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On Core Philosophy Behind Fabletop

deepestlore Aug '17
From my observations, the philosophy of the site has been opposed very strongly by its users for a long time now.
This is not an inflammatory comment, but a legitimate concern. Allow me to explain:

Fabletop was made for some quick and easy, almost hit'n'run roleplaying. This is stated in the introduction to the site: FT was made for quick freeform games, designed to make it easy for everyone to connect and play.
Some of the pros from the introduction ( fabletop.com/help/introduction#what-is-fabletop ):

- "It's easy for everyone in the community to join any other table. There's no need to learn new rules each time"
- "Less game time is taken up with rules discussion"
- "It puts the emphasis on storytelling and cinematic action, instead of rules and stats".

One of the common mistakes for new players/GMs is listed as "Too Many Houserules" ( fabletop.com/help/game-masters-guide#common-mistak... ).

You can probably see where I'm going with this.

How come Fabletop now acts in a completely opposite way to its original intent? Houserules are so prevalent, it is very hard to find a game with -core- rules these days, if at all possible. People are likely to -dismiss- your game if you use core rules. Writing up a whole system of your own for your table has now become something of an unspoken rule, a standard. To play, you have to read through a paragraph of house rules first, and that's at best. At worst, you have to read an entire set of forum topics of those rules.

A problem that ties into the previous one is the new unspoken rule of "write lore for your game". This is also against the "plug'n'play" philosophy of the site. Also under Common Mistakes ( fabletop.com/help/game-masters-guide#common-mistak... ) is "Long Introductions", which ties into lore writing to a degree. The site encourages GMs to "Find ways to reveal background info during the game, rather than revealing all of it up front", and to start sessions in media res, both of which the GMs often choose to forgo in favor of writing up a lot of background information, often presented as mandatory reading.

Both "light, universal rules" and "easy on the introduction, big on the action", core ideas of the site, are almost -discouraged- in the community, either openly on as an unspoken consensus. Core rules are seen as "boring" and "limiting", while they were designed to be as non-obstructive, easy, universal and liberating as possible.
At the moment of writing, there are 8 listings in the "Upcoming Games" section, and one open table running right now. Each of the tables except one has its forum dedicated to abundant house rules and/or lore information, and the one that doesn't have a filled-out forum, presents its houserules in the table info. You cannot just join a game and play from the get-go, as promised by the site intro. The fairly rigid community of the site, which is now its core and primary audience, only persists in cementing this paradigm shift that I personally perceive as negative and alienating.

Note that I do not discourage creativity, such as creating game systems and lore information; it is just that there are other free sites better suited for that kind of prep-heavy gaming, such as Roll20. The idea behind Fabletop is to -avoid- the prep and heavy mechanics.

What do you think on this issue? Please keep it civil and avoid flame-wars.
(It would be perfect to hear Frost's take on this question, but I'm perfectly aware it's a pipe dream).
frost Aug '17  /  edited Aug '17
Thanks for the thoughtful write-up. =) You're correct in understanding the intent of the kind of games Fabletop was designed for.

I think the heart of it is that role-players seem to gravitate toward novelty and complexity. New rules provide a "hit" of novelty, even if they aren't really any better. And each new rule doesn't seem that complex, once you know all of the others.

This is how there can be a an ever-widening gulf in dedicated gamers vs beginners or casual gamers. I've seen this in computer gaming and tabletop gaming. Experienced players learn one new rule at a time. New players have to learn the core set, PLUS all of the variations.

The hard core players don't really grasp (or to some degree they don't care) how much more difficult it becomes over time for new players. In some way, that gulf is what makes them feel special -- they have invested a lot of time and want to feel that it has value (and certainly it does). But this can lead some old-timers to feel threatened by "newbies", and show a kind of animosity when they see a new player come in and doesn't understand everything right away.

It's largely an empathy problem, which is made worse online where there are no body language or non-verbal cues to respond to.

I made Fabletop super restricted and streamlined because I knew this was a common trend. The minute I add a d20, the games would become very math and rule-heavy.

The rest I had hoped would be filled by community values. Some players "get it" more than others, which I'm really glad to see.

I don't want Fabetop to be dominated by an insular group of regulars. It was always about making role-playing as accessible as possible.

I'm certainly open to suggestions.
deepestlore Aug '17  /  edited Aug '17
Thanks for the reply!

As for suggestions, I believe your best bet is to ask the community openly about this. Enforcing the original intent or embracing the "new wave" will inevitably alienate the old/new audience respectively, and a compromise with the community seems to be the best shot.
(Although some seem to struggle even the the basic FT rules: fabletop.com/forum/topic/8456.1/learn-as-you-play-... )

That, or you could leave the site as is, forever. There will at least be a dedicated bunch to keep it going.

Here's a very emblematic excerpt from a discussion we had on the topic in the Glade. I'm getting a bit miffed in this, but you can probably understand why:

mylittlepony
It's just that hosting rule-heavy games isn't breaking the law of the site
deepestlore
It effing is
mylittlepony
No it isn't
Or else there'd be a punishment

And another gem:
It's not a rule because it's NEVER been enforced, ever, by any of the four people with admin powers
If something isn't enforced, it isn't required
oman1666 Aug '17
I'm going to have to comment here that it is NOT against the rules of the site. The things you list (long intros and too many house rules) are both listed as 'common mistakes' (things that will make your game worse) not 'Things NOT to do' (things that can get you banned from the site.)

