Archive for February 2011

2/23/2011-I have my first spoiler

February 23, 2011

I ask you this; what is the greatest fight scene in all storydome???

 Ironically, for me there are two scenes that come to my mind and they are the same scene; only that the first is in the novel and the second is in same story’s film.  I speak of none other than the fight between Inigo Montoya and Count Tyrone Rugen from the Story Princess Bride.  Naturally, because they are from the same story the setup to this confrontation is the same.  Inigo Montoya has spent his life pursuing the infamous six-finger man, who killed his father over the price of a superbly crafted sword and scars this young son’s face.  However, searching for this man has not been Inigo’s primary goal but rather gaining the skill to beat this horrible man within a sword dual.  ***spoiler*** By the end of the story, he finds the six-finger man and confronts him.  During this final dual, Inigo nearly loses and when it looks as if he will be defeated he—

 Well this is where things change between the book and the movie, neither version can I do any real justice to, so let’s skip it.  Guess I didn’t need the spoiler alert—SHE ‘s a guy in the Crying Game! There, I wouldn’t want to waste a good spoiler alert. 

 Why is this fight so great? Because this story arc is firmly established at the beginning of the story and it includes multiple twists that make it memorable.  The first twist to the story arc is that the explanation about Inigo’s motivation for revenge is actually told to us, rather than demonstrated; but it is revealed to us within a moment high tension which also defines the character of the two heroes outside of the revenge arc.  In the Star Wars Prequels, the friendship between Obi-wan and Anakin are told to us while they are in an elevator or walking from/to transports, there is no high tension established to have us, as the audience, prepped up to believe it; nor does it a reveal of the two heroes’ character.  Instead it is boring walking and talking.  In Princess Bride, Inigo’s goal is explained at the beginning of a fight between two heroes, who do not know they are destined to be allies and where the fight uncovers that the two are extremely similar.  In Princess Bride both Inigo and Westley act on their character and demonstrate their similarities, the audience is told one thing and then backed up through action; unlike the Prequels where you are told through authoritative mind-numbing dialoged with no actions to validate what you have just been told.  So, by the time Inigo and Count Tyrone Rugen fight you, the audience, have emotionally invested in the believably to Inigo, you do not only know Inigo’s motivation but actually believe in it.  You want him to win.

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2/22/2001-Memories, Mamby Pamby Memories

February 22, 2011

What the hell am I talking about?  Meaning out of combat? Emotionally invested?  Sounds like all that mamby pamby and touchy feely crap that the “me generation” was looking for.  Good Lord! The D20 is the stuff of combat!  Grab your sword, run into the room with a big blecky monster and hope you make your saving throw against their breath weapon.  Will you be able to roll an eighteen or higher?  How cool is that?  Well, it’s cool; but lasts about one week in my memory and then it fades away.

 I have been RPGing for over 30 years.  My most memorable moments of playing have nothing to do with combat.  The combats that I do remember, when I think hard to find them, are when I was a GM rather than a hero.  Like, when the 1st level half-orc took all this time to make a spear prepping to kill a harpy and then totally miss her on the first throw.  He stood there for a second, realizing he had no backup plan, so threw a grappling hook and snagged her as she was flying and reeled her in.  In an almost panicky rage he beat her with his punching dagger.  Sure, there were other players attacking her, but it was this one hero who captured the scene.  As a player, my most memorable combat was not with D&D but rather with Call of Cthulhu, where the group was being attacked by large wooden wolf totems.  We were just plunking away at this creature which was like as shooting a tree with a pistol; when we were rescued by Bubba, the red neck supernatural hunter with the right buckshot.  It was like the last scene in Saving Private Ryan, the wolf totem blew apart into splinters and we looked at each other and our pistols with the question “did we do that?”  Then real cause of the explosion emerged, Bubba.

 Why are these combats memorable? Because, these combats follow the same structure as a typical story or movie, just in a microcosm.  Each combat gets to a low point where the protagonists seemly fail, but then miraculously overcomes the challenge.  As an audience, we were highly invested in these heroes and we believed that for a moment we were screwed, only to have something happen that made success possible.  This elevated us twice as high emotionally than if we just walked in and succeeded.

2/19/2011- Plinkett Reviews makes me have some disturbing thoughts.

February 19, 2011

Something has been troubling me for a few years about gaming.  That sort of nagging feeling in the back of your head that you know is there but don’t know what to do about it.  You want it to stay there, because you have no way to answer it, but it affects you all the time.  The sooner you address it, the better off everything will be.  Yeah, I have one of those things and watching the Plinkett Reviews disturbed this unsetting thought.  Now it’s floating around in the fore front of my mind and I cannot push it back in the hidden crevasse where it belongs.  That nasty thought is “How do you make combat more meaningful during a RPG session?”  After all, this is one of the key reasons why the Star Wars Prequels fail, Lucas does not get the audience to be emotionally invested in the combats. 

