Wednesday, October 19, 2011

According to Chris Sims, Iron Man once fought Frankenstein

After reading these, it shouldn't be a surprise that my current project is making a superhero setting that works like a hexcrawl/sandbox. If I get really ambitious (I won't), the plan is to design it for a version of Champions that's been boiled down to a Castle Falkenstein-like level of detail. Ah, grafting unlike things together... DOCTOR FRANKENSTEIN HAD THE RIGHT IDEA.

I have the most fun when the players, not the GM, are deciding what the session will be about. The best games I've ever been in are the ones where players seized control of the action and the GM's job was just to keep things rolling.

When I'm roleplaying, I want the game to be about my character. This is my big chance to be some cool fictional person and have cool fictional adventures. I enjoy the acting/pretending part of RPGs more than anything. So I want that to be the center of the action - my characters Want To Do Certain Things. I'm probably more interested in these Certain Things than I am in the GM's plans. If I want to form my own breakaway thieves' guild, let me work on that. I'll be happier as a player, and you'll have more material to work with.

Same goes for the other side of the screen. As a GM, I consider it my players' job to figure out what happens next. I'm mostly there to provide background and throw in complications. The best campaigns I've run have been ones where the players were pushing to reach certain goals - my task wasn't to set those goals, but to make the pursuit interesting. Perhaps the PCs are sword-and-sorcery rogues who find that the dead monarch's missing daughter has secretly joined their carnival. They get to decide what to do about it - it's not my job as GM. And if they decide to restore her to the throne despite the long odds, all I have to do is keep tossing out challenges and opportunities. Adventures are more fun when the players are in control of the overall narrative direction.

Roleplaying is more fun when the players want to do certain things, and when the GM's main priority is advancing (or complicating) their ability to do those things.

On Star Trek, the stories follow a pattern. The spaceship is directed to enter a new area by offstage bosses. This new area has a weird environment, culture, or inhabitant. Said weirdness causes problems for the crew. The crew figures out a way to resolve the weirdness. Status quo is restored, the spaceship moves on, little or no long-term change occurs to characters or setting.

Man, that's boring.

The Star Trek model is little more than a series of mobile puzzle-solvings. The characters don't really grow or change. The setting isn't consistent, and it's not explored in any depth. It's just a series of short stories told by the GM. I can get that from, y'know, a short story collection. I prefer games where the characters are based in a defined area, with recurring NPCs and ongoing subplots, offering chances for them to change who/what they are as the players see fit. I like change. I like consequences. I don't like going from one arbitrary location to the next with a cast of stereotypes and broad caricatures.

My favorite Trek was Deep Space 9, which puts me outside the mainstream of that particular fandom. And I liked Babylon 5 even better. Make of that what you will.

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