are this kind of back and forth seesaw between fear and hope. Feels like I'm describing my life but But...[inaudible]

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

I think we agree, are mostly talking about player types and player motivations, but maybe not necessarily under that underneath that are really types of fun that people

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

have when they fulfill those motivations. And so we wanted to talk a little bit

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

[no audio]

Erik:

about what are those types of fun and to do that we talked about what is a

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE][ Pause ]

Erik:

role-playing and what are its roots what are its inspirations and that there are three there is narrative and story clearly that is a huge part like look at the GSN framework. It is a game, right? Again, look at the GSN framework. And that also, you know, something that's a little different than like a board game,

Jason:

[inaudible]

Erik:

even a very a board game that has a lot of backstory, is about improv. And so I

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

So I'm

Erik:

wanted to take a second and look at each of those, and I think, you know, we wanted

Jason:

[inaudible]

Erik:

to look at each of those and say, "What are the things that are fun about each

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

of those?" So I'm gonna just open it up for you guys and say, "Let's start with

Jason:

Oh, first part.

Erik:

story, what is fun about story? Like, why is it fun for all of us? Like, you know, there's a bazillion articles out there about, "Oh, it's hardwired into us and

Ethan:

>> Hello.[ Silence ]

Erik:

it's so instinctual that we all love narrative and narrative is the way you

Jason:

Right. Right.

Erik:

make your point in business, but why do we love story? What is it about story that's fun?" What do you guys think?

Jason:

I think the thing that's fun about story at the table is that you as a player, you have agency in

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

it, right? And that you're, you know, your group as a group, you're collectively storytelling

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

together. And, you know, we've definitely had stuff at our table where, you know, the vibe will shift

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

in the story and then everyone kind of builds onto it. You know, we had a moment in a Call of Cthulhu campaign recently where the horror really ramped up and you saw everybody kind of lean into the

Ethan:

Thank you....

Jason:

horror of the moment. I've also had things at the table where things got very psychedelic and people

Ethan:

..

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

lead into the psychedelic and weird of it. And so to me, I think it's less the actual sentences of

Ethan:

....[ Silence ]

Jason:

of the story and even the mechanical, does the story pay off or does it follow any of the rules of storytelling, as much as it is, the players have participated in that story and they feel like they're authoring something together, which is something we rarely get to do in our lives when it comes to stories and fiction.

Ethan:

.

Erik:

Yep, I agree, I agree. I think that's also a little bit of the... comes from that improv

Ethan:

.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

...

Erik:

background, right? Because that's also an attempt to make a story. But I really like

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

what you were saying about, like, oh, when the horror moment came, when the stuff really

Jason:

Yeah. Well, I won't say anything I have a lot of this

Erik:

hit the fan, that tension and stress, like, you know, you can go online and I think on YouTube, there's a great clip of Kurt Vonnegut talking about the shapes of stories. It's

Ethan:

[

Erik:

called the Shape of Story, and in it he more or less says, every story is just, there is a situation, it has tension, the tension builds, and it builds, and it builds, and then the climax is its resolution, right? And that's kind of, I think, what Robin was also talking about in Story Beats.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

Audio is muted ]

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

That's right.

Ethan:

>> Yeah, in a little bit more of a fractal manner, I think, because that's the large,

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

that's the macro, and then the micro is this constant seesaw in between the two.

Erik:

Yep. Or that, that's right, I think that that's totally right, but I think that that, that

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

[no audio]

Erik:

tension is such hardwired in us, like we always are attending to the things that are stressful and intense, and I think that is super powerful both in gaming and in stories. Ethan, do you have any thoughts?

Jason:

Yeah. Hmm. Okay.

Ethan:

Yeah, so for me, fiction, so when we talk about story and, you know, I immediately think about fiction,

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

Fiction is always about--

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue.

Ethan:

personally, I've looked at it as a way

Jason:

Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

to experience a map to potential future states

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

or potential future selves for me.

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

And that may be--

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

it's often very character and situational.

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Erik:

Uh-huh.

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue.

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

It may not have any direct relevance to my life,

Jason:

Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

but it's a way of experiencing what ifs

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

I was in this situation.

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue.

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

And there is something very satisfying and similar to that

Jason:

Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue.

Ethan:

when we're at the table and we're all

Jason:

Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue.

Ethan:

crafting a story together, and it is emergent.

Jason:

Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue.

Ethan:

And I have a character that is experiencing that.

Jason:

Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue.

Ethan:

It is that map to that future potential self

Jason:

Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

or future potential state.

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

And I think that that's a big--

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

that was not how we played when we were kids, at least

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay. I'm gonna go with the blue. Okay.

Ethan:

not intentionally. I think we were sort of groping our way towards it.

Jason:

I'm gonna go with the blue. It does give me insight into, as a player, when I watch you, the types of characters

Erik:

Right. Yeah.

Ethan:

But that's definitely an enormous difference with how I play today.[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

you create. You know? I would say in our current one, you're a foreign correspondent, right? It's almost like I can see you trying on that mask for a bit and seeing what that looks Right, yeah, yeah

Ethan:

Yeah, it's definitely how I approach it.[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

Mm-hmm

Erik:

And so, and I think there, there's a Berkeley review of the science stories.

Ethan:

Oh, maybe you do.

Erik:

And one of the things they talk about is that people who experience stories, two things really that they call out. One is that you release the hormone oxytocin, which is like often referred to. Yeah, exactly. It is the hormone that women release when they breastfeed.

