Out with the old (Game design traditions we should let go)


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kenada

Legend
Supporter
I know. It's a terrible idea.

And yet books really aren't a great medium either - as soon as the first supplement is published looking anything up becomes more challenging, and it only gets worse with time. Much of this material should be available in some sort of cross-referenced electronic form. Especially as more and more games move online, or at least have easy access to internet-capable devices.

(And add to that the problem that a hardback book needs to be of significant size to be worth publishing, which means it needs material to fill out those pages, even if all they have are a bunch of random name tables. Electronic publishing means no need to hit an exact page count, which gives more flexibility.)
What we need is the PDF equivalent of hole-punched books that can be put together in a binder. That would avoid the centralization problem and (presumably) make it possible to integrate both first and third party content.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
...genre as in genre of the story. What you can or cannot do and what kind of character you can or cannot create in a slasher flick is very different from a game that tries to capture the feeling of a Hong Kong action cinema. The consequences of the same action would also be different.
Isn't this more about gelling will the group? I agree that for certain personalities, a session zero may not be enough to have them alter their play style sufficiently to fit in with the rest of the players. Some players have the self awareness to understand that they just are not interested in certain styles of game play or certain genres. Others seem to feel entitled to having other players make adjustments for them, rather than adjusting their preferred play style.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I was following your argument up until really these sentences. One of the reasons why I am not a fan of running or playing in TTRPGs set in many IPs* - mainly ones with a lot of associated other lore (e.g., novels, comics, television, movies, video games, etc.) - is because I'm not much of a fan of needing "guides" to play through a setting, regardless of how knowledgable those guides (myself included) may be about the setting. Plus, knowledge of a place/setting/genre doesn't make them a good game master any more than being a leading expert in your academic field makes you a good teacher.

* I do have exceptions.
I hear where you are coming from. Personally, I love to play in games run by engaging and experienced game masters who are experts in a setting, genre, historical period, etc. But it can be challenging as a player who is new to a setting to have to be continually corrected. With the right game master the corrections can be part of the fun--you learn more about the setting. With other game masters or players, however, it becomes canon-lawyering. Ultimately it comes down to how much the newbie is willing to invest into learning the setting and how much the other players are willing to invest into bringing the newbie up to speed. Really not much difference than introducing someone to a new rules system, but with some settings and genres the learning curve for canon is much higher than that for the rules.
 

Isn't this more about gelling will the group? I agree that for certain personalities, a session zero may not be enough to have them alter their play style sufficiently to fit in with the rest of the players. Some players have the self awareness to understand that they just are not interested in certain styles of game play or certain genres. Others seem to feel entitled to having other players make adjustments for them, rather than adjusting their preferred play style.

I think there are definitely cases where one or more players just don't get the genre, and where smart mechanics can help guide them more than any general notion of gelling with the group or intuiting what the GM is going for.

For example, pre-MCU, I had a player here and there who wasn't into comics, and so didn't really get the tropes and nuances in tone. Even today, if someone's reference point for supers is MCU, they might expect a pretty fair amount of casual murder on the part of the superheroes, and not understand what "four-color" supers means. Champions helped a bit in that respect, since it was so hard to kill someone. It didn't do a whole let else to reinforce or communicate the genre, since it was more of a superpowered combat wargame than a cape comics emulator, but that's old games for you.

Or maybe the issue isn't too many reference points, but too few, as with many players who might be playing Pasion de las Pasions for the first time. Someone upthread said that telenovellas are just soap operas with an ending, but that's pretty reductive and dismissive. Telenovellas typically have a tone and content that's very different from American soaps. Mechanics can introduce and reinforce those differences, preparing the players in advance and along the way, instead of them channeling General Hospital and being regularly corrected by the GM. Consider, too, that a campaign of Pasion might be just a few sessions. Do you really want players to finally get the genre in the third session, when it's all over?

Personally, I think Masks is a great example of mechanics really reinforcing and introducing genre tropes. Even if you aren't steeped in comics generally, and unfamiliar with teen supers narratives, the fact that any adult you come across can mechanically influence or impact you really drives home what the game is about, and how its specific subgenre operates. The playbooks are also incredible mini-instruction manuals that all tie back into the genre and premise in really specific ways. I'd much prefer all of that to a GM telling me to watch Young Justice as prep.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I think there are definitely cases where one or more players just don't get the genre, and where smart mechanics can help guide them more than any general notion of gelling with the group or intuiting what the GM is going for.
And even if they mostly get the genre, they can still get weirdly hung up on certain images. I was running Mutants and Masterminds set at the Claremont Academy (think Professor X's School for Gifted Children). One player patterned her PC as a teenage version of Constantine... including wanting to pack a pistol... in a school. I helped her set up a direct spell attack much like a mystical energy blast instead. She still harped on and on about packing a pistol... in a school.
 

