I am a Traditional RPG designer. I prefer working within the traditional paradigms of RPG design.
How do I reconcile this?
There is a definite tendancy for folks to equate Traditional design with "more of the same" - using only what has been done before, going back to the way it has always been done, looking only to the past for inspiration. Set the Way Back Machine for 1985, Sherman! This is a wrong way of looking at it. Setting the Way Back Machine to pre-2000 will always return a Traditional RPG, but not all Traditional RPGs are a result of Sherman's and Peabody's forays. It's like saying all members of the Cosa Nostra are Italian, so all Italians are members of the Cosa Nostra. There is a confusion of cause and effect at work which is insidious.
Traditional design is based upon several core concepts. If these concepts are held to, the result will be a Traditional design, no matter whether the means by which they are accomplished have been done before. Think about it - there would be no innovation, ever, otherwise! Some RPGs are extremely innovative - The original D&D of course, but also Traveller, Ars Magica, and Pendragon. They all worked within the Trad envelope, and stretched that envelope greatly with their innovations. Traditional Core Concepts are:
- The players act upon the setting only through the medium of their characters. Characters are the player interface to work in the setting.
- There is a Game Master who controls all non-player characters and the inanimate aspects of the setting through some combination of Fiat, Random Chance, and/or straight Comparison.
- The characters can affect the setting - it is not static, but responds to the player characters' efforts once play begins.
- The Game Master may modify the rules for various reasons - to better reflect the setting, to better reflect the particular gaming desires of the group, to cover cases where the rules are unclear or lacking, and the like.
This leaves a huge amount of room for a designer to tinker, and that area has not nearly been exploited to the maximum.
Now there are roleplaying games which are not Traditional designs, and that's cool. I have no problem with that - in fact I regularly read non-Traditional games for inspiration on different ways to approach my own Traditional goals. And though I don't personally have "story" as a goal, one can certainly have story as a goal with a completely Traditional design. That has been done since the beginning of RPGs, whether or not the game is designed with that as a goal, because that's what some groups want.
As a designer of Traditional RPGs, I want to push that envelope. I want to trample the notion that one cannot innovate within the Traditional paradigm into the dust. I want to challenge and overthrow the notion that traditional means hopping into the Way Back Machine with Peabody and Sherman.