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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 69 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: My play history: Discovering myself  (Read 3332 times)
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« on: November 04, 2008, 01:00:36 AM »

I apologize in advance for how long this is. I also added "titles" to help break up my wall of text.

Part 1
My play history starts, as they often do, with a friend who's decided he wants to try running a game of this D&D thing. No wait, if we start here, I think we might miss the whole picture.

My play history begins in video games.  At one point, my father bought a top of the line computer, and a game called Myst.  I played through this game with my father, and not only was it (perhaps) my most memorable bonding experience with my father, but opened up doors into my interest in games.  I later went on to play Mechwarrior 2, Deus Ex, and Thief 2.  With video games, the experience ends, and I always wanted more. At one point I salvaged the dice from a board game, made some lego mechs, and challenged my friend to a game. It was a crude system with hit locations determined by the die roll, where each section had like 3 hits before being destroyed. 

My desire to go beyond video games was also a desire to break out of the normal limitations of a video game.  I remember thinking it would be neat if you could build up a base in mechwarrior, conquer regions, or all sorts of day dreams. This actually makes me believe that video games are not killing tabletop games, after all, my transition was in reverse.

So when this friend introduced me to D&D, it was at the release of 3.0 and destiny was calling. The game began with us clearing out some ruins.  In one of the encounters, there were imps that would leave us alone, if we could convince them.  I think this was my first act of actually being in character.  The campaign lasted for about 6 months, and included a few recurring NPCs.

That friend ended up going to a different college then me at the end of those 6 months, and I started playing with another group. In this group, we had a very over the top GM who had a very strange sense of play.  I enjoyed making characters during those games, and I made a lot of them, because we died a lot or started over a lot. During this period of time, I either copied fictional characters I enjoyed (Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke) or created characters that were very empty (I would design their appearances and feel, but no real personality or values.)  One particularly urksome event with this group was when a player was stuck at the bottom of a broken bridge hanging over the side of the cliff.  The GM resolved this "On a 12-20, you climb 10'. On a 1-11 you fall 5'. You have 50' to climb."  After about 20 rolls and no real progress we got into an argument that lasted for about 2 hours where my point was basically "One conflict, one roll."

At one point with this group, one of the GM's friends came to town and ran one session.  It was very story/character driven, and I was greatly disappointed when he left, especially since he had given us all the impression he was staying in town for awhile...

This group dissolved when the summer ended, and I formed my own group using friends from both the previous groups.  We played D&D, and my GMing style was very monty haul / high powered. I would also quickly alter what we were playing, and I didn't run any campaign for more then a few sessions.   Later, I realized that all my "good ideas" would have been better ideas if I had compromised on them and used them as part of an ongoing game.   (For example, we were playing a traditional D&D game.  I then found the future weapons in D&D, and decided we were going to play sci-fi.  What we ended up playing was something similar to Spell Jammer, but I started a new campaign to do it, when I could have segued from one to the other.  I think I also restarted games a lot because I would monty haul the campaign and lose control.  (I should also mention I never actually read D&D's rules cover to cover)

Part 2

I found a game called Battlelords of the 23rd Century, which is a great setting and a terrible system.  We started playing it, and this was my first campaign that ran for a long time.  I basically gutted the rules and did quick and dirty combat.  My players loved it, and recently asked me to run it again.  Unfortunately, I'm not even sure how I managed to use their character given stats to run combat, anymore.  The campaign mostly involved them collecting secret technology and performing hits for an up and coming business entrepreneur, while trying to remain hidden from the mega corps.  The campaign ended when the most core player decided to commit suicide because he had grown bored of his character.  (This friend seems to make characters that revolve around a gimmick.  In this campaign he was basically a 1' tall "Cousin it" who was incredibly strong.)

I decided to look for other systems, and we ended up trying out a game called Wind Zone that one of my players had secured from a local play test.  We then played GURPs, which unfortunately we invested in right before their edition change. I got frustrated and decided to make my own game.  My game was basically trying to make a system that used a lot of Battlelord's elements (I don't remember, but my eventual goal may have been to rewrite the system), although I used a generic "earth in a hundred years" setting.

