Theory discussions and critique

17 February, 2008 at 10:42 pm (game design, rpg theory) (, )

I am pretentious enough to call myself an rpg theorist, even with practically no formal training in anything related to roleplay. This even though I don’t actually write a lot of rpg theory, at least not of the hardcore model-building or academic-paper-citing variety. I think I am a pretty good critic. At least it is an activity I like and enjoy. With this all given, here are two models I have been helping with a bit:

RPG theory journey part five (there is a category for theory stuff) by Tumac, the author of the league of imaginary heroes, and Roberto Grassi’s attempt at unified model on

If you are interested in hobbyist rpg theory, do check out those two.

If you are developing a theory or designing a game and want some criticism (I won’t promise actual playtesting), I am here to be poked. Response time is not very quick right now due to studies keeping me more busy than they should and some other real life business.


  1. Tumac said,

    Hi there my friend. Thanks for the mention. I for one can vouch for the fact that you are a darn good critic. Your advice, insightful observations and thought-provoking questions have been invaluable to my rpg theory musings. I’m extremely grateful that you’ve taken the time to contribute.


    Bruce (Tumac)

  2. Opusinsania said,

    Grassi’s theory seemed interesting, but the criticism he had received seemed well-grounded. It was very abstract and needlessly complex (unnecessary use of words like ‘system’ and ‘process’ tend to do that) for a theory that apparently aspired for academic precision, but lacked the tools for the goal. Use of previous studies and theories would be the first one I’d recommend.

    I’m interested what were your thoughts on Grassi’s model.

  3. Tommi said,

    I posted them there as “Thanuir”; significant part of the critique there was mine. I’m still hoping he will continue developing it. Note to self: If he doesn’t, PM him.

    My biggest problem with it was that the abstract parts were not always clearly defined. I can handle abstract as long as it is clear. The format made that hard and forced scrolling around. Some pictures replaced arguments and definitions, which is never a good sign.

    It’s hard to judge the whole model without seeing the second part with all the applications. Second draft of the of the first document did imply some mentions of GNS, GDS and the process model somewhere, probably in the second document, which has not yet been released to curious theorists.

  4. chungkingespresso said,

    Thanks for checking out my blog and contributing to my gaming discussion. My friend Max had earlier, and half-jokingly commented, that what I was talking about didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how much more complex and pure a pen-and-paper is to anything hoping to be called an “rpg” created for console or computer. I must admit that I am hopelessly uneducated in this field, and by poor dumb luck for the most part. When I was in Boy Scouts, the guys who played D&D were about 3 years older than I was. My “generation” of nerds had NES in common, so we played Pokemon with each other. It’s very depressing when I think about it now, but at this stage – with games such as WoW upping the bar for cooperative fantasy play in a video/computer game – I can’t help but wonder whether I should be jealous that I missed the pen and paper boat or breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not saying WoW is close… but if they added user-created content on a more wide scale (instead of forcing people to set up rogue servers to do it), I think they’d have something close? Maybe I’m completely mistaken. I did play a text-based RPG online for a long time though, so I guess I have some modicum of an idea… eh, you’re doing great work, keep it up!

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