From X to Z

I listened to The Walking Eye’s round table with Eddy Webb, John Wick and Ryan “motherfucking” Macklin. I liked it. It is a show about hacking RPG’s, a topic near and dear to my heart.

At one point, Kevin mentioned how the text of Apocalypse World says something about how if you do hack too far,  you are no longer playing AW. Mack took offense to this, thinking that saying that you are no longer playing a game after a certain amount of hacking was ending a conversation as if it was a dismissive thing to say.

Based on Vincent’s actions, I’d say that is the farthest thing from the truth.

AW has room set aside to hack. Being an MC means you have to make custom moves, custom moves that make your apocalypse different from mine. Design-ish activity is part of the process of playing the game as written.

Saying that you have hacked my game into something else entirely is not an end. It is a glorious beginning. It is a beginning that Vincent has prepared folks for, just look at the lower half of this forum. Saying to someone, “You have hacked X until it is not even X anymore,” is not excluding one from the club. “Oh, you have hacked it so far that you aren’t even an X-player anymore. Please leave your card on the table near the door.”

Its more like this, “You have hacked X into Z. Tell me about Z! How does Z work?” No, you aren’t playing X anymore, you are now designing Z. That is fucking exciting and well worth talking about and Barf Forth has a place set aside to support people who want to do just that.

The text of Apocalypse World doesn’t penalize you for designing, it practically begs you to do so and when you do, if you look around a bit, you’ll find a community of like-minded game-hackers, hacking away, making moves, creating new stats, new playbooks and new worlds.

Hey sibling game designer, you are no longer playing X and that is just fine. Tell me all about Z.

66 thoughts on “From X to Z

  1. Frankly, that goes with every game. Putting golden “Don’t Touch” boxes around a game is weak and short-sighted. Accept the hacking, embrace the hacking, promote the hacking and make peace with the natural flow.

    • Some hacking is really crappy game design and there’s nothing wrong with anyone pointing this out.

      One possible outcome of “Tell me about Z,” could be a critique of Z. And that is okay. That is how creative communities should work with well meant critique.

      • Right, and the hacks that don’t work generally don’t thrive. There’s few better ways to learn how to design a game outside of de-constructing a good game and tinkering with it to see what makes it good. I hate it when companies tell me what I can and cannot do with their stuff (expansion only good for use with xx. What if I’d rather stuff their expansion into a piñata and bat it around for a few hours? Is the designer going to stop me?)

      • I once jacked up a Honda Civic on a copy of the 3E DMG (really, I did) but I realize that this wasn’t what it was made for and it isn’t the book’s most fun use.

        Nothing wrong with game designers letting you know best practices for best use. They know you will do whatever you want.

  2. I think this is a fantastic way to look at it, but it’s also jarring that this is the first time I can think of that I’ve seen it clearly expressed this way. I hope it’s not the last.

    -Rob D.

      • Yeah, but since Fate itself is a hack (of FUDGE), the conversation about how to handle “X is no longer Y” was handled long ago and very differently than it is today. It’s rooted in a culture where the idea that something is a hack is the _assumption_. Creates a very different perspective (and, I think, highlights why different messages – ones that sound more like “That’s not X, so the conversation is over” – echo poorly in those corners).

        -Rob D.

      • I feel like that moment should be like discovering life on another planet, one of wonder and joy.

        “It isn’t even FATE anymore…you’ve pounded on it and now…what is it? Aye! C’mere and take a look at this thing; once it was FATE.”

      • I realized the core divide while sitting in my staff meeting. In the FATE/Fudge universe, a hack is a means of _embracing_ a game. Emphasizing that Z is not X positions hacking as moving away from a game.

        Neither is a bad position, but mixing them invites trouble.

        -Rob D.

      • Sure. I think we’re willing to say “it’s still Fate” up to a point, and past a point, we’re still happy to say “that’s Fate-inspired”. Where that point is is not always clearly defined, so maybe it’s more like the neutral zone between the two concepts. Compatibility, maybe?

  3. Judd,

    Fuck yeah, man. *fist bump* \m/

    Hey brother, hey sister, you are no longer playing X and that is just fine. Tell me all about Z.

