Thursday, November 28, 2013

Any Way You Want It

I should be sleeping but I'm as wired as I am tired thanks to a bajillion thoughts running through my mind, many of them gaming related.


I have some Superhero RPG ideas and opinions I want to discuss after listening to the latest Play on Target podcast on that very subject, but I need a little more time to think about what exactly I want to say.


My Pendragon campaign is going...I am not sure. Well. Very well in fact. I think. I mean, it is really good but unlike Traveller, it doesn't come easy. No, Traveller is nearly effortless while Pendragon is a pain in the butt actually. It's definitely gone pretty far off course from what I intended. I should know by now to follow my own rule and not 'intend' so much with this group.

Fantasy, even when it's my kind of fantasy, just isn't my forte'.*
So let's talk more about my upcoming Star Trek campaign for the time being. Why? Because Star Trek, that's why.

Daedalus Class By MadKoiFish
Best version of the many design variants I have seen.

I am usually, let's say 95% of the time or more, absolutely willing to indulge my players in crazy character ideas or deep backgrounds for their PCs that are not always perfectly suited to the world or universe we are playing in.

As long as they are largely suited or even mostly suited, I will find a way to make it fit.

Part of the reason for this attitude is I never want to be one of those GMs who automatically gives a flat out 'No!' to anything and everything a player suggests.

Another reason is that I've been spoiled and for many, many years, had great players with whom I was completely simpatico.

With my current group and the extended network of gamers that I know, things are somewhat hit and miss. For the most part, the majority of them are on the same page as I am, and vice versa. That's to say, they often are, but not always.

Case in point, for our Pendragon campaign, a game based on, and set within, the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot, I have only two of the five players who want to be Knights...and British.

One is a female peasant girl of Danish decent.
One is a female Irish mercenary disguised as a man.
One is a Moor/Saracen Magician.

An interesting mix ,and each has a good story behind them, but yeah, not exactly what the game is about. Now, have I made it work? So far yes. At the same time, I can't help but think, why am I having to make it work? Why couldn't it have just worked?

I get this a lot when I try to run games with very specific settings.

One effect Dungeons & Dragons has had on gaming, to the detriment of genre, is to create a dynamic where everything and the kitchen sink can be thrown in. Some see this as the game's strength, but I have grown to see it as a disadvantage.

If you don't want something in your game so that you can reinforce a particular flavor, or feel for your setting, you are viewed as limiting the players or hindering the adventure possibilities. The concept of genre tropes, often viewed as a negative by some, are what I try to use so that every game doesn't feel exactly the same as every other.

If all games felt and featured the same approach, why play anything other than one game? Whichever game enables you to do everything, even if it doesn't do any one thing particularly well, would be the go to game for all gamers.

For my new Star Trek campaign, I have a very particular idea in mind. I want the rough and tumble 'American Pioneer' feeling of the Original Series of Star Trek, as well as stories inspired by the Golden Age of Science Fiction. We have the trappings of Star Trek: Warp Drive, Tricorders, Transporters and Communicators, but otherwise it's a fairly low-tech future. The Phaser has not yet become standard issue. The PCs carry Laser Pistols. The Tractor Beam exists but no rerouted the plasma hyperbole through the navigational array in order to hyphenate the super model. That's some bulls*^@!

Also, certain Species are around, certain ones aren't. Distance and speed (while I don't intend to get nitpicky or nerdy about them) matter. We don't, at a time prior to the Original Series, have relations with everyone we know in the Next Generation/DS9 period. One of the things I hated about Star Trek: Enterprise and the Abrams movie was they failed to grasp this. "Let's name drop or show Ferengi and Cardassians even though this is a time before we met ANY OF THEM". Come on staff writers, use your heads? There was a point in the history of Western Europe when no one had been to Japan. You wouldn't have a Viking, in the Autumn of 793, walk into a mead hall in Norway and say, "This is my friend Hiroshi. He's visiting for a couple of days. Two sakes please."

