Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thoughts on The Thoughts of Others

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.

Barking Alien

*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.



  1. I've been rummaging through your blog posts. Do you have a single page or PDF of your Muppets RPG? I'm currently working on a blend of Muppet Yahtzee/Monopoly/Clue at and I'd like to include some RPG elements.

  2. Did you ever get back to that Meikyuu Kingdom-inspired homebrew?

  3. @Dylan - That sounds waaay interesting. I would love to check that out.

    I don't have a single page or PDF yet. I was working on a PDF but it go large, cumbersome and I'm now re-editing it a bit. Plus real life stayed crashed at my place for a few months and now the place is a mess. I'll complete the PDF as soon as I clean up. ;)

    Incidentally, after running it at NerdNYC's RECESS Gaming Event I am probably going to be modifying the rules a bit as some variations on the rules seemed to work better than what I already.

    @kelvingreen - No but oddly I've been thinking about it recently. I really love the resource management element of the game and wanted to incorporate it into Smurfs. The idea came to me when I read up on the Smurf Village iPhone game.

    What if there was a certain amount of work, materials or whathaveyou that each Smurf must contribute to maintain their enchanted community of cool mushroom cottages? I haven't worked out all the details yet but I am thinking about it.

  4. I haven't been interested in dungeons as a player for a long time: they just seem so pointless and arbitrary. I think the problem extends from the days of the random zoo dungeon - I still recall finding a large dragon at the lowest level and wondering how the hell it got there. To make a dungeon believable, it needs to be dominated by one group (it's a strategic error to use a complex as a base and leave potential enemies inside it) - and that instantly takes the variety out of it!
    As a GM, I'm guilty of using dungeons, but the players always have a reason for being there: recover the maguffin, wipe out the bandits, clear out the monsters so that the settlers are safe. And again, you won't find much variety...
    (None of this applies to the megadungeon concept which I see as more of an underground setting than a dungeon - and something I would quite happily play if interesting enough.)

  5. The important question is: Are you making a place for Smurfin' Beer?