    The way you say it, it’s not cockbitey. But I know you, Judd, have heard people use that same language to dismiss others. I’m mainly talking to those people, because they bring the discourse down.

    However, said cockbites get to use people saying it positively as an excuse for their teardowns. Which then prompts me to my later point: Why not just say “Tell me all about Z” without that first part? Is there a good reason for saying that?

    – Ryan

    • I feel like AW’s text doesn’t say that at all and it was a game of telephone from AW to Kevin to you on the mic.

      I don’t think saying, “What you are playing isn’t X anymore,” needs to be a hurtful phrase.

      • I think the point to be made, here, is that it can be hurtful if it stops right there. But if someone like, say, you, adds “… and that’s fucking fantastic” to the end of it, the possibility of the hurtfulness gets cut off at the knees.

        What I think is important when saying “X is not Y” is to explicitly include the enthusiastic approval of that state of being.

  4. To Ryan’s point, a positive reading of it might be that it’s the equivalent of boilerplate for voiding the warranty. As in: “It is cool that you’re playing a hack of Ass-Kickers: The Infinite Becoming, but I must qualify my response lest you take your experience regarding your hack to talk about AK:TIB on the internet as if your hack were the actual game, because in doing so, you are reflecting on me”.

    Admittedly, that’s not a strongly positive reading – it’s full of CYA and troubling implications – but there have been enough bad experiences all around that I can’t fault someone being gun shy.

    -Rob D.

    • Saying to someone that their hack voids the warranty or even better yet, will have concrete possibly negative effect 1, 2 and 3 on the game’s mechanical workings seems like a decent thing to say. This isn’t to defend one’s Beautiful Work but to warn the player that this isn’t how the game was made to inspire fun.

      There’s something here about hacks that are inspired by a game deviating from what you have always liked, hacks inspired by a desire for a game to tackle new ground and hacks that are done out of love of both the old game and the game being birthed but I don’t have it yet.

      Let me think on that.

      • It’s hard to escape the Beautiful Work idea because, I think, we haven’t yet found a really good answer to why it’s always important to clarify that X is not Y. I think we can agree it’s situationally important (when clarity is at question, or when there’s a need to issue the warranty disclaimer) but without a specific need, I don’t think it’s a useful piece of information.

        That would be fine if it was just noise, but it _feels_ like a purposeful information. I don’t think there’s a way you _can_ say “Your Z is no longer X” without an implicit “and…”.

        Part of the problem is that any time you define something by what it’s not, the instinct is to assume an unfavorable comparison (at least assuming the something else is well thought of). That means that if you don’t fill in the and, then the reader may reasonably conclude that the missing piece is kind of crappy (especially if said reader has offered up his own ideas on the altar of consideration).

        One of the reason I like your sentiment here is that it fruitfully fills in that “and” slot rather than leaving it dangling, begging for misinterpretation. It answers _why_ you are sharing this tidbit, and that’s a big deal.

        -Rob D.

      • Actions go along with this. BW has a Sparks forum for new BW ideas and another forum for Mouseguard Hacks. Barfing Forth has more posts about AW hacks than it is talk about playing AW with a new forum for anyone who says they are working on a hack.

        It isn’t just the wording of the sentence. This isn’t just a semantic issue.

        This is an issue that demands action and support.

        It is not only saying, “Tell me about Z,” but giving folks room to discuss Z and support for making Z and playing Z and getting excited about Z becoming its own thing.

      • This is the first time someone has been able to convince me that saying “You’re not playing X” is beneficial.

        Even so, I’ll cop to my own baggage: I have a little bit of a “show me on the doll where ‘You aren’t playing X’ touched you” because it was used viciously, not upliftingly like you do, Judd.

        Rock on, man. \m/

        – Ryan

      • Judd,

        At this point, it’s faded to memory. it’s one of the reasons I had problems with S-G and It’s used as a posturing and cutting move.

        That caused me to see no fruit in the phrasing at all, even when used positively, until you used it like that today with that explanation.

        – Ryan

      • “Saying to someone that their hack voids the warranty…”

        I remember you saying this about Dictionary of Mu once. When I read it, I had you as a disembodied voice hovering around me because as I went along, and knowing I don’t play Sorcerer and will likely not play Sorcerer for a long time, I wanted to figure out ways to bring this to another game I might be playing. But I didn’t. I’m not gonna say that you prevented me from hacking, but certainly your statement influenced my perception and eventual decision. (Which isn’t to say that on an eventual re-visit to DoM, I wouldn’t completely ignore you and do whatever I wanted with it.)

