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Freeform or Luck of the Dice?

Written by James Down


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This brings me to another point. Depending on how you choose to run your game, the overall enjoyment and what I like to call the “re-read quality” of the game could be affected. In freeform games, if a player wants to be successful, the player usually must be creative in his writing and actions. The more creative actions are, the more enjoyable they are to respond to and read. If a freeform game is well moderated it would probably come together in a story that can be read and re-lived over and over again like a good book. Turn-based games sometimes aren’t all that interesting to read, as creativity isn’t necessarily as big a factor. Good players, however, can make a turn-based game just as enjoyable to read as any freeform, but it’s been my experience that freeform games just seem to attract more good writers.

But we cannot forget another key point in a successful and fair game: accuracy. Sometimes a freeform game can be somewhat vague. Where as in a freeform game one might be “badly injured”, a turn-based statistical game can take it to an exact, saying one has “3 out of 171 HP”. Statistics can get across an important or urgent situation more quickly in a no-nonsense way. But this also brings up the realism point again. In a real life situation one doesn’t have HP. It all depends on many factors, including will power, determination, and if one is just happens to be getting over the flu.

Another way freeform can be vague is when a player is learning or advancing. While someone might be “well-practiced” in a skill in a freeform, one is a certain level in a statistical game. This tells what a player is and isn’t capable of without any question. While this affects realism in that we don’t have experience levels in life, sometimes it’s best to be able to place a level on one’s ability so the game can remain fair and move along.

The last real difference between statistical and freeform is that, while freeform perhaps has a greater capacity for creativity, it also produces an environment more conducive to the dreaded “powergamers”. Freeform’s lack of rigid rules, levels, and mathematics overall can produce or attract powergaming. Without good moderation a freeform game can turn into a big pointless mess. A statistical game, however, forces players to go by levels numbers, and sometimes dice. Powergaming is nearly an impossibility.

In short, freeform is more conducive to creativity and sometimes make for better reads than statistic type games, but should be moderate carefully for powergaming and “over-creativity”. Statistic type games are exact and always fair if moderated fairly and make it hard for powergaming, but creativity is not always a requirement and they can become monotonous. In my opinion it’s a stale-mate. It all depends on personal preference. Neither has outstanding qualities that truly make it better than the other. Whichever way you choose, one thing is constant. Have fun. After all, what point is there in playing the game at all, whether freeform or otherwise, if you don’t have fun doing it?

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