ORC and Immersive Sims

As others have described eloquently, the rules of a tabletop role playing game strongly affect the types of gameplay and stories that players happen within that RPG. In describing our goals for Organic Rule Components, it is helpful to borrow a concept from video games: the immersive sim.
The immersive sim is a genre exemplified by game series like Deus Ex, Dishonored, System Shock and Fallout. What sets these games apart is that players have multiple ways they could complete each mission, such as combat, stealth, finding secret shortcuts, diplomacy or hacking. Players can choose to buy powers or increase skills to make them better at their preferred style of play.
Immersive sims require game studios to create much more detailed settings. A level not only has to have potential combattants and battlefields, it must have shadows to hide in, secret passages, computers to hack, etc. One hallmark of the immersive sim (and why so few studios can make this kind of game) is the amount of details one has to create and the number of interactions that have to be enabled.
A consequence of this complexity is emergent gameplay: a player can discover some new way to beat a level that was like nothing the game designers ever envisioned.
An immersive sim’s world is not populated solely with enemies to be killed. There are often NPCs that can be persuaded to help you (or who can become your enemies if you do the wrong thing). This leads these games to allow players to make moral choices. Players are allowed to choose to do good or bad things to the NPCs in the game, and players are not shielded from the logical consequences of those choices.
This is the type of gameplay ORC attempts to replicate:

  • A richly textured setting full of dangers and threats.
  • Moral choices and NPCs that can become enemies or allies depending on the PC’s actions.
  • Enough detail so that players who choose to explore can always discover something they weren’t expecting.
  • Support for different kinds of missions: spying on someone, eliminating a target, solving a mystery, stealing an item.
  • Rules, skills and abilities that allow for multiple approaches to problem solving, subtle or gratuitous, violent or pacifistic.
  • The GM’s role is to create a complex and difficult challenge for the players and let them figure out how to solve it.
  • No presupposition about what form the players’ attempts to solve problems might take.
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