Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital



  • @The-Sands said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    If we can't manage that it makes the conversation super fragmented because when @Ganymede talks about Theme I have to dig through posts to figure out what @Ganymede's definition means. Even worse, when @Ganymede gets into an argument with @Auspice about Theme it will almost always turn into a complete mess because they aren't even talking about the same thing.

    I'm willing to use Sunny's definitions, and am intelligent enough to figure out what definition Auspice is using. And I believe both are pretty close to my own definitions:

    Theme: The mood. Optimistic? Grimdarque? Edgelordish? That sort of thing.
    System: The game system, like CoD, FS3, or D&D.
    Setting: The world. Where you at.
    Story: The history of the setting.
    Genre: The kind of stories that best fit the story and setting..


  • Pitcrew

    @Sunny scope involves that, but I also think of supported options available to player characters. Many things may exist in that time period, neighborhood, planet, ect--but are you allowing all possibilities that make sense in that setting or are you narrowing the scope of the /game/ (not the world) to restricting some concepts/houses/professions/ect?

    I think it is really important to be honest about what is and is not supported so that false hope is not given.


  • Pitcrew

    @Auspice Can you provide a good alternative term then for 'Theme without common goal'?



  • @The-Sands theme by Auspice’s definition doesn’t require a common goal. Westerns are a good example. Little House and Deadwood both have similar settings with wildly different themes yet no common goal for characters to pursue.


  • Pitcrew

    I totally don't think that what definition people use specifically actually matters, just for the love of little green apples if you're going to have a conversation about theme, define theme, otherwise it's all nonsense all the day long with people talking past one another and nobody actually learning anything.



  • It could also be said as purpose.

    If someone comes to your game and asks 'Why are our characters here? (in this setting, in this time, in this place.....)'

    ...what is your answer?
    'They're combatants against the odds in a difficult war.'
    'They're survivors of an Apocalypse.'

    The question part is more for you the designer to answer.

    'What if during the rise of Voldemort, the secrecy statute was shattered and wizards and muggles had to learn to coexist to fight back?'

    Your actual wording for theme can be a lot of things but it's the answer to the 'what do we do?' question.


  • Pitcrew

    To me, the theme is more the undercurrents driving things.

    In historical games, we might see 'Christianity versus paganism' or 'Serfs are people too'.
    Urban fantasy is usually 'The things that go bump in the night have their own problems' and 'Mortal man really doesn't need to know this shit'. But in there we also get things like 'Dominance or Submission, there is nothing else' or 'If you can't justify anything, you aren't trying hard enough'.
    Fantasy is frequently 'Game of Houses' or 'Breaking the universe, one bit at a time - try not to break the bit you're standing in'.

    Theme is the overarching thing you're playing. Even two WoD games with the same ruleset, same spheres and same setting can be very different, depending on where the emphasis is placed.


  • Pitcrew

    Ok, sorry. Since I brought up scope I thought I would try to explain more of what i meant by that.


  • Pitcrew

    @mietze said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    Ok, sorry. Since I brought up scope I thought I would try to explain more of what i meant by that.

    Oh no, your addition was wonderful and one I hadn't thought of! Definitely got amended to my internal list.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday The could you provide a better definition for 'Theme'? It at least seems like @Auspice's definition of Theme incorporates aspects of setting and so @Ganymede's definition doesn't quite line up with that.



  • @The-Sands said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    @faraday The could you provide a better definition for 'Theme'? It at least seems like @Auspice's definition of Theme incorporates aspects of setting and so @Ganymede's definition doesn't quite line up with that.

    I apologize if you aren't, but it feels like at this point you're nitpicking. I think the rest of us are looking at the definitions and going 'Yep, I see that; it's just a different way of phrasing how I look at it.'

    Merriam-Webster, dictionary.com, and Google all phrase their definitions for a word differently, but for the most part they agree on the meaning.

    One of us is putting it into raw-definition terms, another of us is putting it in situ for what it means for game development....
    but at the core, I think the meaning is by and far the same (or at least readily understood)


  • Pitcrew

    @Auspice Sorry. I'm not trying to nitpick. I'm genuinely asking the question because it seem to me like the things you were earlier defining as 'theme' do not match up with @Ganymede's definition of 'theme' (so we can't use that) and all @faraday gave was that my interpretation of what you seemed to be using wasn't correct (but he didn't offer an alternative).

