A fruitful void is a part of a role-playing game that is not covered by the game's rules (procedural elements), but which the rules and system direct players towards. In role-playing game theory, the fruitful void is a concept that says a game is not only about parts of play covered by game mechanics, but also about parts of play that are not covered by mechanics and yet are still central to the story.
Fruitful voids allow players to engage with their subjects (which may be themes, situations, etc.) in their own way, by using their own creativity and without being subject to the limits of game mechanics. Not all games have or need a fruitful void, and not every sort of gameplay that isn't covered by mechanical procedures is a fruitful void.
Examples of fruitful voids
- My Life With Master by Paul Czege does not have any statistic for defiance or self-worth, but the defiance and self-worth of the player characters are fundamental to the game.
- Dogs in the Vineyard by Vincent Baker is about the morality of religious law-keepers in the American "West that never was", but there is no stat that tracks a character's morality or faith.
- Murderous Ghosts by Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker asks whether you can escape a haunted house and provides rules you can play by to get the answer, but it does not answer the question for you.
- Vincent Baker (2005-10-20). "The Fruitful Void". anyway. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
- Avery Alder (2019-09-07). Tweet re: the notion of the Fruitful Void. Twitter. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
- Vincent Baker (2020-07-09). "Here's how I'd say the same idea now: design your game to pose a question, then don't design it to trample on the answers!". Twitter. Retrieved 2020-07-09.
- Ron Edwards (2005-03-03). "Designing a relationship, not a rule?" reply #6. The Forge Forums. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
- Vincent Baker (2020-07-09). "Sure! Take @NightSkyGames and my Murderous Ghosts". Twitter. Retrieved 2020-07-09.