        On a more general note, I wonder if it’s really the place/role of the designer to make such statements in the first place.

      • Daniel, I grew up with a Jewish mother, you are going to have to work harder to get me to feel guilty, brother.

        Place/role of the designer to make such statements? The idea that designers should be treated any different than any other gamer is an idea that needs a swift kick in the junk.

        Should I have responded, “I’m just honored that you are playing my Dictionary of Mu at all.”

        Yeah, I probably should’ve.

        Something wrong, Daniel? I’m feeling tension in this exchange.

      • Nah, dude. No tension at all. Pensive monotone if anything. Text is draining all emotiveness.

        No, I mentioned your statement because it came to mind when you said in a comment before. How it manifested as I read Mu is simply fact, and I offered it as an example of how statements like that can resonate well beyond the speaker, but especially when the speaker is the designer.

        I don’t feel designers are different; I’m pretty sure we’ve talked about this somewhat before. The only way I do hold a designer in a different light is simply the way that I hold any author in relation to their work: they made it, I give em props, they have some behind-the-scenes info that may inform further the finished product. But yeah, that’s where it ends. Much like literature, the product is independent of the creator, and I as end-user can do with it what I want.

  5. Would it be appropriate for me to quote Apocalypse World here? This is in the chapter about custom moves and hacking the game, page 278:


    So, yeah, based on Apocalypse World, but Apocalypse World no longer? Fuck yeah.

    Then it goes on to give examples of cool, fun moves for games based on Apocalypse World that aren’t still Apocalypse World.

    In other words, hooray! You’re making a new thing!

    • When people quote the text I feel like they are rubbing my face in it. Could you talk more about hypotheticals and maybe’s? /sarcasm

      Yeah, solid, Vincent.

      And honestly, more than that is the way you’ve structured your forums to support those efforts. That is a big honkin’ deal.

  6. OK, gonna talk about something risky.

    This speaks most directly to something that established my early impression of what a “Forge Game” was. In this sense, it very specifically meant (to me) a game designed along the lines of Sorcerer or the games that Clinton was producing (Paladin probably being the most iconic of them). They were, to my eyes, “kit games”. That is to say, they had a structure, but that structure had specific parts that you could rename, repaint and mess around with to change the play while still playing in the game. The obvious example is, of course, “What are demons in sorcerer?” but that was only one example among many.

    Later “forge games” (like Dogs and BW) were built on different chassis, and the conversation went off more in that direction, but one of the things that I realized I like so much about the hackability of Apocalypse World was that it called back to that kit model. It has very clear, discrete spaces for you to mess around with without disrupting the chassis.

    I mentions all this because I can’t help but feel that this arc really impacted what it meant to hack a game (especially when paired with a really strong ownership-centric ethos). So much so that it almost seems like using the same word for two (or more) different activities between different communities (using FUDGE and Forge here, just for illustration).

    See, intuitively I’d think that the problem is between “permission” to hack, but that’s not it at all. It’s not that FUDGE gave more permission to hack, but rather, that the early forge games gave that permission differently. They created a sandbox in their construction where you could safely “hack” the game without actually changing it. In time, that eventually demands some sort of distinction to call out the line when you’ve crossed from playing inbounds to playing out of bounds (Going from Dictionary of Mu to Fred’s FATE hack of Dictionary of MU, frex).

    Without that sandbox, there was never a conversational _need_ to make that distinction. A hack was a hack, and there was no point in saying Z was not X because, duh, that was the whole point.

    So if you have someone from that toolboxey end of the pool (Fudge, GURPS, Champions, tons of other games) and you say to them “Your hack of Z is no longer X” then they’ll wonder why you’re saying that. And at the same time, if toolboxey guy just shorthands his game as a “AW Hack” then the kit guy is going to be unclear which kind of hack he’s talking about.

    I dunno. That’s a lot of words to just reiterate that there’s a basic disconnect in communication which Judd’s approach is a good response to. But context matters, and this makes a bit more sense to me for having talked it through like this.

