OK, so lets see if I can put these various disparate ideas together

This is gonna be a thread that may be good or it may be shit, around how looking at a Te Whare Tapa Whā health model has me thinking of #TTRPG game design slightly differently
For work currently I am doing a lot of work with Te Whare Tapa Whā. It is a health model that is designed to teach Pākehā how to work in a Māori appropriate way. I use it in my personal work a lot to check myself and I am an advocate for it. healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living…
Its core idea is that someones well-being is a house, and that house is held together by a structure of 4 walls and a foundation. If one of those walls weakens, you empower the others to spread the load around.

Thats a very convenient way to look at what makes an RPG an RPG
I've asked around what the cornerstones of RPGs are and theres a wide range. But the best consensus I could come up with is

Procedure & arbitration
Fictional Space
Narrative & story.

I wanted to include immersion but none of you cowards wanted to agree with me
Below all of this is a foundation of Consensus/consent and people actually wanting to do the thing.

Now, you might disagree or have your own elements, thats fine. Swap em out etc. But heres my thinking on the matter.

So how does this relate to Te Whare Tapa Whā? Ill explain
Imagine a house. It has a foundation, 4 walls and a roof.

The roof is your RPG. The one you are building. It needs to stay erected. if it falls down you no longer have a house.

Consensus is the foundation. And the other 4 elements above are our walls.
Consensus is the foundation. The reason I made this a foundation is that without a consensus from people wanting to engage in the rest of this process, they wont get to the game part above. So we assume that people are wanting to play your game in good faith.
If they dont want to play your game in good faith, then theyre unlikely to get through what youve built anyway and it doesnt matter if its a work of art or not. We arent writing for them nor bending to them.

Now the walls may appear equal, but they dont have to be
What do I mean by that? Well you have these 4 elements that appear more or less in all games right? But the weight they carry seems to vary, to the point where sometimes it seems like an element might even be missing entirely. This is where the model comes into play.
But first lets discuss those 4 elements!

Collaboration is the idea that we play with others, we share the experience with others, even though that may be the author of the game book you are reading solo.
Procedure and arbitration. This is the mechanics of the game. It might be the dice you throw. The systems you use. This is the GAME part of RPG. Its the how part.

Fictional space is the idea that this game happens in our imagination. Its normally somewhere we arent for example
Lastly is narrative and story. This is the idea that together we are crafting something that may or may not resemble a story, it moves and together paints a picture. Its related to but not reliant on the fictional space above.
The goal here is to have a roof (the game) above this structure. To hold it up you need these walls. But how much weight each wall bears depends on how much the others do. You can tweak one wall to bare most of the weight and reduce others that feel less important to you.
You might want a game that places particular emphasis on Systems and shared narrative. you can strengthen these walls, which in turn gives you freedom to reduce others and the game will still hold up.
An example of this is removing a lot of fictional space and moving tokens or minis around a board for the entire session. This is means you can use Procedure to carry the weight of the fictional space. Procedure is the load carrying wall.
Or you might go the opposite direction entirely with a game like Dont Walk in Winter Wood, with only one mechanic for arbitration and an agreement to not discuss mechanics at all. This game leans on the other 3 walls almost entirely
Rulings over rules in a rules lite game is reducing the procedures and strengthening Collaboration to carry you to the end.

A formulaic systems heavy game is reducing the need for the shared fictional space to justify arbitration, instead having the Procedure inform the story
But what about solo games like Ironsworn and the Wretched? This is where collaboration is pulled back slightly, though not completely, and procedure and the fictional space really step up. You have less people to bounce off, but the system and your imagination carry you through
What I am getting at here is that there is a reason why we can have something entirely solo like Ironsworn in the same hobby as something entirely narrative like DWIWW or something more system focused like, I dunno, Lancer.
Or how you can have a procedure heavy game, like Black Void be in the same collection as a rules lite game like Mork Borg.

Theyre all games, they're just held up by different elements. And hopefully fun in their own way as a result
So how can you use this to inform design choices? If you are conscious of what elements you want to lean on, what you want to carry your game, then you have freedom to tweak elsewhere, to unleash yourself from expectations you may be uncomfortable with
Or you could use this as a good holistic way to check your game holds up. Check the overall health of a game by making sure these core elements are balanced how you want them to be, or to inform you that a wall needs strengthening.
But anyway, thats enough bullshit from me. I found it interesting how this house model could be stretched into other areas and I know its adjusted my thinking around why our hobby has so many opposing philosophies yet still makes undeniably related things
So Im off to work. Feel free to agree or disagree, pick it apart etc. Ill be back later.

Ma Te Wa whānau

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