Jason:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

That's gross.[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

It's often called the love hormone. It is the hormone that is released that gives you the feeling

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

[silence]

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

trusting and bonding with people. And the other thing they find is that there's a

Jason:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

(audio cuts out)[ Silence ]

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

set of cells in your prefrontal cortex called your mirror neurons, which are

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

like when you watch someone swimming, the part of your brain related to swimming

Jason:

[inaudible]

Erik:

fires, and so do the mirror neurons. If you watch somebody writing, then the part

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

of your brain related to writing fires, so do the mirror neurons. And what they're

Jason:

[inaudible]

Erik:

really getting at there is, I think what you're saying, Ethan, that emotional bond

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

Yeah, right.

Erik:

and putting yourself in that character is core to what story is, and I think

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

is such a natural fit for role-playing because it's in the name,

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

right? Role-playing. The other thing that they talk about is-- or the other

Jason:

the

Erik:

thing actually that I want to bring up, I'm not sure that they talk about this, is I think for stories we are so hardwired to be curious, to learn, and

Jason:

the

Erik:

that element of mystery, which is amazing to me that it's not in the 5e pillars, is

Ethan:

Right.

Erik:

not mystery. That sense of curiosity, that sense of... and also awe, right? These are very related. Stanford did a study where they looked at awe, which they defined as seeing something bigger than you, right? You look out and you see the night sky, and you're like, "Oh my gosh, what's going on there?" You feel awe, right? Or you see...

Jason:

that

Erik:

you go to Niagara Falls and you see this giant waterfall and you think, "Oh wow, it's

Ethan:

Right[ Pause ]

Erik:

so bigger than me." Often it's this nature thing. And what they found was that people who experienced awe exhibited the same behaviors that people who were curious exhibit. And to me, we were talking about exploration and it

Jason:

that[silence]

Erik:

seems like--and again this is Ethan, I think what you do so well--but it seems to me that awe should be like our home court when it comes to role-playing

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

games, right? Like, and that could be the, like, don't focus on what color are

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

Oh yeah.

Jason:

[silence]

Ethan:

Yeah. Right. Yeah, I was just thinking about his slide for this fantastic locations and he's really

Erik:

the leaves. I actually, just to be clear, Ethan, I picked up your five senses trick from when you when you did it at school, and I love it, but that we all, we really need to bring in this like bigger piece of awe. I think when Mike Shea talk sometimes.

Jason:

Yeah. Mm-hmm.[silence]

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

an advocate for that. Go big, be impressive, you know, kind of overwhelm your characters

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

Yep. That's right. And so I think like story, you think about curiosity, you think

Jason:

Yeah.[silence]

Ethan:

with a sense of awe. Yeah.

Erik:

about tension and stress, and you think about emotional bond. That feels to me like all three things that are both central to why people love narratives and why people love role-playing.

Jason:

Love it.[silence]

Erik:

[silence] So the next thing I think that we talked about was about games, right? And what is

Jason:

Mm-hmm.[no audio]

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Erik:

fun about--because D&D, well, I think it's an open question. I struggle with this all the time. Like you said, Ethan, about struggling some--a little bit with like gumshoe and mystery. I really struggle with, "Is role-playing a game?" And I know we're gonna have a future episode on failure, so I'm gonna hold most of my thoughts there, but let's assume for a second it is a game. What do you think is

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

it about being a game that is fun for people?

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Jason:

I think there's a, you know, we have a player at our table

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

who has a lucky D20 that he calls Cherry Red, you know,

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Jason:

and there's these high stakes moment where he's not just rolling Cherry Red, he stands up from his chair

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

and his hand hovers over, you know, the table

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Erik:

Yeah.

Jason:

and he's shaking, you know, the die in his hand

Erik:

Uh huh. Mm hmm. Okay.

Jason:

before he rolls it.

Erik:

So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started.

Jason:

And you can tell that that moment is pure fun

Erik:

So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started.

Jason:

from a pure game kind of system perspective in a sense.

Erik:

So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started.

Jason:

What is that guy gonna do

Erik:

So, we're going to go ahead and get started. So, we're going to go ahead and get started.

Jason:

and is my character gonna succeed or fail

Erik:

So, we're going to go ahead and get started. Yep. Yep.

Jason:

based off of what just happened?

Erik:

Totally. Yep.

Jason:

And that's why I appreciate having

Ethan:

But

Erik:

Okay. So, let's see.

Ethan:

Yeah

Erik:

I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this.

Jason:

some sort of mechanical heft in a game

Erik:

I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this.

Jason:

because I think that's what creates those moments.

Erik:

I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this.

Jason:

I think that without that,

Erik:

I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this.

Jason:

you're doing an improv game for a theater troupe

Erik:

I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this.

Jason:

before they go off, go practice a scene or whatever, right?

Erik:

I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this. I'm going to go ahead and do this. Totally.

Ethan:

Interesting, yeah.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

I want some mechanical-ness there,

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

and I think that's what creates your, a special kind of tension that gets resolved that isn't about a story. It's a purely mechanical pleasure to win or fail at something.

Erik:

It's just challenge, right?

Jason:

That's right, that's a good way to put it, yeah.

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

It's funny, I think of those, like from the story beats, I think about Fear and Hope as

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

very narrative and story related. I mean obviously the book that Robin D. Laws wrote was called "The Story Beats" or "Beating the Story"

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

But that's interesting because that's a fear and hope moment. That's purely game, purely mechanical. Yeah

Erik:

Yep, I think too, so there's a game designer named Paul Tsigui.

