Sunday, April 12, 2009

RPGs are Best Packaged as Books and Role-Playing Is Best Inspired By Reading

The action, the intrigue, the everything of role-playing happens in one's mind. The abstraction of rolling dice to represent something happening in a shared imagined reality, the scribbling of a series of lines on graph paper to represent a location in which the PCs are exploring, speaking in funny voices, the naming of people that don't exist and aren't even present in the shared imagined reality...

The compilation of all of these disparate and nonsensical parts are assembled and turned into a cohesive thing by the imagination. And it's the same thing with books. Words and words that represent people that don't exist, places that don't exist, actions that never have and never will happen... assembled into a you-are-there history that's entirely made up.

The process of playing a role-playing game is the same process as reading a story. In a game, the false reality is created through negotiation and mutual agreement of factors that are imposed on that reality (the rules). In a book, this is all simply dictated by the author. The interactivity of the RPG offsets (and causes) the fact that a written story is going to be compositionally different than whatever happens in a gaming "story." Six on one hand, half a dozen on the other, and attempts to close that divide are doomed due to the inherent differences in the forms. The adventures of Dorf the midget warrior won't be as exciting as those of Conan to an outside observer, not by a long shot, and the end result won't resemble a good piece of fiction if written out in that form, but you did it, and you did it in a situation where there were an infinite amount of possible outcomes; you didn't just get told about it or follow along.

It's the same process. Words of a nonexistent, and in many ways nonsensical nature being accepted as happening within the mind's eye.

That part is clear to me. The following is a little less explored, but I figure I'll work it out easier with some comments...

Adding more sensory elements deactivates the imagination more and more. Radio plays pace you with indifference, whereas even a storyteller talking to you face-to-face will himself choose what is important even if he is using techniques to draw you further in and know when to draw something out or storm forward in the narrative. TV and movies give you everything - what the hero looks like, what the dragon looks like and how it moves, what the castle looks like, exactly how the one character's face twitches as he speaks... it's still a story and it can be enjoyed (and my sizable DVD collection will prove I don't say that condescendingly), but it activates the mind much less than does a written, or even spoken, story.

Enter gaming. Every visual element that is added disengages the imagination in some small way. What used to be abstracted and imagined is now detailed and quantified. Books often have maps and illustrations, as a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. So too do RPGs often have artwork to illustrate difficult-to-describe elements, such as a map or handouts and the like.

But when do such props stop enhancing and enabling the imagination and begin to replace it? Worse yet, when do such props and methods actively interfere with the imagination? I put forward that games which include minis (or any positional or literally representational markers) as part of the rules of the game are fundamentally and objectively lesser and less imaginative forms of role-playing. I believe the same of any game with a strong visual element (I can't think of any examples with audio elements offhand). They may still be enjoyable, but it is differently enjoyable the same way that movies are enjoyable differently than books.

(I do want to mention those TSR modules with the illustrations to show players - Tomb of Horrors, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, do fall under this criticism, although I will also say that only a very few, and only one comes immediately to mind, of the included illustrations are necessary at all.)

This applies to MMORPG and 'virtual tabletops' as well. This does not include all of internet gaming, as play-by-post (even if it is slow to a game-killing degree in my estimation)/IM/Skype/etc gaming retains the core values of role-playing. It's the graphical representations and the standardization inherent in computer gaming presentations that kills the essence of role-playing. Again, not to say that they are unenjoyable, but it is unfortunate that they have been given the same "role-playing" label that Dungeons & Dragons and Runequest and Traveller use because they are not the same things.

The actions, the interactions, are less important to defining a role-playing game than the fact that it takes place in your mind. Whether our hobby, the traditional role-playing game hobby, is erroneously named, or whether its offshoots are wrongly labeled is unimportant (although I vote for them... RPGs didn't keep the 'wargame' label after all, even though that's where they came from), but the confusion causes more problems than it solves by enabling fan cross-pollinization.

I also believe that licensed properties, even those that exist purely in literal form, inherently create a conceptual limitation of imagination based on being attached to a particular already-extant idea. This holds to various degrees. I played a lot of TSR's Marvel Superheroes as a teenager, but never once used any actual Marvel characters nor set my games in the Marvel Universe, and I believe that my games benefited from those decisions. Call of Cthulhu masterfully overcomes its licensensical limitations by taking from an entire genre's literary inspiration (and publishing that inspiration, something TSR and D&D never did for fantasy) and not just Lovecraft's. But generally taking on the weight and canon of a licensed property heavily corrupts gameplay using that game, and always does if set in the actual setting that the game is supposed to be presenting.

