I think 'content-oriented' is a better description than 'what the game needs'. A game also needs procedures, although they might not be written down. Spells, monsters, swords and castles, castings, slayings and buildings are all elements that appear in the fiction - content.trad games are content-oriented, their rules are focused on what the game needs. A high fantasy game needs spells and monsters and swords and castles, so you get rules for casting spells, slaying monsters with swords and for building castles.
It's not black and white. Even the earliest RPGs included procedures for how to do stuff.
I get this. Modern games focus more on what the players do than older games; older games spend a larger proportion of their verbiage on concrete stuff that appears in the fiction.Modern indie games are procedural, their rules are focused on what the game is. A roleplaying game is a playful conversation about a negotiated fiction, so you get rules about who holds rights to which part of the fiction, when to take turns in the conversation, what you can say and not say and when and how to use the dice mechanics.
However, I think the early games do have rules about who holds rights to which part of the fiction, what you can say, and when and how to use dice mechanics. I concede some of these rules are poorly expressed (but e.g. the division of roles between player and DM in Basic D&D seems pretty clear), and the rules on 'when to take turns in the conversation' might be more explicit. However, even OD&D included a Sample of Play text that made the roles of Player and Caller fairly clear (although the Caller's interactions with the other Players are not presented).
When I think about it, an important difference seems to be that the procedural games provide a more-or-less complete/ continuous play procedure. There are fewer gaps in the prescribed procedure where someone trying to learn how to play from the book has to decide for themselves what happens 'in-between' rules A and B. The entire flow of play is spelt out step-by-step for each phase of the game. There are fewer places where you can choose procedure A or procedure B or your own procedure X.
There also tends to be an intent in procedural games that all of the high-level procedures will be used. Clearly there is no assumption in Dungeon World that every Character will be played, every Move used or every Monster encountered. Whereas the earlier games, by focusing on fictional situations in isolation, are more susceptible to a charge of wasting space on unused rules (e.g. domain rules in AD&D, or high level Assassin rules).
Yet Dungeon World also has very rules for character creation, combat, magic, monsters and dungeons - although very different (arguably fewer) rules for creating dungeons than does D&D. Also traps, magical items and NPCs. Dungeon World also has a greater total quantity of explicit rules than OD&D.Perhaps more concisely, using two popular specimens as an example: D&D has rules for character creation, combat, magic, monsters and dungeons - Dungeon World has rules for playing Dungeon World.
So it seems to me that Dungeon World has both fictional content and play procedural elements.
There is truth in this. I don't know MegaTraveller, but I know AD&D. As a tutorial on how to play the DMG is awful....this explains why so many classic roleplaying games are so messy. ...There's some neat ideas... so badly explained ..., ...the authors didn't have the faintest clue of what actual play was supposed to look like ... Or take the good old AD&D DMG. Just an unsorted, unfocused and unprioritized throw-it-in of stuff they felt the GM might be using ... with odd bits of advice that just don't actually tell you how to run the game.
It is possible the authors of Megatraveller had not the faintest clue of what actual play was supposed to look like. I haven't read it. I am more familiar with D&D, and I think that in that case one or more of the following is also plausible. The authors:
- know their own actual play style and unconsciously feel it is so obvious that it doesn't need explaining
- know what kind of actual play they want to enable, but are terrible at explaining it
- regard how to put the contents together as a problem best left to each play group (i.e. not an opportunity, but a genuine difficulty, best handled locally)
- regard it is part of the fun of the game to sort out your own kind of actual play from the ingredients provided (i.e. an opportunity)
- think (rightly or wrongly) the variety of different needs and uses for the 'contents' so complex and diverse that written rules could never describe actual play options for all potential uses - so given space constraints in print publications, why try?
The last three are related to the possibility of not embracing the idea of a 'supposed to' way of actually playing. This is different from not knowing what it could look like. It might involve assuming that users will want to use the pieces in their own way for their own purposes and will be able to do that.
Surely discussions of style and theme amount to introducing kinds of content? It's not a list of types of people encountered in a town, but it's parameters for what's going to happen to your character in a strange town. Likewise each player move is also explicitly tied to defined kinds of fictional content. It's triggered by a specific fictional event, and produces fictional outcomes within a specified range.Compare that to the PbtA games, with their discussions of style and theme and their GM and player move lists. Or take Fiasco, which has about an A4 page worth of dice mechanics, but a rulebook full of "how to do this".
Surely Gygax' list of inspirational reading is a kind of discussion of style and theme?
I think this is very true. As someone else says, its hard work to learn a new 'procedure', especially when you are very fluent in - and somewhat satisfied with - your own. Or if several members of your regular play group are....helps me explain the discomfort of many long-time players ...They have...developed their own procedure... don't appreciate being told what to actually do at the table.
On a related point, some of the more procedural games seem more limiting to me than looser structures. By narrowing the fictional scope and prescribing procedures for every eventuality, they tend to restrict the range of fiction and play procedure available at each moment and in aggregate. There are great advantages to that; but there are also costs. One of the big costs is that if I am not into the kind of fiction targeted (or the kind of procedure employed), I don't have much choice. If I want to do my own thing (even - especially - if the rest of the world thinks that thing is lame) I'm stuck.
Maybe I wasn't so lucky. I feel like I've got a lot out reading and experimenting with procedural games. It's shifted my attitude and broadened my range. But I still prefer playing my own game.I guess I just got lucky that the procedure I came up with by myself is a good match for the procedures contained in most of the procedural games.