The following is from a Google+ discussion.
“Let me throw out here an old article from Psychology Today that addresses a commonly understood principle: that constraints encourage creativity. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201108/does-creativity-require-constraints It’s a good read, I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
Take this line: ‘Responses that are applied in an almost algorithmic fashion (e.g., rote memorization of ideas in school, copying correctly, etc.) promote conformity. Constraints that preclude low-variability, tried-and-true responses, while at the same time promoting high variability, novel responses lead to creative breakthroughs.’
The difference I have experienced with what people call story games and with the category of games D&D defines is that narrowing the field of possibility encourages greater variation within those bounds.
Anything is possible within D&D, yet certain classes of experience are most likely. It’s why when some people play a story game, it opens their eyes to a different sort of experience than they thought possible. They almost certainly could have had that experience with a well-hacked D&D game run by a GM who knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish.
Those sorts of GMs are in short supply.
By redefining and generally limiting what GMs can do, story games encourage you to explore different boundaries of experience. They shift the baseline and often impose severe restraints on reverting to a traditional D&D GM approach. It forces everyone – including the GM – into a certain set of choices, a certain kind of experience.
That certain kind of experience can be achieved by D&D, if you hack hard enough or interact with your players in a very systematic manner. But it usually isn’t.
If you want stories without limitations, take the Old School game closest to your choice of genre and run with it.
But I disagree that story games are packaged dinners while D&D games are ingredients. D&D is an infinite grocery store. If you wander far enough, you’ll find you can make anything. But most people won’t wander that far.
Story games drag you to a particular area in the store – one you may have never visited – and build walls around it and sometimes mazes through it. You have to try what what’s there rather than your old standbys. You have to make new choices.
You might even like it. Then again, you might not. Some people will never like Ethiopian food – and some people will always prefer cooking at home. “