Jason:

That's right. That's right.

Ethan:

thanks

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

[silence]

Jason:

The obstacle.

Erik:

I think that's how you pronounce his name. I have no idea. But he has, he said something that now the industry refers to as the Tsigui Principle, which is it is not as enjoyable to overcome challenges that you yourself created. and I think this is why trad kind of traditional RPGs where you have a GM who plays the the rest of the world or the opponent or whatever you the art thank

Ethan:

the rule. Right.

Jason:

The obstacle.

Erik:

you that is such a good way to say it is so important and and I actually think it's both important from a it sets up the challenge and like you Ethan again

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

you were talking about that book right and how having the book was different than just playing superheroes. And it's because when I play superheroes, I'm just overcoming the challenges that I myself created.

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

I also think it's that role of having the GM there is so important for curiosity,

Jason:

(audio cuts out) Wrapping your own present.

Erik:

because if we think that overcoming challenges I myself created is less fun, it's triply the case that finding out the mystery that I myself created is almost nonsensical. That's a great way to say it, Jason. Thank you.

Jason:

Yeah, yeah.

Ethan:

Right.

Jason:

(laughs)

Ethan:

Nice.[inaudible]

Erik:

But so, is it always that--so I think this hard fun is always tied into the, like, we hear it, the power gamer, right?

Jason:

Yeah, sure. Yeah. And what those really try to do is set up as tight of a point as possible.

Erik:

Is that the only--because, you know, there are games out there that are games, like-- you're gonna know more than I do, Jason--like the casual game set, where they're not hard.

Ethan:

Do you mean video games?

Erik:

In this case, I mean video games. Yes, thank you.

Ethan:

I didn't just get the game. Can you give me an example of one of the games you're thinking about?

Erik:

Uh-huh.

Jason:

of a loop as possible between a player action and a reward.

Erik:

(audio cuts out)

Jason:

A match three game, for example.

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Jason:

So if you are playing a game that's a match three game where essentially your goal is to match three things of the same color and then it disappears and you get some points. The way that works exceptionally well is, first of all, the mechanics are incredibly apparent as soon as you see it. As soon as you swipe the first time and you match something, which could happen within the first few seconds, you're gonna get a very pleasurable sound. Something's gonna happen on the board, right?

Erik:

get a little hit of dopamine.

Ethan:

[inaudible]

Jason:

That's, you get a little hit of dopamine, exactly, right?

Erik:

So my example of this is Fable.

Jason:

So in those types of games, they really kind of try to minimize the mechanical half as much as possible so they can get right to the tiniest loop between action and reward that they possibly can.

Ethan:

the other side. I'm going to go back to the other side. Uh huh. Is that over cooked? Yeah.

Erik:

I don't know if you guys ever played Fable.

Jason:

The people who cook it, they don't cook anything out.

Erik:

But I was playing, I forget, Fable 2 maybe. And there's this thing at the beginning where to make money you chop wood and I must have spent three days chopping wood. And I'm like, what the hell am I doing? I'm chopping wood. My kids play this game and it's a couch co-op game where you do cooking and I'm like, what? You overcook? Yeah. And yeah, they don't cook anything common. They hate cooking, right?

Ethan:

Yeah, we're playing.[inaudible]

Jason:

(laughter)

Erik:

And Jay McGonigal, again, like in Reality is Broken, she says like, hey, this is,

Jason:

That's right.

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

what's interesting here is, like you said, these are action, every time they give

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE][AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

you work. It's like the perfect work. It is clear. It's not ambiguous. You know

Ethan:

(audio cuts out)

Erik:

what it is. It's something you can accomplish, and you get

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

And that's where, you know, to keep exploring

Ethan:

Right.

Erik:

immediate feedback that says, "Here's your hit of dopamine." Yep.

Jason:

what makes a game system fun or not. There's some players and GMs that enjoy really complicated game systems, not only just for

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

the system, or not only for the simulation part of it, but for the system mastery pleasure.

Erik:

That's like a kind of hard, fun challenge is what you're saying.

Jason:

You know? Yeah, that's right.

Ethan:

Yep. I mean this is the difference between basic D&D and AD&D for me.

Jason:

I would say Shadowrun in no way I think properly simulates the kind of world it attempts to

Erik:

[indistinct]

Jason:

create. It would be my guess, right?

Erik:

Right. But...

Jason:

But I think that it's mechanically broke enough to the point where people really enjoy that

Erik:

Yep. Yep, totally. I totally agree with that.

Jason:

part of it. That's a great point. Yeah, absolutely.

Ethan:

And AD&D being 5e for me.

Jason:

That's right.

Erik:

Yep. Yep.

Jason:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Essentially, yeah.

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

Which is why there's been such a pushback to things like OSR, which if you're not familiar

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

with that it's old school revival or there's a lot of different versions of what that acronym

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

means but it's basically a reversion to the basic D&D.

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

Very thin rules, rules light in some cases but kind of a pure fantasy gaming experience.

Erik:

It's funny, I feel like that's a transition from the challenge is the

Ethan:

Hepatitis -- Sure...

Erik:

system mastery and instead the challenge becomes-- because many of those OSR

Ethan:

I think mistakenly.

Erik:

games are very deadly or they want to be and yeah and what they're saying is the

Ethan:

Right...

Jason:

[audio cuts out]

Erik:

challenge is in the playing of the level, right, or the adventure. It's not in

Jason:

Mm-hmm

Ethan:

I'm going to be honest, I just do not find that fun.