payn

Legend
And even if they mostly get the genre, they can still get weirdly hung up on certain images. I was running Mutants and Masterminds set at the Claremont Academy (think Professor X's School for Gifted Children). One player patterned her PC as a teenage version of Constantine... including wanting to pack a pistol... in a school. I helped her set up a direct spell attack much like a mystical energy blast instead. She still harped on and on about packing a pistol... in a school.
I have experienced that type. Once in a Call of Cthulhu game a guy wanted to carry a B.A.R. rifle around everywhere "under his trench coat". City streets, hospitals, libraries, wherever!
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I have experienced that type. Once in a Call of Cthulhu game a guy wanted to carry a B.A.R. rifle around everywhere "under his trench coat". City streets, hospitals, libraries, wherever!
So how big was this hypothetical trench coat? Was it like the TARDIS? Bigger in the inside than on the outside? It would bloody have to be.

For everyone following along at home, the BAR 50 is about 4 feet long and weighs 35 pounds. So yeah, sure, trench coat sized.:rolleyes:
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
The desire for players to always want access to the highest weapon available never ceases to amaze me. I was playing in a game once where we all started out as inmates in a fortress prison and had to scavenge equipment in order to free ourselves.

The GM was like "ok, so we're going to approximate weapons and armor. If you pick up an item to use, we'll give it stats roughly equal to an actual weapon or armor for ease of play."

So while the rest of us were making daggers out of sharpened spoons and using pots and pans as shields, one player is like "I want a greatsword".

We tried to argue with them that 1) he's not going to find a greatsword, and 2) we need items that can reasonably be hidden to avoid notice by the guards.

But nope, he wouldn't relent until he somehow found an iron bar that he somehow put an edge on (don't ask) so he could have his "greatsword". Then griped about how he was immediately jumped by the guards and had his weapon taken away and was beaten down to 1 hit point.

For the rest of the session he kept going on and on about how he "had to get another greatsword" while we went on about the business of escaping. I've seen a lot of ludicrous things while gaming, but that's pretty high on the list.

(Running L5R for a group of people at a game store with precons is another. The players totally didn't grok Rokugan society, and it led to a very bizarre end to the adventure.)
 

payn

Legend
The desire for players to always want access to the highest weapon available never ceases to amaze me. I was playing in a game once where we all started out as inmates in a fortress prison and had to scavenge equipment in order to free ourselves.

The GM was like "ok, so we're going to approximate weapons and armor. If you pick up an item to use, we'll give it stats roughly equal to an actual weapon or armor for ease of play."

So while the rest of us were making daggers out of sharpened spoons and using pots and pans as shields, one player is like "I want a greatsword".

We tried to argue with them that 1) he's not going to find a greatsword, and 2) we need items that can reasonably be hidden to avoid notice by the guards.

But nope, he wouldn't relent until he somehow found an iron bar that he somehow put an edge on (don't ask) so he could have his "greatsword". Then griped about how he was immediately jumped by the guards and had his weapon taken away and was beaten down to 1 hit point.

For the rest of the session he kept going on and on about how he "had to get another greatsword" while we went on about the business of escaping. I've seen a lot of ludicrous things while gaming, but that's pretty high on the list.

(Running L5R for a group of people at a game store with precons is another. The players totally didn't grok Rokugan society, and it led to a very bizarre end to the adventure.)
I've seen the weapon hyper focus before. I had a pathfinder game where a big PFS guy was all about playing a dorf with a large size great axe. The PCs were about to enter a haunted ruin and found a cache of stuff to help them delve it. Guy demanded the group sell it all so he could masterwork his great axe...

We joke about it to this day about the guy who role played a large great axe with a dorf familiar. ;)
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I mean, let's be honest, D&D is kind of a power fantasy, and many players want to feel powerful. What form that power takes can vary. Some want the biggest, best numbers.

Others want to do anything they want without consequences.

I've seen, at D&D tables, the best and worst of human behavior. Once you take the limiters off, players are free to be as heroic or villainous as they care to be, because, to them, that's the essence of roleplaying.

You'd hope the players would police themselves, but it becomes the DM's job to step in and explain that "not cool" behavior isn't going to be tolerated. "But I'm just playing my character" is not acceptable at my tables.

You chose to make your character a jerk. That doesn't free you of any derision because you are roleplaying a jerk.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
Isn't this more about gelling will the group? I agree that for certain personalities, a session zero may not be enough to have them alter their play style sufficiently to fit in with the rest of the players. Some players have the self awareness to understand that they just are not interested in certain styles of game play or certain genres. Others seem to feel entitled to having other players make adjustments for them, rather than adjusting their preferred play style.
I have no problem with making adjustments.