Anyway, I am aware I am bordering on a rant here so I'll try to finish up.

In a group of 2-5 players I usually have one who just can't grasp, or won't grasp, the setting specifics if it's anything other than allowing for everything. In a group of 7-9, one or two. I am also surprised at how hard some people find it to drop into a particular milieu. I usually grasp the feel of a world or universe after a few words out of a GMs mouth, or two to three sentences in a Facebook post. Others need you to give them one of those DK Eyewitness Travel Guides in order to feel comfortable in a game they're going to be playing in.

Look, I am willing to play the game any way you want it, but I am GMing, so it's got to be any way I want it too. If you don't like it, run one yourself or don't play this game. Wait for something more familiar. No big.

Barking Alien

Something Of Note:

The first interracial kiss on network television celebrated it's 45th anniversary on November 22nd. For those unaware or unfamiliar with who kissed whom, it was Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) on an episode of the original Star Trek series.

Relevant, groundbreaking, controversial. The original Star Trek.

Hey JJ, sit down before you hurt yourself.

*One More Thing:

Have you ever been really good at something you didn't particularly enjoy? I know, it sounds weird, right?

I am actually really good at running D&D style Fantasy. I just don't like it is all.



  1. Give players a choise! Good, interesting, coherent characters or red shirts...

  2. The challenge in any rp game is working within the limitations to have fun/win/make a good character that fits into the setting. Sure it's fun to have the occasional fish out of water but a whole party of that kind of destroys the premise, doesn't it? If you set up a Pendragon campaign, the major conceit is that you're playing knights in semi-historical medieval Britain. People who don't want to play that kind of character probably shouldn't play - and there's nothing wrong with that! You don't have to take everyone! You'll have a better game with 3 players who get it and jump in with both feet than one with 5 players where they don't. You're not doing community service here (right?).

    Conversely, if you offer to run that game and not enough players are interested to make a go of it, well, you can either keep trying or you can come up with another game that more people want to play. There's always a bit of compromise in there.

    It sounds like your less-interested players have stirred up enough discontent with the Pendragon game that even your players who "get it" are looking for another option. That's a shame but maybe you can switch games for now and then come back to a Pendragon game down the road - with only those players who seemed to get it this time being invited.

    Advice/Opinion given, I feel I should say that my November has largely been spent not running my games. Hopefully December sees us get back on track.

  3. The rub is that I told them what I had in mind, they said, "That sounds great!", and then came back with characters that didn't fit.

    If it were a question of 'less interested players' everything you said above would be spot on. As a matter of fact, that would be a normal, logical scenario.

    That's not what I have and its not the first time, making me think it might be me.

    What I get is...

    Me: "How about a Finding Nemo game?"
    My Players: "Awesome. We love that movie!"
    Me: "Cool. So it's going to deal with the ocean, being underwater and family and all that."
    My Players: "Cool!"
    Me: "Go make up characters!"
    My Players: "Hurrah! We've got great ideas already."


    Me: "So is everyone excited for our Finding Nemo game?"
    My Players: "Yeah!:
    Me: "Great. What are your characters?"

    Player 1: "It took place in and around Australia and the Great Barrier Reef right? So check this, I'm a Kangaroo!"

    Player 2: "I am a Pelican"

    Player 3: "I'm a Human Scuba Instructor."

    Me: (Shaking my head) "So for our FINDING NEMO game, none of you are FISH?!"

    Player 4: "I am. Don't know what's wrong with these guys."

    Me: "Thank goodness..."

    Player 4: "I'm a shark. My goal is to secretly eat all the other PCs one-by-one".

    Me: *The sound of slamming my head against a wall repeatedly*

  4. That's a great Daedalus picture, by the way. Most depictions I've seen make it look kind of dumpy, but this one really makes it look like a warp-equipped descendant of 2001's Discovery.