    -Rob D.

    • I do get the sense that some small press games have a “one right way to play”, and other small press games are much more welcoming of hacking.

      AW, with the extensions that have cropped up (one of our players in our group is playing a Hoarder, for instance), and the material Vincent quotes that is at the back of the book, definitely feels like the latter in many respects.

  7. Does it make me a cockbite to say that I find this conversation an indication of the increasingly incestuous nature of the hobby?

    Maybe incest is the cockbite word there, cause I don’t actually mean that we’re fucking our sister.

    But still, there is a very large amount of this discussion that is based entirely upon an in-depth series of personal exchanges and interpersonal knowledge that speaks of a relatively closed community examining its own members in obsessive detail.

    What does someone who has never heard of Vincent or the Forge or FATE or think about the hacking rules in Apocalypse World?

    I dunno, only one such person that I know who fits that profile has read Apocalypse World and talked to me about it, and the idea of hacking and when X becomes Y wasn’t in the conversation. Maybe I’ll bring it up next time I talk to them.

    But my gut tells me its not going to sound much like this conversation, with all its layers of history, personal knowledge of each other, assumption of each other’s thoughts or motives based not on what is said but what political stance we assume the other embodies, etc.

    Which, by the by, isn’t all bad. Communities of practice get built in such ways. There is value in having a knowledgeable group who have history being able to speak of and to each other in deeply introspective ways.

    But man, sometimes it feels like we’re only partly doing that and are also partly saying things more like “Vincent, the Imperator of the Forge, stands for the platonic ideal of the game as authority” and “No, Vincent as a dude I have lunch with isn’t a platonist!”

    • Brand, to me, this isn’t about what Vincent said or didn’t say as much as it is about designing a game, having it be hacked and making online space and community designed to support the act of hacking.

      I’m far less excited about folks being upset by being told, “You are no longer playing Cockbite: the Sister-fucking anymore since you don’t use the d10,” and much more about how we can see these hacks as opportunities for design and critique through play and community.

      • Yes, this is true. I do not deny this, nor accuse you of fucking your sister.

        I mean the conversation as a whole. Not particularly this blog post. The whole thing, across podcasts and blogs and forums and history read less as “this is how we do hacking to create” and more as “we’re now defining and responding to political positions” on multiple sides.

        Like, when you actually look at what Apocalypse World says it says “It isn’t AW anymore, awesome!” But the conversation never starts there, it always starts with something like “Forge designers design to textual authority, and Vincent is a Forge designer and so….” And then goes from there to who was a dick on a forum and how the community is full of shit (all of which are true) and so forth and so on.

        Lots of it is talk about the community even when it sounds like it is talk about game design. And that’s… well, it is what it is, but it isn’t always good.

        You’re trying really hard here to put it back in context and give it a positive face. Which is awesome! But, at the same time in the context of the greater conversation its easy for folks to read that as dismissing the problems the community does have with dismissing those who “play wrong” (and this is a fucking problem and a fucking big one), and easy for you to accidentally fall into doing so. Say, when you ask if there are particular posts on forums that did this. Which is legit in one context (“show me so we can avoid this”), and not in another (“maybe there are isolated problems with that, which you need to prove to me, but this isn’t a structural or ongoing problem surely”.) And while you’re speaking in context one, folks are reading you in context two.

        Cause hell, everyone posting here can tell you what is wrong with Story Games, right?

      • So, wait, you aren’t saying that I’m fucking my sister? Could you just tell me if I get to be outraged or not? I’m confused.

        Yeah, lots of time is spent clearing the cobwebs. This whole shebang comes from Kevin mis-quoting and 3 other guys jumping on an idea that was not in a text that they hadn’t read or weren’t that familiar with.

        I’d rather be making shit up about Githyanki, which is why this blog goes through dormant phases.

      • Alright, Judd, I’m calling you on that. I think.

        Have I not said that I hate dismissive language and how that’s used by people to shut down rather than, as you’re doing, build?

        Now you’re saying “3 other guys jumping on an idea that was not in a text that they hadn’t read or weren’t that familiar with” — I have read and am familiar with AW. We weren’t “jumping in” as you’re suggesting. Either I’m misunderstanding you (and maybe I am), or you’re being rather uncharitable.

