The Limits of Designing for Role-Playing.

I think this may surprise people, but the thing that had actually set me on the “warpath” of the Blinders, so to speak, of people saying their games are about and using advice to get there instead of rules, was RPGs. That is to say, it was games where the goal was to role-play, it was games where not only people role-played, but that was the declared goal.

I remember looking at some discussions, and I realized, Dungeons and Dragons is not an RPG, or at least, it’s not in the design, but “merely” in the play. I say “merely”, because perhaps that’s all there is. I looked at D&D, and I looked at the rules, and I saw nothing there that would make me roleplay. I saw very little there that even rewarded me for roleplaying, and quite surprisingly there wasn’t even much advice geared towards getting the players to roleplay and flesh out their characters’ personalities and history.

Perhaps it’s not very surprising, as aside from the Hero Builder’s Guide (which cost money for very little), most people seem to “know” what D&D is about, and are initiated into it by friends or know what to pick up. So they didn’t need to add it, because they knew that people will be told what they need to know.
Of course, they may have also realized there was very little else they could do, because you can’t do much to design RPGs.

 If I were to discuss the ontology of a “Game”, I’d say a game does not exist when it is not played. A box of Dominion or Settlers of Cattan contains the system and the physical components needed, but it doesn’t contain a “game of ___”, that game only springs into existence when people sit around and engage in the activity.
This I think is also true for roleplaying, but I mean it in a slightly different form: There are no role-playing in the rules, there’s no role-playing procedure (yes, when you are training for your job and such, let’s stay focused), but the role-playing game? It only exists, there is only role-playing when the players engage in that activity, when they play a role.

This seems like a rehash of what was said about games, but there’s a difference. The difference is that there is no game if you don’t play the game, but you can play an “RPG” by playing the game and not role-playing. For there to exist an “RPG” rather than “rpG” (where only one aspect really exists), the players need to make an actual choice, the choice to role-play. This is not something the designer can do, this is not something the designer can even assure. This is up to the players.

Though a “Story” is very much the same, I do not think humans can avoid creating (“telling?” one), so I think most designers should content themselves not with trying to ensure that people would role-play while playing their games, but to allow for games where role-playing is an easy option that is not over-eclipsed by other concerns.

 You can help by having stories that the players can relate to, that they can place themselves in, you can give them entities that have personas, who are theirs to control, and with whom they can identify, or even identify the characters as their medium of affecting the world/story. Basically, provide sockets for the players to plug into. People mention “Immersion”, and immersion is a tool, or rather, a state, where some of this is achieved. But even if people think from the an “actor” point of view (not Forge theory usage), of “I“, that it’s them who react, it’d be enough.

The other side is that you need to avoid making something that has nothing to do with portraying a role as much more interesting and rewarding to the players. If you take an exciting game and add role-playing to it, people might shove the role-playing aside just in order to get to the “good bits”. And if story and role-playing is not entirely dispensable, but is the vehicle to get from one mechanical exchange to another, then it’d be stripped down and zipped right along, because the goal of the mechanical exchange is where the focus lays*.

The reason I think it may work better within LARPs is because it gives you a visceral grounding. Even if you keep feeling uncomfortable because you feel the vast distance between yourself and your character (and perhaps suffer from fear of performance), you can’t help but be the one who is acting, be the one who is acted towards by others. You almost can’t help thinking from a first person (actor?) stance, “What am I going to do?” And of course, people tend to give LARPs looser systems, probably for lack of comfortable mechanical tools to make use of (dice, cards, charts).

I think all of this should be liberating to game designers. Once you make sure that players have ample opportunities to plug into certain sockets in the game, and once you make sure it can be an engaging and interesting activity even within this game, you’re good. You don’t need to make sure that everyone will role-play, you needn’t make sure that role-playing is the natural outcome of playing your game. You can’t, and only the players can. Heck, even when it’s the “Natural Outcome”, how much of it comes because the players pick it up expecting that they’ll role-play there, if because it was marketed as such (and/)or because previous editions of the game were like that? Just like Dungeons and Dragons.

Also, that’s why I focus on “Story-Games”. Basically all role-playing games are Story-Games, but Story-Games can be good, can be emotional, without being RPGs.

* This happens when you take a meaty 500 page book and try to fit it into a 90 minute movie, sometimes. You cover all the plot-points, but that’s all they are, merely points you hop along, rather than a story with impact. But maybe that’s just me.

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Competition as Training Wheels.

