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Monday, November 19, 2012

Encounter vs. Goal

I read an article on Gnome Stew about two types of RPGs, Encounter RPGs (D&D) and Goal RPGs (others.) I was about to trash it, because of the obvious errors, like extra encounters -- wandering monsters, in our terminology -- being a kind of reward in an Encounter RPG, since combat is its own reward in D&D. I almost said, "What? Did you forget that you already mentioned resource management as a big feature of Encounter RPGs?"

But then it occurred to me that the error, here, is in trying to forcibly categorize RPGs instead of just looking at kinds of experiences within RPGs. Drop the capital letters and the word "RPG" and you're left with encounters and goals. You could make a better, more useful distinction that way: An encounter is open-ended, while a goal has a specific aim. You can find goals within encounters, or you could adopt a couple general goals like "kill the monster, get the treasure" and treat all encounters the same way.

If you insisted on categorizing RPGs with this terminology, you wouldn't talk about encounter RPGs vs. goal RPGs; you'd talk instead about mixtures and patterns of goal versus encounter. Does the game as a whole impose a goal on players? Do encounters serve the goal, or act as an obstacle? What's the ratio of goals to encounters? Are there special rules for designing either, or for when they can occur?


  1. Gnome Stew is like training wheels - and sometimes the wheels are square.

    1. Neverthless, I keep reading that and a couple other sites that almost never have anything of use. Because every once in a while, there's something worth the read.