RPGs As Language: Bones and Flesh

September 5, 2013

If mechanics, which apply distinct procedures and/or make distinct judgements, act as the bones or structure of the language of play, then the flesh on those bones is the ephemera. I’m borrowing ephemera from The Forge’s Big Model. These are the many and varied results of procedures and the subject of mechanical judgements.

For example, a mechanic like a regular verbal prompt of “what are you doing now?” is responded by any number of possible responses. These responses are then judged into categories to determine what following procedures are applicable. But in between those two mechanical steps is a wealth of variability. The ebb and flow between mechanics and ephemera give rise to the structures and dynamics of play – analogous to how words are formed from distinct sounds by combinations of as well as intonations and context. By combining the content of ephemera with the structure of mechanics we can package content, express meaning and ideas as part of the communication of play.

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