Apart from the occasional Discworld game I think most of our games have always been based on epic fantasy/scifi stories and so nine times out of ten humour would have been really out of place in game.
One game really stands out however.
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I would never call our World of Darkness games dark gothic horror or whatever the classic WoD games are usually described as. They are dark and they can be horrific but in all honesty they are usually on par with the Blade trilogy of films. We had however just gone through a couple of sessions where we had been going up against a Sabbat pack and in all honesty the game was starting to turn me off WoD. I’m not a gore and horror fan. Unfortunately a few of our players met their final death in this last session and so were due to bring in new characters for the next session.
This is where it gets a little weird. One of our D&D GM’s had been playing a bad ass Ventrue who had been wasted and decided it was time to lighten the game up a little. We never did find out just what clan his new character was from…
Picture the scene. It’s a Saturday night and I’ve just pulled a 12 hour shift in the supermarket stacking the shelves with beer, wines and spirits. A few of my friends had been in the pub beforehand and the game was due to start at 10pm sharp. With my shift ending just as the game was due to start I jumped in a taxi with a few cans of beer and arrived not long after the start time. I walked into the living room expecting to see everyone worked up and ready to play and instead everyone was sitting in deathly silence staring at the fireplace. It was at this point our friendly D&D GM walked into the room from the kitchen with our WoD Storyteller in toe.
Now before I go any further you should probably have your mental image of the aforementioned GM. Think of a guy around about six foot four inches tall that is overweight and has a beer gut. In fact think of the Tron guy and stick a creepy unshaven face onto him. That is roughly our man. Now dress him in a gold lamay dress, a blonde curly wig and makeup. Think of the worst transvestite you’ve ever seen and you might come close.
This guy sauntered into the room as if nothing was up, sat down and proceeded to get his gaming materials out of his handbag. He played the entire game dressed like that and no one said a word about it. It didn’t take long to work out why he was dressed like that once we found out what his character was like. We never did find out if he was a Malkavian or a Toreador but either way he suffered for his art.
It was certainly a break from the gore of the weeks before but I think it provided it’s own horror’s for us to work through.
A Butterfly Dreaming is hosting this months RPG Bloggers Carnival. Although you might not pick it up from my entry it’s topic for this month is actually Humour!
Why do I have such a downer on updates to game systems?
1. It’s expensive.
I’ve spent thousands of pounds over the years on roleplay books. At least 90% of that was on supplements and campaign settings rather than rulebooks so you can understand when I get a little miffed when the publishers bring out a new version that makes all those supplements and settings worthless in the eyes the new system.
2. Same old story just different rules.
So when WOD went through a reboot very little changed. The mechanics where mixed up and ‘refined’ and that’s about it as the same basic story kept going. To be fair to White Wolf they basically shot themselves in the foot when they first published that Gehenna was on it’s way. Or were they just very shrewd people that knew exactly how many people would buy the new rules?
With Dungeons and Dragons 4ed they’ve basically turned it into D&D lite. It’s not a refinement of the previous games or an expansion on the system. They’ve took the popular parts from online computer games and melded it together with the previous rules to create something that doesn’t feel, to me at least, like any D&D game I’ve seen before. Why not keep the old D&D line going or at least fix the bits that didn’t work and release 4ed as a new game line but one that uses the same world? Have it as an extension of the mini battles game and market it to the crowd of young gamers moving up from Pokemon and the other card games that seem to be morphing into spinnig top battles.
3. Did I say it was expensive?
Forget the cost of the books I’ve bought in the past that are now worthless. Lets look at how much it costs to get a Forgotten Realms game going now that 4ed is out. The DM/players guides come in at $60 for both of them and the setting books add another $60-70 onto that as well. Your talking over $120 just to play the basic setting and never mind any of the expansions they bring out in the future. What if you go to all that trouble and you find you really don’t like the new setting or you really don’t like the new 4ed rules?
4. Physical space
I live in a normal sized house in the UK. We have plenty of shelf space and yet I am forced to keep a sizable amount of my books in boxes in the attic. I cannot find anywhere to keep my almost complete collection of oWOD books never mind space for the new system should I ever give in and buy it.