I believe in some ways it had great game mechanics.  There were 10 attributes, each of which were added together to get secondary attributes.  What was interesting about this is, it forced min maxers to make a choice about exactly what they were min maxing.  If they wanted high damage, they'd have to take stats A and B, but if they wanted high initiative, they'd need to take stats A and C.  Skills were whatever you wanted to do well, and were derived by (Stat + Skill +d100 roll)  Items were whatever you think you should have. Spells were whatever you wanted to do. And we ad hoc'd it all. In a way it was very progressive (of my play style) because we started free forming the game, instead of choosing things from a book. I also allowed them to hack computers, which was resolved just like combat (except your opponents were fire walls, virus scanners and your weapons were ice breakers.) Because of how the stats were set up, it used mental stats as a mirror of real combat. (Strength = Intelligence for damage, Agility = "avatar" a magical stat)   My fondest memory was when one of the players was arguing with some street thugs about the price of a Icebreaker program, he decided to cast a spell that he'd called "Create Water" on them.  He had a magical "mishap" happen, and instead of summoning water, on top of the guy, I said he summoned a vending machine, full of water bottle, on top of him.

Later, after I went to a different college, I only gamed during summer breaks.  We played D&D, but never again did we actually "follow the rules", nor was I the GM. When we got into combat, we'd often solve it in a creative manner.  For example, at one point we found ourselves in Skullport with a dragon bearing down on us.  The GM had placed a "ticket machine" in the area that accepted any object as currency.  I ended up casting Wall of Force in a sphere, enclosing the dragon (without a save, mind you) and then Wall of Iron with half the wall resting on the ground and the other half ontop of the sphere, which forced it to roll into the ticket machine, dragon and all. If you know the rules of D&D, you can understand what a violation this was...

Meanwhile, we were also playing WoD games.  I found myself greatly disliking the system, which prevented me from really liking the games. The system introduces a fundamental flaw, during character creation, you can spend 3 points to get 1 skill to 3, or 3 skills to 1.  If you used it for the former, it would end up being worth something like 15 XP.  If you used it for the latter, it would end up being worth something like 6 XP.  This permeates every step of the character creation, and the number cruncher inside gnashed in anger. (How am I supposed to choose between an interesting/thoughtful character, and the character who will grow most powerful?)
Also, I found myself enjoying Werewolf the most, while my friends preferred everything but Werewolf.  They particularly enjoyed Mage, which I found quite hard to play, as my "spontaneous creativity" wasn't in sync with the spell system.

Part 3

I then didn't play for about 2 years straight.  I started getting a real itch to play again, and started trying to find games.  Online, I used meet-up groups, white wolf forums, and D&D forums.  Unfortunately, my success was with the D&D forums, and I started playing D&D again.  Several groups I joined and played with. In one case, we are still playing (our campaign has lasted for over a year.)  In one case, we did play Exalted for awhile, but quickly went back to D&D at the GM's choice (which the players were not happy about. This group is a good example of the social contract being violated often enough that the group fell apart.)

At the same time, a friend approached me. He really wanted to "do something creative."  We'd always talked about doing things, a website for one, but we settled on an RPG.  We were working on it online, and the occasional in town visit.  However, after about 6 months of working on it, he started to get visions of becoming very rich (he also imagined it would catapult him into making video games.) At the same time, he all but stopped working on anything.  I had two options, stop everything, or offer him a deal. We ended up creating a contract where I'd gain full rights, but he'd earn a small % of any profits I make off of the first book - if I ever make any profit. That worked for me, after all, I never really expected to make good money off of this, if at all.

During this time, I've read a lot of game theory, both video games and table top games.  I've also taken an effort to try and broaden my game experience. Even if I haven't found anyone willing to play "Indy RPGs" with, I have at least read a few. 

 It's almost been 3 years since I started the project, but there have been many evolutions. I had actually basically given up (if you could see my post history, you'd see this), but recently, one of the guys who was in my very last playtest started asking me if my game was done, because "He was really excited about it, and really thinks it could be something great." We then went on to talk about it more, and that I had basically stopped working on it, but he had many words of encouragement for me, so here I am. :)   
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...but enjoying the scenery.
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2008, 01:24:04 AM »

I got kind of caught up in my own story, and forgot to make a few points.

1. As I played more, I tended to move from trying to emulate a deep character, to "power playing."  I believe this evolution occurred because I was trying to wrest some narrative control from power mongering GMs. For example, a more powerful character has the option of escaping the town guards when wrongfully arrested, whereas a weaker character really has no choice.

2. I started discovering that most character development was largely ignored by any GM I played with. I've talked to some about this, and the problem seems to lie more in the realm of unskilled narration then of a lack of interest. The other players seem to desire character development, and the GMs desire the same as a player.