Hell, one could say the same, and for the same reasons, for any setting of sufficient detail and have a valid argument, and certainly any with metaplot would provide an inescapable argument as the game designer is taking 'what happens' away from the game table altogether. Planescape and Ravenloft and Dark Sun were further liabilities of AD&D 2e, not its redeeming factors (due to excessive setting detail, not initial concepts, a problem that also infected the Realms).

It's the pastiche of particular literary influences in combination with an implied, rather than described, setting which unlocks the greater potential for a game. A series of works that are at the same time complimentary and similar, but also contradictory and inconsistent for one another, makes for a wonderful game as the individual group must make their own basic setting decisions.

Of course this all speaks to my bias of what a good role-playing game is and what it is not. Dungeons and Dragons was my introduction to role-playing and is my current game of choice. I do not favor the minimalism or free-form/freewheeling qualities to the degree favored by the OD&D crowd, while the detail and thoroughness of AD&D as a rules set isn't quite to my favor either. B/X and BECMI are more to my exact tastes and my ideal balance between freedom (fast-resolving, non thematically-restrictive rules) and structure (rules robust enough to provide a strict framework in which the actions can be quickly resolved). The difference is indeed one of taste, not a fundamental assertion of which is a better, or more authentic, role-playing game.

As long as the action takes place in the mind (and each player takes on the role of an individual character), it really doesn't matter what the theme of the game is. Vampire (excusing any metaplot), which I'd never touch for more personal reasons having nothing to do with gaming or its focus, has a tradition of literature and has even less props used during gameplay than D&D often does. The full breadth of the options of the Tri-Tac combat system are just ridiculous, but as much as they try to describe total realism, the games using Tri-Tac's system are certainly role-playing games in the full sense of the term. Then there are so-called indie games as Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, and the like (but certainly not everything under the indie or story games umbrella!) which I think are no different than other role-playing games (their creators' intentions notwithstanding), at least no more different than, say, OD&D versus the Marvel Superheroes game.

People talk about how society is moving on and people don't have time anymore and TV and internet and movies are what it's all about and books are just old-fashioned and... ahhh, bullshit. Most people just don't read for fun and they never have. But there are always a few that do, and of those, some read fantastic fiction, and it is these people that should be found, recruited/marketed to (whichever way you want to put it) and brought into gaming. Trying to lure people in using the more popular (and explicit) examples of video games and movies seems to me to be a non-starter, and a recipe to always moving towards more rigidly defined abilities (feats!) or more concretely defined environments (assumed and required miniature usage or virtual applications to replace a gaming surface), and overall less imaginative gaming with less inherent possibilities. I will also go so far as to say that using production values to attract people to the game, rather than to illustrate facets of the game, will also create problems for those new players in being acclimated to the role-playing hobby as a theater for the mind.

Role-playing as a hobby is what it is, and all the new concepts and presentations in the world cannot change the fundamental aspect of having the action unfold strictly in the imaginations of the participants. We're constantly told how rough it is for the RPG market. We need to realize that while many may play in a casual manner, the number of people who care to buy and organize and run these games will always be limited. Our hobby, and our industry, can indeed be large, but it will never (again) be mass-market. And I believe that any effort to change the hobby to enable mass market participation should be avoided. Welcome those that are interested, but do not bend for those that are not.

If what the hobby is becomes obsolete to the point where it can no longer survive, then I wish it a dignified death.

But for all the changes in culture and society, I do believe that telling stories, and reading stories, will endure, whether on paper or on screens, and therefore traditional role-playing games, with codified parameters to resolve actions (rules!) and an abstract presentation that happens solely in the imagination, will endure as well.


  1. I agree with this so much.

    I mean, it’s not like, if the DM shows a Tomb of Horrors style illustration, I’m going stand up, point at him, and yell, “Impure!” I’ll even use such illustrations myself when I think they’re particularly helpful. But I really do believe that these things pull us away from the core experience that I want from these games. So, I try to minimize their use.

    The one place I might disagree—but I have to think about it: I think I’d consider oral tradition a peer to literature here. Directly learning the games from other people besides only through books. Our descriptions of the actions and our speaking in character has some connection to the storyteller’s craft as well as the writer’s.

