Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bummed

I'm bummed.

And so is Barkley.


Beware this gets a tad ranty toward the end. I apologize in advance as always.

We were hoping for more interest in the last two posts, though I reread them and they are not quite up to my usual caliber of faire. The ideas are too disorganized and while they tell you what I've played they don't always give a good sense of why I played them. I may need to rethink my approach.

I haven't actually played anything since my Supernova Brown one-shot and that was the first time I'd played in weeks. Its hard for me to focus my thoughts when they clutter up the small space inside my skull. If I don't periodically clear them out and use them, the mess in there depresses me. Tonight on Mind Hoarders...

Anyway, then came two posts on other sites that activated my usually well buried nerd-miff-o-meter (Nerd Miff. Not Nerd Rage. I rarely rage about anything).

From Zak S. and PDADWPS...

-I think D&D works like this: the rules, setting, and DM are relatively serious (or at least intense) so you--the player--don't have to be. You can be drunk and play the goofiest half-troll half-gnome bard in the world and the game will keep chugging along and being a game full of twists and challenges and unexpected delights for all (including the drunk gnome) because it's pre-loaded with serious business. Unless pretty much everyone playing S/Lay With Me is earnest about playing S/Lay With Me, the game will crumble. If they're not, they might still have fun, but it doesn't seem like a lot more fun than if the same funny people were just riding around in a car bullshitting about what the next Conan movie would be like if they got to direct it.


I don't know if I agree. I don't know if I disagree either since sometimes Zak and I don't always speak the same language.

If I'm seriously into the game as GM and the players are not, it takes me out of it. That is, if I work for weeks to create a cool setting, interesting NPCs, good looking art and maps and a kickin' adventure and you the player aren't going to invest as much into it as I did, why the hell did I bother?

Jeff Rients responded with...

I agree with this assessment. As long as the DM is taking the game seriously the players can fart around in several different ways and you still have a game of D&D. N.B. Taking the game seriously is not the same as being a humorless prick. That's taking yourself seriously, which is not helpful.

OK, I agree with the last sentence but the rest...really? If you're farting around, I am going to want to fart around too. I'd probably say (and I have said), "Guys...if you're not in the mood for this we can scrap it and play Toon or Land of Og or something." I mean if the players are gonna be piss drunk when playing, how come I have to be sober?* No fair. No way Jose'.

When I am describing the twisted visage of a Huwawa, a creature I took the time to research from multiple sources and illustrate, and I ask one of the player's his character's name as the beast is attacking him, I don't want to have this conversation...

GM (Me): "As the Huwawa lunges toward...um...Stan what's your character's name again?"

Stan: "Oh I still didn't name him."

GM (Me): "Really? We've been playing for hours. No ideas?"

Stan: "Whatever...um...Stan Dirtypants."

GM (Me): "Really? Stan Dirtypants?"

Stan: (Laughs) :Yeah. Whatever. It doesn't matter."

Its at that point I want to go home and watch a movie or read some comics.

All I'm saying is I think everyone involved in a game needs to put roughly the same amount of mental investment in it or it just doesn't jive for me. I feed off the actions, reactions and vibes (for lack of a better term) I get from my players. If they are not 'into it' there is no way in hell I'll keep my enthusiasm. Its like the coach of a sports team saying he's ready to do his best and the players are like, "Sure. Uh huh. Pass me another beer before I throw that ball thing."

Now obviously that doesn't mean you gotta be serious the whole time. It doesn't mean we don't joke and make side comments and have wacky things happen.

James from Grognardia had this motto for the Dungeons & Dragons old school quoted from Stefan Poag of Aldedoran who got it from a Dragonsfoot poster named Evreaux...whew...

"We don't explore characters, we explore dungeons."

Right. Agreed. Ya'know how its usually really boring to hear about someone else's character? IMHO, this is why.

This is why I don't consider myself old school. I want the characters to be cool, not just the holes in the ground they visit. After all, you usually visit each dungeon only a few times but you have your character for many adventures and through many dungeons. If that character is the same person at 12th level that they were at 1st I'm never gonna remember them. They'll just be another set of stats in an endless line of sets of stats. I guess they're still fun to play but its not my bag.

