Shining Dodecahedron

One geek's views on role-playing and games in general.

This place is all about discussing paper-and-pencil roleplaying games. I'm Jay, and I run this joint, but that doesn't make me smarter than you. This will all work best if I say things, and you say what you think about them, lather, rinse, repeat. With luck we can all understand the hobby a little better. If you have a topic that you would like me to start a thread about, post a comment here. If you've got something to say about characters (my ongoing topic du jour), post a comment here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Games In Between

I have been a largely passive observer of the indie-RPG revolution for several reasons. One reason is the reactionary nature of much of the movement. That is, lots of people get into RPG theory and indie-games because they are unhappy with their current gaming experiences. They use theory (not always consciously) to lash out at the games that have let them down. Now, before you get all pissy with me, I'm not here to insult anyone. I have often been a reactionary myself, complaining about systems that don't work very well for me (e.g. D20). Anyway, one of the results of the dynamics that go into RPG theory and the resulting indie-games is a kind of extremism. Either your game is cutting edge and new , or it's the same old shit repackaged. Not everyone gets to this point, mind you, but I have heard it a lot.

I've played a number of the cutting-edge indie games with varying levels of success. I'd like to play more, but those that I have played lead me to believe that both traditional and radical designs have their place. So my concern is this: if all the designers that are paying attention to theory and giving serious thought to role-playing are hell-bent on making a game that fixes everything and exists on the very cutting edge, then who will help to bridge the gap? Where will the games be that are mindful of theory but build upon the firm foundations of RPGs as we know them today?

All of this is just to say that while a game needs to be different to set itself apart from the rest, it needn't be as different as you might think. Look at Burning Wheel and Dogs in the Vineyard. Both are games that are highly respected by indie-folks with some cross-over into more traditional gamers. Both present some new ideas while keeping much of the foundation of traditional role-playing intact. Dogs is perhaps a little hard for players to grasp at first, but it has a GM who sets up the situation and players the NPCs, it has players who each control one character apiece, it has enough elements of traditional RPGs to be palatable and accessible to old gamers (who, like old dogs aren't so good at new tricks).

Find the games in between. Use them to get your friends thinking about new ways of role-playing that will be more fun for everyone. Dispel some of the myths of role-playing.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Being a Good Player

Lots of RPG rule books and gamers on the street have heaps and heaps of advice for game masters, but there is relatively little advice and instruction available for players. It seems like the basic RPG text says to stay in character and be a good sport and not get in the way of the GM's story too much (it may not say that last part outright, but it is heartily implied in many games).

Anyway, it's about time that players had some rules to live by. I've got a few. Read and comment on them and then tell me yours, if you have any (and I know you do).

  • Get involved. Don't sit back and ride along with what everyone else is doing. Take part. Give suggestions. Role-playing is so much more fun if everyone is contributing
  • Play your character's story, not just your character. It isn't always about the method acting "what's my motivation" stuff. Sometimes the game is much more fun if you think about what your character's story arc should be like and then play toward that. Remember that real people in the real world often do things for which there is no logical explanation. Humans are random and chaotic, so should your character be.
  • Invest in the whole game. If you are watching a movie, you don't just pay attention to the parts with your favorite character in them do you? Well then why shouldn't you pay attention to other player's scenes in the game? Not only that but take part. Add details. Offer suggestions.
  • Be honest. If the game rocks, say so. If it sucks, communicate with the group to let them know what could be done better to make you have fun.
  • Don't be a prick. Everything that you do in the game should be designed to provide fun to everyone at the table. If you aren't happy, don't act out. Don't throw tantrums. And for the love of Pete, don't get all passive agressive and try to sabotage the game. If you do, every person at the table has the karmic right to beat your ass with heavy, pointed objects.