  2. Wow! Ok, all over the place here, but there's a lot to think about. I probably need to read this again to fully absorb it.

    I'd like to focus my comments on how sensory input steals from imagination. I don't think it's a simple more-of-one-leads-to-less-of-the-other relationship. Memory is the fuel of imagination; we build our imaginary worlds from the parts and pieces of our own experience. And memory is sparked in ways we don't completely understand by sensory input. I'm sure we've all been transported back in time by a long-forgotten scent suddenly and unexpectedly encountered.

    We'd probably need someone with more knowledge about psychology than I have to speak intelligently about this, but I imagine the line between too much and too little sensory input isn't as clear or absolute as I think you'd like to draw it. It's probably also so much a matter of individual mental architecture that there are no fast-and-hard rules. But I'd love to hear from someone who's actually studied this stuff.

    And to toss us onto a tangent which I think has serious bearing on this discussion, I believe that actual sensory input is secondary to the invitation to take part in what's going on. Movies don't let you have much input; everything is pretty much handed to you, and about all you get to do are the physical sensations and scents (hence why so many cringe when the hero lands a particularly brutal punch on the villain, for instance). Books, on the other hand, invite you to build the entire world in your mind. The author gives you a fairly rigid skeleton, but it's up to you to flesh out the details.

    The major problem with MMORPGs isn't that they have graphics, but that the interaction is so horribly limited. They enter the uncanny valley, giving us a world that wants to be as real as the movies, but is undone by the fact that we must interact with the world but are limited in that interaction to a handful of attacks. In this case, no interactivity (ie a movie) would engage our imaginations better than inadequate interactivity.

  3. >>But I'd love to hear from someone who's actually studied this stuff.

    Yes! Paging J. Eric Holmes... Dr. Holmes, please pick up the white phone. :D

    >>The major problem with MMORPGs

    It could be perfect, fully customizable virtual reality simulation, and it wouldn't be the same as the RPG hobby proper (or perhaps better labeled as the "original RPG hobby"). It might very well bury and fully replace RPGs at that point, but it would be something else.

    Now, I don't have a lot of first-hand experience with MMORPGs at all, so I kept my comments on them very general.

    I would have thought the big breakthrough and commercial bonanza would have been selling a "WoW Construction Package," for example, where someone makes their own environment and then specific people he invites connects up to run through that. But I understand that's exactly the opposite of what makes WoW tick.

    ... and are you saying that MMORPG interaction isn't even at the level of Ultima VI (1990) or VII (1992)?

  4. Very thoughtful post.
    The passage about the setting being implied
    rather than being explicitly set-out in particular.
    I've liked some published settings, but I'd never dream of trying to run something so detailed, so pre-set. Take Call of Cthulhu - every game I ran
    was set in the Dreamlands. This was before the Dreamlands products came out. I did this because I was butting up against my ignorance of the 1920's. My ignorance of the Dreamlands? It was all something that coalesced from HP stories and who-knows-what-else in my imagination.

  5. I would have thought the big breakthrough and commercial bonanza would have been selling a "WoW Construction Package," for example, where someone makes their own environment and then specific people he invites connects up to run through that.

    This was Neverwinter Nights, done by BioWare back in the late '90s. Fun game and spawned a number of tiny, do-it-yourself, mini-MMORPGs. Unfortunately, you were limited to the 3e rules and whatever graphics BioWare or fans had created. Compared to the utter flexibility of pen-and-paper play, it suffered. But as an always-available RP experience, it rocked all over the competition in my estimation. I had to quit because that sort of thing was eating all my time.

    ... and are you saying that MMORPG interaction isn't even at the level of Ultima VI (1990) or VII (1992)?

    Absolutely! They tried a bit of that with Ultima Online and discovered that jerks (aka griefers) would pile up boxes in front of doorways and block people inside buildings, or keep them out of buildings they needed to get into.

    So the modern MMOG allows almost no lasting interaction with the shared play environment. You can kill monsters (aka mobs) and get quests from the guys with the shining exclamation marks floating over their heads, and that's pretty much it.

    There are games that allow some limited fortifications to be built and destroyed, and most allow limited sorts of building in private areas known as "instances". Otherwise, the games are a fairly regular repetition of going to a quest-giver who tells you to kill x number of monster y, slaying the critters, then returning with your scalps for a reward.