Anyway...what else is there to talk about...

AD
Barking Alien


*That's just an analogy. I don't get drunk. For one thing I hardly ever drink, never anything other than beer and it takes a number of beers to have any effect. That effect is sleepiness. I have no idea what drunk is like.

13 comments:

  1. Re: my quote

    Well then that is a difference between you and me . (and, incidentally, one of us gets to roll with Frankie, and one of us does not.)

    Re: we explore dungeons, not characters

    I would simply say, in defence of the "hole in the ground" that, like the character, the dungeon is the expression of the DM's real-life mind, and the way it is handled, altered, and reacted to is an expression of the different players' real-life problem-solving skills and quirks and ideas.

    In other words, quite a bit of interpersonal expression is going on, just not necessarily as often through the intermediary of characters.

    ________

    Or, to sum up: it seems like the new school ethos you represent requires everybody be very serious about the fiction that the game creates. I just require that everyone be serious about having fun with the other people at the table, and the fiction serves that.

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  2. There are a lot of ways you can dissect the 'exploring dungeons' quote. A lot, really, I have been thinking of a whole slew of them - some ways I think are dead on, and some ways completely contrary to the way I game and, in fact, offensive.

    But after thinking about it, here is the way I want to take it. I have no idea if it was mean in this way. It's that we play the character and have them do things - including explore dungeons, explore the wilderness, get involved in bar fights, sneak into the princesses bed chamber - whatever. They are actively doing things. We are not here to sit around in the corner and emote. Our characters do not look for a psychiatrist to relive childhood traumas. They do not sit around contemplating their navels on mountaintops.

    We are there to get things done - not to be a bunch of self absorbed emo posers.

    At least that is how I'd like to interpret it. :)

    - Ark

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  3. At least that is how I'd like to interpret it. :)

    Me too, FWIW.

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  4. I posted this partially because I was thinking about it and partially as an experiment to see what kind of reaction I got or if I got any at all. My guess was correct. This type of post gets people to say something. Human natures and all that jazz...

    @Zak- This is interesting, well stated and downright thought provoking..."In other words, quite a bit of interpersonal expression is going on, just not necessarily as often through the intermediary of characters."

    This..."(and, incidentally, one of us gets to roll with Frankie, and one of us does not.)" Is just kind of dickie.

    Now this..."Or, to sum up: it seems like the new school ethos you represent requires everybody be very serious about the fiction that the game creates. I just require that everyone be serious about having fun with the other people at the table, and the fiction serves that."...is very true, at least to some extent.

    I tend to think it requires a team effort to make the game as fun as possible. As long as the team (my players and myself) are on the same page we'll have fun and play a great game. So if I'm taking it seriously as GM I ask that you take it seriously as a player. If this is gonna be a wacky beer and pretezel's night it's gonna be a wacky beer and pretezel's night for GM and player's alike. We're all laughing and having fun from the same book because we're on the same page.

    @Arkhein and James - A statement such as "We explore dungeons, not characters" is both so simple and so loaded as to definitely generate multiple interpretations. I would like to think that the vast majority of gamers, though I could be wrong, are exploring both.

    Ark notes that characters develop as they do things and not separately in a vacuum. I concur. Makes sense. By use of the word 'not' in the original statement I am simply interpreting it to mean character development is not so much the focus.

    All I am advocating is my personal style and experience, which is character development is the focus. In my games we know why your exploring a dungeon when you go explore one. There is a reason the PC is killing monsters and trying to obtain treasure. Sometimes we know the reason before hand. Sometimes we develop it during play. Sometimes its a combo (a lot of times its a combo actually).

    Contemplating ethos on a mountaintop would largely bore the crap outta me too. Not contemplating ethos at all is also not where I'm at is all I'm saying. My group emotes while it kicks the crap out of invading aliens, wrestles the Cosmic Club from the clutches of Prof. Nevermore or battles the Wizard of the White Blood Barrows to the death. But we definitely emote.