3. As I played more characters that were a bid at narrative control and were absent of any actual character development, my interest in RPGs as a whole has waned. I have a simultaneous itch to play a good game, while being burned out of playing with any of the GMs I know.
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...but enjoying the scenery.
soundmasterj
Member

Posts: 120

Must... resist... urge to talk GNS...


« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2008, 02:26:54 AM »

Reading this,
Quote
Later, after I went to a different college, I only gamed during summer breaks.  We played D&D, but never again did we actually "follow the rules", nor was I the GM. When we got into combat, we'd often solve it in a creative manner.  For example, at one point we found ourselves in Skullport with a dragon bearing down on us.  The GM had placed a "ticket machine" in the area that accepted any object as currency.  I ended up casting Wall of Force in a sphere, enclosing the dragon (without a save, mind you) and then Wall of Iron with half the wall resting on the ground and the other half ontop of the sphere, which forced it to roll into the ticket machine, dragon and all. If you know the rules of D&D, you can understand what a violation this was...
, I think you actually want to play narrativism, but you havenīt ever seen anything but 1. coherent Gamism, 2. incoherent Narrativism-cum-Simulationism, destroyed by Gamism, and so you donīt know it. I think you hope Story comes from Sim, but games mostly need to be Game, so you are hold back by traditional games, especially WoD-style. (Story doesnīt come from Sim. Say it again: STORY DOESNīT COME FROM SIM. Story comes from clear narrative authority, anti-deprotagonizing, setting up conflicts at world/character creation and addressing those through rules etc. Especially, Story DOESNīT come from just characters acting "role-appropriate" in a world created by the GM.)

Would you say, what you like most about a game is when you look back at it and you see, it was a really good story? Like, each character played a certain, multi-facetted role, there were a lot of creative solutions to different problems, people had to make tough choices, maybe someone had to act against his own best self-interest to protect something he cared for, or someone acted in his own best self-interest by sacrificing someone he cared for and feeling grief afterwards?
Is that what you wish from a game?

Or would you rather like creativity in overcoming obstacles, say, whoever had the best idea about how to kill that dragon, through creative use of rules or through making up some really out-there plans, he "wins" the game?

Or did you like it the most when you really felt it, realy felt being the character? I doubt that.

My diagnosis is: you might have a narrativist in you, suppressed by the evil White Wolves. Read Otherkind (itīs only like, 5 pages) to see if you like narrativistic mechanics, write narr game, profit! Maybe Iīm projecting though. Thatīs what did it for me, at least.
Further support for this theory comes from the fact that you came from (gamistic/simulationistic) video games to P&P RPGS, supposedly in the hope of finding other creative Agendas.

Also, I like how here:
Quote
One particularly urksome event with this group was when a player was stuck at the bottom of a broken bridge hanging over the side of the cliff.  The GM resolved this "On a 12-20, you climb 10'. On a 1-11 you fall 5'. You have 50' to climb."  After about 20 rolls and no real progress we got into an argument that lasted for about 2 hours where my point was basically "One conflict, one roll."
you nail Conflict Resolution like, on like your first day of playing D&D or so :)
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Jona
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2008, 03:44:24 AM »

That's a great account, David! Soundmaster (man, what's your name, that sounds like some new Transformer) makes some brave calls about it - might be right, but you'd know better than we do whether anything rings a bell. If we want to get deeper into the issue of Creative Agenda, perhaps you could tell us more about some specific campaign or adventure you've played, something that you think yourself was remarkable for the clarity of vision regarding what rpgs are about. This general description is valuable in seeing where you're coming from, but creative agenda lives in the moment, often enough. What Soundmaster describes about a guy struggling with inadequate tools to manage narrativist play is common enough (I'd categorize much of my own early play like that), but it's not everybody, and often enough roleplayers have gone through lots of different variations in their play goals and the means they use to strive for them.

That being said, I like your description of your play background a lot, reminds me quite a bit of my own play history. A lot of what you say also sounds to me like you will be gaining great benefits to your already pretty keen rpg thinking by playing a wide range of different rpgs - get out there and experiment with abandon! There is much to learn and many perspectives to sample, after all, and ultimately the only way to get to the bottom of it is to really play the different games.

Oh, also: I love that story about climbing the cliff, what a classic piece of rpg idiocy.
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