I'm taking a (very small) break from my Smurfs RPG project* to link back to the original theme for this month, my 34th Anniversary Playing RPGs...
Over the last week or two I've seen some posts by other bloggers that have got me thinking about various gaming elements that do and don't work for me over the last 34 years so I figured I'd share (because that why we're all here right?)
First there are the following posts by Oddysey: Post and another post.
I've always liked Oddysey's blog and after reading the first of these two posts, I really wanted to be able to help her. Problem is, I can't seem to figure out how to do that exactly. The area she seems to find difficult is the one that comes most naturally to me and as such I have very few tricks up my sleeve on how to ad lib or improve the next course of activity in a game session. I just do it. It comes so easily to me that (as you may have noticed from posts here and comments on other people's blogs) I actually find stopping or pausing to randomly generate an encounter quite annoying. I don't use random encounter or reaction charts at all and I have to sorta bite my tongue when others use them.
It's as old as gaming itself and some people love to roll randomly for everything but I can't shake my gut reaction, often shouted silently in my head, "What's the matter with you? Can't you just come up with something?!" This goes for looking up rulings in books as well but that's a matter for another day.
I'm ranting a bit. What it really boiled down to for her was being able to answer the following questions...
1. Given where the last session ended (or the circumstances devised for the start of the game), what's a situation that will give the characters (and/or their players) an interesting decision to make?
2. Given the range of likely or possible decisions that could be made, what's the next such situation likely after that? (And after that, and after that, and after that.)
Now that latter of these two questions is a bit too defining for me. I'll wing it when it gets to that. My world(s) are pretty detailed, I know my NPCs, I have the general attitudes and goals of everyone important well worked out but I have not clue what they're going to do until they do it.
The first question is, to me, infinitely more curious. Each session beginning, ending (perhaps) and involving the need for the Players and their PCs to make interesting decisions would seems to me at least to be the lynch pin of a good game. This is simply IMHO mind you but if you, the GM are setting up exciting and/or intriguing quandaries on a regular basis, well the rest of the adventure writes itself. Players start (though somewhat indirectly) guiding what happens next based on the decisions they make. This is most assuredly something I do, though I don't think I've ever considered it in this way.
Now, Back to the Dungeon put up a blog post on why it is that some people think dungeons suck. I read the post and had a (thankfully) infinitesimally short and yet infinitely powerful nanosecond of nerd rage. Luckily I resisted posting a comment. Instead I will do so here on my own blog and in a way that I hope Mr. Wolfsbane will realize is not so much aimed at him directly. Oh, Lord Gwydion does a follow up here that, like most of his stuff, is pretty darn cool.
I don't like dungeons. I don't hate them. I just...they don't excite me. They especially don't excite me because it feels like they're all I ever hear about from D&D gamers 24/7/365. A dungeon can be fun. A few can be interesting. After the five billionth one, yeah, I'm a little bored with them.
Also while everyone touts one or the other as special or different, I have rarely seen anything interesting done with them. For ease of mapping it seems they don't even have oddly shaped rooms. The architecure of most cookie cutter, high-rise Manhattan apartments are more interesting than the layout of most chambers in a dungeon.
When Wolfsbane lists ideas for how to liven them up...I guess it's my 34 years here but...seriously...the suggestions are just so basic, so bland. I can only feel that it's not his lack of creativity but the restrictive nature of the dungeon concept that limits what can be done with it. 'Course that doesn't really make sense either. Zak's Gigacrawler idea is pretty wild. As is the Endless Dungeon Hazard from the Japanese TRPG Meikyuu Kingdom. At the same time he lists several suggestions but not examples of them that might make them seem more exciting.
Anyway, this post is already way longer than I intended. My point is, given the choice of running yet another dungeon or say, any other setting, I will likely choose any other setting 9 out of 10 times. The one time I do go with a dungeons it better be freakin' crazy. Or, if I only use them once in a hundred adventures, I guess I could go classic as then the dungeon would seem a change of pace.
*Seems that the use of Smurf Characters as avatars on the Paizo/Pathfinder forum (and the legality of doing so, jokingly or not) has caused a sudden influx of viewers to my blog as one of the posters linked me. Like quadruple the normal daily amount of views for my last post! I find that hilarious and a bit sad. Why sad? 'Cause the only way you can get people to view a more alternative gameblog seems to be to advertise it on a D&D gameblog. After all, that's where all the gamers are.
Some things never change.
On a related note, I would like to once again remind the powers that be that my Smurfs RPG concept is a work of fan fiction, created for the sole purpose of entertaining myself and other Smurfs and RPG fans. I have no intention of selling it or profiting from it in any way, shape or form. This is for fun. Thanks. A Smurfs Fan.