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  5. When I come into a game I want to explore both character and the dungeon. I'm not sure why anyone would want to choose either or. It helps when you know your group and the expectations of everyone. Our group is fairly serious about playing and we laugh our asses off most nights. We are all have similar expectations from the game so we can advance during the game, allow the GM to develop his world, we develop our characters all the while having a blast. If we had one person who chooses to not name his character, texting instead of paying attention or come to the game drunk we would probably not ask him to return. Takes the fun out of it.

    I don't know of any right way, but I know way I have fun. Its all a matter of finding a group of people who share that.

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  6. Tim, you the man.

    That is basically where I'm coming from in the end. My group and I have a particular style we find most fun and I guess it leans more one way than the other. In the end there is no wrong way to play unless you're not all having fun. That would be wrong IMO.

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  7. It's not dickie, it's part of my point: My game is built so I can play with my friends, not the other way around. So: there is no seriousness test. If there were, I would not be playing with my friends, I'd be pinning flyers to corkboards looking for players.

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  8. I suppose.

    My game is also built to play with my friends. The 'other way around' would be...what?Building your friends so they could play your game? I'm not sure my knowledge of robotics is sufficient for that.

    I've know the member of one of my groups for over almost 15 years. The other group between 2 and 5. I'm not exactly playing with strangers and we're pretty serious about what we do.

    There is no test. We sit down ahead of time, decide what we're going to run and what the style and theme will be and then we run it.

    Jeff is one of my best players. I don't say, "Well one of us gets to run with Jeff...". Of course you don't. Jeff lives in NY. You don't know Jeff. That's just silly.

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  9. I went and read that post and I took that as more of a shot at SLWM than anything else. Those types of free-form only 1 rules calorie per serving games demand everyone be paying attention or the whole thing falls apart. D&D is a dwarven fortress compared to that with rules that will stand up regardless - it just needs a DM to run as the CPU/Interpreter and the players can drift in and out of focus and things will still work. It's just the contrast between the new-fangled "players get more narrative control" thing vs D&D's "The DM runs the show" approach.

    He even mentions this...

    "Contrary to the occasional New School claim to the contrary, being the DM is not universally regarded as a privilege."

    ... yet many of these types of games are trying to make everyone the DM, to some degree. What if they don't want to help run the game?

    I didn't get the leap from there to the exploring dungeons not characters line. I'm happy to discuss it, I just didn't see as much of a connection there as you did.

    From the very beginning a lot of D&D (both in my personal experience and from reading accounts in magazines and online) was played as "character = self + different stats and cool powers" and that's it. That's how a lot of people like to play - not a lot of backstory, not a lot of personality other than what the player would do in a similar situation and I'm fine with that. If that's the group's comfort level than you can have a good game and everyone is happy.

    Play with a group long enough though and people will start to stretch a little bit. Someone that's usually cautious gets a wild hair and plays a barbarian and starts kicking in doors and charging ahead. Playing against your usual type can be liberating and once people start doing it a lot of them will stick with it. Someone starts doing a funny accent when they speak in character - even if it's just Ahnuld or the usual Scottish Dwarf it's still a breakthrough for that person as they realize they can do more than just "me with spells". I'm watching it with the apprentices and it's pretty cool.

    It's another reason to play licensed games too - everyone knows how wookies or Vulcans or Klingons should act and sound and it's different than most people which will usually get them to skip some of that early stage and try out some different stuff.

    With D&D, especially older D&D, there's always going to be an element of "I'm just your basic fighter" and if that's what the players like then it's OK. If there's enough going on in the game it will draw them in and they will start to put a little more thought into it. It's another reason I'm OK with published campaign worlds too - a player can poke around online or flip through a book and decide that they are going to play a knight of such and such and come to a game with some ideas on how that character would behave and having given it some grounding in the game world without having to do it all from scratch.

    What I don't like is the player who actively works against it - 4 out of your 5 players have made an effort like this and then #5 just isn't into it - he's bob the fighter and he wants to talk about a movie or a videogame or something his mom or wife did then when it's his turn he has no idea what's going on in the game or what he wants to do - he's actively getting in the way of the rest of the group and it's both annoying and a bit of a finger in the face to everyone else. When you're 13 who cares, you'll probably have time to play tomorrow too but at this point when mountains have to be moved to schedule games I have a low tolerance for it.

