Archive for May 2011

Wednesday May 18, 2011 Mary Sue Players (part one)

May 18, 2011

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about which games I enjoy playing and why.  I do seem to favor the indie game scene and with my desire to expand my social gaming network, one incentive has been popping to the front; player types.  Many indie RPGs outline what the actual play experience should be.  Some are fairly direct while others systems have it built in, either way; there is style of play that is expected.  This limits the types of players who want to play the game.  Think of these three board games; Chess, Diplomacy, and Monopoly.  Each have their own style and anyone can play them, however, whichever one you prefer playing explains what you want out of that experience. 

I have noticed that indie games, for me, repel player types that I do not like playing with.  Not all of them, but the really annoying ones.  I guess my worst player type is the Mary Sue, that player who has to prove that they are better than all the other players and has to be the center of attention.  The problem with the player type which I just categorized is that I take two bad player traits and combine them.  The reason is, I generally can play with either type; it’s just I cannot take it when they are combined.  I can handle players who want to compete in RPGs; they usually want a sense of fairness so they can beat the system.  I can also handle the spot-lighter, who just wants everyone to see them; because they do not stop me from solving the problems.  The Mary Sue player cannot let anyone else do anything because they might be better at it.  Mary Sue players are willing to do anything so their character remains on top, even if it means reading the adventure that you are in.   

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May 16, 2011-The Adam West style of gaming.

May 16, 2011

I am a creative guy.  There are some really good benefits to being creative; but like all things, every strength has their weakness.  Having lived a full creative life with some self-reflection, I can say I have experience and recognized many weakness from living with a creative impulse.  One of these drawbacks is the desire to “make things your own” or “put your own stamp on it.”  Basically, you take something that has nothing wrong and change it, so you feel more connected and a part of it.  I am not going to debate the positive aspects; I am here to talk about the negative aspects.  So, try not to start singing about the virtues in your head, because I already know them.  Instead, take a moment to think about; how difficult it would be to work for someone who behaves like this.

In my early years of gaming, I gave into this desire all the time; however, I was playing AD&D and that system is so open, I did not suffer badly.  Matter of fact, it was a bit of a strength; because everyone was playing typical AD&D, what I did was considered fresh.  Like having an adventure mimic Jack and the Beanstalk, the players loved it.  When I moved to other systems, this strength became a weakness, one that took several years for me to notice.  You see, after playing AD&D and 2nd edition for so long, my expectations of game systems were really low.  I expected game systems to “not make sense” and let me tell ya, many games met those expectations (which did not help.)  These games needed me to fix them before we played, allowing “my own stamp.”  In retrospect, even those stories did not work for me or my players.  About twelve years ago, I had the realization that the game’s system is fine.  That by tweaking with the system you just might be ruining the system and more importantly, the game for the players.  My worst tweaking was probably when I took Star Frontiers and tried to make it into “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” without the players knowing it. 

What I have learned, is that it is best to take the game system at face value.  Play the game as written.  Fix the system as problems come up, chances are, those problems are something you have done; rather than the system.  Once you have experience the game, add to it.  Don’t try to make the game something that it is not, because it would be that if the design wanted it to be that way.  Why would you change the Sanity System in Call of Cthulhu?  Why add on a layer of martial arts to Paranoia?  Less is more.

Less is always more, because it gives so much to the players and the game.

Pete

May 12, 2011- Just got the Dresden Files RPG

May 13, 2011

Just drove out to Game’s Plus, the closest good brick n’ mortar game store, and got the Dresden Files RPG.  It is my first “FATE” system role-playing game.  Love that it is a RPG being written by the characters from the books; so We, mundane mortals, can fight against the real supernatural.  Harry is skeptical that it will not be as effective as Braum Storker’s work. (inside joke there)

My first impression of the FATE system; it might be trying to be everything for all role-players or simply being a good first step from D&D-ers to indie RPG.  I don’t know.  My gut is telling me that the system places mega-gaming as a major part of actual play.  Need to read more and then play.

Pete

PS-I bought Pathfinder last week and choose to keep it out of laziness.  This week got both of the Dresden books.  Going way over my Gaming Budget this month, good thing I didn’t complain about the clothes’ Laura bought this month.  Why? cause I am a long term thinker.

