Safety Nets

So one of the things I’ve noticed recently in games is the use of mechanics to try and compel or protect the themes the game wants to utilize. I’ve seen it more in ‘genre’ games like 7th Sea. The book not only tells you that this is a swashbuckling setting but tries to use the rules to enforce that. It rewards roleplaying that goes along with the setting and tries to curtail characters acting against it.

I suppose the important question is should anyone do this? On the one hand it rewards clever roleplaying which I feel is always a positive. On the other, it tries to shape what kind of game you’re running. Now it’s true that you don’t ever have to use the rules or setting as written. I’ve certainly lifted rules out of a setting and reapplied them elsewhere. But should a designer try to control the stories their customers tell? As a way to balance gameplay mechanics it can certainly be a shortcut. In the old West End Star Wars the Force was incredibly powerful but also opened you up to corruption. If you ever committed an act the gamemaster felt was dark side worthy you got a dark side point. Then you rolled a d6 and if you rolled equal to or below your number of dark side points you became an NPC that fell to evil.

That’s an extreme example but an important one. It gives the gamemaster an easy way to simply take your character away. One that they can wield by ruling an action as ‘evil’ which is an incredibly relative idea. You see the same thing in the old World of Darkness Vampire: the Masquerade books. Every character had a Humanity track that they were supposed to struggle with and try to maintain as they slip lower and lower on it over time. It wasn’t something that could take your character away in one bad dice roll but it was a central mechanic to the game. Usually when I’ve seen it used it ended in two ways, either it was largely ignored except in the most despicable acts or game stopped to debate whether something counted or not.

I find myself in the middle, leaning towards using the mechanics to support themes. I think you shouldn’t threaten to take a character away from one bad decision unless it’s not arbitrary at all. I also think it shouldn’t break the flow of the game. If anything it should help it. If you act heroic and with panache in a swashbuckling game, you should be rewarded. If you confront your character’s worse nature in a horror game, you should be rewarded. If you’re in an over the top anime game, you should be rewarded for giving an over the top dramatic description. Maybe that’s the answer then. Maybe it should only be positive reinforcement that is used to protect the themes of the game. It’s less likely to interrupt the flow of the story, the players are more likely to have more fun, and it still encourages you to get into character.

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Just Like Peanut Butter

So I’ve found in the past few years I’ve grown to appreciate simplicity in my games. I used to love playing GURPS, HERO System, and Pathfinder. I even played Rollmaster once. But these days it’s getting more and more annoying to keep up with the intricacies and mechanics. The crunch has become more annoying that comforting.

I’ve found that my gaming group has moved more into FATE based systems. I’ve even played around with Powered by the Apocalypse games a bit and enjoyed it. Now I certainly recognize that you need the right gaming group for any game. For story heavy games it seems especially true. If a single player can’t get into the mindset then it ruins the flow that those games seem to run on.

With that said I greatly enjoyed the past few Dresden games I’ve played though I feel they are too specialized for me to ever want to run. For a game centered around wizards and simplicity the magic system is surprisingly clunky. I’m not especially interested in the world of Dresden and the system greatly expects you to build off of what they’ve provided.

Currently I’m playing a game of City of Mist. It’s a Powered by the Apocalypse game that was build around the idea of superheros. The setting in the game is a mystical, noir city. However the system isn’t tied to the setting at all. So far I’ve really enjoyed the demo rules they’ve put out. You can find the Kickstart here. The flow of the game is very dependent on the GM since the player is the only one who ever rolls. It takes some getting used to but I still recommend giving it a try. The starter set is free after all.

 

First blog post

First blog post

So I’ve tried this once before and it ended up falling apart. However I’m starting this blog again so I can write about my experiences and thoughts on my table top RPG hobby. I hope you’ll find it entertaining as I try to collect my thoughts and put them in some semblance of order.