If I were to encapsulate the theory briefly but succinctly, I think I would say: Roleplaying games have the potential to evoke in players a type of amusement not achievable through any other form of entertainment; namely, a creative agenda called "Epic Simulationism".
Expounding a bit more on this creative agenda is best done by comparing and contrasting it to other creative agendae:
Epic Simulationism is the "Why?" of the tabletop roleplaying game I am attempting to build, the "target" of play. Therefore, it becomes the Fruitful Void I aim to achieve. If my efforts to produce a tabletop roleplaying game are to be considered successful, the players should be able to easily and reliably produce Epic Simulationism using the tools of the game.
With the theory fixed, I now turn to design to answer the question of "How?"
- Shallow depth gaming - This category includes players who aren't immersed in the fictional universe to much degree. They are basically themselves, dressed up as their characters, in the fiction. Though a subset of these players are derogatorily referred to as powergamers or "munchkins", it's useful to remember that everyone starts playing any game at this depth.
- Shallow depth fiction involvement - Though I'm calling it shallow depth, the players may get quite deeply immersed in the fictional universe, or not. Done well and with player investment, the players feel like they are experiencing a fictional world as real as any they might experience from a good book or movie.
- Deep depth ficitonal involvement; Epic Simulationism - This creative agenda is several steps beyond shallow depth fictional involvement. The prerequisites for shallow depth fictional involvement remain, and also require that the players achieve all of the following:
- increasing depth of immersion
- progression through the Hero's Journey
- a link between the depth of immersion and progression through the Hero's Journey, so that players complete both at the same time. If the link between depth of immersion and progression through the Hero's Journey is strong and the players do complete them at approximately the same time, the players should achieve that satisfying "aaah" feeling that is also wrought from the conclusion of a good adventure book or movie.
Design Point - The Fruitful Void versus the Reward Cycle; Treasure, Experience, and Character Death
In the defacto standard
STUFF TO TALK ABOUT -
- Building the Game Core: the Fruitful Void, Character Death and the Reward Cycle -- Game Work; i.e. putting the theory into practice, game construction
An index of Chapters of the Design Document is shown here -