Sunday, September 15, 2013

on the modern game player

Holy crap, it's been over 7 months since I posted anything. I haven't been posting because I've been busy with work, life, and gaming! So I am content with that.

I've been running a lot of games in that 7 months including a nice sustained Swords & Wizardry game that lasted a pretty good while. Since then though the group has fallen apart and attempts to begin new games have been failures.

Last night I sat down with two key players and hashed around about why things weren't working and what we wanted to do about it.

Key points from the discussion: I find Pathfinder and most rulesy games obnoxious (for reasons I have posted about ad nauseum); Player A doesn't like OSR games because he finds character death upsetting and discouraging; Player B wants to play fantasy and doesn't want to get bogged down in rules adjudication.

We decided that I would run a series of one-shots with them and a few new prospect players to A) try get a group  and time established; B) try out some systems and settings and see what people like.

Then this morning I finally understood the modern game player in my group (Player A above) and I sent A & B this email:

After a good night's sleep I think I have an insight coming out of last night's discussion.

RPGs can be divided broadly into two categories: story games and traditional games. Story games have mechanics that can effect the narrative, in traditional games the narrative is totally the purview of the GM.

Within traditional there are modern and OSR (old-school) games. Modern games tend to be rulesy and tend not to include character death as a large part of play. Whereas OSR games tend to be rules-light and embrace character death. Until last night I was focused on the rulesyness as the main dividing line not thinking about the implications of the latter division.

The big difference I think is that in a modern game we are telling The Characters' Story, in an OSR game we are telling The Story - in which the characters are participants. That is why for me (and others who enjoy OSR games) character death is (while sometimes disappointing or frustrating) fundamentally not a big deal, because the larger story in which we are participating continues, and we get to continue participating through a new character. This can even be exciting.

Neither of these approaches is badwrongfun, but I think our discussion finally gave me insight in to the modern game player's preference.  Having permadeath on the table adds to tension, excitement, and ultimately the satisfaction in victory for the OSR player - because the OSR player is focused on the overarching game experience. For the modern player it is merely loss, because the focus is on the character in its individuality.

So for RP oriented players the rules heaviness may not be the important distinction at all.

I may run something other than Other Dust for the 1st one-shot game. It is most definitely an OSR game. So while it has awesome systems and lots of opportunity for sandboxing and RP there are mutants in the waste that want to (and can) eat your face.


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