  6. When you think about early computer RPG's, they used pen & paper D&D as a basis for development. This transition took a lot of the book keeping, chart rolling, and details of pen & paper task resolution and adventure creation, then made it weightless. It was weightless in the sense that one needed only to type a key, or phrase, or just hit space bar to resolve any element in the game. You didn't worry about all the books, charts, manuals, and spell effects. The computer simply did all the heavy lifting.

    Now the pendulum's swung the other direction and pen and paper RPG's are copying their electronic brethren. That is the problem. The weightlessness of ERPG's instant point and click resolution becomes hundred's of pages of min/maxing convoluted gaming when translated to the written page. No offense to the fan's of 4e but I am uncertain why you play it at all? If you desire all the elements of an ERPG, then why not simply play one?

    Back in the day, one played ERPG's when you didn't have a group to play with. It scratched the itch, but was not a replacement-it was an alternative. Certainly with the rise of computing power current ERPG's are stunning to look at and are a lot of fun in their own right. Possibly that is the route RPG's must take now, an alternative to their more popular ERPG cousins.

    That being the case, shouldn't the role of an RPG be to provide an alternative experience, something unique to its format, to ERPG players? Think of it, Zelda games have RPG traits, but benefit from the immediacy of ERPG design, simple immediate resolutions and unique game play. So too, RPG's by the nature of their shared storytelling and group dynamics must also strive to build upon its unique presentation of an RPG experience.

    In the 4e game there was little "adventure" or "storytelling" instead it was about using all the different abilities and feats in combos to over come monsters. A picture perfect recreation of ERPG's. The battle in analog took about an hour, versus the 5 or 10 minutes it would have taken online. It left me wondering why not just play on-line if that is the style you want to play.

    My hope is in the retro movements rise, the core elements of playing around a table and sharing an adventure waves as the banner that draws folks to it. It must play to its strength and revel in what it does best when creating an RPG expereince. Pen & Paper trying to mimic the ERPG experience is an exercise in futility. Lessons can be learned from ERPG design to improve the pen & paper experience, but it should not seek to emulate it.

    (side note: I hate the term MMORPG-it is needlessly grand and self important. ERPG (electronic) or CRPG (computer) seem more accurate and less like an arrogant advertising

  7. This post should be required reading.

    That's all.

  8. Reading the original post and the comments after had me thinking: With the reliance on rules that's been beaten into players and DM's since 3.x, and with the decline in reading in general along with the rise of the CRPG, are we crippling future DM's?

    I mean, even if we can get a DM to know and understand that the rules are advisory only, and he can do what he wants, is his background and experience in strict rules reliance going to be a hinderance to being able to freewheel it and go with his imagination? This hinderance would potentially apply to both adventure design, as well as to handling individual situations.

    Not only that, but look at the environments OD&D came out of, as compared to today, historically speaking. D&D was created just after Woodstock and the hippies, where it was do you own thing, to hell with rules and authority, and "Screw the man!", where kids even in high school would blow off school to go protest stuff.

    Kids today now have their lockers searched at the whim of the principal, and don't seem to give a shit. As opposed to just getting home from school and going outside and playing, using their imaginations and making up games with the neighborhood kids, they have "structured activities," from morning to night. Their lives are, to me, a structured nightmare. But its what they are used to. Hell, in my high school in the mid-80's, the kids had a smoking area outside we could go have a cigarette. Half of them smoked a joint, and the teachers knew, but never did anything about it.

    With all that going on, with all the "un-learning" that needs to happen with Gen-Y, GEn-Z or whatever they are up to now, it almost seems an uphill battle to get younger DM's who can really be good enough to get more people their age into the game and carry the hobby forward.


  9. I'd have to say that you have an interesting opinion. Though you argument is fluid to a poing and very logical, it's flawed. A game of the Imagination is greatly influenced by what we see in real life.

    For example, If we had never seen a dragon before and were facing one in game, the DM would have to describe it to you using a description of things you have seen. Well each of us will see a different dragon because each of our experiences is different and the things we've seen will greatly influence that. So I may think of the dragon as looking like a chinese dragon while you may see it as a midevil one. I'm not saying this is bad, but it does take away a little from the shared experience. That's because when you are talking to the others later about what had happened, each of you will have slightly different story to tell, though you all were there to face the same thing.