        This shit is so not at all about AW. Or about any text at all. It’s about cockbites I’ve seen on forums. It’s about people using “You aren’t playing X” to cut others down. Please don’t misrepresent me, man.

        – Ryan

      • Ryan,

        That really wasn’t clear from that hour of audio. I agree that Vincent, nor the text of AW was ever chided nor insulted directly but it was the jumping off point and it was mis-quoted and used as the foundation of an hour long discussion.

        At no point did anyone say, “That isn’t what the AW text says at all and it certainly isn’t how Vincent treats people hacking his games.” At no point did anyone say, “Could we take a break and get the AW book out to see what it actually says.”

        Now it is clear that you weren’t talking about Vincent but it really wasn’t clear in that recording at all.

        I’m not talking about you nor am I dismissing you. I am talking about the cobwebs that often need clearing before we can start talking about anything constructively, this exchange here, both of us talking and making mistakes and being human, very much included.

        Never ever feel any hesitation to attack the text that I wrote. It isn’t me. I can disavow it. I can edit it or clear it up. Attack the words and try your best not to attack me is all I ask as we move on.

      • Just to be clear, when I was listening to the show and Kevin said, “In the AW text, it says blah blah blah hacking blah blah blah no longer playing Apocalypse World.”

        Sitting in the comfort of my living room, stone cold sober, I said, “No it doesn’t.”

        That doesn’t mean I think poorly of you for not saying that but it does mean that you weren’t as familiar with the AW text. That isn’t meant as an insult in any way.

      • Sure, totally. We three were responding to what Kevin said, not AW. I’ll cop to that.

        (To be honest, I might not have even recalled hearing AW, just the thing he misquoted. My brain slotted that as “Kevin is saying some bullshit.”)

        – Ryan

      • That said, it might be an interesting case study in how people misread and later miscommunicate your text.

        But then you know me and my thing about clarity of game texts.

        – Ryan

      • I have to respond to this because it won’t let me respond to your posts below.

        I don’t think this is a problem with game texts but I do think its a problem in the gaming community that we don’t often enough go to texts when we talk about a game or critique it.

      • Sure, I get that. And I feel dumb when I talk about a text only to find out it’s saying something different than what I think — provided the text actually attempted clarity. Which is thorny.

        But that’s separate from what we’ve been talking about, and maybe worth its own post. Or, you know, make more shit up about Githyanki. 🙂

        – Ryan

      • I’m not saying you are. I’m saying that I feel dumb when that happens. As a result, I go to lengths to check myself before I, as the olde saying goes, wreck myself.

        But it’s not the same as responding to a comment someone else made by misinterpreting the text.

        We’re Internet-agreeing, aren’t we? Is that what you and I were doing when King Kong fell?

        – Ryan

  8. I guess I’ve been out of the loop? Is there a massive backlash telling people to never drift these days?

    I think the larger context a lot of people stand in, in arguing for playing “RAW” or as written, is that a great deal of the rpg culture has been trained to not use the rules as a meeting point- so they end up playing “Cards” -with everyone trying to play a different game at the same time, assuming because they’re playing “cards” they all must be playing the same game.

    For those folks, playing rules as written, exactly, serves as a great tool for getting folks to experience functional play.

    But, hey, once you’ve got that basic requirement for functional play, then it becomes totally possible to drift, hack, or make your own games and have it work.

    • bankuei – Drift/customization was regarded as a symptom of bad design by the foundational essays of GNS theory (instead of what it is: the greatest thing about the RPG hobby that has ever existed.) A lot comes from that.

      • Wanna quote the text where it says that? I find this:

        “The players of the vampire example are especially screwed if they have Narrativist leanings and try to use Vampire: the Masquerade. The so-called “Storyteller” design in White Wolf games is emphatically not Narrativist, but it is billed as such, up to and including encouraging subcultural snobbery against other Simulationist play without being much removed from it. The often-repeated distinction between “roll-playing” and “role-playing” is nothing more nor less than Exploration of System and Exploration of Character – either of which, when prioritized, is Simulationism. Thus our players, instead of taking the “drift” option (which would work), may well apply themselves more and more diligently to the metaplot and other non-Narrativist elements in the mistaken belief that they are emphasizing “story.” The prognosis for the enjoyment of such play is not favorable.”