Quite recently we held a discussions called “Competition? What for?” on this very blog, and with this post I’m going to give a suggestion on a possible role of competition in games, specifically RPGs.

In most traditional RPGs, there is one person, the Game Master, who weaves the story and the world. Players can act and then the GM has the world and story react to their actions, but in case the group is more reactive, or even passive, the GM can push the story forward, forcing the characters to react and take a stand. The game progresses one way or another, and the GM, a good one, helps ensure that it is so.

A common problem when traditional players are faced with more recent games is that the task of narration is suddenly thrust upon them. It is not uncommon for players to freeze in such an instance. But we’re not going to dwell on that. Many a time these games are based on the assumption that all players will push the game, their characters, the story and/or the world forward. They will introduce complications, go out of their shell and make things happen. Sadly, this often does not happen.

When you have no limitations, you often get nowhere. You are paralyzed by too many options. Once you are limited by some constraint you have an easier time of figuring a direction in which to move and act. Before being thrust into a new game, many a player might do well to have some in-between stage. I posit that competitive games can be that stage (as well as a non-competitive game to which you add a competitive side for this explicit purpose).

You can treat story as a vector along which to enact competition or competition as a vector along which to tell a story. It matters little. Once there’s competition present, there’s a direction. It is clear what the goals are, who you’re competing with and why. Once you have a competition, you may very well not explore other facets of the game or enviroment, but remember, you limit freedom in order to foster creativity and lower paralysis, and once creativity is fostered, you can later remove the competition and have the players use the new knowledge and skills they had gained to explore the game.

Competition has many uses. There are too many games that once you finish reading them you say, “Cool, but now what do I do?” Competition answers that question. You compete, and if the rules make you create a story as you go along, then by the game’s end you should also have a story created and told.

Next month I’m going to focus a bit on the Story component of games. I hope this short entry was useful to you. It was intended as an answer to the previous post more than as a post of its own.

Blinders; Once More with Feeling.

First, the previous entry got mentioned on RPG Theory Review, making this the 3rd mention there of this blog, and the fourth of CSI Games.
Second, this is the second post of December 2006, I’ll do my best to keep at least two entries a month, which leads us to the next point!
Third, if you have any ideas or thoughts regarding CSI Games as a whole, or something that might be relevant, feel free to send me articles via my email and I’ll upload them. I think content from more contributors should be helpful, especially concerning that my writing is not that clear.
Fourth. There’s a good reason all the entries are shown on the front page: They are all open to discussion. Feel free to peruse and comment, and engage in discussion on all entries. It’s not only optionable, but encouraged!

There’s already an entry planned for the upcoming weekend, another for the week after, and yet another (and this one will be most interesting) for when Jessica Hammer completes her part of our “trade” :)


I think this is an apt topic for the last subject of the year. It actually closes a circle with the first post on the topic of Blinders (disregarding the Meta-Chanics post which is only a bridge). The issue came back to my mind because of the thread “Does System Matter?” on The Forge.
I looked at my own game, Cranium Rats, and what happened in its playtesting. I wrote in the manuscript that there should be violence and interwoven storylines. In the playtests the characters were mundane and normal if there ever were mundane characters. As such, violence was low.
But the storylines slowly began to cross with one another, work-place of one is the shelter of the other, one sees the third as he drives to work, etc. But there were no benefits to this behaviour, if the players had the characters and their stories cross-over or not, the effects would be the same. There is nothing changed, nothing gained, nothing lost, in each of the scenarios.

But those of the Indie crowd keep saying “System Does Matter“, and that was when System usually meant “Mechanics”. If I were to write in the game’s manuscript: “Storylines should interweave and cross-over, with the storylines drawing tighter and tighter and towards a conclusion where all the loose-ends are tied together”, and this were to occur in the game, then why do you pay someone to write game-rules and game-text, the mere idea is enough.

We keep saying we’re “beyond” Cops and Robbers, that this is not make-believe, but make-believe shaped by rules which help you govern what occurs.We have different rules for different games. We use rules to help maintain the mood and theme we want to introduce. But that means introducing rules, and not telling people what kind of game they want and how to get there. They can do it themselves by imbibing the source-material.

There’s a simple way to see if a game does what you want it to do, or rather, if the mechanics do what you want them to. Present someone with just the mechanics and see what kind of game emerges. This isn’t the complete game, this does not include all the background and colour, this does not include the interactions between the players. But this is not your goal, this is you checking if your mechanics produce the effect that you desire.

