Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Random Thoughts On Gaming


Man, sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging. My giant and certainly award-winning post detailing the secrets of life will just have to wait, as I have picked up the nasty habit of spending 15 hours at a time at the day job. Sorry about that. I am, however, not one of those bloggers that misses posts. No way. It's Tuesday, and I'm gettin' my blog on, even if it is sort of random and discombobulated.

The good thing about sitting at a desk, staring as a bit of software performs thousands of calculations and more than occasionally crashes, is that you get time to your thoughts. As a true believer, I spent that time thinking about gaming. Some half-baked queries and observations are below. Please chime in with some of your own.

Role-playing?

I'm not a D&D gamer, and never have been, which gives me the unique position of being a role-player, but still an outsider when it comes to this most important staple of our hobby. Knowing that, please answer me the following:. Is it just me, or has D&D evolved into a series of mini-games for each encounter? I follow a number of blogs and Twitters involving game play, and it seems that the process for a game is typically like so:
  1. Players/characters quickly determine the ways to most efficiently deal damage.
  2. DM creates rules, feats, and monsters that defeat favorite player tactics, but to make it fair, he also creates some sort of weakness as an "out."
  3. Game play morphs to players seeking to find the trick required to beat the enemy.
  4. Repeat.
I'm not saying this is terrible or anything, but I wonder if I have it wrong. Is this common practice, or do I misunderstand?

By our powers combined...

Voltron seems like it would be a completely awesome RPG. But, you know what? It would suck. Ultimately, gestalt characters would just leave players limited in their response to their opponents, which limits fun, and Voltron isn't alone in this. I'm looking at you, Power Rangers.

Cliche to the rescue

Before the advent of message boards as we now understand them, I was part of a large mailing list of gamers. I received roughly 800-1000 emails a day, so it was pretty active. The group once dove into a combined effort to design an inescapable prison that could hold any number of power player classes. For a couple of weeks the group dreamed up defenses and housing solutions, statted out guards, and analyzed every facet of this impregnable facility.

One day it was suggested by a member that it would be a great place to start a campaign, dropping player characters in there as a common starting point that would provide motivation for the inevitable team-up. The only problem was the camp was too stout and he couldn't figure a way for the players to actually escape. The designers put their email-heads together and came up with a solution that still gives me a chuckle, even these many, many years later:

Escape through the sewers. BRILLIANT!

It's not that easy

For gamers that want their favorite RPG to be turned into a video game and are convinced that it would be massively successful based on its amount of awesome, let me serve you a dose of reality. You've probably heard of a little outfit known as Penny Arcade. Gabe and Tycho, and their real-life alter egos (I think it's debatable which personalities are real and which are the cartoons), are basically the mouthpiece of our segment of civilization to the "normal," grown-up world. If you don't believe me, note that they are nominated for Time's list of Most Influential People.

Anyway, Penny Arcade also has a video game, and it's awesome. It's smart, clever, stunning, and highly enjoyable. Well, I should say that they had a video game. Rainslick is no more, at least in video game format, instead being played out in fiction on penny-arcade.com.

That's right. Penny Arcade, home of the world's most well-known and important gamers, made a video game and it didn't make it. Knowing that, are you still buying stock in a Rifts MMO? I'd love it, but it's unlikely to happen. Hopefully this perspective will prevent further "OMG Why doesn't [insert publisher] just make a video game?!?!" threads across the web, but I doubt it.

The ringer

At convention games, and in other one-shot situations, every Game Master needs a ringer in the group. If you get one of your regulars or a colleague to sit at the table and play, you have someone to whom you can throw that knowing look when things start to spiral out of your control so that they can exert in-game influence on the rest of the party. In a short session, sometimes you just need that guy or gal to say, "While the rest of the group is arguing, my character opens the door to the dungeon," in order to get things moving.

Change of pace
Hilarity from shirt.woot

Games should sometimes be played out of their intended/designed element, just to mix things up. The old TMNT makes an incredible horror game, Champions or other supers games are a blast to play as comedic vehicles, and playing a squad of Imperial Guards that successfully hijack the Millennium Falcon on Hoth and eliminate the Rebellion is still one of my favorite gaming sessions of all time. The best encounter was ripping C-3PO apart by his exposed wiring.

Tip your waitress

Hopefully you enjoyed this bit of fun. Please, use the links above to stumble/reddit/tweet/facebook/etc. this article to help spread the word about this ridiculous little blog. If you don't, I'll come to your house, knock on your door, and then run away. It will get really annoying.

And if you really enjoy the blog, I'll let you buy me this shirt. Hilarious. I should have invented shirt.woot and then I wouldn't need a day job. Smart people have all the luck.

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