July 31st, 2006

coffee frog

Training Times, a Pet Peeve.

Forgive the quick fiction vignette that illustrates my point before I begin:

"Come along, Alhundro! You were right, the scrap of cloth you found in the victim's hand is of Balmoran weave! I feel our old rival Cloisier is up to his old evil again."

"Alas, Desdemona, I may not. For I have (spent seven experience points on new skills and/or gained a level or technique and/or changed career paths) and must ride across Eiderwyn to a distant mountain fortress, where I must train for three weeks! Hopefully Cloisier will still be up to his evil tricks when I return! Farewell!


Training time. Ever since AD&D 1, I've always disliked it. It's so darn disruptive to any game with several on-going situations. This is especially true of players' characters in an urban environment, or in the center of a larger, external conflict being played out as a back-drop.

Every player has a goal or three for their character that they'd like to be pursuing. Being forced by a game mechanic to stop pursuing your goals? It's counter-intuitive to the players' fun. It breaks up the flow of the game. It is, essentially, icky.

And as the group closes in on a goal, should they all sit on their hands (or be forced to spend exp so they can train during this gap) while you train, or do you get left out because you decide to train? It seems inelegant at the best of times.

Hutch never flew out to West Virginia for a course on hood-sliding being offered by the Feds, leaving Starsky and Huggy Bear to crack the case on their own.

To clarify: I have no problem with games that have a "training mechanic" that moves around spending down-time hours to get better at things. The GM and players can decide on when down-time occurs, and how it is spent.

I specifically have a problem when the rewards of the system, be it total experience granting you a level, or experience that you gain then spend in some manner, results in an effective penalty: your forcible withdrawal from the on-going situation so that you pay for your improvement both in "out-of-game administration" and "in game."

Am I alone in this?

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Player Involvement and Community Development

I think a very important component of development of a new game is finding some way to involve players on a meta level. What follows is rambling, only slightly considered and subject to being flamed to the nth degree.

In the early days of roleplaying it was relatively easy. Gaming was new. Being a gamer was part of something quite original and exciting. *Being* a gamer was enough to be part of player and community development. In a gamist sense, the old AD&D convention system worked well too. There were challenges, goal-orientated objectives etc. It was rather like a MMORPG under one roof, minus the 'o' (online) part, complete with prizes! (history link: http://php.iupui.edu/~wrporter/Genconhistory.html)

RuneQuest had a different method; with an extraordinary gameworld being a RuneQuest player ('gateway' games notwithstanding) meant contributing to the fantastic world and story of Glorantha. Players had their characters immersed in a particular point in Glorantha's history and such a large portion of the world was only slightly sketched out that there were numerous opportunities to "build the world". The integrated nature of Glorantha meant that it attacted a lot more player input than say, AD&D's World of Greyhawk; and rules-wise, especially in melee combat, the influence of SCA involvement meant that perhaps it is not unfair to describe player involvement as 'simulationist'.

White Wolf's motley collection of conspiratorial and supernatural games in the (old) World of Darkness publications from 1991 to 2003 (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Wraith, Changeling, Hunter, Demon, Mummy, Kindred of the East and Orpheus) included significant discrepancies and cosmological contradictions. This was "resolved" by the "Time of Judgement" scenarios which ended the game. I'm not sure how to describe this, but it sure ain't narrativism (even if it had a narrative of sorts).

Now for a historical fantasy game, would it all be plausible to encourage player involvement and community development through an "Alternate History Project"? One that not only encourages players to learn about the history and mythology of a setting which they conduct their games in, but also one which allows their resolutions to be reviewed?

Here begninneth the Lesson...

This was something I wrote a few years back to try and use humor to correct the odd behaviors of some of the players I knew...

Beware, there is some salty language to be found here...

Now, listen carefully my little ones (and big ones with nothing better to do) for in this missive shalst I tell thee that which maketh up the perfect gamer.

The perfect gamer showeth up on time. If the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune doth mitigate against him showing up on time, he picketh up the effing telephone (that would be the box-like structure with all the numbers on it that jangles every now and then - you may have had to keep more e-minded people from using it to try and change the TV channel) and calleth his Game Liege. Ideally he picketh it up MORE THAN AN HOUR BEFORE THE GAME, but we taketh what we can get.

This goes more seriously for the gamer who cannot come at all. He telleth his Game Liege either at the game preceding his absence or shortly thereafter. The perfect gamer tryeth to maintain a decent attendance. He pisseth and moaneth not when his character falls behind in XP because he is not present. Also, in my games, the gamer who wisheth to maintain his ability to eat solid food doth not proclaim self righteously that he must-eth observe 'Real Life'. For this Game Liege pours hours and hours of his 'Real Life' into making a game that is fit for the Gods - everyone's time is precious yay verily.