If the mechanics don’t do what you want them to, you have two options:
First, add mechanics that add what you want to the game.
Second, add advice telling people what they need to do to get the desired result. This is also fine, but be aware that this is what you’re doing.


After an hour and a half of chatting with Joshua A.C. Newman and Nathan Paoletta about this post, we discovered what was unclear in the post. I add it in this format because it’s a conclusion and it’s an edit. The article though unclear still has its purpose, which is served better once these are added.

  • I’m not saying advice are bad, I’m saying it’s their job to point at what is already done by the mechanics.
  • If your mechanics do something you don’t want them to, remove said mechanics.
  • If your game doesn’t do something it should, add mechanics.
  • If advice in your game REPLACE the mechanics, then something is wrong, and you should either add mechanics or remove that advice/thing from the game.
  • It doesn’t work the other way around though, if something doesn’t work, or the mechanics don’t do what you need, you do not add advice.

And why say something once if you can twice?
If your gameplay does something, but it’s not included in the rules, but in the advice, either excise the advice or add a rule

The GM Element; Considerations, Overview.

First, let me begin by noting that I’ve just found out Britt Daniel, aka Tetsujin78 is dead. What a blow. I have nothing to say really, no way to put it into the right words.

Our usual bunch of service announcements come first, as always, and we seem to have more of them as time passes. Our discussion concerning Immersion and the definition of RP spawned a further discussion on John Kim’s RPG LJ. Both discussions got mentioned on rpgtheoryreview in turn.
Also, I broke down and ponied the cash to get the Wiki Gold membership for a year, we have jumped from 12.5 MBs of storage room to 2,500 MBs, feel free to load files for your games, playtest games, whatever. I want the place to become a one-stop depot for our games.

Also, I am sorry for the sometimes slow nature of updates to this blog, I’ve been suffering from an extreme bout of tiredness over the last couple of weeks, and had been sleeping instead of writing and posting.


So, the Components posts are a direct continuation of the Blinders posts, in fact, the previous post about Blinders is probably a Components post. Whereas in Blinders we talk about external limitations you set upon yourself, Components talks about specific elements, usually mechanically, of games. CSI Games in particular, but I think such discussions would benefit all games.

In his Gamism article, Ron Edwards said:
All of them utilize control over narration as one of the variables of play, thus shifting around the privileges of a traditional GM role, and all of them are explicitly about winning the game much as one wins a traditional card game”.
I sent him a question asking him why he thinks these games share these traits(specifically the GM-role-shifting), but in a nut-shell, this is what this post is about.

What is the role of a GM(“Game Master”) within a game, what are the different options for including or not including him? The answers will be given in specific combinations.

GM as “Storyteller”, when the game is Competitive, this gives you two options.
When the competition is not about setting a story(Cranium Rats), that creates a problem of there being two games played at the table. There is the competitive game, and there is the story-creation game. The real problem is, that the GM doesn’t get to play the Competitive game, which is “The Game”, he agrees to not get to play the CSI Game, but a Story Game.
When the competition IS about setting a story(Capes), then you simply can’t allow for a GM as Storyteller. The whole point of the game is to compete for telling a story, and if you have someone who acts as over-Storyteller, then why bother competing when he can make the shots? That’s what Filip refers to as someone “Moving your rook” while you play Chess.

When the competition is between the GM as “God” and the Group(note, group, not individuals)(Hackmaster), then for me the whole game is problematic. The “competition” only acts between the group and the GM, is often not rooted in rules, and isn’t as all-encompassing as I like. Most of the game is actually Cooperative between the players as a group. This mode of play also gives rise to many bad play experiences, as it often promotes antagonism without a strong Social Contract in place.

When the GM is a referee(Cranium Rats again, or any sports), it creates and solves a host of problems. So long as the GM doesn’t act as part of the competition, all is fine with the competition, but this requires the GM to be impartial, or the Competition(and the game!) will not go as planned. This also creates the same problem with the story-setting GM; the GM agrees to not play the game. He agrees to sit on the sideline and act as audience for the most part. If that is fun for you, cool, but if it’s not, then there won’t be a game!

Games where the GM is rotating(Rune) solve some of these problems, you may not be part of the game now, but you will be later, and then again, everyone shares these duties. You can build further on it, like Capes did, and simply do away with the GM, which is what many Competitive games do. You have the rules/other players(Polaris) act as referees, and the Scene Framing rules are shared by all players(numerous games).