But, as I said multiple times before, something being possible and something being easy are two very different things.

I'm playing Pasión de las Pasiones right now. It's a game that strives to emulate Mexican soap operas — a genre I'm absolutely unfamiliar with. I've never seen one, nor I really intend to, TV series don't really mesh well with my rampant ADHD. I still play it just fine, and I have that feeling of certainty. I know that whatever the hell I do, it's gonna be cool. Character creation was also a breeze, with no back and forth "hey, does this idea work?". It's pure veni, vidi, vici for me, without any shadow of a doubt.

~2 years ago, I've been playing a superhero game with almost the same group of people. It's another genre I'm barely familiar with — I've read Worm, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, I've seen a bunch of MCU movies (mostly because my now ex-wife really liked them), and that's practically it. It was GURPS, which, while far from rules-light, allows for lots of freedoms.

I didn't have that feeling of certainty in that game. When I was creating a character, I had a lot of discussions with the game master, where he shot down a lot of concepts, because they didn't fit the genre. Most of my experience with the genre is deconstruction of superheroes, while it was supposed to be played straight — and boundaries that others see as intuitive were completely arbitrary to me. To this day, I don't really know, why Batman is a "good guy". I kinda sorta understand, but I can't bring myself to feel any sympathy a billionaire psycho who beats up poor people for no goddamn reason other than fulfilling his stupid fetish.

In that game, with the same people I know for a very damn long time, I was constantly feeling that ghostly whisper in my ear: "Alice, are you really sure it's a good idea? Is it really something appropriate for the game, or just your constant desire to turn every single freaking thing you touch into a dark tragedy?".

Why? Because I had absolute freedom and had exactly zero idea what to do with that freedom. It's not veni, vidi, vici, it's like a walk through a damn warzone — I don't know what seemingly innocuous thing is actually a boobytrap.

Needless to say, I didn't enjoy that game in the slightest, so I left.

I've also played Masks, another superhero game, with the same people. There, I had that certainty too. I could feel like I can just go nuts, purely dedicate all my attention to playing my character and don't worry about derailing the game, because every single damn component of it keeps me in the fun zone. I don't need to watch my step, so I can just let go, relax, and enjoy the game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And even if they mostly get the genre, they can still get weirdly hung up on certain images. I was running Mutants and Masterminds set at the Claremont Academy (think Professor X's School for Gifted Children).
Is this Claremont Academy canon from somewhere, or did you make it up?

I ask because my high school was named Claremont...
 


amethal

Adventurer
This is getting a bit off topic, but I struggle to design characters when I'm not familiar with the genre. Especially with something like Fate, where coming up with Aspects and Stunts is a lot easier if you know the genre. I've enough experience of role-playing games that I'm happy I can get by once the game starts (just follow the lead of the GM and/or other players until I get the hang of it).

Of course, some genres are so broad that different people can have very different takes on them.

Someone once recounted a Deathwatch (Warhammer 40K) session to me where their Space Marine characters were encouraged by an NPC instructor to desert their posts and effectively become civilians. If I had been playing in that game my character would have responded violently, yet they opted to resolve it peacefully, having a more nuanced take on Space Marine behaviour than I do.
 

This is getting a bit off topic, but I struggle to design characters when I'm not familiar with the genre. Especially with something like Fate, where coming up with Aspects and Stunts is a lot easier if you know the genre. I've enough experience of role-playing games that I'm happy I can get by once the game starts (just follow the lead of the GM and/or other players until I get the hang of it).

Of course, some genres are so broad that different people can have very different takes on them.

Someone once recounted a Deathwatch (Warhammer 40K) session to me where their Space Marine characters were encouraged by an NPC instructor to desert their posts and effectively become civilians. If I had been playing in that game my character would have responded violently, yet they opted to resolve it peacefully, having a more nuanced take on Space Marine behaviour than I do.
HERESY!!!!!!!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Personally, I think Masks is a great example of mechanics really reinforcing and introducing genre tropes. Even if you aren't steeped in comics generally, and unfamiliar with teen supers narratives, the fact that any adult you come across can mechanically influence or impact you really drives home what the game is about, and how its specific subgenre operates. The playbooks are also incredible mini-instruction manuals that all tie back into the genre and premise in really specific ways. I'd much prefer all of that to a GM telling me to watch Young Justice as prep.
I think Masks is the best PbtA game (followed by Spirit of 77) and the second best superhero game (following MHR).
 



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