Feature image taken from here.
I have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the d20. That icosahedronal sonavabitch has been my ruin many a time. Hell, from the name of this blog you can probably tell that I prefer d6’s.
Part of this is an accessibility thing. Any game that prides itself on “special” dice is actively throwing up barriers to it’s entry. Everyone has d6’s. To get a d20, you need to go to a game store, pick out a set, maybe buy a couple extra d20’s in case one betrays you, roll it a few times to make sure it isn’t cursed, have a maiden true blow gently upon it, etc etc. It’s a bigger hassle than cannibalizing a game of Yahtzee is what I’m saying.
Every time I go back to reading The Angry GM, that sonavabitch makes me want to try running a game again. Not just any game, but good ol’ DnD. What can I say? Either he’s a persuasive writer or I’m just a gullible sod.
In either case, reading the latest batch of rants and articles got me thinking about player agency. After looking up some old stuff of bankuei’s on fictional positioning, and I’m thinking the two go hand-in-hand with 5e’s Advantage and Disadvantage system.
A brief overview: In 5e, players can sometimes either get “advantage” or “disadvantage” when performing an action. If they have an advantage, they roll two d20’s and take the higher number, if they have a disadvantage they roll two and take the lower result. As part of 5e’s unifying superstructure, there’s a lot of conditions, statuses, and spells that grant advantage and disadvantage in specific situations, but there is also a surprising amount of leeway given to the GM.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about goals and motivations as they apply to tabletop RPG’s, specifically how and why they motivate the story of a game.
From reading bankuei, I’ve reached the (somewhat tentative) conclusion that an essential component of Narratavism is that the player character’s goals drive the story. If one PC wants to find their long-lost sister, well, then, that’s what their story is going to be about. If another PC wants to start their own religion, then their portion of the game is going to be about that.
You can probably already see the problem. What happens when players goals aren’t compatible? Or if they don’t want to work together? Well, narrativism doesn’t particularly care, I think. A narrativist game is perfectly happy to let each player pursue their own independent agenda, maybe sometimes working together, sometimes working against. You can see this in the design of narrativist games like “Burning Wheel” or “Dogs in the Vineyard” whose mechanics emphasize one-on-one conflicts and confrontations, rather than group v. group encounters.
Y’know, I should point something out that seems kind of obvious in retrospect, but nonetheless hit me upside the head when I first realized it:
Organized Play is not supposed to be as fun as a home game.
You’re probably rolling your eyes right now. “Of COURSE it isn’t as fun! It’s modules! It’s strangers! It’s a cruel, hacked-down imitation of “Real” roleplaying!
But re-read what I just wrote. I contend that it’s not SUPPOSED to be good. See, look at it from WotC’s perspective. What’s more profitable, a bunch of people running and playing in free modules based on free rules forever and ever and ever, or people playing the free modules, getting sick of ’em, going out and buying all the books, and running their own damn game?
After listening to some podcasts recently on the topic of Min-Maxing and Powergaming, I’ve come to a bit of a revelation as to what I, personally, believe to be the underlying cause of Min-Maxing, and, perhaps, why it’s not such a terrible thing.
Essentially, I believe that the Min-Maxer is really a response to and an defense against a much more insidious, disruptive playstyle. A playstyle I call “Mr. Do-Everything.”
…Don’t talk about Adventurer’s League. Apparently. I’m being harsh. Everyone know’s it’s Wednesday Nights, which is at least good branding, if nothing else. Also, it being a bigger deal than I thought it was is probably… good?
Let me start from the top. I recently had a Dungeons & Dragons 5E game I was playing in go on hiatus, and with no other gaming in site, I decided to check out 5E’s organized play option, “Adventurer’s League.” My original plan had been to DM at a local hobbyist store, but the organizer never got in touch with me so… I did the somewhat shitty thing and decided to go and play at another FLGS. Hey, if it comes around to it, I can always go back to Plan A.
Top image taken from “Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set”
I’m beginning to notice that basically every nerd has the same basic story about the first time they tried a roleplaying game. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Someone bought the books, they all rolled up characters, and then… well, then they just kind of screwed around for a bit. No epic adventure, no grand quest.
It seems like in the mid 2000’s, there was an epidemic of this going around. I think it’s gotten a bit better since then, and I have a couple ideas why. Let’s break this down a bit.
Top Image: Concrete and Chains by Mark Molnar, 2013 © Fantasy Flight Games
Shortly after we arrived in the city, the word went out that we were to meet up with our new boss at a boathouse out by the riverside early the next morning.
There was six of us there that morning. Our new boss, Gregory Bamonte sat behind his desk, looking a little more under the squeeze than his slick reputation would’a previously indicated. See, Bamonte had a reputation for not lookin’ too close at folks. If you could do a job, he’d give it to ya’, no matter your race, color or creed.
I recently started playing in a game of FATE, best summed up as “Chthulu vs. the Mob.” The name of this little campaign is “Guys and Dohls”, and I figured it was worth blogging about a little. For our first session, we put together a skills list, built our city, ramped up through character creation, and played a short “tutorial fight” to get the rules down. So, without further ado, I give you our city, Oubliette d’Ivoire.
A while ago I sat down with a few friends to play a round of “Community Radio,” an improv game by Quinn Murphy heavily inspired by the “Welcome to Nightvale” podcast. It was originally brought to my attention by bankuei, and in the interest of full disclosure, my friends and I are pretty big fans of all-things Nightvale related.
When people talk about roleplaying games, they’re talking about a pretty wide swathe of playstyles and genres that are pretty fundamentally different. I’m not going to re-tread all of it, but suffice to say that I’m pretty sure “Community Radio” is a narrativist game.