The “Games are Conversation” point has been made many times, but here’s one more note in that symphony. I’ll be approaching it from an angle that presumes a discourse between a game designer and player.

The first exchange in this model occurs at character creation. Trad systems, at least the vast majority of them, create a very specific kind of mindset in players. The thought when making characters is almost always “how much can I get away with?”. You want a character who is maximally good at any cost. But right out of the door you have a mindset problem, where you have an antagonism between the players and the system. As players create characters, they feel they must “beat” the system by making a crazily effective character. Anyone who has played Shadowrun knows this feeling intimately. This can cause amusing problems if your system is complex enough to break, which is to say, if your system contains numbers. Though some games can beat this, it often comes at a steep cost. Take D&D 4E, where all class powers are some variation of “roll a die for damage, placement effect”. Fun if you put work into it, but incredibly bland as a base. Then look at the previous editions, and their impossibly powerful wizards.

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