Erik:

the metagame of system mastery of like, if I pick these three feats then I'm an

Jason:

Yeah, no, me neither.

Erik:

overpowered God. Yep.

Ethan:

I don't find it fun and I don't find it fun to play with people who are just obsessed.

Jason:

Yeah Yeah, yeah

Ethan:

I don't think anybody at our table is, but that kind of, that power gaming just does

Erik:

So does it interest you in other games like video games or I don't know that

Ethan:

not interest me.

Jason:

I tend to just not be a min-maxer overall in any game.

Ethan:

Boy, that is a good question.

Erik:

there's a board game that's the equivalent?[AUDIO OUT][AUDIO OUT][AUDIO OUT] Right.

Jason:

You know, I would say in video games, there are definitely people that say, hey, this

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

is kind of the exact right build to go make for your character, right?

Ethan:

Right! Yeah, then it's just like, oh, what do I need to do to set up this game to play it and have

Erik:

Right. Right.

Jason:

They do that because they want to overpower everything. I will sometimes follow those guides because I'm like,

Erik:

[LAUGHTER]

Jason:

I want this game to be easy.(laughing) That's right.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

fun?

Jason:

That's exactly it.

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

Yeah, I have zero interest.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

I do not want to min-max in video games either.

Erik:

Uh-huh. Yep.

Ethan:

Like you know, I'm always a stealth player in video games, I'll like snipe people from

Jason:

Yeah, that's right.

Erik:

But do you feel like when you do that, are you making choices for your character that

Ethan:

very far away and things like that because it's often a way for me to skirt the need to actually level up in specific ways.

Jason:

That's right. Yeah.

Ethan:

Not, not overtly.

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

make them a good sniper? Okay. All right.

Ethan:

I really, to me it's just a way of like trying to navigate through, like I'm trying to avoid

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

the dumb fights. You know, what I want is to experience the arc of the whole game, find that story, find

Jason:

Yeah. I think it's gaming.

Ethan:

the growth, find the interesting mystery, and you know, minmaxing, and maybe, so the question is, is minmaxing simulation I guess, is part of what I would ask, or is it just

Erik:

I don't think it is.

Ethan:

gaming?

Erik:

I think it's gaming, but it's at that system mastery level,

Jason:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

not at the level of like, well, okay, actually here's a great example. I was playing,

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

And then. and the

Erik:

you know what I love? I love the first three times that somebody comes to the table, like they've never played D&D, and the first three times you give them an action, three's an arbitrary number,

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

and you say, "What do you do?" And those first three times before the system has kind of oppress them into guardrails. They just say such creative stuff. It's like,

Ethan:

Right. Sure.

Erik:

so fun. And that is a game too, right?

Ethan:

So, that's not still very clear. Yeah. I'm gonna be honest, when I started teaching the girls to play D&D at L-Dub, I actually mixed in a bunch of OSR stuff too, a bunch of DCC stuff. We started them off as zero level characters.

Erik:

That's not system mastery, but it's still, they're trying to overcome the challenge of the narrative situation.

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Erik:

Yep.[audio cuts out][audio cuts out]

Jason:

Oh, but you had no player death, right?

Erik:

Oh, you did a funnel.

Ethan:

Yeah, well no, I mean, he's sort of a funnel, yeah and a funnel is a DCC term,

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Ethan:

dungeon crawl classics term, where you have like a very deadly initial level to kind of weed out some characters. Yeah we had no, I had a rule which is no player

Erik:

Right, didn't you hit it? Ah.

Ethan:

death, which the girls somehow never, they were always afraid their characters were

Jason:

(laughing)(laughing)

Ethan:

gonna die. There was always that tension despite the fact that they knew I had a

Erik:

Yep. New. Totally.

Jason:

[Silence]

Ethan:

rule of that. We played D&D and we nominally were playing 5e because I

Erik:

Right.

Ethan:

wanted them to have ownership over it, but we did a lot of that OSR DCC stuff because I wanted to introduce simplified mechanics and to keep them thinking creatively. And so by starting them at zero level they didn't have any powers, they didn't have any abilities, they didn't have any feats, they had nothing. They literally, some of the, I would, we rolled up things like your character has a bar of soap and a piece of chalk and they use the heck out of that

Jason:

Mm-hmm. Yeah, I love that.

Erik:

Oh, I remember that.

Ethan:

bar of soap and piece of chalk. You'd like, they, they solved big problems. How do we get across

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Jason:

Right, a bag of flour.

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

this chasm, you have a piece of string, can we tie the string to the bag of flour and

Erik:

Yeah.[audio cuts out]

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

throw it across the chasm and then somebody climbs over and pulls it across and we make

Jason:

Right.

Ethan:

a rope and you know, that was their fun.

Jason:

Yeah.

Erik:

Yeah.

Jason:

[no audio]

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Ethan:

And I think because that was their initial experience, it cemented some of that.

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

They didn't calcify into minmaxing, they didn't calcify into what three feats do I have to

Erik:

[audio cuts out]

Ethan:

pick.

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Erik:

Yep. So I think out of the three of us, I'm the most mechanically inclined, like I find the rules the most interesting, and I probably do more Min-Maxing than you guys do, often because if I play a sniper, I want to play the most sniper-y sniper I can, and have that experience of the playthrough, rather than like my son, who's just brand new to D&D, and he loves trying to break the system, right? Trying to find those two things that's just going to make him so OP,

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

[no audio] Mm-hmm.[no audio] Mm-hmm. Oh, gotcha.

