Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Litmus Test for Usefelness of TTRPG Discourse

So I was discussing Immersion with Runeslinger at Casting Shadows in response to my last article on Twitter this evening and I realized that much of my thinking over the last few articles was driven by a Litmus Test for how valuable a discussion of TTRPG gaming is that came out of this comment from Stephen Grodzicki of Pickpocket Press.

My test goes like this:

"Before I open my mouth about role-playing games, am I talking about my preferred style of play, with depth of immersion, heavy intrigue and conspiracy, lots of social encounters, etc., or can what I say be true of most TTRPG experiences. Would what I say be true if I were at the table with Stephen Grodzicki, in a game that starts at the Dungeon entrance, where we kick in some doors, kill some Minotaurs, loot the bodies, and suck back a lot of rum & cokes?"

This minimalist style of game is, after all the original baseline method of playing Dungeons & Dragons, it defines the technology of immersive narrative as medium for play. 

If what I say is true for me, but not for Stephen, I need to figure out how to make sure  I am respectful of this form of play. Before I say immersion is a core mechanism of TTRPGs, I have to ask if what I mean by "immersion" happens at the kick-in-the-door style table.

Otherwise I am being solipsistic in my approach.

Humility is not a natural Virtue to me. I often need to cultivate tools like these. I am tentatively calling this one the "Grodzicki Test", but I reserve the right to change that if Stephen hates the idea.

Applied carefully, it can help me spot where I am and am not being open-minded, intellectually honest, sufficiently humble, and above all - helpful. And it can be applied to reading the discussions in front of me as well. 


  1. I am curious why you want to make sure that what is true of the games you is also true of the games Stephen likes too? Does a blogger who writes about opera concern themselves with what a person who likes Taylor Swift thinks? I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just saying that it is OK to say, "Sorry, I didn't write this for you."

    1. My point is this: I can't say what Stephen's playing isn't Roleplaying. Not without putting my nose firmly in the air and my mind firmly shut. If I say "All role playing includes X, Y, and Z" but the Beer & Pretzels guys only do X and Z, I have a choice.

      Either I say they aren't real role-players (true Scotsmen, as it were), by implication or otherwise, or I revise my analysis.

      If I decide they aren't "real" role-players I am most likely the asshole.

      Does that mean I ought to design a game with him in mind, or write my campaigns to suit his style? Of course not. Not my style, although the game he made is damn fine fun.

      But if I want to talk about the hobby? Different matter entirely.

      I try to approach the world from a pretty straightforward philosophy: certainty is usually an illusion. Nobody can know everything, and everybody is wrong about something, including me. Approaching life with the notion that I might be wrong keeps me honest.

  2. I'm not 100% sure what you are getting at, but wanted to stop by and say that I'm all about that beer and pretzels play. Having the same character night after night is plenty of immersion for me. The basic RPG aspect of my character advancing, or maybe dying, is more than enough for me even after all these years.

    1. I dig it. There is something pure and very relaxing to that style of play.