You can always have rare games where the GM as “God” or part of the competition actually enhances the competition. In Orx for example, there is Competition between the players, there are story-setting elements shared by all, and the competition between the GM and the players actually adds a level of Competition. It also created a situation where while you wanted to compete with your fellow players, you sometimes had to help them in order for your competition against the GM to not falter! I find that a great design that is often hard to accomplish, myself.

If you have a Competitive game, the issue of “GM” needs thought. Whether you decide to have a GM or not, it introduces new problems and new solutions. Whatever role you assign to the GM does likewise.
Whatever you choose, this needs to be given thought, and the alternatives considered. I hope this post will prove instrumental in such musings.

Specific Blinders; Constraints; Isn’t it Getting Dark in Here?

So, here we are, still with the issue of blinders. Blinders are practical things, they help shape your design and play, and as such we give them still more space.

When you use Blinders in specific games they tend to call them “Constraints”, pointing out what you can do and what you cannot, the limits of the game. People pointed out games like Polaris or even Dogs in the Vineyard are akin to Board-Games compared to other RPGs. In other games you can play any sort of thing, or nearly, whereas in these games session length may be dictated, as well as what you play and how you play. It’s often questioned if they are RPGs at all.

Someone else mentioned the difference between Video and Board games and RPGs(much like Thomas Robertson does here, but it was earlier during the week, but specifically mentioned competitive games). In Video games anything you can do is wired into the game, if it’s not wired(coded) in, then you can’t do it. Board games where strategies that weren’t accounted for exist are considered ‘broken’ or require errata(can someone help me find said post?). RPGs that want to foster such a feel need to have every possibility accounted for or they’ll fail.

And this folks is why CSI Games have such a strong inclination to include Blinders/Constraints; the more options available to the players, and this being hybrid-RPG means the options are numerous, the less you can prepare for all of them, which in turn can lead to the system falling apart and people abusing it. The more Constraints you add the less situations you’ll have to deal with and the better you’ll be able to plan for what you are to deal with.

Over on The Forge I created two specific Blinders posts, using Cranium Rats as an example. Though they may have seemed like they were about CR, they weren’t, that was merely the example and the specific design question that related to them.

In the first post, “Codification of Session Length?”, I talk about the prospect of tying session length down mechanically, much like in Board Games with plays. When a certain parameter is met the game session ends and unless it is met the game continues on. RPGs and their kin fill a certain niche in the social zone, so it may not work just yet.

In the second post, “On Flags Alone?”, I coin the term “Tunnels” as opposed to “Flags”. Flags exist to attract attention to things the players want to cover, but in most games, nothing forces the players to focus on the Flags. So why are they there? I thought “System Matters”. The concept of “Tunnels” says that nothing but the Flags are addressed. As for “Emergant stories”, that can be solved by putting in a way to create new Tunnels during the gameplay.

Last, I’ll raise a new idea here, for you loyal readers, a third Constraint. The issue of “GM or Not?”. It seems that CSI Games are much like Board games in this regard, and that there is either no GM(Gnostigmata, Capes) or the “GM” isn’t really one and he’s a player with different capabilities and responsebilities(Threads and Cranium Rats).

This is an antithesis to some of the games who had Party Vs. GM, they weren’t CSI Games as you didn’t have an option of allying, you were given that you were cooperative within the party, very much a proto-CSI Games issue. In a CSI Game you need the competition to be nigh all-encompassing, and there isn’t room for “We” as much as “He and I, for now”. And so the issue of “GM or Not” takes rise, and the answer for most CSI Games will be “Not”, because if he’s there, he’s a Conflict stiffling and out-of entity.

Blindness without Blinders.

Well, this is the third in a series of posts, that originally was planned to host only two entries. These posts present practical theory(?), they give you concrete considerations when you play, design and especially playtest a game, specifically a CSI Game.

In the first post I pointed out why the system deserves its own playtesting, where you test the system rather than the game. We keep talking about "The system should push the feel/message of the game", but it could be a self-fullfilling prophecy if we do not check it on its own.

In the second post I pointed out that who you play with has much impact on your play experience and playtesting. This is obvious, which is why I pointed out that "Who you play with" in this instance is either "people you know" or "people you don't know". And to answer Dave, these posts are about self-imposed Blinders, so the Either/Or are ok.

In this post I won't talk about Blinders, which are self imposed, but Blindness, an area that is beyond our control; our personalities. The last point was actually an example of this one, in a way. If you didn't understand what that post was about, well, it was that personality counts, especially when one makes a CSI Game.

