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Episode 14: Undetectable Notes of Irony

November 9th, 2012 | Robin

We kick off with another film festival wrap-up in the Cinema Hut, this time Ken’s visit to the Chicago International Film Festival.

Ask Ken and Robin asks us to contemplate the differences between two of Robin’s game engines, DramaSystem and Skulduggery, leading us to contemplate a broader old saw: does system matter?

In the Cartography Hut we examine a map of Chicago gangland in 1926, limning an urban geography of booze and bullets.

Then we rev up Ken’s Time Machine, sending him back to prevent the burning of the library at Alexandria. Or burnings, if you prefer.

10 Responses to “Episode 14: Undetectable Notes of Irony”

  1. Jay Dugger says:

    In the next episode, I’d like to hear more of Ken’s Time Machine. Any of the following would please me.

    1) Send Hite back to prevent the Great Depression. (No invoking ‘if only the Whiskey Rebellion had succeeded.’ Been done, and I’ve read that book.)

    2) Send Hite back to make sure either of the following US rocket projects fly:

    a. Project Orion
    Bonus points if you can get this without a USAF sponsor, but undoing what Freeman Dyson called “the first time in modern history that a major expansion of human technology has been suppressed for political reasons” should be reward enough.

    b. or Project NERVA.
    Bonus points if you can get this and an American SST (Lockheed L-2000 or Boeing 2707).

    3) Call Hite on the carpet to explain why he, like Ijon Tichy, meddled in human history by affecting the outcome of any two major twentieth century wars.

  2. Kenneth Hite says:

    Ptolemy XIII was Ptolemy Philopator, not Ptolemy Ephialtes. I don’t know what happened, except some general transference of weasel names.

  3. [...] no he escuchado el último capítulo de Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff, mientras lo hago voy a revisar los kickstarter activos que mas me llaman la atención. Esta claro [...]

  4. Thank you for a great show!

    Your comments on system got me thinking about a similar topic, namely metagaming and system. I’m currently reading Burning Wheel, which seems like a neat little system mixed with several very clever metagmes. I’ve noticed that GUMSHOE doesn’t really have many metagames within it (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I haven’t noticed any metagames in GUMSHOE). I’d like to know your take on metagaming inside of a system: are metagames part of a good system design?

  5. Yeah, I’m using metagaming in the sense of “mini-games”: games inside the rules-system that aren’t necessarily tied to the core resolution system. Some examples: Artha and Duel of Wits in Burning Wheel, the Fate point economy, and character creation rules in FATE / Dresden Files, and the like.

  6. Baz Stevens says:

    Yes, system does matter, but nothing like as much as you think. It’s simply another variable in the whole gaming experience. Group dynamics trumps it every time.

  7. You sort of talked around the point I’m about to make, possibly because it’s so obvious, but: In the vast majority of RPGs, the system itself is irrelevant to the role-playing experience. As Ken did sideways note, this was especially true of games played before 2000; the only games which really tried to incorporate *role-playing* into its system before then were the previously praised Pendragon; Paranoia; and Vampire. The game system in RPGs is focused on a few very specific things–historically, almost exclusively on combat–and leaves vast amounts to the players’ initiative. Even within that, of course, there were differences–D&D melee was very different from Snapshot, the hand-to-hand combat system for Traveller–but these differences were much less significant to the role-playing experience than the differences of settings.

    That’s the broader point. As to the world-weary “system doesn’t matter” dismissal: Because it was so true for so long that system and role-playing were almost completely orthogonal, system arguments tended to be tedious and beside the point. More experienced games learned to recognize system arguments as flame-bait and, I think, “system doesn’t matter” became a shorthand tool for sidestepping such arguments. In the nature of shorthands, it became its own Common Wisdom. But of course people have been arguing the other way for a long time, too; the first time I heard Greg Costikyan, in a guest of honor speech at Sci-Con in the late 1980s, he made a point of the importance of creating a system to produce the type of play that fits the game. (Of course, GURPS was still The Hot New Thing then.)

    All that said, BRP simply *was* better than D&D. Which isn’t to say it was perfect, even for its generation, just that it did everything D&D did as a system, but more gooderer. Anyone who says otherwise should be fed to Krasrsht.

  8. Lisa Padol says:

    I think a lot of System Doesn’t Matter these days is “A good GM matters more — why _my_ GM…” And some is “A good group matters more.”

    For myself, well, System Matters, but Other Things Also Matter. It occurs to me now that one of those Other Things is how and whether one uses the system, but I thing that may be splitting the hair too finely.

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