“Theory” here is defined in three ways (for some account of this, see the entry For Greyorm and its immediate predecessors).
1. Practical or applied theory
Theory intended to form a basis for practice, specifically in the case of RPGs for play and/or design of RPGs. Analysis of play and design is an historical necessity here, in the same way as a theory of harmony is founded upon analysis of harmony as it has been used in previous musical works. This sense of “theory” is equivalent to current Forge usage.
2. Analytical or descriptive theory
Theory intended to constitute a relatively complete and comprehensive description of RPGs, in their functions, operations, and structures. This is the scientific sense of “theory.” As I have been arguing for some time, Ron Edwards’s Big Model (and its predecessors GNS and the frp.advocacy Threefold) is not this kind of theory. A full descriptive account remains to be formulated.
3. Theory as a form of reason
A mode of thinking that emphasizes abstract logic and seeks a general understanding of thought itself. In this context, RPGs have the status of a useful object for examining how social thinking operates in our various cultures.
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A few rules and guidelines.
A. The argument, “That’s not practical so it’s stupid,” in any of its many forms, is banned here. If you feel this way, have the grace to keep quiet about it.
B. This is not the Forge, nor is every reader here necessarily an expert on Forge terminology. On the whole, I find much of the Forge terminology helpful, and I use it for that reason. The Forge’s “Provisional Glossary” may be found at this link.
B.1. If you do not understand a term used here, please feel free to ask for clarification.
B.2. I do not assume that Forge-based terms are absolute. Their utility is debatable here. But such debate needs to be founded upon data of some kind, which may or may not come from RPGs; for example, saying that a given term is problematic because it has a well-established theoretical meaning in mainstream academic discourse is a legitimate point. What is not debatable is “I don’t like that word because it means something else to me” on no basis other than your personal feeling.
C. I do not like metaphor-as-argument. I find that things generally spiral into silliness once we get into, “Well, to me RPGs are like deboning a chicken, see, because the wings are like dice and….” Let’s just not go there. If you have a point with your analogy, I’m open, but I for one will tend to jump off the analogy bandwagon early rather than late.
D. There are no absolute limits here, so long as we stick reasonably close to RPGs in some sense.
E. If you want to start up a new thread, there are a few obvious ways to do it.
E.1. If it’s connected to something under discussion, post it as a reply and when I get a chance I’ll start a new thread.
E.2. You can email me.
E.3. The best solution: post it on your blog or website or whatever, and post or email me the link.
F. I am not exactly a moderator here. I’d like you people to do the moderating. If someone is being a dick, do not reply. Just don’t take the bait.
G. I have a complicated and irregular schedule in my real life. I will not be reading this every single day. Some weeks, I’ll read and post constantly. Some weeks, I’ll just sort of disappear. Don’t worry about it, but don’t expect me to do the Ron Edwards Forge moderation thing, where he’s reading more or less everything all the time. Ain’t gonna happen.
H. Ultimately, I’d like this to be the basis for a kind of RPG theory community. If the ball gets rolling well, we can migrate over to some other site. But let’s hold off on public discussion of how things are and are not working until there really seems to be an actual need.
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If you have questions or concerns about these principles, please post them as replies to this post.