Which parts are you?

Lumpley, via the Forge

I’ve got a theory.
There’s Setting, System, Character, Situation and Color, right? I think that you can start a game as soon as you’ve nailed down three of the five. That means that a game text must provide at least three of the five to be a whole game. But I really don’t think it matters which three.
You can write a game that provides Character, Situation and Color but leaves Setting and System to be set up by the group, if you want. In fact kill puppies for satan is like that.
Or you could write a game like Sorcerer, providing System, Character and Situation and leaving Setting and Color to the group.
Ars Magica provides Setting, Character and Color, with maybe some Situation too, but not much System at all. (Call me on that, I dare you.) All the WoD games are probably about the same, there.
Obviously, the thicker your game the more you can provide.

Hmm. A game the whole geek family can play:
* Trollbabe: Color (disguised as setting), Situation and character.
* Gods and Monsters: Character, Situation and Color. (And more system than Trollbabe at least.)
* FATE: System, Character. Players must add/select one or more of Setting, Situation and Color.
* Nobilis: Setting, Situation and Color (very little of the actual character is apparent in the stats — there’s more even in d20, where at least skill-point selection reveals preferences and interests.)
* Amber: Setting, Situation and Color (ditto Nobilis, except it has even less system)
* D20: System, Character. Add setting, situation, and color (usually as expressed within skills/feats) to taste.
Hmm… thinking of stuff like Hero and Gurps and whatnot, it seems like most of ‘generic’ systems only have two-of-five, with splatbooks or player input to provide one or more of the other elements.


  1. I’m not sure I follow the distinction between Situation, Setting, and Color, but, yeah, most “mainstream” GURPS/D20 types of things try to *avoid* Situation/Setting (and claim to be flexible on Color) just so they can publish lots of books that focus n just that.

  2. The five terms are basically a way to break down the … “Shared Imagined Space” of a game into specific components that make up the whole.
    Color constitutes details about anything going on within the System, or regarding the Character, or as a highlight in the Setting or Situation; but (and this is key) added in such a way that it doesn’t change action or resolution in the scene.
       Examples: Whether your Champions-system Energy Bolt is fire, electricity, photon acceleration, or high-velocity rubber bullets is all color. Spandex costumes are color. Queensryche buttons on your character’s jacket in Shadowrun are color.
    A fictional person or entity which may perform actions in the imaginary situation.
    Elements described about the game world including period, locations, cultures, historical events and characters, usually (as opposed to color) at a large scale relative to the player-characters, and often affecting Situation, Character, and System in substantive ways.
       Example: The fervent religious beliefs of a country to the west of your homeland is Setting… the fact that they greet everyone as either “Mer” or “Mes” honorifics (but don’t care one way or the other if you do) is color.
    Dynamic interaction between specific characters and small-scale setting elements; usually divided into scenes. The central link between the Character and the Setting and something that can change according to the System.
       Example: If you have a well-defined System that promotes detailed Characters that fit well into a detailed Setting, but are still left asking: “But what do you do?” when you finish reading the game, it lacks Situation.
    The means by which the course of imaginary events are agreed upon by everyone playing the game.

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