Saturday, March 6, 2010

Requisite Rant Regarding Systems, Story, Tastes and the Like

Over the years of rpg discussion on the internet I've seen a lot of "[GameXXXX] inhibits/cripples story/roleplaying due to [skill systems/abstract systems/complicated systems/mortality]."

i.e. "OD&D inhibits roleplay due to a lack of a skill system," or "Call of Cthulhu inhibits story due to character mortality."

All of this hot talk is a load of pretentious chauvinistic Balloon Juice as far as I'm concerned.

Sure, you may personally not enjoy a particular game system, but to claim that any rpg makes story/roleplay difficult or impossible sounds like a heap of steaming dung to these ears.

I have roleplayed an "asshole realtor" while playing monopoly; a story of an epic battle has emerged while I was playing chess. I can construct an engaging narrative while playing Nethack or Quake by myself. I am all about Professor Plum trying to bone down with Miss Scarlet while playing Clue.

You know how children can construct an epic world and story out of a pile of mismatched toys and non-toys? That's "creative play." RPGs, regardless of system or theme also encourage "creative play" regardless whether you are gaming the politics of a bunch of aristocratic vampires or the looting of a goblin cave.

I can roleplay with a detailed skill system or without one. I can find an engaging narrative with the abstract battle system of Monopoly or the ultra detailed injuries of Bureau 13 or Ysgarth.

I can have a string of randomly generated PCs die while adventuring, and all of them will have distinct personalities and motivations regardless of their ridiculously short life expectancies.

I can participate in a railroad-y adventure path or an aimless wandering sandbox and a distinct, and a compelling story will emerge regardless of the campaign structure.

You can play a basket-weaver or rocket scientist character with or without a skill system.

My dislike for playing 3/4e Dungeons and Dragons has nothing to do with the systems inhibiting roleplay or story but just my own preferences regarding system complexity and genre.

I don't have a "one true way." I have a way that I personally enjoy and find useful. I mostly listen to "Kill Your Mother Music" like grindcore, black metal, crust and power violence hardcore, but I think it is the height of insanity to claim that such musical genres are "superior" to Lady Gaga or Yanni. It's just what I personally enjoy.

It's just what I enjoy.

It's just what I enjoy. I also enjoy dialogue with others with complimentary or corresponding tastes, I learn about how others play and in the process I learn about how I play. I am not interested in some dogmatic position or denigrating others' tastes (aside from "asshole humor" which as a cynical, jaded jerk I find hilarious...but I also try to keep between me and others that share that sense of humor).

I'm interested in learning and evolving while still staying true to what I find enjoyable. To me, the OSR represents the preservation, promotion and development of a selection of systems and styles, not a "One True Way." Does anyone honestly believe that the folks behind Ducks Unlimited have some sort of vendetta against parrots?

Some folks think that potato on pizza is awesome. I think it's disgusting and redundant (starch on starch?!?). Do I think that people that eat potato pizza are suffering from some taste deficiency or need to be shown the light? Of course not, I'm just not interested in eating it.

You keep telling me you hang around while you play around
With the clowns that you've found
It ain't right
Now and then I get tired of the sounds
Of you putting me down while you're playing the town
Every night

I'm getting hung up
Yes I am, yes I am
And you don't give a damn

No you don't - have to treat me like a fool
No you don't - have to be so bloody cool
No you don't - have to make up all the rules
No you don't - no, no, you don't
No you don't

You keep on playing your reckless games
That will give you fame
But I'll take the blame for your name
Well you think you've got my life in your hands
But I'm a man, I'm a man
And I've got my own plans, I'm a man

I'm goin' down
Yes, I am, yes I am
And I don't give a damn

No you don't - have to treat me like a fool
No you don't - have to be so bloody cool
No you don't - have to make up all the rules
No you don't - no, no, you don't
No you don't

No you don't - have to treat me like a fool
No you don't - have to be so bloody cool
No you don't - have to make up all the rules
No you don't - no, no, you don't
No you don't

No you don't - no you don't
No you don't - no you don't
No you don't - no you don't...

11 comments:

  1. I completely agree with your "let everyone have fun the way they like" philosophy. I've never understood the yearning to have one's preferred way of gaming somehow "proved" to be the empirically correct one.