        Which doesn’t say Drift/customization = Bad design but that in order to play a game with Story Now/Narrativist priorities, the players would have to drift the system as written.

      • Hi JD,

        Maybe you should re-read the Essays? 5 minutes and Ctrl-F pretty much confirmed that Drifting, itself, is seen as value neutral as described in the Glossary:

        “Changing from one Creative Agenda to another, or from the lack of shared Creative Agenda to a specific one, during play, typically through changing the System. In observational terms, often marked by openly deciding to ignore or alter the use of a given rule.”

        The thing I see does get a lot of value judgement in relation to that, is games that are poorly designed and -force- the group to Drift to make work. But I mean, that’s obvious like saying “I bought a new car, but it doesn’t run unless you break out the tool box and fix it yourself”.

        So, is there somewhere else where folks are saying, never ever drift? Or is this just a perception from folks not really reading things?

      • So, is there somewhere else where folks are saying, never ever drift? Or is this just a perception from folks not really reading things?

        Are people actually saying that? Did my “don’t be cockbites by using shutdown language at each other” get misread that much?

        If so, sounds not dissimilar to Kevin’s misquoting AW.

        – Ryan

      • Ryan,

        When someone is wrong on the internet is it worse when its someone you know or someone you don’t know?

      • I don’t know, I guess that’s why I’m saying maybe I’m out the loop? I mean, the main place I see direct shutdown language is, but as was mentioned, that’s

        I mean, the main way I talk about not drifting, and hear other folks talking about not drifting is: “Try the game out as it stands, first, then see what you want to do with it”.

        So I’m asking if this is a new thing going on somewhere?

      • No, it’s been pretty consistent over time, and it’s consistently stated on story-games? Maybe I just put more emphasis on the “bad prognosis” part of Judd’s quote than you do or than was intended. The definition of drifting, as you say, is pretty neutral, but elsewhere you see predictions that Vampire leads to power struggles (in the form of drifting), the definitions of CAs emphasize a design ethos that demands focus rather than flexibility, and so forth.

        I mean, read what you said again about games that “had to be” drifted. Compare: “We couldn’t achieve our goals, so we changed the game” vs. “this is a bad game because we couldn’t get it to do what we wanted without changing it”. Can you not see how these two statements are a hairs-breadth from each other? The difference is entirely dependent on how much we believe our personal goals are shared throughout the target audience, a belief that because we are not psychic (or statisticians), we have no basis for other than our own prejudices?

        Now, I personally know my goals for all games are ridiculous and insane, and no game designer could sit through hearing about them with a straight face, let alone support them in a design. They would no doubt bludgeon me with the nearest bookend and no jury would convict. Thus, I do not reach the conclusion that because I have to alter a game to enjoy it, the game is somehow bad. I assume, and all evidence suggests, that I must modify games because my goals are crazy and I’m drunk and stupid. Certainly I have as much evidence for this as other people do for believing that a designer made some egregious error when their goals weren’t supported.

        By the by, here’s my all-play-is-customization explanation:

      • All Play is Customization = All Play Creates something new.

        It doesn’t mean that rules don’t matter or game texts are useless or game designer’s intent is meaningless. It means that when we get together with our friends, we take these pieces, process them and create something.

        In Corley-tongue, this comes out as something entirely different until you spend time talking about your AP experience at the table.

        JD, in my experience with you at SG, you start off the conversation saying something in the most obtuse, maligned, ridiculous way you can and then work your way towards meeting normal communication in the middle through talking about actual play.

        My preference for games is that they come ready to play. I want to have room to craete be inspired to create and not have to create in order to have any fun.

      • Actually, though, what I’m saying isn’t “We couldn’t get the game to do what we wanted so we had to drift it” = bad, as much as, “The game, by itself, doesn’t do shit, without drifting, including what it says it’s supposed to do” = bad.

        Yes, people have drifted from the beginning of the hobby, primarily because the beginning of the hobby started, not with actual rules, but cliff notes to rules and everyone else was forced to make up the difference:

        In the case of talking about Vampire, Drifting isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem of not actually having a functional CA game in the first place.

