Thursday, May 20, 2010

Signs of Life

Somehow, it got to be Thursday and I never finished all those posts I was working on for this week. Uff da. So, for want of more complex and well-thought out material, I’ll leave you with these recent moments of satori:

1) Roleplaying gamers are probably unique in their irrational tendency to argue that the rules of their games are not sufficiently” realistic” (and I include wargamers and other fans of simulation games amongst the roleplayers in this case). Imagine how many of the hoary old chestnuts of debate (alignment, wizards with swords) would no longer be fodder for arguments if gamers simply remembered that they are playing games, and that games, by their very nature, have artificial rules and limitations imposed upon them. I very much doubt that, over on the Monopoly forums, there are debates raging about how “I should be able to move farther on my turn because my piece is the guy on the horse. That horse has got to move faster than the iron!” or “I’m the car. Why can’t I just run over the dog and take Bill out of the game completely? That’s not very realistic!”

2) One of the unforeseen benefits of running a campaign that draws primarily on pulp sword & sorcery tales as inspiration is the ease of stocking dungeons and creating wilderness encounter tables. No longer do I find myself having to choose between kobolds, goblins, xvarts, or jermlaine. Instead, I just try to picture Elric, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or Conan fighting a certain creature. If I can, that beastie makes the cut. If I can picture Conan as depicted by John Buscema & Ernie Chan fighting it, I know for certain it’s the right monster to use. There’s not going to be a lot of pegasi or chimeras lurking in the Watchfires & Thrones campaign.

Speaking of Watchfires & Thrones, for those of you interested in such things, the recap of last Sunday’s game is live over at the Archive of the Rotted Moon. I may squeeze in real post on the SoTPR before the weekend depending on what I accomplish today. If not, please enjoy yourselves, friends, and happy gaming!

4 comments:

Ryan said...

I like point 1, particularly the Monopoly bit.

I think the tendency of role-players to argue after realism is because the game attempts to simulate and organic situation; your character can say or do anything you want him to. I can see why a player might get riled that his magic-user can choose multiple courses of action and speak to NPCs in his own words, but cannot pick up a sharp piece of metal and swing it around. (Or, rather, have a chance in hell to hit with it no matter how much he practices.) Meanwhile, the sale of property in Monopoly is not role-played. The greater level of depth that sets rpgs apart from "normal" games creates a demand for yet further depth. That's how I see it, at least.

That being said...

A wizard wants to use a sword? I say let 'em... they still roll on the magic-user attack matrix, still have AC 9, probably have average or below average strength, and they have d4s for hit points. So they want to do a median of 4.5 damage instead of 3.5? Have at it, Gandalf. :)

Justin Alexander said...

The reason we look for verisimilitude in the rules of a roleplaying game and not in the rules of Monopoly is because we don't play roleplaying games as if they were a round of Monopoly.

QED.

Personally, I look at the rules of a roleplaying game as the interface between me and the game world. I want those rules to be fun and interesting, but I also want them to be transparent: My primary interest is interacting with the game world. If I wanted to interact with the rules of a game, I'd play a boardgame like Monopoly or Arkham Horror.

So if the rules in a roleplaying game get in the way -- either due to a lack of verisimilitude; or because they're boring; or dissociated, or too complicated -- then I'm going to be unhappy with those rules.

Confanity said...

I agree with the others here on point one. (I followed a link here from The Alexandrian.) Comparing RPGs to games like monopoly (a risk/resource management strategy game) is comparing apples to buffalo. Further, not all RPGs suffer the same levels of criticism about "realism." The thing is, unlike BESM or Marvel Superheroes, DnD has implicit realism built in.

It was heavily inspired, after all, by Tolkien's Middle Earth -- which was supposed to be our earth, but with magic and elves.

So we see Monopoly as the high abstraction it is. Nobody imagines themselves as a giant top hat running laps around a few blocks of NYC waterfront property, getting tired every 15 minutes and checking into the nearest hotel. And in an RPG like Maids [http://maidrpg.com], the universe is implicitly non-Earthlike, so it something impossible happens nobody's likely to mind. But we do expect events in DnD and similar games to play out as they would in our world if magic existed, because that's the assumption built into the system itself.

Anonymous said...

I guess this goes to show that they just don't "get it."