Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rant about the Czege Principle

Have you heard of the Czege principle? Basically it says that if you generate your own adversity in a game then the results are boring. I've struggled with this.

Using Mythic GM, why not just ask a question such as "Do I find a ring of invincibility?" or "Does a rock fall from the ceiling, crushing the dragon's skull?". Or simply just saying that a task resolution is easy. Who's going to call you out on this? The argument is that it's too easy to cheat. I think there are many good co-op board games that have rules that actually generate adversity very well in a balanced manner. Pandemic, Wrath of Ashardalon, LOTR the card game are a few. With balanced game play comes a horde of mechanics and in my experience that can kill the creativity in a solo RPG game making it no more then a puzzle to figure out.

What is wrong with generating your own adversity? How is that unsatisfying? Rereading the original Mythic RPG rules last night, I was struck by some advice on setting difficulty levels or enemy proficiency. The advice essentially suggests clearly following your logic and trusting that. A good question is 'what defines the average?' If you're busting open a door, what is the average strength of a door? is it an inch thick? So the door that I'm busting down now, is that stronger then an inch thick door? So is it likely that I can bust it down? I find by being as logical as I can, it's easier for me to trust that I'm being fair with establishing the level of difficulty in my obstacles. If a another GM ruled exactly the way I do based on my logic, why should that be different? Especially if I just trust my own competency and ability to discern and evaluate without cheating.

In improv, when your partner throws something at you, establishing a fact like "I just ran over your Dog" instead of saying "no you didn't, he's right here" you should say 'Really, did that happen!?' Go with it and say YES. Take it as the honest to god truth otherwise everything falls apart and it's unbelievable to watch as an audience member. Same is true of games. If you interpret, based on the Fate Chart in Mythic for example, that a huge fire breathing dragon emerges from behind the pile of treasure, then go with it! If you accept it as truth  and engage yourself with trying to overcome the obstacle, then what does it matter if it was you or someone else who came up with dragon in the first place.

When we dream, we create opposition all the time, or conflict in our lives manifest itself into opposition in a narrative. It's believable and we get entirely caught up in it without judging it or slamming on the breaks.

So if you have a goal as a character, why make opposition difficult and hard to overcome? Why increase the chances of losing? Because it's interesting, it's fun. It's fun to want difficulty, to say "bring it". If you're power gamer that might be a bitter pill to swallow. Look at any movie or great story. It's about characters trying to beat the odds. If there isn't any conflict it's boring. Why do people play RPG's? One reason, I believe, is to face dangers and maybe triumph over them without actually having to take the real journey of doing that. Why does it need to be created by someone else? Isn't the whole point to take a journey, maybe get caught up in the world and get your emotions running a bit.

Randomness makes this exciting. Not knowing what to expect and using mechanics to facilitate and encourage that is why I like to play solo rpg's. If I do end up rolling a 20 and slaying the dragon, that's really cool. Or if I come up with a great idea or plan and it works to trick the dragon, that's also really cool and satisfying from a gaming perspective whether or not Mythic or a live GM brought the opposition into the game.

Use and trust your logic , keep your impulse to cheat in check and say yes!


Joe said...

Yeah, I kinda disagree with the Czege principle too, but then a lot of the Forge-type theories are like that. I think that they're aimed at creating optimal playing, but they're often interpreted as absolutes.

So yes, having another person come up with your fate is more surprising, but you can get similar results using "inkblot" style generators such as mythic, or with limited choices like Apocalypse World's moves.

As someone's who's solo played for years, I find myself just ignoring advice that tells you what you can't do, and instead try out new things that you haven't done.

Dreamer said...

Agreed. I find a lot of the Forge theory interesting but I think that both the Czege and the SIS assertions are way exaggerated.

lj said...

Joe- totally agree with you. I like the idea of using Apocalypse World moves for solo play - seems like a great idea since the the players only role dice and not the GM. How has that worked out for you?

Callan S. said...

I think you missunderstand - if you are in charge of your adversity AND in charge of resolving it, it's boring.

If you are rolling a dice, then to some degree you've given up being entirely in charge of resolving the adversity.

Using a dice generally means you are not entering Czege principle territory (unless you rig the dice to give exactly the result you decide)