June 11th, 2005


Theory versus practice

While reading this recent thread from hrafnson, I thought of the following question: how does studying "RPG Theory" effect one's ability to play in an RPG?

Most discourse I've seen on RPG Theory is either 1) a technical discussion of numerical or concrete systematic issues (for example, an argument for bell-curve versus linear probability), or 2) abstract postmodern wankery (example: any post/article that mentions the term "social contract"). I sometimes enjoy reading the former, but I'm obviously heavily biased against the latter--as in a prostate exam sounds like a swell time compared to a discussion of the GNS model.

My take on the question is this: several groups of players over the years have told me that they enjoy having me as a player and also that make a damn good GM (so much for "quieting my ego" here). I've never read the forums at The Forge, nor have I attended a panel discussion on Literary Narrative Theory, nor could I actually give you a definition of "social contract." On the other hand, I've played in a game run by one of these hyperclever theorists, and once the novelty of our ridiculously absurd character concepts wore off (about 30 minutes in), well, I'm sure the GM was delighted by the realization of a narrative Paradigm within the conflict resolution inherently at odds with our creative agenda, but the rest of us seemed to be a lot happier when the whole exercise was over and we could go back to doing something fun.