30 May 2008

The problem with the 3-fold RPG model

I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about the three-fold model.

The biggest problem with it is when people consider the three elements as incompatible. Every RPGer uses all of the three approaches...just in varying amounts. Nigh every RPG supports all three approaches...just in varying amounts.

Arguably a healthy RPG must support all three.

Not that I really know what I mean by “healthy”. (^_^) This is thinking out loud after all.


noisms said...


I hate and fear the three-fold model. I like games, I like simulation, and I like narration, in different mixtures and potencies at different times. That's true of everybody. So what's the point of GNS?

At best it's meaningless, but at worst it's also a stick with which to beat "gamist" and "simulationist" players; gamer snobbery, basically.

Robert Fisher said...

As I see it, the point of the three-fold model was two-fold. (^_^)

1. To define some useful terminology to speak about certain aspects of the hobby.

2. To promote the idea that there is no one right way to play. That multiple styles of play are equally valid.

At least, I think that was the point of the people in r.g.f.a who originally developed it. Sadly, there are those who miss point #1 and try to treat it as a comprehensive theory of RPGs. Even more sad, there are people who miss point #2 and try to use it to condemn certain styles of play.

Though I still think the biggest problem is the people who try to see the triangle as three discrete and incompatible points rather than the continuum that it is.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the threefold model proposed by Jeff Rients. :)

Robert Fisher said...

Oh, yes! Jeff’s three-fold model is brilliant.

It partially inspired my four-fold model.