Other than that, i do share your sentiment, being able to quickly make a character and play a core rules game is something of a novelty in the current community. That's not necessarily the end of the world though if people are having fun.

If we want to see more core rules game, then we just need to host them! This will, over time, see them become more popular as players see how much fun they can be.
chemgas650 Aug '17
Personally, I love and prefer the more complex games. Sure, I play RP based stuff all the time, but when it really gets down to it, give me a bood of rules and a lengthy character sheet and I could have fun for hours just making a character.
I sometimes think of this argument like politics in America (and probably many other places). Theres one side of the argument who wants simpler games, and they have valid reasons why. The other side wants more complex games, again, with valid reasons why. I always hope we can eventually find a middleground and just let everyone host the games they want to host, regardless of complexity.
For a small example, look at my table, The Darkness. It's complexity goes through the roof! But all the time, new players come to my table for their first game ever on Fabletop. Now, sometimes I could be in a bad mood and won't be very inviting to them, but that's rare for me. Normally, I manage to get the player into the game, despite the complexity that comes with it.
Regardless, I'm just pitching in my two cents on this argument. Personally, I stand on the side of letting the complex games be the games they are, and just following the very simple policy of "If you don't like it, don't play it."
oman1666 Aug '17
One of the ideas behind Fabletop, which I really admire, is the idea that anyone can come and join any game, and they'll already know the rules because they're all to the same simple system. But, practically, that's not how things have gone.

I think complex games have their place, even if they're not my cup of tea. The problem right now isn't that there are too many complex games, it's that there aren't enough simple games.

I'm not sure how you fix that - maybe there's some way to encourage a renaissance of Fabletop games on the Fabletop site, maybe there isn't. Perhaps it comes down to 'be the change you want to see in the world' if you like the core system, host it. The more people hosting it, the more people playing it who may host it themselves.
frost Aug '17
Right, to be clear, I'm not talking about "punishing" anyone for making complex games or lore. It's about keeping the community accessible to new and casual players, and supporting story-driven / freeform games.
deepestlore Aug '17
It's weird for a community to share the mantra is "complex is good" when one of the two member requirements is "No Rule-Players. Fabletop is for players interested in freeform storytelling-style roleplaying. If you prefer tactical or stats-heavy systems, this site might not be for you. Sorry!" (The other member requirement is also disregarded, probably often). If a member requirement isn't a rule, what is?..

Instead, you're likely to be told to go "try a forum" for rules-light narrative-driven games, and this is talking from experience. People who technically don't even like what the site stands for, tell people who do to go somewhere else. A very surreal state of events.
mylittlepony Aug '17  /  edited Aug '17
-- tries to resist the urge to gloat about how he was right --

Alright but seriously though, I've personally never heard anyone say "go try a forum" in my life about anything ever. Everyone here likes Fabletop, and only one other site really offers any competition ( and roll20 requires voicechat and like a hundred other things so no way i'm going there ).

The reasons rules-heavy games exist on Fabletop are pretty obvious when you think about them. Fabletop is good for one-shot games, and games where you don't need the same people every time. Fabletop has a simple interface and doesn't have 5,000 unnecessary features, allowing people to start being a GM right out of the gate. The community is nice, the site is free, everything's great. Thus, if someone wants a complicated game, ( like The Darkness ) but roll20 is too complicated or they don't have a microphone or what have you, then they go here, they host their game, and like-minded people come and have fun. The people that dislike complex stuff can host their simple core adventure, and people who prefer that go there, and everyone's happy.

It's not frowned upon to have a pure core table. I would know, as I have a core Medfan and a core Star Voyage table and when I was hosting it, people flocked to it. I almost never get a full house unless I'm hosting King's Mercenaries ( and then the full house dissipates into 3 party members over time but that's beside the point ).

Fabletop is a haven for people who enjoy an easy experience and an easy interface, as well as for people that don't want to or can't use a microphone. As such, you'll get everything from pure Core to The Darkness. Most people enjoy a few house rules, as the core system is kind of hard to approach in a couple places, and more power to them. As for me, I don't really care what I'm playing, as long as the story is interesting and/or the battles are fun.

( oh and before someone comes in and is all like "you've never used roll20 shut up liar," I went through the entire tutorial and hated it. )
deepestlore Aug '17  /  edited Aug '17
I'll just point the few things that pop out to me:

- Roll20 is, arguably, not "too complicated", you could to the same stuff you do with FT in minutes. Most of the tutorial is for advanced stuff for grand games that you wouldn't ever need. Well, that's for the "arguable" part. Now for the objective part: It does --NOT-- require a microphone.

- "...the core system is kind of hard to approach in a couple places, and more power to them"
One of the lightest, all-encompassing rule systems up there with play pretend is now "kind of hard to approach in certain situations".
oman1666 Aug '17
This is turning into a "Rant or other "everything sucks" type screed." so I'm locking the thread.
oman1666 Aug '17
reopened the thread at the request of the community. A couple of posts have been edited that last post to make things more civil. I'm trusting this thread won't lead to posts like that again - or I will be responding with site bans. Let's keep it pleasant and mature please :)

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