Erik:

Because there's a challenge in breaking the system, but I'm, you know, I maybe I was like that when I was young.

Ethan:

Interesting.

Erik:

Very much. Yes, very much, very much.

Jason:

He's a big Magic the Gathering player too, so you can see where that same kind of, you

Ethan:

That's interesting. Yes.

Jason:

know, right?

Ethan:

Right, he wants that card combo.

Erik:

Yes, yes. What I think you don't find in

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

this type of challenge is

Ethan:

[ Inaudible ]

Erik:

really in D&D. Like, we've talked about building tension, But you don't find really hard fun

Jason:

[Silence]

Erik:

like if you think about flappy birds, right which is like a game where people would say it is

Jason:

Mm-hmm.[Silence]

Erik:

Insanely frustrating, but say it as a compliment, right and people feel so much pride, right?

Jason:

Right.[Silence]

Erik:

like there's this feeling called Fiero where it's like it's the feeling when you hold your arms over your head and you're like"Woo hoo, I did it!"

Jason:

Ooh, I did it!

Ethan:

the blue, I did it!

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

- Right.

Jason:

Yeah, it's, you know, what I would say, to keep kind of going with the Flappy Bird example,

Erik:

That is a feeling that you're playing a game in when you're role-playing. I should be able to to foster that in my table, but I feel like it never happens. Exactly.

Jason:

you could use another example in video games, which is the Dark Souls series, right? Where a lot of the pleasure, or all of the pleasure, I don't want to say all of the pleasure

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

of that game comes from skill development, skill mastery.

Ethan:

.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

You're becoming skilled at playing that game, right?

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

Yep.[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

And I think that one of the things that's a little bit strange in RPGs is it doesn't really reward a lot of skill at playing the system, unless you're the table that's all

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Erik:

Yep. Yes.

Jason:

about combat and choosing feats and min-maxing, that rewards the skill, right?

Erik:

Yep.[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

But in our table I can see why you don't get that feeling because that's not the kind of

Erik:

Right.

Jason:

table you run, or I run, or you run.

Erik:

Right, right, right. So, okay, so I think we've talked about stories with emotional

Ethan:

[ Inaudible ]

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

bonding and tension and curiosity. We talked about games, which has like hard fun, but it also has this like easy fun, which is about clear

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

productivity. And there's a social fun in games, right, which we've talked about in. And then I think there's also this element of improv, which is that we're

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Erik:

all making the story as we go along. And you said, Jason, that you

Jason:

[silence][AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

felt like that is one of the pieces of fun. I think you said that as well, Ethan.

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

And why do you think that? What is fun? Yeah, what is fun

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

You mean improv? This is probably an area where I would have said a couple of years ago that it wouldn't

Erik:

about all of us creating the story together?

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

be fun. I was probably kind of against it. For me, every role playing game is a mystery game.

Erik:

So, you're saying it's all about the curiosity? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ethan:

It's all a mystery.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

I would have said this, okay?

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

We'll come back to where we are today and where I've landed.

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

I would have said, going back to Moldvay basic, Thinkbox, that you're going into the caves of Chaos because that's really like you start off in the keep and you're you know you're looking

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Mhm. Yeah.

Ethan:

around the you're doing some overland exploration but you really go into the Caves of Chaos you really want to explore those because wow they're mysterious and there's some weird stuff in there you've heard rumors right you talk to a mysterious man I would have never said that if we all sat

Jason:

You've heard rumors. Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

Yeah. Mhm.

Ethan:

down and we had a blank map and we sort of created like oh there's a city over there and and we're going to collaboratively create its backstory, I would have fallen asleep.

Jason:

[laughs] Right. I think that's authorship.

Ethan:

Because for me, the idea was that there has to be a world. Rogue-likes didn't interest me, right, as a video game format.

Erik:

So is that simulation ish? Ahhhh.

Ethan:

That yeah, yes, yes that is what it is.

Jason:

I think Ethan's looking to experience something from an author.[silence]

Ethan:

It is about the intentionality behind a world that

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

has been created by another human mind that

Jason:

[silence] Mm-hmm.

Erik:

You're a little old, aren't you?

Ethan:

is then presented to me as like, this is a priori.

Jason:

[silence]

Ethan:

This exists. And it is a real place that you are now going to explore,

Jason:

Yeah.[silence]

Ethan:

which is why if an AI were to generate infinite worlds for me, which is a real possibility now, I'm not interested.

Erik:

Yes.

Jason:

Yeah, yeah.

Ethan:

there's no intentionality behind it.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

That's purely derivative randomized stuff.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

That's a random walk that got real smart.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

That's a good way to put it.

Ethan:

Okay, and I want that authorship.

Jason:

Yeah, that's right.

Erik:

Yep. Yep.

Ethan:

So for me, like I would have actually said, and I'm probably still part of me is on the fence about this

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

I have fun collaboratively creating worlds with you guys. We have done this many times.

Erik:

Yep. Yep.

Ethan:

You did it with the characters. Who's this character, right?

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

That's right.

Ethan:

I remember one of these characters we made very clearly now.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

Yeah. Right. That's right.

Ethan:

more clearly than any other NPC, because we made him together at the table.

Jason:

That's right. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Erik:

Yep.

Jason:

Well, an improvisational head.

Ethan:

And then we interacted with him, and it was a blast.

Jason:

Yeah. Yeah.

Ethan:

But he didn't come out of your head, he came out of the weird head, the collaborative, collective brain.

