Monday, September 26, 2011

Does anyone make a d23?

I'm writing a live-action game for a Hallowe'en party. While working on character ideas, I made a short list of motivations that people could have. It might work for fleshing out some random NPCs. Or for your own PC, if that's how you like to work.

  1. Loves X
  2. Hates X
  3. Wants to impress X
  4. Wants to humiliate X
  5. Needs money
  6. Wants to know X's secret
  7. Wants an Item
  8. Get rid of Item
  9. Protect X
  10. Avoid X
  11. See that justice is done
  12. Escape justice
  13. Frame X
  14. Exonerate X
  15. Be acknowledged
  16. Avoid blame
  17. Find/discover something
  18. Conceal/destroy something
  19. Persuade everyone of X
  20. Fool everyone about X
  21. Just do things!
  22. Just meet people!
  23. Behave like X
It's all basic stuff, but maybe it'll help.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Playing dumb

Speaking of the DCCRPG playtest, I mentioned that I played a wizard. What I didn't mention was that, because the game uses oldest-skool character generation, my wizard had an INT score of 5. So I had the opportunity to be a dumb guy.

The trick is to be memorably stupid without being someone who ruins the fun for everyone else. As always, the most important thing about an RPG is that everyone involved has a good time. So I knew that even though Katada Demonbeard was going to be a man not overburdened with brains, he had to be someone that other people would find entertaining. Stomping loudly into the wrong decisions was just going to be annoying in a one-shot game. Instead, I stomped loudly into the right decisions, but for all the wrong reasons.

Why would we go into the dungeon? Not for the fabled hoard of gems -- what a ridiculous story! But the rumors of an underground lake of molten chocolate, created on the fly and expounded upon with some gusto, kept me going in the same direction as everyone else. Several times, I cast a spell for some ridiculous and ill-conceived reason, but it was (almost) always a spell that helped the party in some way. I had a lot of fun with it, and so did the other folks.

There's a difference between a dumb character and a dumb player. If you're making good decisions as a player, they can be dressed up as bad decisions made by the character.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another way of looking at it

Taking another stab at the theme I addressed in yesterday's post. This time, let's use a real-life example.

A few months ago, I got to playtest the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. As part of the playtest, our GM had us all create characters from scratch and then 'age' them to 5th level. So I rolled up my stats, rolled up my random background, rolled up my random fate, bought a little equipment, and was ready to go.

This next bit is How I Work. On a basic level, it's my assumption about how RPGs should be.

Within 5 minutes of randomly generating this random character for a one-shot playtest, he had a name. He had an appearance. He had sketched out a history. He had a couple of personal goals. He had defined a relationship with his amazingly-expendable henchman. He knew that, even though he was a wizard, he was going to wear hide armor for the what-the-hell value. And that the armor was covered in tattoos.

Understand, I didn't set out to do this. The only choice I deliberately made was the character's name. Everything else just fell into place after that. I had a dude, and that dude was Somebody, and I wanted to be that Somebody for a while.

And letting the PCs be Somebody is everything. It's the reason I play RPGs, and the reason I run them. Other approaches may be as valid from a philosophical let's-all-agree-to-disgree stance; we can all do our own thing, and even enjoy trying someone else's thing. But if I'm in your game, my guy's going to be Somebody, and I want to Somebody it up all over the place. If the only place you've got is some subterranean deathtrap, I'm going to Somebody on out of there and go start some trouble in the nearest town.

Adventures should be about the PCs. Otherwise, why bother making them?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tell me I'm right about the Romanian thing

Long gap in posting here. For the price you're paying, what do you expect?

I read another thing on Grognardia that struck me: "I had hoped that, as in the earliest days of the hobby, individual characters wouldn't become the focus of the campaign, that role being taken by Dwimmermount itself."

Lots of things on that blog strike me. It's a labor of love, and obviously the work of a talented man, and he routinely says things (like the quote above) which seem to be in some language foreign to me -- perhaps related, as Portugese is related to Romanian, but not something I really understand. When I read that sentence, my body reacted. I squinted and leaned in to the screen, entirely unconsciously, as if to puzzle out the hidden meaning in that combination of arbitrary shapes.

What is a roleplaying game, if it's not about the individual characters? I admire the OSR, and I'm happy to read their blogs and steal their stuff, but I don't belong to it. Couldn't -- roleplaying is all about the individual characters. I have trouble recognizing my hobby in the quote above. Which is nobody's problem but mine, and I don't think it's a problem, so there you go.

I like the idea (from Robin Laws, maybe?) that a player's character is their way of telling you what kind of game they want to play. So I like a game that gives you a broad range of acceptable characters, whether it's through extensive Champions-style mechanics or very loose Star Warsy ones. It's all about characters. The environment, however lovingly detailed or cunningly treacherous, is window dressing. Not because the PCs' story is so very fascinating, but because it's theirs.

(I seem to enjoy writing about this top-level "how should you play?" stuff more than the posting of mechanics and the discussing of rules. Dunno why.)