A bit on interest | KingSpoom's RPG Design & Theory Junkyard

A bit on interest

Lately I've been thinking of the things that make rpgs interesting. In short, there are many things that catch a player's interest and each player at your table is a little different, at the very least. Two things that I find interesting are choice and unknown (also called variance or unpredictable). Luckily, the two are often related.

Thinking back over the games I have played, most of the encounters that my group would run into were composed of only one other side. If we were in a town and zombies started clawing their way to the surface in the graveyard, it's relatively simple to tell what kinds of things you will be doing. It seems that almost by default, any encounter that only involves one other side is going to be as such. This begs the question: Will a conflict that involves two, by default, be more interesting than a conflict with only one?

This isn't to say that three-party conflicts will always be more interesting than two-party conflicts or that the best situation has to involve a three-party conflict. Instead, I'm just saying that your average three-party conflict will be more interesting than your average two-party conflict. This kind of thing happens in wrestling all the time. Two-party conflicts are your ordinary matches between two wrestlers. These matches can be great. However, there are just some things that can't be done; things that can be done in a triple-threat match.

So what does adding a third party really do? It forces players to assess their goals. You might not be able to accomplish everything you want, so you've got to accomplish what you want most first. What else does it do? It gives a sense of depth and interaction to the world. Two enemies might team up to take down the party, or one enemy might backstab the other in the middle of the fight. It's not a miracle fix for a dying game, but it can keep things interesting. It offers choice and provides unknown.