Robin Laws

Robin Laws is a professional game designer and writer. He has both worked on RPG systems and created RPG systems, most notably DramaSystem, and believes that tabletop games, though they’ve been around since the 70’s, are still a largely unexplored area and have much ground to till.

Robin Laws started off interested in writing from the early age of 4. Growing up, he became interested in theater, and made his own writing program in college based on film and theater. At the same time, through high school and college, Laws became fascinated with tabletop RPGs. He wrote settings for the various tabletop games he played, and by publishing these he became known to the game design world of the time. Through the connections he developed as assistant writers in this capacity, he eventually expanded his influence, releasing games based on his idea of telling emotional stories rather than procedural ones. As he wrote up more theory, eventually people began to ask him to collaborate on projects and ideas. This eventually culminated in DramaSystem and Hillfolk.

Taken by the idea that tabletop RPGs could be used not only to keep a persistent character (as was the original motivation), but also to jump around and play various scenes, Laws designed Hillfolk. Unlike D&D and other similar tabletops, in Hillfolk, players take turns calling scenes and inserting characters into those scenes. Character creation is informed by “poles”, which relate to his idea of Grand Argument Theory (present in much of his writings) that states that characters are primarily defined by their support or opposition to themes and positions in a story. This system is only the start, Laws feels, of the emerging tabletop tradition of more story focused gameplay.

Laws’s interest in the tabletop space stems from the idea that they tend to be more closely collaborative than video game RPGs. Especially with the recent moves away from “couch co-op”, tabletop RPGs bring a measure of closeness that is often lost in video gaming. Seeing the continued development of tabletops and emerging popularity of more niche systems, Laws is also excited to see how technology will influence the tabletop space. He’s currently attempting to plan a way to use tablets and other devices to resolve the actions that are typically settled by dice to bring even more immediacy to the acts. Such a development could also be used to bring more people into the space as it would reduce the perceived complexity of tabletops while also reducing the “undefined imagination” that is often required by such games.

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