    But if the DM would describe the Dragon and say: 'Like the creature you see in this picture', the players would all have the same description of the creature to work off of. There is very little room for interpretation and it gives the players a shared experience, they all know the dragon looks like that.

    Now my example is very simplistic but I've seen that happen, even with player aids being used. Is it a fault of mine or the players, or is it just that we come from different experiences? I'd say it was the latter.

    Good post though and very thought provoking.

  10. Table top role playing will never die for the same reasons you stated in the last paragraph...

    I think the fear of a digital world is based in(and this might be a little on the deep end but I'm almost sure this is where it's coming from), but the fear is based on the idea of people becoming little more than a program. It's about the terrifying prospect of losing your freewill because a computer does all the thinking for you. I read this book called the singularity is now about transhumanism and how as technology progresses and machines become more and more human like and eventually people and machines begin to merge (it's all currently happening in one form or another) we being to question our spirituality.

    Storytelling and passing down traditions through word is one of the basic foundations of culture since the dawn of man, role playing games are sort of a frame work for exploring our imagination. What happens when the computer does all the thinking for you? You begin to lose free will.

    I'd argue that as long as we live in a free society it won't happen. I'd be more worried about the governing rule inhibiting our imagination than I would be worrying about a digital tabletop or even miniatures and grids.

    Everyone uses some sort of storytelling aid as a focus for imagination.

    Some use gestures, some dress up or use prop swords, some people paint up little metal figures, some build tiny worlds out of foam and sawdust, some people make illustrations either with pen and markers or with a mouse and a piece of software, some people write programs to take care of math to free up some of their brain processing power for more importantly imaginative tasks.

    So I don't think that props or digital aids hinder your imagination, they only support it in different ways. Different people are more comfortable in using different tools. Personally I like having fake weapons on the tabletop and don't mind others wearing funny hats, but I also use my laptop as a digital notebook to keep everything organized as it takes up less space on the table. My way helps to support my imagination. One thing that hinders my imagination is running a combat completely in my head, there are too many things for me to keep track of, so at minimum I use at least a piece of paper and some dice for positioning. I also find that trying to find minis that match exactly what they are supposed to be hinders my imagination so I stopped using minis and use lumps of clay.

    Everybody has their own way of supporting their imagination and whatever works for them might not work for another person and that's fine.

    I think that it's a good thing that the rpg industry is reaching out to the mainstream community to help support t he way that they would like to play.

    There are already a ton of ways that supports the way I play and introducing more people to table top gaming whether digitally or physically is never a bad thing.

  11. I've been in this hobby for some 36 years, and I couldn't agree with you more.
    When we first started it was paper and pen, no figures, and the DM had to descrive everything. And I could picture everything in my mind because we had to listen to the descriptoins to know what was going on.
    Then miniatures came into play, and the imagination had less to do. I didn't have to picture my character or the settting. It was set out before me. That was the day before monster figurines were around, so we still had to listen to the descriptions to know what we were going up against (Our DM was loath do the "You run into a dozen goblins" description).
    Then monster miniatures became common and the RPG was transformed into a wargame.
    Personally myself, I've never used figures or marker of any kind. At best, I'd use a few dice on the table to give my players an idea of where everything was at. This gave some of my miniature obsessed playersa fit, and I had one who lugged a footlocker full to my games wanting me to use them.
    And I've noticed one other thing. The more illustrated and slicker the games have gotten ,the more structured. OD&D had six stats and everything worked off of that. The last frpg I ran was 2nd Ed Chivalry and Sorcery, which included a skill as to whether one could cook! Love the game, but does one really need to roll to see if they burn the oatmeal.
    Have to agree. The less detail as to the setting, the more the playerss imaginations
    get into the game.
    Good post.

  12. Fliprushman: "Well each of us will see a different dragon because each of our experiences is different and the things we've seen will greatly influence that."

    This is one of those loose threads that I was aware of but didn't take the opportunity to follow because this post had already sprawled quite far from what I originally intended it to be.

    This variation in perception is the entire reason why I find using just words to be superior to a more defining multimedia presentation. If a referee were able to project his mental images while running a game so all of his players had the exact same mental imagery via some sort of psychic virtual reality, I feel gaming would be diminished somehow.