In the green fields of Elysium where the nymphs play and the sun shines eternally, life is perfect and every single gamer can own all the books he needs to. The author understandeth that we live in a less perfect place, but he still figureth that it should not be he which art the only bugger who buyeth the books. It is understandable that some people may not have the book but let them be condemned to varlatry and hellfire should they recieve an opporunity to buy the books and take it not. Lo have I sat too many times about a table whereall t'was I only who had the books while the other scurvy dogs around the table would out of one side of their mouths proclaim their utter penury whilst casually comenting on the pot they needed to score later or the movie they had just paid 12 bucks to see. One must betimes suffer for one's art, or at least maketh the Game Liege suffereth less for hers.

Whilst at tourney and the Game Liege doth spin his tale, the perfect gamer shuts his pie hole. He gibbereth not. This also applieth to combat or momentary scenes with a single gamer. The perfect gamer doth not say to himself "Lo, I thinketh I shall taketh yon chance to start a converstion with my neighbor or maketh a joke." Nay, he doth observe the silence of the grave and thus he does not distract the Game Liege and add to the general noise pollution. Note that this doth also apply to food and other products which come in shiny accoutrements that crinkle when handled. Silence is golden.

In the same vein, the perfect gamer ruineth not a serious scene by making a funny or trying to lighten the mood. Let he who do so be fed feet first into a wood-chipper set on slow - that all may see his insolence and tremble at its wages.

The perfect gamer helpeth when he is asked to helpeth. The perfect gamer always assumes he knows LESS about what is happening in the game or or the rules or what the plenipotentiary Game Liege has planned then the Game Liege herself. Being under such assumption, the perfect gamer once again shuts his popsicle intake and remaineth still as the grave until spoken at or asked to help.

The perfect gamer doth always maketh and playeth his character with an eye to getting along with the rest of his companions. He doth push around none of his fellows in tourney or outside it. He doth not make characters who are such loners that they despise their fellows or so alien that they cannot even relate. Let he who doeth such a thing be stricken with warts upon his ding-a-ling for eternity.

The perfect gamer doth tarry not at party and indulgence the night before tourney if he is no longer able to do so and still be chipper and bright the next day. The perfect gamer understandeth that if his Game Liege is going to go to all the grand travail to put a good game together then the least he can do is try not to possess a countenance that looketh like two pounds of wet shit had been stuffed into a one pound bag. In similar vein, let dire curses be cast upon he who takes his repose during the game. If thou doth wish-eth to slumber, get thee hence to a Gasthouse! The presence of thy Game Liege is no place whatsoever for thou to coppeth thy Z's. Let those who transgress thusly be cast into the bottomless pit of the Pungeant Stunties beneath the shining spires of Avalon-on-Laurier-Avenue (read the basement at Fandom). There let them know the true suffering of trying to get the single can of Fanta from the drink machine that recognizeth not modern coins whilst the miasma of unwashed gamer boys peel-eth the very flesh from their bones.

If thou art addled enough between the ears to still indulge in the inhaling of aeromatic tobacco, and thy Game Liege is merciful and allows thee leave to smoke in the gaming area, do tryeth not to fill the room with cigarette smoke. If thou wisheth to sit and tourney in a room whose air is as blue as thy lungs, get the hence to the Bingo Parlor whereall thou canst sit betwixt Mad Sheila - Our Lady of the Perpetual Tobacco Stain and Lord Tracheotomous who must smoketh through the hole in his neck.

The perfect gamer need not knoweth the whole of the game, for lo this burden is borne by the Game Liege herself. Nay, the perfect gamer need only know enough of the game to know everything his character can do such that he is eager and ready when tourney starts. Let he who must looketh up all his abilities for the 82879851st time during combat or asketh his neighbor "Okay, so what do I roll again?" or asketh his Game Liege "Can I ride past him on my horse and attack?" when his Game Liege hath already fucking toldeth peckerhead 1500000000000000000000 times that he doth need the Ride-By-Attack feat to so. Asketh not thy Game Liege questions thou canst answer thyself and be-eth not afraid to looketh up the strictures appropriate.

If the perfect gamer wisheth to contest a decree made by his Liege and can liveth with his insolence, he contest-eth said decree quickly and once. If the Game Liege doth rule against him, then he shutteth his steak-loader until the game is over and he can once again accost his Game Liege. If this worketh not, he sucketh it up and either accept the decree or voteth with his feet by getting hence. He doth not sit and sulk as though he were 6 winters grown, he doth not look as though a great chip sitteth on his shoulder. He acteth like a fucking adult.

Here endeth the lesson. Be sure to gather around again soon my little ones wherest I shall tell the what maketh a Virtuous and correct Game Liege!