    Plus some of this is just pointless labelling anyway - to an outsider we're all playing Dungeons and Dragons and we're all weirdos.

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  10. And that labeling comment is not intended as a shot at anyone, it's just presented as another perspective I've heard before when trying to explain some of these different takes on things to a non-RPG'er. Old School, New School, G/N/S - these are all fairly fine distinctions to non or even light gamers.

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  11. I wasn't actually making any connection, I was just noting two separate things I had read recently in one post of mine to save space.

    That said you and I pretty much agree on all counts. I guess I just take my fun seriously sometimes, even when its comedy. I take my comedy very seriously. I don't take myself too serious and remain well aware of the strangeness and silliness of what I like. That there is the key.

    "Plus some of this is just pointless labelling anyway - to an outsider we're all playing Dungeons and Dragons and we're all weirdos."

    Very true. I tell my family sometimes that I still play D&D when what I really mean is I still play RPGs. To them this is only and will only ever be one thing like D&D and that's D&D. I got tired of trying to explain it 25 years ago. :P

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  12. Conserving the old electrons - I see now.

    It's OK, I like to think that quantum physics researchers and model railroad enthusiasts get into the same kind of arguments and fine distinctions that we do too and to everyone else they're all "scientists" or "guys who play with toy trains".

    My family eventually got comfortable enough with it that they don't care. One of the kids was reading his 4E Player's Handbook out on the back porch this weekend, the same one where I used to read my 1st edition PHB and my parents warned me he had been studying up. It's kind of cool.

    It helps to have other hobbies also. I spent a lot of time in the front of that house taking apart cars and throwing the football too.

    This was also a good post because it got me thinking about my "expected level of buy-in" with my players too, and my take on it as a player this weekend. I'll probably end up posting about it myself this week.

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  13. @Barking Alien:

    "We don't explore characters, we explore dungeons."

    You get out of this statement what the poster put in, I'd say... I'm sensing equal parts whimsy and snark, myself.

    'Sometimes we know the reason before hand. Sometimes we develop it during play. Sometimes its a combo (a lot of times its a combo actually).':
    That's what I've seen, and I been around the RPGs for a while now. These methods have been around ever since the beginning of the hobby, from my reading/hearing/experience. I lean more toward during play myself, fwiw.

    'As long as the team (my players and myself) are on the same page we'll have fun and play a great game. So if I'm taking it seriously as GM I ask that you take it seriously as a player. If this is gonna be a wacky beer and pretezel's night it's gonna be a wacky beer and pretezel's night for GM and player's alike. We're all laughing and having fun from the same book because we're on the same page.':
    Yeah. If I want Labyrinth Lord, and you're expecting Street Fighter, but the GM hits us with Encounter Critical, there'll probably be some issues.

    'fart around in several different ways':
    I think jeff means the PCs don't have to have a goal or anything. The game will just come natural.

    'he's bob the fighter and he wants to talk about a movie or a videogame or something his mom or wife did then when it's his turn he has no idea what's going on in the game or what he wants to do':
    Thankfully WOW and similar online games are now sparing RPGers the brunt of this!

    @Zak S:
    'the new school ethos you represent requires everybody be very serious about the fiction that the game creates.':
    Plenty of his previous posts would seem to say otherwise. BA seems to like a lot of games across the genre spectrum. 'Fiction'? Saying a game generates 'fiction'(rather than anecdotes or memories, whatever...) sounds kinda fringe 'New School-y', don't it? :-)

    'in defence of the "hole in the ground" that, like the character, the dungeon is the expression of the DM's real-life mind, and the way it is handled, altered, and reacted to is an expression of the different players' real-life problem-solving skills and quirks and ideas.':
    The way this is phrased seems as though the dungeon is being taken fairly seriously here.... Not that it shouldn't: I love my Monster Kitchens, and Meat Grinders, and Mad Sorceror's Funhouses! They can(and should) be as interesting as any other components of the game world, imo.

    Enjoyable post!

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