I guess the first answer to this question is that D20, AD&D, 4th Edition & Saga; already does it and does it well.   To a large degree, you would be right.  These games were spawned from war games and still have combat as their core feature.  The fact that these games have been so successful just naturally indicates that the players are invested emotionally in all those combats otherwise they would go and play something else.  Yes, these games do have some intrinsic devices within the game system to keep players emotionally invested; but I want to do more, create more, and get more out of these combats.  I believe that there is an untapped reservoir for meaning within the story.  I just have not been able to figure out a way to get to it. 

 Pete

2/19/2011 Out and About

February 19, 2011

Hey, I know it looks like I have been out this week; but I have been expanding the “about” section of the blog.  Since, this blog is about gaming, I figure that it would be good to have a description of the campaign that I have been running.    So, I threw that in the “about.”

2/12/2011-Seven Days of Griping started nine days ago.

February 12, 2011

Nine days ago, I was reviewing my Stars Wars campaign game session.  I ended up wanting to blog about both Force Points and also Star Wars cannon.  Well, for the last week I have been questioning the Saga Edition rules system and yet, I don’t want to continually gripe about this campaign.  So, I guess I will put off the group complaints about cannon a bit later.  Instead, we will focus more on a direct GMing issue involving the game.  Probably would be helpful to describe the campaign and the players in it, updating the “about” section, etc etc.

Pete

2/11/2011-The Solution to Force Points-blowing hot air up my …. back wheels?

February 11, 2011

I hate making adjustments to core rules of a gaming system, but as we outlined the faults of the Force Point system, I am compelled to make additional house rules.

  1.  Treat all D6s within Saga Edition Force Points as +3, thus a 8th level Hero can spend a Force Point to gain +6 instead of 2D6.
  2. Treat all D8s within Saga Edition Force Points as +4, thus anyone who took “Strong in the Force” Feat, can be strong.  This Feat only affects the bonus modifier to rolls; a Jedi does not gain any additional benefit from this feat.
  3. You may spend a Force Point after the die roll and you may spend as many as you want for this bonus.

 I think these changes will increase the value of the Force Point mechanic in the following ways.

  1.  They provide a solid modifier, so players know what costs and benefit actually are to make an informed choice in using them.  EXP-does the situation dictates the need to spend a Force Point or is it better to use the FP to fuel a special ability?
  2. By loosening the restrictions on when you can spend them and how many you can spend, I allow some competition with Destiny Points (without messing around with Destiny Points.)  Now you can have automatic successes with Force Points, which grants players to compare resources.  EXP – Is it cheaper to spend two Force Points on this situation than a single Destiny Point, how about three Force Points?

 Well, I have now house rule these modifiers into my current Star Wars campaign.  I figure it will take a few sessions to see how well they work.  The really nice thing about these house rules is that I get to use them with my NPCs.  Leading by example here, if NPCs end up hitting the Heroes because they are burning up their own Force Points, the players will have to use their own to keep their own advantage.  I am sure that will be something I will blog about.

Pete

2/9/2011–Conclusion on Force Points Mechanics-Thank god that you are not riding a Big Wheel.

February 9, 2011

So, I have to say that my initial assumptions about Force Points were totally wrong.  That’s okay; I am comfortable making mistakes, look at my first marriage.    You can learn a lot about yourself and others from making mistakes-look at my first marriage.  So, it turns out that Force Points are merely a “trumping” game mechanic draped up in Star Wars syntax; I am willing accept that.  After taking a hard look at this mechanic, I can understand why my players don’t use them so often.  Why they don’t have any sense of lost opportunity when they lose their storage of them by advancing a level.  Cycling through all these questions leads to the one basic and generalized question: does this game mechanic work?  In conclusion, it works as well as a broken tricycle.

Have you noticed tricycles back wheels always get messed up, not like Big Wheels where the front wheel always goes flat?  The front wheel is so important; it is what drives the whole thing.  Force Points feel like a tricycle; you can have both back wheels flat and still drive the silly thing, unlike that Big Wheel where the manufacturer cannot get a thick enough front wheel.  So, in conclusion, Force Points are broken, but they still can drive the game. 

When you consider Force Points as, let’s say “Action Points”, a fuel resource to regulate special powers a hero can use? They work really well, like the front wheel of a tricycle.  In Star Wars those special powers are dominated by Force Users (i.e.-the Jedi) and I get the idea that someone at Wizards of the Coast felt that would undermine the game balance with those who did not use the Force.  To make all heroes equal, the company slapped on additional uses to this fuel resource to widen the effectiveness to all players’ heroes; but did not really think it all through.  They added some minor mechanics that looked good, but after a while, broke down, like the back wheels of a tricycle.  If this design was truly broken, then the fuel resource would not work, that big domineering front wheel would spin too fast to gain traction and would painfully thwack before you got anywhere-like those dreadful Big Wheels. 

In the end, the main reason for Force Points design works; but the add-on benefits really have no value.  So why are they there?  Why undermine these additional mechanics with limitations and another more effective system?  Why complicate the rules, look at my first marriage?  I don’t want hot air blown up my…

Okay, you get my point.

Pete