I feel a bit lazy, so instead of just writing it, I'll repost a discussion I had with Mike Holmes and Thomas Robertson(TheSmerf) on #indierpgs, on 15/06/2006, this also shows you the other side's opinion:

[08:36] LordSmerf: So, Guy…
[08:36] Thunder_God: ::listens to Smerfy::
[08:36] LordSmerf: I find your most recent post to be mostly content-free.
[08:37] LordSmerf: I mean, you talk about the fact that you think Tony should play up the Conflict thing.
[08:37] LordSmerf: And you talk about the Sweet spot in the middle.
[08:37] LordSmerf: And you talk about Lose benefits.
[08:37] Thunder_God: You mean I have no coherent point?
[08:37] LordSmerf: But you just mention them.  I don't see any sort of discussion of why you'd use them or not, or anything like that.
[08:37] LordSmerf: So it seems to me, Guy.
[08:38] Thunder_God: The point of this entry is simple, and a very "D'oh" one.
[08:38] LordSmerf: Well, I missed it :)
[08:38] Thunder_God: It's that the personality of the designer has much effect on his game and design.
[08:39] LordSmerf: Ah…
[08:39] Mike_Holmes: Tony in this case being Tony LB?
[08:39] Thunder_God: Yes.
[08:39] Mike_Holmes: I agree in general, but extra so with Tony LB. :-)
[08:40] Thunder_God: Yes, that's one of the two reasons I picked him ;)
[08:40] Thunder_God: The other is, because Capes and Tony fit my model, IMO.
[08:40] Mike_Holmes: Makes sense
[08:41] Thunder_God: It especially fits Competitive games. I think most Competitive games are an outgrowth of personality, more than non-competitive designs, though that's my claim.
[08:42] Mike_Holmes: Interesting. I could make a case that non-competitive designs are reflective of very specific personalities that regard conflict as potentially damaging to creativity.
[08:43] Thunder_God: Mike, that's a possibility, but let us look at the following: If you follow the "standard philosophy" of your culture, it could be because you agree with it, or merely because you don't wish to confront it, or never thought of confronting it! Whereas the "heretics" have _chosen_ to follow another path, with less A or B, and only B.
[08:44] Mike_Holmes: So…competition is heretical in RPGs?
[08:44] Thunder_God: Smerfy, you'll note how often I mention personalities, I mention "Sweet in the middle" only in order to later mention "Losing Vs winning", which is an outgrowth of personality.
[08:44] Thunder_God: No Mike, it's just less common, not the default.
[08:44] Thunder_God: Thus me using quotation marks.
[08:45] Thunder_God: Those who ascribe to the default could actively agree or could passively not care, those who do not ascribe to default actively disagree.
[08:45] LordSmerf: Guy, you don't make it explicit that they're outgrowths of personality in your post.
[08:45] LordSmerf: I don't disagree with you, but you didn't say it.
[08:45] Mike_Holmes: Interesting…I think you may be right in terms of sheer number of games designed, but in terms of play, most RPG play is competitive, IMO.
[08:45] LordSmerf: Or if you did I missed it.
[08:46] Mike_Holmes: The vast majority of D&D play, for instance.
[08:46] Thunder_God: "However, look at Winning and Losing, which seem to show our personal philosophies, and how Tony may not be as Muy Macho as he claims(desires?) to be."
[08:46] Mike_Holmes: Heh
[08:46] Thunder_God: Mike, when I say Competitive DnD old-skool is only halfway there.
[08:46] Mike_Holmes: I think that Tony's designs are incoherent, yeah.
[08:46] Thunder_God: There's antagonism and competition between GM and players.
[08:46] Thunder_God: But the players work as a group.
[08:47] Thunder_God: I mean competitive like a board/card game, where it's free for all.
[08:47] Mike_Holmes: Players working as a group doesn't mean that they're not competing.
[08:47] Mike_Holmes: I think they very much do. And, yes, this leads to problems.
[08:47] Thunder_God: It also depends on house rules such as "killing blow" and so on.
[08:48] Mike_Holmes: I mentioned that recently, where "I kill him as he sleeps" becomes a very effective winning move.
[08:48] Thunder_God: Hm, well, I'm still talking about design, and set goals. Players play competitively because that's what people do in games, as you said, it leads to problems because the game does not facilitate "human nature".
[08:48] Thunder_God: Heh.
[08:48] Thunder_God: Stevil Van-Hostle kind of win ;) you won't see the Untouchtable Trio+1 pull it though.
[08:54] Thunder_God: I believe Cranium Rats's design, not in details, but overall is a reflection of my personality.
[08:54] Thunder_God: I think of my personality as a battering ram, so I created CR, and used a "gale" to get my goals down, sweeping through whatever I didn't like, ho ho.
[08:55] Mike_Holmes: Guy, I can see that. It's definitely philosophical in it's apparent output.
[08:56] Thunder_God: Mike, that's exactly what I didn't mean :: smiles:: Of course I meant its reflective of my personality, but I'm talking about the design process, where I batterred away anything that I didn't like, forcefully.
[08:57] Thunder_God: And yes, that does sound funny.
[08:58] Mike_Holmes: I see what you're saying, Guy, but it seems to me that it's affected both. Also, your comments about Tony's designs seem to focus on the output, no?