Erik:

Acting! Right? In fact, I can't do that. I can't do that. I think that's a good thing,

Jason:

And I guess to me, that's where I don't enjoy the improv of acting.

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

is to keep acases of the

Ethan:

[laughter]

Erik:

concrete Beirut public, hey, ho ho 'dee-ho ho ho, ho ho!

Jason:

Right?

Erik:

You be gone 'at the time,

Jason:

Exactly. Right?- Right, exactly, right?

Ethan:

(audio cuts out)

Jason:

In fact, I even struggle when playing role-playing games.

Ethan:

- Right, interesting.

Jason:

I will usually describe my character as doing something or as saying something rather than verbalizing.

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

I struggle to kind of get into the mode

Ethan:

- Yeah.

Jason:

of inhabiting and acting, right?

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

.[ Silence ]

Jason:

And so to me, the improv that I enjoy is actually constantly finding ways to make each other laugh or to build on top of the story with each other. So I'll again use our Kthulu adventures as an example where you all were trying to investigate a foundation that was exploring Egyptian artifacts. And as a DM, or whatever, there was never this moment where I was like, "What would

Erik:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

happen if they tried to flood the entire place?" And yet somehow you all concocted an oceans 11 plan where one group of you were going

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

into the bathroom and causing a minor flood while the other ones went and tried to get some books. And that's improv to me. That was, you know, yeah.

Erik:

And I think that totally is improv.

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

I don't think you need acting for improv in the sense

Ethan:

The method actor, he says specifically.

Erik:

that we mean it here.

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

And I actually totally agree with you. that, and this is actually a big problem with actual plays, right, is Robin Lawes, you said that one of those types of players was like the actor. Yeah, and yeah,

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

and out of all of the types that you listed, that is the one that bugs me the

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT][INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

most, because I think there is a tendency to think, "What's fun is me embodying a character without moving the story forward," and I'm just like, "Just stop talking or move the story forward.

Jason:

I love that. Yeah. Yeah.

Ethan:

Yeah, I think the risk with method actors at the table

Jason:

Absolutely.

Erik:

Absolutely. That's a good way of putting it. That's exactly.

Ethan:

is that they monologue or that they're presenting their little dramatic scenes.

Jason:

Yeah, that game is just for them at that moment.

Ethan:

So I don't like min-maxers or power gamers,

Jason:

Yeah. Right.

Erik:

Yeah, seriously.

Ethan:

and I don't, you know, we don't like method actors. Who's left at our table? Come on. No, we love you, you min-maxers and method actors.

Erik:

So, okay, so this is great. I feel like we've really talked a lot about the

Ethan:

(audio distorts)

Jason:

(audio cuts out) I will start with,

Ethan:

(audio distorts)

Erik:

space of players. So let's talk a little bit now about GMs. I think we started by

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE][ Pause ]

Erik:

saying the fun for GMs is different. What is it? But...

Jason:

I do take pleasure in prepping for a session. But the pleasure that I take it in is imagining

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

how cool I think that next session's gonna be, and thinking of one or two moments that I'm hoping to hit in it.

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Jason:

And we were talking about the Sly Flourish material earlier, and I think he's done a great job of helping people get to the prep that matters, and giving you enough of a system to go and do some homework without spending six hours on the back history of something that the players will never experience. So I do enjoy prepping,

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

[no audio]

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

but I also find that I'm so time compressed usually that I give short trip to the actual, I'm gonna sit down at a desk and prep.

Erik:

Sure.

Jason:

And that prepping ends up happening more in my imagination

Erik:

[no audio]

Jason:

in between sessions. What do I think might happen next? What would I do if somebody does something like this?

Erik:

Yep.[no audio]

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

That's a definite pleasure for me.

Erik:

So, and, you know, I have a recollection of being in high school and I was, I had a fast

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

food job and somebody, one of my players was like, "Hey, I really appreciate as a GM how

Ethan:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

much effort you put into prepping," right? And I said to them, like, "I think that's crazy that I get to play this game, you know, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like, I'm filling all of my time frying fish really doing what you just said. You only get to play this game, like, a few hours a day or a week."

Jason:

It's a great way to put it.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

And you prep more than any game master I think I've ever met.

Erik:

Thanks.

Jason:

I mean, you will show up to a session and you're like, "Wait, you built like a leather-bound

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT] Yeah, yeah.

Jason:

book for each of us?" And so I always really appreciate, as a player in your games, I know I'm in for a very specific kind of ride with you because of how you prep. And I prep very differently and that ride's going to be very different with my table.

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE]

Ethan:

I mean, let me give another example for our listeners.

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

But Eric, this was not a game that any of us played with you. You played this with a different group, Betrayer.

Erik:

Uh huh. Hehe.

Ethan:

But you printed, like 3D printed a full three dimensional map of the space they were in

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

on a 3D printer. Because it was so complicated you kind of needed to have this specific prop.

Erik:

Yeah. Yeah, it was a four-dimensional dungeon.

Ethan:

I'm sorry, it was a four dimensional print.

Erik:

Yeah. Right. And no, no, no, yes.

Ethan:

Which explains the feeling of madness that I experienced when I looked at it.

Erik:

There you go, that's right.

Jason:

Well, I mean, Eric even went as far as we had a game, a red markets game we were playing

Ethan:

Oh yes.

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

I'm sure you're on a list now because of this Harry.

Jason:

that was set in a post-apocalyptic Seattle and Eric was calling Seattle businesses attempting

Erik:

I'm totally...

Jason:

to get a hold of blueprints of their business that he could use as. Yeah.

