Archive for February, 2008


Iron Heroes lives again!

February 29, 2008

At least, in the form of 4E, it sounds like:

During our first game, my intrepid game designer buddy decided to throw a monkey wrench into the works by having his character dive under a table and kick it out from under two guys fighting on top of it. He smiled devilishly, looked at me and asked “How are you gonna rule that…DM?” I glanced at the book for a moment and realized “Strength check against their reflexes.” Huh. He shook his head. Made sense. He made the attack, hit the numbers and all of a sudden he had two opponents prone on the floor. The rules are so straight forward now, on the fly decisions are total cake.


The Gamer Hurdle

February 21, 2008

So we’ve got this hobby that’s been around 30 years, with a dedicated group of gamers, lots of advice, ranging from old gamer ‘zines in the 70’s, Dragon in the 80’s, advice in just about every game, and on the forums and online, right now…

Should be smooth sailing, right?

But, why are we still plagued by “How do I get a group together/keep a group together?”, “How do I deal with problem players?”, etc.?  Why is it easier to get together and play something just as crunchy or complex- World of Warcraft, Arkham Horror, Warhammer, etc, just not a roleplaying game?

Well, there’s one big difference between those other games and roleplaying games.   In those games, everyone knows that the game is where you’re meeting as a group of friends.  If we get together to play Monopoly, we’re going to play Monopoly, possibly with a couple of house rules, but for the most part, the game is pretty clear and decided.

If we get together to play a roleplaying game, suddenly it’s a completely different affair.  Unlike all those other games, every time you start a new campaign, try new rules, or form a new group, this strange thing happens that doesn’t happen in any other type of game:

The rules are completely renegotiated based on the individual desires of everyone playing.

In no other type of game does it work like this.  “Oh, you want to play Monopoly?  Well, you’re going to have to have pieces capture each other like in Chess, or Jim won’t play.  Mary doesn’t want to deal with the rules for rent too much, so try to limit how much that shows up in play.  Frank wants to use D8’s to roll, he hates D6’s” etc.

For most games, provided you know the rules, you get right to playing.   In roleplaying,  you can end up spending sessions working out what the rules really are, and then trying to figure out if those rules really work for you.   (You know when people complain, “Learning new rules is hard”, even when it’s 2 pages long?  It’s not the rules in the game that’s hard, it’s renegotiating and finding a happy spot amongst the group)

Ever notice how much of all that game advice deals with types of gamers, what kinds of play they like, and how to satisfy those needs and trying to find a happy middle ground?  It’s about trying to play the game of politics of the group and disparate goals to keep the group together.

No one does this shit when it comes to Chess, Uno, or any other kind of game, you don’t have to juggle the personalities of the people just to get the game off the ground.

Only in roleplaying is the culture built around the idea that each player has the right to insist, demand, that the entire rules structure, the style of play, change to meet their needs, instead of looking at the rules as the place where the group meets.   And that a functional game can be built out of such an attitude.

So yeah, gamers who get past that hurdle?  They have a good time.  Everyone else?  Keeps asking why they have “problem players” or why their games keep falling apart.

ETA: See the Same Page Tool as a possible solution.


My First Podcast: Race & Rpgs

February 20, 2008

On Bear’s Grove.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to it, but I’m sure I speak waayyy too fast. I’m not normally Luke Crane hyper, except when you put a microphone in front of me.


The Unillusionist

February 18, 2008

This year has been all about intention- about dropping things that don’t pay me back in terms of energy or time, for things that do.  I’ve had a couple great discussions in the last couple of days, which cleared up a lot for me.

1.  Kuei Con

Odds are good that KueiCon is going to get rolled into a larger, broader geek convention for it to be what I want it to be.  It has to meet the three requirements of a) sane space, one in which deeply problematic behavior is not “accepted as part of the scene” b) mixing of new blood, not pulling from the same people c) a culture where critical analysis is expected as part of the geekery, not anathema to it.  Since a bunch of friends are looking for the same (underserved) things out of their related geek hobbies, we’re talking about doing our own convention.

2.  Community?

On that note, nor do the gaming communities I operate in serve what I’m looking for.  I could keep hoping that changes will happen, or that, given the same people, the results will change, or I can stop being a fool and stop fishing in the desert.  I’m going to think of it as starting fresh.

3.  Writing

This blog is going to change from mostly musings, sometimes articles, to just articles.  That also means posting will drop a lot, since, well, I have a lot more half-formed ideas than full ideas, and, full ideas I can articulate clearly, and in the space of a readable article.

4.  Games

A couple of the fun discussions online has totally led me to reevaluate how I was coming at the idea of publishing, and, most importantly, who I’d be publishing for.

Part of contributing online was the idea of keeping up a presence, of “proving” some kind of worth or value to the community with vague sense that it would pay back in terms of sales or at least design input.  But then again, if these communities aren’t my markets, and deep commericial success is not primary, what is the value in investing time or energy towards them?


Making the best of what? Why are we playing like this?

February 15, 2008

Frank’s experience here is something I remember, and have seen, in far too many games:

Get some sort of task for some weak reason and then solve that task without too much trouble, get your fun from “character scenes”. It did not make that much sense but we made the best of it.

I’m actually thinking of the last couple of Call of Chthulu and Unknown Army games I’ve played, where the standard for the groups were:

a) bumble around to clues indicated by GM
b) GM provides clues at arbitrary rate:
– If the players are too eager, give meager clues or dead-ends
– If the players are losing focus, give tantalizing or semi-meangingful clue, or add danger
– When GM gets bored with above, slam major exposition/breakthrough onto group, which may or may not explain the whole situation, but has nothing to do with how the group investigated clues or approached the problem
c) And, while that crap is going on, enjoy character development scenes, which are completely incongrous with the above.

I don’t know if there’s a better, more exciting way to an illusionist game, except, perhaps with more interesting clue/storybits/combat distraction on the part of the GM.