John and Zak’s Mass Debate

For anyone who cares, I watched the Zak S / John Wick debate.

The whole video is one hour long, which is a bit too much for the casually interested. Here are the hilights I picked out.

23 to 25 mins

A discussion about how mechanics spontaneously emerged from “fluff”. I think it’s probably the most interesting part of the discussion, and yet trivially obvious.

The comments about how 90% of the rules of CoC aren’t applied on a per-session basis are good. The general tone is the difference between the rules and how you actually play.

This is my favourite quote:

A lot of people say the game is about what the rules of the game are about. I say no, the game is about what the game ends up being about at the table when you play it with people.

The game exists in a context

You play the game, you watch what happens when people play the game [and the result], and the game is about whatever that result is… the result is what matters, not the text…

Wick notes that learning a game is very hard based on the text alone; you need to be taught by someone else. Comments on Wick’s article generally agree that “how to play” advice is generally poor — in other words it relies on oral tradition and tacit understanding.

33 to 36 mins: Cannibal Mermaids and Giant Hats

A discussion of dealing with cannibal mermaids in a moat by using mercury from a giant’s hat. The subtext is that playing D&D without creativity will generally not favour the players — trying to play D&D as an actually balanced game is stacked against PCs at lower levels. More crucially the various advantages that tip the balance are negotiated via roleplaying.

41 to 45 mins: Tactical Infinity, Fluff = Potential Crunch

Continuing from the above, the “tactical infinity” of the game is this: any new rule or factor can be introduced and become a negotiated benefit, simply by virtue of being plausible and consistent with the world, even when these elements were not included in the original text. The phrase “portrayal with mechanical weight” is used somewhere.

OK, those are the best bits. I’ll admit that my examples are heavily biased towards Zak’s side of the debate — but then I find those to be the most compelling points. Mostly I don’t think the premises put forward in Wick’s article are adequately explored or backed up. One point Wick deserves is the absurd focus of combat over anything else, viz the disproportionate number of dice rolls for combat mechanics over non-combat mechanics. That revelation is hardly going to set the world on fire, though.

Mostly the debate seems painfully obvious. I strongly agree about the importance of interesting results (coupled with decisions to act and acceptance of risk, as previously stated).