Ethan:

Yeah, yeah.

Jason:

[silence]

Erik:

[silence]

Ethan:

So you know you're talking about playing 24/7, I want to mention that this is a term I think about a lot and I think this comes from evil hat designer and fate designer Fred Hicks,

Erik:

Uh huh.

Ethan:

it's the concept called lonely fun.

Erik:

[silence] Yep.

Ethan:

And for me, lonely fun is the fun

Erik:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

that you have reading the books, reading the role playing game

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

books, or looking at them or imagining, like opening the box

Jason:

Absolutely.

Ethan:

and looking at that stuff and thinking, oh man, what cool things could happen? And we do that sometimes as game masters with books

Jason:

Mm-hmm.

Ethan:

that we will never play.

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

We do that-- I used to sit by our old wood stove in Wisconsin on winter nights and just page through the Monster Manual, which was the only like that came out first, you know, so I had like basic and the monster

Erik:

Yeah. Yep.

Jason:

And then I'm like, "What the hell?"

Ethan:

manual and I would just look at these monsters and the stat blocks didn't match the basic

Erik:

Wow.

Ethan:

rules and like that gap between like what made sense and what didn't make sense was just electric. It was like a spark gap, you know, and that for me was lonely fun.

Erik:

Yeah.

Jason:

And I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get that out.

Erik:

Yep.[silence]

Ethan:

And you know, we we have that all the time. I think that there's a risk in lonely fun, which is the over prep that you can do as as a Dungeon Master, where you create scenarios and you're like, again, you cross the three plateaus, you'll get to this cool city I spent a year building.

Erik:

That's right.

Ethan:

So I'm going to put you on rails now to make sure you get there.

Erik:

I'm gonna make you go over those three hills.-Yeah, totally. -Yeah, yeah.

Ethan:

Yeah, and I've done this many times. I do this sometimes still.

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

Yeah. That's right. I love that. Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ethan:

And I think the trick is always prep can be great, and even quote unquote over prep, but it's how you apply it at the table. And if you treat it, Jason, the way you're describing it as sort of like imagination or as just things that you can put your hand down into that box and you can pull something out like"Oh yeah, well I was thinking about that area of town" right? Or the sewers or whatever. Then you can pull it out and have a dynamic experience at the table.

Jason:

Thank you.

Erik:

I definitely think there are three types of fun for me for the lonely fun. One is what you guys talked about, which is, um, it's a, there's just creative expression. It's like any other craft, right? Building a map or whatever. Um, there is, uh,

Ethan:

That's it.

Erik:

there is the challenge, right? It's a game, right? The game is like, how do I make the best possible adventure or experience for the table? Um,

Jason:

the

Erik:

I think that's really the thing that, um, gets me going that makes me like want to think about it all the time. And then, or I'm reading the book because I feel like there's a different set of rules. Like, "Oh, I'm gonna go read "Powered by the Apocalypse" because I want to do

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

"Fail Forward" or whatever." What I don't, I think what you guys do that I don't

Jason:

[audio cuts out]

Ethan:

Yeah.

Erik:

ever do is, like, I hate reading a rule book that I am not gonna play. Especially, like, a setting book I'm not gonna play is, like, I know. This is great, which is great.

Jason:

Oh, I love those. Yeah. I love those. Yeah. Yeah.

Ethan:

(audience laughing)

Erik:

So how do you think this stuff varies at the table? Like I think, you know, clearly

Jason:

I think that, you know, I was sending you all this stuff. I think that, you know, I

Ethan:

[inaudible][ Silence ]

Erik:

for me that GMing, like I said, it is a different game. It's about how do I make a great adventurer experience. But I think every table, right, Jason, you say this all the time, has its own experience of fun. And so like what, when you think

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

about fun for a specific table, what do you think about?

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

[silence]

Jason:

sending you all some examples of this before the show of different Reddit threads where people,

Erik:

[silence] Right.

Jason:

DMs or players were just miserable, right? They just were in just like, you could just tell that

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE][inaudible]

Jason:

this was not a fun RPG group. And it always comes down to expectations being mismatched. And some of

Ethan:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE][AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

these folks have even had session zeros where they've really tried to set expectations together

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

as a table. But I think that we talked a little bit about the DM being the obstacle in some

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

old-school play or in some play. And I think there's some tables where that can turn really

Erik:

Yep.[inaudible]

Jason:

toxic. I think there's some tables where the players clearly are not on the same page as the

Erik:

[inaudible][inaudible]

Jason:

DM as to what the session's going to be like. And so to me, forming a table, we can all, I think,

Erik:

(audio cuts out)

Ethan:

[INAUDIBLE]

Erik:

- Like what great play is?

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Jason:

wordlessly imagine what makes our specific friends group table fun. And I can't remember a single thing that's been brought to it that hasn't been fun because we all kind of have formed over time these expectations of what the play is like. And I don't think that's the case for every table.>> Right.

Erik:

I definitely had an experience where I left high school,

Jason:

>> That's right.

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

where I had these three friends that I played with for eight years or something.

Jason:

>> Right?>>

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

And I went to college and I convinced my college dorm mates to play. They had been players and we played Dark Sun. And I started to do my thing where I ratcheted up the tension and I had not built the trust of being their friends for years. And they thought that I was just the killer DM. And they just started to react the way they should if they thought that,

Jason:

Yeah, they're going to rules lawyer you. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, I can definitely see that.

Erik:

which was like they started to fight against me, right?