May 11, 2011- One rule to role-play them all, One rule to find them, One rule to bring them all and in the darkness fights them

May 11, 2011

One of the greatest strengths of D&D is that it only has one rule for role-playing: pick an alignment from the following nine types.  There is some description of the nine types, but they vague and purposely left open to interpretation.  That is all there is.  This means how you role-play is up to you, the player, and the GM.   The rules do not interfere in any role-playing choice; your hero’s chance to hit somebody is not affected by if you are good or evil.  The system never addresses “why you are swinging a sword at someone.”  This is the genius of D&D, why it became popular and remains popular; an unregulated system for role-playing attracts the widest range of players who role-play.   Nobody is turned away.  If you want to role-play motivations and passions, then just do it during actual play-there is no rule against it.  If you want to compete with the other players, treat them as rivals, work with the GM to make a story, or just explore a setting, then just do it during actual play-there is no rule against it.  That is really cool.

However, there are weaknesses with this type of free range; a bad taste that grows in one’s mouth after playing a few times.  Good games work only because you are with a group of players that mostly agrees with your way to game.  Bad games happen when you play with others who do not share your way.  Since there are no rules regulating a difference in style/interpretation; the conflict is resolved solely on players’ personalities.  This could make a game horrible.  Additionally, players can only fully recognized these differences through actual play.  After all, how many people say they believe in one thing, and act in another?  The only way to truly know there is a conflict is when the conflict happens.

Pete

May 10, 2011-We don’t drink it because we like the taste; we drink it because we need to.

May 10, 2011

I think by the end of the 80’s I started getting a bad taste in my mouth with D&D, or more accurately, AD&D 2nd edition.  Somewhere in the beginning 90’s I stopped playing D&D and tried other systems.  This was during my college years, where I met a lot of politics between players and cut my teeth as a GM.  I made tons of mistakes.  When 3rd edition D&D was released, I had not been gaming at all for around five years and bought the game just to see what they did with it.  My opinion was that they corrected many of my complaints with the system and I was back to GMing.  The bad taste returned, not as strong, more like a taint; but it was acceptable taint.  Sort of like coffee, taste bitter until you get used to it.  For so long I have tried to figure out what has caused the bad taste in my mouth.  I think the indie game movement and Ron Edward’s The Forge cast a good light on it; but not quite all of it and only hints at the solution. 

I think my “bad taste” from playing D&D, and systems like it, is that their weaknesses are also their strengths; which is why they are so hard to identify.  

May 7, 2011 Listing Bad Gaming Behavior

May 7, 2011

I would love to come up with a list of bad gaming behavior, but I cannot.  Most bad gaming behavior is stuff we do naturally during the game but raised to a higher level.  This makes it hard to deal with, because you are not identifying a single action but trying to determine the degree of the action.  Maybe a player is doing “this” for a good reason or maybe this is a symptom of bad gaming? There is always a justification for the actions, so you don’t know, but it is a red flag.  Start getting a bunch of red flags, then it is becoming bad gaming.   Mega-gaming is a good example, we all have to mega-game, and a gaming system is a mega-gaming document.  We all realize that we have to do it to a degree; the question is where that line is.  Character Secrets is another example, they sound cool, create dynamics between players and plot.  Yet, they can be decisive, change the focus of play, and a hindrance.  Where is the line? 

May 6, 2011- Twelve Hours later

May 7, 2011

I guess I am leaving a gaming group.

But I had fun in those twelve hours.  My only regret is that I spent $55 for Pathfinder; maybe I will return it and get my money back.  I have D&D 3.5 so why buy the same book twice.

Having gamed for over 20 years, I have seen plenty of good games go bad and good games go great.  One great aspect of online social networks is that you can get a good feel of the groups based on post and messaging.  That does save on footwork.  It took only 12 hours of online interaction to see that this upcoming gaming group was going to have some problems and I never had to talk face to face to anyone. 

This last gaming group has four things working against it.

1)      The GM was in love and married with his own world.  This is a good thing, unless he is so married to it that he makes judgments about “what fits his vision.”   If you require players to meet certain aspects within their character concepts and they do, you shouldn’t tell them “no, that does not work in what my world is about.”  Especially when combined with the next issue.

2)      If you have background write ups & player aids of the world, keep it consistent and specific.  Don’t say the world is like “this” and then have rules preventing “this.”   Don’t say “rarely” if you mean “not available.” 

3)      One bad player.  I am always amazed how people simply don’t see what their comments and actions reveal.  There was one player, who had several red flags, just from his post and character concept that pointed to “manipulator” and conveniently started coe-GMimg me.  This guy has never met the GM or the group and yet he felt comfortable enough to tell me how to run my character before I even started writing it up.

4)      Favoritism.  Don’t favor one player over another, if you are going to have a character creation session for the players; then do not let another player make their character at home before the game session.  Especially if you never played with the guy or he is acting like a manipulator. 

Obviously, this manipulating bad player has already jumped into the game and sucked up to a GM who puts his story/world on the highest pedestal.  The GM has already granted him exceptions from other players.  All before we even start gaming, how will the actual play go? 

Pete