References for Beginners

  • 7 Replies
References for Beginners
« on: May 16, 2013, 07:00:56 PM »
I'm still trying to understand roleplaying theory and what makes for good game mechanics. I figure a good starting point is AW's Ludography. Any other suggestions?

Re: References for Beginners
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2013, 03:48:42 AM »
Anyway, Vincent Baker's blog, is a good start :

It's a bit overwhelming but here's the tip : take a category you like, start from the bottom and click on the first link with a lot of comments.

Also, antiquated posts are good too :

EDIT : for example, this :

I'm quite fond of two books on the subject :

The Art of Game Design by Jess Schell (, that taught me that game design encompasses so much — economics, maths, sociology, group dynamics, psychology, semantics, systemics, aesthetics, dramatic writing and shit I don't know yet — but that's okay and here's where to begin, and

Theory of Fun by Ralph Koster ( who has tons of great insights about games, why they are fun, how they are fun and what they do to us in general. I take issues with some of what he says (please don't ask me about gendered learning dispositions unless you like streams of incoherent rage) but the rest is pretty solid.

Hope that helps.

Re: References for Beginners
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2013, 09:16:52 AM »
Thanks. That's all great stuff. I knew there had to be stuff about actual game design out there, as opposed to all those things about programming video games. I just had to ask.
I really like that post on how RPG rules work. The arrows between the fictional concepts, the player interactions, and the cues remind me of the basics of modular program design. I love things that have a logical outline to their structure. I think most things do; it's just that you have to figure out how everything goes together.

Re: References for Beginners
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2013, 11:51:16 PM »
Follow up question: Is there a decent site where one can look up jargon terms? People drop things like "Right to Dream" and I'm like lolwut and 30 minutes of google later I find what appears to be the definitional essay about it. I was kind of hoping I could cut out the 30 minutes of googling.

EDIT: And, of course, that linked essay has a bunch of words that feel like jargon, but I'm not sure how to look up. Should I be trusting the 8 year old, "provisional" glossary on the Forge?
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 12:06:22 AM by benhamill »

Re: References for Beginners
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 07:23:08 AM »
My take on the glossary, with the caveat of "I don't know man, I wasn't there" :

Yeah, it's still solid. The concepts themselves didn't change that much from the early discussions to their use today. But the glossary is really full of stuff that was The Big Thing™ at the time but actually it wasn't that big, or at least in that form. KFD, GNS, IIEE all got refined in less "boxes to put stuff into", more "effective systemics" ways. The good discussion these days seems to move away from acronyms and taxonomy and toward predictive and descriptive systemics.

EDIT because I'm clear as mud: take GNS. For a time, the whole of discussion was "what are the different creative agendas?" and all in all it was pretty inward and definitive, once we're done we're done.

Now it's more "so, creative agendas, what's it good for and what can we do with them?" and that discussion is outward and open and that's what design's really about, in a sense.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 12:58:39 PM by gregpogor »

Re: References for Beginners
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2013, 02:04:12 AM »
Hi Benhamill.

The place where you should (one day) find updated definition, hopefully in common English, is this one:

It's far from complete at this moment, a lot of definitions are missing and others have only the old glossary definition as a placeholder.

At this moment is practically stalled, it lost momentum months ago when the people who wrote there (me included) didn't have the time to do it for months. I would like to start again writing entries there and having people asking questions in the wiki forum here would probably help.

In any case, though, every single time I or other people (even Ron...) tried to explain Forge jargon only with words, the result was a failure. You don't need the theory to play. But you need to play a lot of really different games to understand the theory. It's descriptive, not prescriptive. It talks about what you already played, not about what you will play. First you play the games it talks about, and only after that it's useful.



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Re: References for Beginners
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2013, 10:07:44 AM »
Moonhowler: If you want to understand what we at the Forge thought in 2006, then the glossary is fine and the Big Model wiki is fine. Problem is, what we at the Forge thought in 2006 is not that useful or interesting. Like, if you want to see where Apocalypse World came from, you can dig into the Big Model, sure. If you want to see why Apocalypse World is good, the Big Model won't help you. Let alone if you want to figure out how to design good rules yourself - if that's your goal, teaching yourself the Big Model will be at best a waste of your time and at worst an active detriment.

RPG design theory is in a giant higgledy piggledy right now. Not only is there no good introduction or reference text, there are barely any publicly open conversations. RPG design theory discussion is happening almost entirely in private, in person, and (as always) in the games themselves.

How long this state will persist, I don't have any way to guess. Maybe from now on!


Re: References for Beginners
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2013, 07:15:43 PM »
Yes, read the archive of anyway. Best stuff there is online.

Check out the last page of The Sundered Land. There's a list of questions to ask about your RPG design that you will find very provocative and practical.