    On the other hand, I'm quite certain the Ducks Unlimited folks are anti-parrot to the bone.

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  2. Rah-ra-ah-ah-ahh
    Roma-roma-ma
    Gaga-ooh-la-la
    Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

    (100% agree)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I mostly agree, however, it is easier to run Labyrinth Lord or Barbarians of Lemuria that Pathfinder, if for no other reason than I cannot remember every feat and half-feat and skill rank for everyone and the monsters.

    That makes it challenging and detailed, though, but not impossible and the game is still fun.

    Maybe it is just easier to run games lighter on the rules after a couple of beers.

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  4. I'm down with that. I can make story in any RPG. (And that includes The Spawn of Fashan and F.A.T.A.L.) (And for what it's worth, I like Carcass and Lady Gaga.)

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Rah-ra-ah-ah-ahh
    Roma-roma-ma
    Gaga-ooh-la-la
    Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

    Now that I know that Lady Gaga is a cultist, I feel like the world has suddenly come into sharper focus...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Like Yesmar said above: "I can make a story in any RPG." All this arguing is pretty silly and pointless. Whether a particular person prefers a specific level of simplicity / complexity in their rules, that is their choice, not something that anyone else gets a vote on. It's personal preference and carries no moral weight in and of itself. It's their choice. No more, no less.

    Perhaps some of this ongoing acrimony stems from the apprently implicit notion that all OSR-people have rejected the modern versions of the game and are chasing after a non-existent golden age. Completely and utterly false.

    You don't have to completely reject the new in order to go back to the older, classic stuff that you wish to spend some quality time exploring all over again.

    All this bickering was stupid twenty years ago, it's doubly a waste of time now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just got back from running a CoC session, and frankly, I gotta tell ya -- maybe my players are just too awesome at role-playing it up when 'the stars are right', but tonight was 8-9 hours of near seamless, coherent and thoroughly entertaining story telling role-play (with the occasional intrusion of percentile rolls) -- and no one died or even came close to injury (although two characters suffered minor sanity losses from separate non mythos encounters). I ran the session a little different than the book suggests though, treating it more like a sandbox game in Arkham, rather than a tightly woven narrative typical of many (if not every) published CoC adventure, but it worked extremely well.
    All that said, I can't disagree with you one bit about role-play within ANY given system. My players developed their 'story' with their choices and dialogue with very little for me to do but describe where they were and voice who they were talking to ... it was a thing of beauty, man.

    By the way, Long time lurker around these parts ... and I absolutely LOVE this blog!

    JM.

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  8. There're people who are bored and have nothing to do but join the debate team and argue with everyone else over what's "fun". I just got sick of it. After reading the hundred-thousandth "I don't like game X/style of play Y/concept Z because..." I had that epiphany of "I couldn't give a crap what you do or do not like." I realized people couldn't give a crap about what I like either, so I shut up.

    And that's what any and all online and offline debates are about: bored people talking endlessly about nonsense, about how what they like is better than everyone else.

    I saw one person saying "We ain't bored, we have passion." And it occured to me: your only passion is typing opinion peices on the 'net and arguing with other people? You obviously are BORED or you would be off doing something really fun, like playing a game or (even more astounding) doing something face-to-face with another human being.

    The reason people go in circles "discussing" (slinging feces at each other) is because their employer, library or school gives them free acces to the net and they don't have anything fun to do. They skip out on work or school to cruise the net.

    Some of the people who sat online flinging out their comments and posts every few minutes annoyed me until I realized they were helpless, compulsive idiots so addicted to the 'net they'd rather be online yanking off.

    I've stopped going online to watch children squeal at each other. I get enough of that crap in real life.

    I find it far more rewarding to turn the 'Net off most of the time, and only go online if I'm bored or want to look something up. I've gotten far more from gaming offline than I've ever gained online.

    Let the obsessive, crazy whackos sit online obsessively posting. Keeps them off the streets! They aren't a part of my gaming group or the hobby in general (they are on the net making posts, not playing); their endless blithering nonsense is meningless.

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  9. Yuck i cant eat potato with rice stuck on it

    ReplyDelete
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