Ethan:

Yeah, well I just want to mention the first time I ever

Erik:

- Cool. - Yeah, exactly. And it was like, it was a really eye-opening, startling experience. Uh-huh.

Jason:

that.

Ethan:

realized that there was an impedance mismatch between player and GM expectations was-- I remember I was up, you know, my friend Sammy and I were up like hanging out in his bedroom. We were playing, I don't know, Castle Amber or something like that, and one of the classic

Erik:

(audio cuts out)

Ethan:

modules and I remember we played it like three times at that point and I was DMing and I

Erik:

Yeah, yeah.

Jason:

It isn't fun.

Ethan:

remember he turned to me and was like "you know, I'm kind of bored of this module" and I just like, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was like "what do you mean?

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

You're bored of this module? You know like this is so fun, there's still other rooms to explore" but we had done the

Jason:

Yeah.

Ethan:

same story but for me it was still fun because I was like trying to lead him through other

Jason:

That's why I've struggled with convention play.

Ethan:

areas or whatever but no, you know I mean it isn't fun for me to do that.

Erik:

Yep. Yeah.[inaudible]

Ethan:

Right.

Jason:

I've only attempted a few times, but the tables are so alien because you don't know the people

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

Sure.

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

I have done it many times actually, and I would say several times, and I've had fun

Jason:

and everyone hasn't really set expectations of how things go. I'm sure there's people who are maybe

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

listening who are saying that there's great examples of convention play and they have a ton

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

of fun with conventions. I personally struggle with it.

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

[AUDIO OUT]

Erik:

Uh huh. Yeah, totally.

Ethan:

moments during the convention play and it always gives me big anxiety.

Erik:

Right, or you can go experience games that you don't have a chance to play, or...

Ethan:

If I had to make a choice I wouldn't, you know, I'd push myself to do it. Because it's a thing other people do that I think I should be able to do. Yeah. I mean, I've run convention games, right?

Jason:

That's right.[inaudible]

Erik:

Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Ethan:

Right.

Erik:

I think another example of mismatched play that I was in that you ran, Ethan, was we were playing a Trail of Cthulhu and, you know, we went to this place that was far away and the, at least one of the players got really creeped out and the game turned from uncover the mystery and get to the bottom of it and became, I'm going to run from this problem. And it was like, you know,

Jason:

I'm sure we're going to have a lot of questions.

Ethan:

Yeah, tricky, there's a whole other episode, but it's tricky, how do you manage that scenario?

Erik:

it was really startling. I think it turned out fine, but it was definitely that player, even just mid-game, pivoted and had a real mismatch with the rest of the table. Totally.

Ethan:

So, big question. That's expert level game mastering.

Erik:

[inaudible]

Ethan:

Alright, well, does that, do we feel like we explored this subject enough?

Erik:

Yeah.

Ethan:

I mean, it's a small topic, on the table.

Erik:

Yep.

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

going to revisit fun because it's kind of the lens on all the other future topics, which is one of the reasons why we chose it as this first one.

Ethan:

Yeah.

Jason:

So I'm sure we'll return to fun, but I'll start.

Erik:

Can I just, so let me just maybe wrap up by asking, um, and I'll,

Ethan:

[ Pause ]

Erik:

I'll do it myself. Just like, out of all of this stuff we talked about, what was something memorable for you guys that you're like, Oh, this was really interesting for me and maybe is also interesting for other people.[INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

When we started talking a little bit about the difference between simulation, game mastery,

Erik:

[INAUDIBLE][INAUDIBLE]

Jason:

and skills kind of mastery, I think that's something that I need to think about more

Erik:

[inaudible]

Jason:

and how to bring back to my table. I'm someone who struggles to remember the rules sometimes.

Ethan:

[AUDIO OUT]

Jason:

I think that does a disservice to people that want to experience the pleasure of, "I'm

Ethan:

. Yeah.

Jason:

really understanding how this system works," or, "I've achieved a success because I've to mastery of the system or the skills that are needed within it. So that part really took away something for me that I think I'll take back to my table..

Erik:

For me, that's the discussion we had about exploration and curiosity and awe,

Jason:

..

Erik:

and I think trying to bring that sense of curiosity and awe back to the table is

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Erik:

the thing that I'll take away from this and focus on.

Ethan:

I like that we revisited the player types and also the simplified player model.

Erik:

azoo Yep.

Ethan:

I don't like to pigeonhole people ever, but it really helps to give me a handle on how to set expectations and how to look at how expectations, even when stated similarly from different players, might have really different outcomes later an hour into gameplay.

Jason:

All right.

Ethan:

How to cope with that, again, is a different topic, which hopefully we'll come back to

Erik:

Yep. quad surveillance

Ethan:

in a future episode. That was a teaser, people.

Erik:

that'd be great. quad surveillance[LAUGHTER]

Jason:

[ Silence ]

Ethan:

Okay, well listen, hey, thank you everybody for joining us.

Erik:

Yeah, thank you.

Ethan:

You can reach out to us at rpgxray.com

Erik:

Thank you.

Ethan:

where you will find links to ways to get in touch with us

Jason:

Thank you.

Ethan:

via email, social, or via the web. And we'll be doing these on a regular basis. Please make sure to subscribe. If you like the show, please give us a positive review we hope on your podcast line of choice that really helps us in terms of discovery and helps other people find the show. So thanks a lot for joining us and we will talk to you next time on RPGXray.

Erik:

Thank you.[ Silence ]

Jason:

Thank you.[ Silence ]

Ethan:

click

Jason:

.[ Silence ]

Erik:

[ Silence ]