 Just a note, Mike's point about play is certainly a good one, but this point is mostly about design and playtesting. And heck, why do we have CSI Games if not to remedy this lack in design?
So, do I need to explain this further?

…and Double Blinders; The Players Don’t(Stand Alone).

This post is a direct continuation of this post, unlike most posts which build indirectly on what has come before(Yes, reading this blog in order helps greatly). Seems like there'll also be a surprise third post in this series, though I'm unsure if it'll be next or one after, since the next two posts build on one another!

So, when playtesting it's important to test the mechanics on their own, to see how they work, rather than how your interpretation of them makes them work.

So, the players you play with will dictate a lot on how the game goes, you play the game, but so do they. When you play a game for fun you'd rather play a game with people you know, so you can gel as much as possible with them and collaborate to create a fun enviroment.
But what about when you play a competitive game, and especially when playtesting one?

I'll begin with several stories, taken directly from the First Post on this blog:
"..(In M:tG)Another instance was of me creating a deck specifically for multiplayer. But rather than have a deck which hurts multiple opponents to my benefit, I've created a deck based on "Fear Factor". The deck made use of Pestilence, a card which hurts all players and characters equally. I told the others so: "You don't attack me, I may or may not use it, you attack me, I use it and everyone, including you, suffers". It worked, no one wanted to lose, so no one attacked me, letting me watch with glee and mess with everyone as I saw fit. This was an especially good choice for me as I am often the "Strong Pick" and thus marked for execution early on, more on this later…

…Enter Settlers of Cattan, a classic if I ever saw one. I've first played Settlers of Cattan in a convention, where the three other players knew one another and I knew none. You may think that I had the disadvantage, that they will unite against the unknown, the outsider, and will only later turn against one another to finish business. That was not so.
People who know one another mark each other as "Strong" and "Weak", "Ally" or not. They assume that the opponent they know to be strong must be stronger than the unknown. So I used it to my advantage, as two of the friends united I offered an alliance to the last remaining player, and dumped him the moment I got what I wanted from him, trusting in my own capabilities. His friends later would not ally with him for he allied with me, leaving him alone, as I was, but much weaker.
Towards the end the other players noticed my burgeoning kingdom and decided to ally together in order to stop me. This was too little and far too late. Their pooled resources could not stop me…"

I believe you should play with people you know, whereas Dave Michael, author of Legends of Lanasia, believes otherwise. Dave, I'm inviting you here to explain in the comments why you believe you should play(test) (competitive?) games with people you don't know.

When you play with people you know who is a danger, you know why they are a danger, you know who will betray you.
I play Worms with my cousin against two computer enemies, we always agree to squish them first and only then turn on one another, but when that "Sweet Hit" calls, and since no one wants to get hit first we turn on one another, but we always know it'd come…

Sure, you don't fully test the system, but the system only builds example conflicts, situations for you to clash. There must be some conflict between the active agents in order for conflict to actually occur. This is often done by human nature, expectation and the need to prove oneself's as winner.

Sure, you know what others plan to do and what are their weak spots, but that doesn't mean you won't fall again, like Charlie Brown and the Football, or me and my cousin. You know the others' weak spots, but so do they know yours.

It is considered "Bad Sports" to bring outside occurances to the game, but let's be frank, much of the conflict inherent to competitive games actually comes from the friction between the players. Why create artificial conflict when there's real conflict to be drawn upon so easily?

You want to test the system, you don't want to create conflict between players. You want to test the game, you do not want to test the situation between players, just use it as a tool.
You have winners and losers, and those feelings add on to the next time you play.

I believe you should play competitive games with people you know.