But secretly does and why you shouldn't care.
In Meinberg's article,Your Game Should Have Social Mechanics, they argue that all (roleplaying) games (I assume) should have social mechanics. My disagreement that an game should ever have a rule for anything that it doesn't need a rule for aside, their support is, to put it bluntly, asinine and in some respects self-congratulatory.
They asserts that it should be self-evident that rpgs need these rules and mechanics, but yet there is disagreement. And this is surprising to him. It is as if their has never engaged in any kind of rpg discourse.
They're surprised about both the lack of an acknowledged and stated need for these rules and that there is disagreement.
They assert that the game is the rules, which is an entire different discussion that I really don’t wish to get in here even through it relevant to his thesis.
They assert that games need to be explicit about they are about instead of implicit. Which I can see having some validity.
They then assert that not including rules about social whatevers places a burden on the end-users, and therefore is lazy or bad design. I would argue that there is a difference between a lack of a rule and poorly made rules. The lack of a rule is an invitation to explore that gap. The lack of a rule by being an invitation is compliementing the end-users. It says, “I believe in you. You can fill in the gaps. You can do so better than I can because I am not you. I am not at your table.” It says, “There are far too many things that could be explained and codified to be considered ‘complete’ or ‘good’ and I am choosing to focus on the part of the game I wanted and needed to write. You can take my game and make it yours.”
Their stance, while it makes sense. There is an entire generation+ that I believe has dealt with the codified mechanized spawn of the 90s and 00s. Where games were still trying to be whatever D&D isn’t by doing things that D&D wasn’t doing for them. Getting rid of incoherent mechanics. Homogenizing how all aspects of a game work. This creates an entire “but since this is a skill, then this that and other should be skills and therefore they should behave similarly.” But this stance is also insulting to the end-user. It’s saying, “I the designer am much cleverer than you are.”
And again. A game does not have a responsibility to cover anything it didn’t.
However, let’s ignore all of this except that a game needs to be explicit about what it’s about. This is important.
Now, if a game is not particularly interested in tracking these interactions, the rule can be something simple like “roleplay out the interaction and proceed from the fiction established.” There are some people who would not call this a rule, but it is a rule, it is something that has be designed and decided on and then put into the game. Deciding for light freeform social interactions is a part of the design and must be understood within the context of the rest of the rules.
Why is this important? They have first that games need to have a rule. That a game needs to be explicit about what it is about. And that now even saying the game doesn’t have a rule, the game by stating it doesn’t have a rule is a rule. They’ve constructed some weird ass circular logic wherein a rule that isn’t a rule is a rule and therefore a game will almost always have a rule.
I don’t even care about whether or not rules for social mechanics foster deeper and better NPCs because now, it doesn’t matter. Anything I, the designer, do, is somehow a rule about that thing even if their isn’t a rule. Unless I don’t even talk about it. Taking this to an extreme, which I only do for humor’s sake, unless you declare that people in your game poop, they don’t poop. Yes, it’s a stupid argument. But let’s think on this stupidity. What other things have designers felt that games need and are clear and obvious? Have you looked at the ridiculous charts for combat by weapon and armor type in Rolemaster? Not only did the designer see a clear need, there was, and still is, an audience for such crunchy crunchy tedium. Folks still argue about how armor in D&D should work, what hit points mean (and hit points have been repeatedly explicitly explained for decades), and that vancian magic is bad. And so many these arguments have the same “I would think it would be self-evident that games should have rules for this but clearly I am mistaken” rhetoric. This isn’t new ground. Games will continue to not have explicit rules for social mechanics, and folks will feel the need to talk about why they should.
I not only have not been convinced of the necessity of any rules for a game I am playing beyond what it has, until I need them, I am seriously reconsidering the necessity of such mechanics in a game that primarily about social and emotional interactions.
If you want, while you’re here, you can see the various ways you can hurl money at me and get game and game supplements of dubious quality.
Also check out DreamJam.
Also check out DreamJam.