5. Mental space
I’ve already memorised the rules and mechanics of 13 separate gaming systems over the years. Do I really need to squeeze another one in? At what point will my mind begin to fail and the AD&D equipment charts start to meld together and be mistaken for the Small Creatures Crit Table from Rolemaster?
The old games worked. Sure they had their flaws but so do the new versions. Pick one and stick with it but I just wish the old system I loved still had official work being published for them.
Do you know the last time I had to learn a completely new gaming system? I’m not talking about jumping between editions of games here but proper separate systems. The last time was fourteen years ago when I had to learn the WOD system after a ten hour shift and several cans of lager. Thankfully WOD is basically a very simple system but it would have been a totally different ball game if the system was any more complex.
As those that follow this blog may know I’m coming out of retirement as a gamesmaster very soon to run a Shadowrun game. Now those systems we play I know off by heart but I’ve only ever played SR once and it was as a player 18 years ago.
I’ve read through the rules several times now and its a fairly simple system but I cannot for the life of me retain any of it in my head. Have I reached my limit? Have I got to the same stage as Homer Simpson and for every new bit of information that goes in two bits fall out?
How do you go about learning a new system? Do you just go with a brute force attack and sit through your evening reading and rereading the rules and playing games regardless with the books in front of you or do you have a way of remembering the differences between systems and using those as hooks for learning the new rules?
At the moment I’m going with the brute force idea but it’s failing badly. I usually go through the character creation on my own to pick up the basics and repeatedly build the same generic character over and over again. Normally this will highlight those few areas I have trouble with or can’t quite get correct in my head but I’ve drawn up three characters so far and you’d think one was from WOD, one from D&D and the other from a completely homebrew game that is based on playing germs and living with the bleach under your kitchen sink.
I wonder if you can get any nanotech that make learning gaming rules easier?
I’m sure it’s something we’ve all thought of at some point but has anyone actually done it? I don’t mean playing yourself wandering around the Forgotten Realms with a bow on your back or a wand in your hand. I really do mean playing yourself as a character in a game in present day.
We’ve done it properly twice I think and I have to say it’s possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done with regards to roleplaying. We managed to get a taster for it during a Vampire TM campaign where we played ourselves as vampires but being undead a lot of our self-ness changed. We then ran the Hunter campaigns which we lucked out on and had two of our more graphic and imaginative Storytellers running the games. The opening to the second game still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.
With any usual game you put on your character like a set of armour and off you go. Everything you do is fantastical. Wether your your spelunking in a dungeon whilst playing D&D or hacking a security system during an attack on some random corporation in Cyberpunk 2020 there is always something going on that cannot happen in real life. Playing a dwarf fighting off an army of wolf riding orcs or getting a new set of cyberware installed detaches you from reality just enough for you to be swept along with the story. It’s like watching an interactive movie. Games along the lines of the World of Darkness series take it that step closer by setting the game in a modern setting and running campaigns in situations that 90% of the time you’d be doing every day anyway. Heading out to a nightclub or walking the streets is very easy to imagine but the fantasy element of being a monster still takes you to that movie like place.
Whilst our games were based on Hunter both our ST’s went out of their way to make sure our powers didn’t manifest early on and even when they did it was never a case of ‘what cool power did I learn today? The realisation of what was going on, baring in mind that as players we really didn’t know much about the system or how it fitted in with the WOD setting, along with the sheer horror our characters were witnessing made it really hard to detach yourself from the game. You were the character and everything you did in game was done instinctively. There was no hint of heroics where they wouldn’t be any and at the end of the night there wasn’t a session that went by that I didn’t learn something about myself. To this day I still hold them up as being the two campaigns that really worked and pulled everyone into the game and didn’t let them out.
I know why they worked. That sense of knowing yourself without thinking as well as knowing your party almost as well as you know yourself takes a lot of work out of the game. There is very little guessing how someone will react in a situation and you know far more about them than you would do with any ordinary character that you play never mind one that the other players play. Having your home town being the basis of the setting and all the places you normally go being used in game means the ST doesn’t have to work to get you imagining the game correctly. It takes all that hard work and focuses it purely on the story.
Now how do you make your other games work that well? What can you take from these kind of games that will work no matter where you set your campaign?