    Without clarity if I say 'Theme' it is unclear to anyone else as to whether I mean something that incorporates the setting as well as some other not clearly defined element (defining that element lets people know when to refer to 'Theme' as opposed to 'Setting') or what appears to me to be possibly 'Mood' (which seems to be what @Ganymede's definition is).

    (edit: And saying 'look it up' actually doesn't help the situation because if I look up the definition in one place it will not necessarily be identical to the definition someone else gets if they check a different location.)



  • @The-Sands said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    Without clarity if I say 'Theme' it is unclear to anyone else as to whether I mean something that incorporates the setting as well as some other not clearly defined element (defining that element lets people know when to refer to 'Theme' as opposed to 'Setting') or what appears to me to be possibly 'Mood' (which seems to be what @Ganymede's definition is).

    I don't think you are nitpicking. I do think that there is some confusion, and there is bound to be some.

    What matters, in my opinion, are the OP's original two questions regarding theme:

    How do we defeat these cylons?
    What was life like as a student during the rise of Voldemort?

    Let's take the first question. This is a BSG question, so I know the story: BSG Universe. genre is probably best described as "science-fiction," and I would wager that the system is probably FS3. I am not sure what the setting is because you could be on a colony or on a ship. As for the theme, I would presume it to be "war" from the question.

    Let's get to the second question. I'm going to guess that the story is the Harry Potter Universe, and the genre is "urban fantasy." The question suggests the setting as Hogwart's, and that the theme will be "survival." Not entirely sure of the system.

    So these are powerful questions. If I saw them in relation to a game, I would have a pretty good idea of what my character would be doing, where they would be located, and what sort of plots would be thrown out.

    Now, to final important question: is this setting suitable for an ensemble cast?

    In retrospect, this is a confusing question in light of the assertion that "theme is vital." But I presume that Auspice was "typing out loud," and probably meant, within my realm of definitions: does the theme call for ensemble play or individual achievement?

    On that question, yes, I would say so. I think that a good "war" game implies that everyone is necessary. I think that a "political" game implies that characters are going to work against one another, which means that individual achievement is going to take center stage. Between those two themes (only, because there are an infinite number of potential themes), FS3 is better suited for "war" games and I prefer the Chronicles of Darkness for "political" games. In my opinion, systems which minimize statistics are better for ensemble play, and those which are "more crunchy" favor individual games; however, systems with discrete roles are better for ensemble play than those which allow characters branch out and become "one-man/woman/kitten" armies.

    I think it all wraps together. I think people pulling games together need to spend more time developing their game's story, theme, and setting, and understand the limitations of their system. I'm in favor of lowering the bar to opening and developing games, but believe that more meaningful work needs to be done on the back-end before games open.

    So that's why I think theme is vital, and why it, along with story and setting, should be what guides other decisions.



  • @Ganymede said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    In retrospect, this is a confusing question in light of the assertion that "theme is vital." But I presume that Auspice was "typing out loud," and probably meant, within my realm of definitions: does the theme call for ensemble play or individual achievement?

    You got it in one (both your whole post and this about me 'typing out loud'). I'm in, if my posting frequency while at work doesn't make it obvious, a very hyperactive day in the ADHD spectrum.


  • Admin

    @Auspice said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    @Sunny said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    ETA: Luna is the best. fite me.

    She's actually my favorite, too. ;)

    Years ago and not long after I had finished reading the Harry Potter books I realized that online Luna had a strong following. This was a surprise to me because I literally barely remembered the character at all. :)



  • @Arkandel said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    @Auspice said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    @Sunny said in Star vs Ensemble Cast - Why Theme is Vital:

    ETA: Luna is the best. fite me.

    She's actually my favorite, too. ;)

    Years ago and not long after I had finished reading the Harry Potter books I realized that online Luna had a strong following. This was a surprise to me because I literally barely remembered the character at all. :)

    She was v. important to girls like me who were often shunned for being 'weird' since she found her niche and people who embraced and appreciated her.


  • Pitcrew

    @Auspice Yeah she was an immediate favorite. Sincerely, The weird kid.


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