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September 30, 2006 / jadettman

What I did with my insomnia this morning

So this morning, I woke up around 4am and couldn’t sleep. After a little light reading both offline and online, I was inspired to create the Seven Dimensions of Roleplaying (click on the link for the big version):

7 dimensions of roleplaying

Definitions for the seven roleplaying axes:

Color is a measure of a game’s level of detail. A game with little to no detail is abstract. A game with vast amounts of detail is concrete.

Compatibility is a measure of how well the goals of the players align with the game and each other. A game, or group of players, that have well aligned goals result in resonance. A game, or group of players, that have poorly aligned goals result in dissonance.

Control is a measure of how a game’s authority is shared. A game in which authority is shared by all is equality. A game in which authority rests with only one player is tyranny.

Effort is a measure of the amount of work required by the players to sustain the game. A game that requires little effort by the players is light. A game that requires a lot of effort by the players is heavy.

Empathy is a measure of how strongly players in a game are intended to identify with the fictional characters they are portraying. A game with little intended indentification results in detachment. A game with a lot of intended identification results in connection.

Structure is a measure of a game’s level of freedom. A game with too much freedom is chaotic. A game with little to no freedom borders on literature.

Verisimilitude is a measure of a game’s level of authenticity. A game with a high degree of authenticity is believable or realistic. A game with a low degree of authenticity is unbelievable or fantastic.


My goal in creating the axes above was to avoid pre-existing jargon, or loaded words, altogether. Where possible, I used what I felt were straightforward, common-sense words.

And, just to be clear, when referring to a game above I mean both the written conception created by the author(s) and the experience created by the players.

Oh, and if you have ideas for another axis I would be happy to hear about them because, as it stands, it looks like there is one missing. 🙂


Leave a Comment
  1. Britt / Oct 1 2006 10:03 am

    I suggest scope for your eighth axis. Is it a multiverse-spanning Amber or Everway game? An interplanetary Star Wars or Dragonstar campaign? A M&M game involving the International League of Heroes (TM) or a globe-trotting Adventure campaign? A Buffy game that all takes place entirely in one town or Over the Edge where you can’t leave the island? A D&D dungeon crawl or a clausterphobic closed-room murder mystery?

    Or scope could have considerations beyond setting.

  2. J.A. Dettman / Oct 1 2006 10:08 am

    I think that Scope has interesting possibilities as the eighth axis, but I need some time to think about it in the context of whole.

  3. Britt / Oct 1 2006 5:59 pm

    Or, how about tone, ranging from serious to humourous, or from lighthearted to oppressive?

  4. Dan / Oct 2 2006 7:38 pm

    Isn’t the Control axis essentially entirely fictious? I’m thinking back to the whole “Mother, May I?” discussion from a while back…

    Oh, and doesn’t this go against your not thinking about gaming theory? 🙂

  5. Shawn / Oct 3 2006 8:16 pm

    Like Jason can’t think about gaming theory.

    “Fish, stop swimming.”
    “Sun, stop shining.”

  6. J.A. Dettman / Oct 3 2006 9:32 pm

    I didn’t say that I wasn’t going to think about game theory, I just said that I was going to try to avoid reading about game theory. Mostly because I end up spending hours doing it and disagreeing with their arguments anyway.

    And, no, the Control axis isn’t a fiction.

    In the “Mother May I?” scenario presented by LisbonGamer, the Control axis is tilted way over toward the Tyranny end of the spectrum. In most ‘traditional’ gaming situations, Control is closer to the center but probably still tipped toward Tyranny.

  7. Maria / Oct 4 2006 9:47 pm


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