    I love the idea that D&D combat, especially the OD&D/AD&D standard of one minute per round, can result in everyone at the table visualizing the action in vastly different ways, without those differences impacting outcomes or game mechanics at all. One person is imagining events in terms of Conan the Barbarian brutality, one person is imagining SCA combat, one is thinking fast and furious Jackie Chanish action, one is thinking Errol Flynn... and all are equally correct.

  13. I agree with you on that, I wasn't judging that style of play. That was actually the furtherest thing from what I meant.

    ODnD/ADnD did have a good style of play and actually I do miss some of those aspects of play. I've been playing 4e since it's release and been playing 3.5 for years but both games are beginning to become boring. So I've turned to clones and began a search for the older material(which, thanks to WotC, just became a whole lot more difficult). I've loved OSRIC and Basic Fantasy and wish to play them more. So that's also why I've found your blogs.

    But what I was trying to say was that adding some aspects, like pictures, does not take away from the imagination, but mearly enhances it. There is a fine line, but who am I to say were it is.

  14. >> This variation in perception is the entire reason why I find using just words to be superior to a more defining multimedia presentation.

    Ahhh... One-true wayism never dies either... Some people function better using digital mediums as a role playing aid. Older gamers do not give the younger gamers enough credit.

    There are more ways to trigger the imagination then just words. There are pictures, sounds, music, movies, animation, video games, anime they all trigger a persons imagination in different ways that using just words can't. At the very least a person may be more comfortable using these other mediums to support their style of roleplaying.

  15. James said:
    "I love the idea that D&D combat can result in everyone at the table visualizing the action in vastly different ways, without those differences impacting outcomes or game mechanics at all."

    That resumes in my opinion exactly why imagination should be limited and some descriptions should be always present. Leaving it all up to the players imagination prevents them from interacting with the situation. A description, even a short one, excites the imagination and allow a player to think of original actions and describe them.

    When reading a book, we are limited to what the author talks about, all we can do is take it in and imagine the details. In RPGs, the idea should be that the referee sets a landscape/place/monster/situation and the players imagine how their character will react to it.

    The fact that descriptions are left blank doesn't make me imagine what it could be, it lets me with just the picture of what has been described, all the other parts being blank. A 10-foot passage is just a passage unless it is described as a worked stones passage and a worked stone passage doesn't either take form in my mind without an idea of the colour of the stones. My point is not that every item of the game should be described, but every one that is allows me to imagine better the situation and have my imagination working on new possibilities.

    Isn't it part of a RPG to build and interact all in the same imaginary world?

  16. That's an excellent point.

    My only defense against it is probably buried in that "Don't Care," post, or generally being in favor of more fleshed out descriptions for locations so I can best communicate the intentions of the author. (and I was specific in your quote about it being action rather than location).

    It is always a tough balancing act... when I talk about a location, I do want to communicate enough information to allow players to act on it, but reading too much at a time just makes people's eyes glaze over.

    The goal should be to provide enough information that everyone is interacting with the same thing, but not so much that everyone has an identical image of those things.

    You're a better judge than I as to whether I succeed, but my intention is to give enough of a description to allow basic actions ("The characters taking their first look,") and questions that the players have about details represents the characters examining something more carefully.

    Another example of the balancing act: The visual aids in the modules I mentioned in the original post. Some, like the Barrier Peaks illustrations, completely give the whole 'gimmick' away. From basic descriptions, if players are expecting to be in just another dungeon, they might not visualize the spaceship and the computers and such at first. But flashing them a picture... the players will change their approach immediately.

    But a couple (the guns) are designed to trick players using their own knowledge because the end of the gun that looks like it would be the barrel... isn't! (of course working all that stuff is done by random tables anyway, so...)

    I think I'm babbling now. :D

  17. Hell, one could say the same, and for the same reasons, for any setting of sufficient detail and have a valid argument, and certainly any with metaplot would provide an inescapable argument as the game designer is taking 'what happens' away from the game table altogether. Using such logic one would have to conclude that any historical setting renders an RPG into a "lesser" game.

    What a bunch of one-true-wayism bullshit.

  18. If one uses a historical setting and players are not allowed to change history from the moment play begins (and I don't mean inventing firearms in 50AD, I mean taking Jesus off the cross or changing the events of Little Big Horn if the PCs are in the position to do so), then I would say that the RPG is indeed a lesser game than one where the players have true freedom to do things.

    Historical RPGs no longer are the moment a PC is dropped in.

    Background and setting itself does not make a lesser game, but an immutable future does.