Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Kubasik Maneuver

I just realized I thought I'd added the Mighty Atom to my blog reader and I hadn't. Catching up now. Just read "The Right Tool For The Job." In it Harper complains about people who resent indie RPGs because they like traditional RPGs just fine thank you very much.

Chris Kubasik, in a set of essays which were really influential to me when I read them back in, what, '99? 2000? took this tack towards the problem:

Last issue, I rummaged through the rules of roleplaying games and picked out the rules and ideas that I thought got in the way of broadening the scope of roleplaying stories. Now I'm going to gut some of the assumptions of the stories we usually tell. Let me state again that what I'm discussing is not better than roleplaying, nor an evolutionary advancement. It's just different.

I won't call my subject a roleplaying game. That sidesteps the issue of which company is doing roleplaying games "right" - if anyone is. We'll take a cue from Mike Pondsmith's clever Castle Falkenstein term "Adventure Entertainments" and dub this new social activity "Story Entertainments." The evening's gathering is now focused on story, rather than on the partaking of roles. However, people are still playing characters. Moreover, by removing the term "game" and replacing it with entertainment," we remove concerns about winning - whether as a group or an individual player. The goal is to improvise an entertaining story; to get together and have a good time or, if a powerful sentiment is carefully introduced, be moved. What we don't want to do is sit around a table staring grimly down at character sheets.
You know, that would work. Abandoning the term "roleplaying game" and picking something else, whether or not it is "Story Entertainment," and disavowing all claims to be better than traditional RPGs, or an "evolutionary advancement."

I don't think it's a suggestion that will get much traction, though. For all Harper's protest, most people involved in indie RPGs do in fact think of them as better than traditional RPGs, or at least as better than them at doing some things that traditional RPGs have traditionally claimed to do! Like create good stories. And people do in fact tend to talk in terms of evolutionary advancement.

And of course you'd have to agree on what the new term was, which would never happen, unless maybe it were introduced by fiat by Ron, and I don't think he's doing much fiating these days.

So I guess we're probably going to be fighting about what a "roleplaying game" can and can't be for some time. The Kubasik Maneuver is not a real option.


John Harper said...

It's an option in the sense that we, as game designers and publishers, can start doing it (like Pondsmith did) and no one can stop us.

We don't need approval or acknowledgement from anyone. So nyah.

Ed H said...

Pondsmith did what where when who?

John Harper said...

Oh. Sorry. Pondsmith called his game an "Adventure Entertainment" (albeit obliquely), without trying to coin a new term for the (gack) "industry."

Alls I'm sayin' is: you wanna call it somethin' else, you do it, man. Fly your freak flag!

Ed H said...

Funny you should say that -- "freak flags" was what my friends and I called GenCon badges worn outside of the convention hall, a couple Cons ago. :)