        As much as, “Wow, you spent 20 hours fixing your car” isn’t telling you not to fix your car as much as, “Wow, that car was really fucked up.”.

        I guess if SG has a thing where people are saying, “Never Drift” that’s pretty sucky, since it derailed the podcast from all the stuff about drifting I was interested in hearing.

  9. I don’t know, I guess that’s why I’m saying maybe I’m out the loop? I mean, the main place I see direct shutdown language is, but as was mentioned, that’s

    I mean, the main way I talk about not drifting, and hear other folks talking about not drifting is: “Try the game out as it stands, first, then see what you want to do with it”.

    So I’m asking if this is a new thing going on somewhere?

  10. I don’t know if this comment thread drifted from how it started but I’m far more interested in where it is now. This idea that hacking/drifting is bad/not “real” game design/whatever boogeyman you wanna attach to it seems to rear it’s head every so often and it needs to be put to bed.

  11. Hi Judd,

    On a different topic, there was a lot of stuff I wanted to hear more about in the podcast that kinda got sidelined- like what makes good or bad drifting.

    As far as I’ve seen, bad drifting usually comes about when someone -doesn’t- have a good grasp on the rules they’re changing around in the first place. A lot of times I see that usually tied to the attitude of people who don’t think rules matter at all, so they don’t bother actually thinking about what they’re changing or what they’re adding/subtracting.

    The flip side of that, is that we’ve actually seen a lot more really smart rules drifting in general- there’s a lot of really smart D&D 4.0 players hacking up some awesome stuff. Part of it was D&D philosophy changing with 3.0 & beyond, but definitely having a generation of folks growing up on CCGs I think really gave people a good nose for system issues.

  12. It’s more people saying “drifting is a symptom of bad design” – it means you have a bad game – when it clearly is not and does not.

    • Let me just make sure I’m following this whole conversation, then:

      1) GNS essays said Drift is bad. (Ok, maybe not)
      2) The SG crowd said Drift is bad. (Even though, what, every 4th thread is about hacking something?)
      3) “more people” (who, SG crowd? Where?) are saying Drifting = broken game? (as opposed to, broken game means you have to drift?)

      I really just wanted to know who/where this massive Drifting = bad thing is coming from- is it just Story Games? Is it like 3-5 people on their blogs?

      Help me out here. I just want some context because that was a lot of podcast eaten up about defending Drifting and I’d like to know to which crowd this was being aimed at.

      • I don’t really read any blogs regularly? I’ll let others speak for themselves for where they’ve heard it. And really, I don’t think my interpretation of the essays is all that far off base.

        I mean, your own post a few page-ups above seems to imply there’s this whole class of RPGs out there that’s so bad, so impossibly horrible that they aren’t even playable without customization/fixing. Not that they’re playable but not in the way they “advertise” (please come over and shoot me if I ever believe any advertisements for anything on any subject, ever), not that they’re playable but not in the way you want or will enjoy, but simply completely unusable without massive fixing, on the order of towing a car home from a junkyard and spending weeks fixing it.

        Maybe if I scoured my failing memory I could maybe think of one such game that I’ve experienced. But certainly I wouldn’t make any kind of theory or generalized judgment based around that. “If you have to customize it to play it, it’s a bad game!” is a vacant statement unless, like me, you equate RPG play with customization, in which case the statement is false, or you think there is some Platonic ideal play of every game, which the game text merely approximates to some degree, and to the precise degree we must add to or change the text to reach that ideal play, the text is a failure.

        (And certainly I won’t defend the consistency of people who believe that sort of thing, my whole point is that it’s inconsistent and insupportable.)

      • The binary you’re “offering” me is:

        a) All roleplaying requires Drifting the rules, therefore, saying “try it without Drifting first” is equivalent to being the people saying “Never Drift”?

        b) In order to Not Drift, you would need have some rigid platonic ideal of how play will go?

        Um, ok.

        I’m going to stop wasting space on Judd’s blog here and just chalk it up to the idea that you weren’t commenting to engage my question or comment at all, and now you’re just flailing to get the last word on… some argument I can’t even begin to disentangle.

      • Um, no, that’s not what I said, not even remotely. But I’ll take the blame you offer, surely 104 percent of all the miscommunication is my fault.

  13. Pingback: Interview about Drifting Games ::

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