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Tag: game wish

WISH 82: Summarizing

I have been woefully behind on WISHes lately. I blame travel, and apologize. However, I’m home now, and WISH 82 rocks:

Sum up one or more games that you GM or play in 10 words or less. (Three is best, but not everybody is that pithy.) Don’t restrict yourself to current games if you have great ones in the past.

DoSS: Dreams of heroism. (Chris is scratching his head right about now.)

Unknown USA: Driving Miss Dorothy.

Paridon: In pursuit of style.

Babes in the Woods: Traveling to wisdom.

UN PEACE: Too old too fast.

WISH 79: How Many?

WISH 79 asks:

What do you think is the best cast size for the games you’ve played? What are the factors that go into your answer: genre, play group, gaming system, etc.?

Well, once upon a time I would have said “three, maybe four.” But the Unknown USA campaign had, what, six regular players and worked like a charm. Not all of ‘em showed up every time, of course.

Hm. Let me take cast size as meaning “the number of people who show up, on average,” and I’ll answer “three or four” with some confidence. I’m kind of a spotlight hog, so I like three players. More deadly combat oriented games sort of need four people. D&D works way better with four people; three PCs are riding the ragged line of survivability. Champions can be the same way — it’s less deadly, but you don’t want the heros getting knocked out all the time.

Interestingly, both of those games have combat systems in which PCs get knocked out of the fight but come back on a fairly regular basis. In D&D, it’s healing spells; in Champions, it’s Recovery.

WISH 78: Multitool

WISH 78 asks:

Do you think allowing one player to play more than one character in a game is a good or bad idea? Does the style of the game make any difference? What about the format (FTF, PBeM, etc.)?

Well, you wouldn’t want multiple characters in a LARP, I imagine. (I joke!)

I think that playing two equal characters face to face is generally a bad idea. I was in a game recently in which everyone had two players, and while I enjoyed the game, I gotta say I would have enjoyed it more if I’d been able to focus on one PC. If you’re playing in a purely tactical game, it perhaps makes more sense, but I like exploring personalities.

Troupes seem to work better. I’m defining “troupe” as “one primary PC, and multiple secondary PCs,” in Ars Magica fashion, which is perhaps a little too specific but it’ll do for a working definition. I expect this is purely psychological; a troupe-style game allows me to concentrate on a single PC, with the others being adjuncts. (I really looked forward to Amelia Wellstone’s band of street kids. Alas.)

I s’pose I had multiple PCs back on AmberMUSH, come to think of it. Usually only one primary, though. There, the trick was maintaining a serious amount of separation, and occasionally going through contortions to avoid having PC interests intersect. It was really more like having separate PCs in overlapping campaigns.

WISH #77: Contributory

In this week’s WISH, Ginger asks:

What do you think the value of contributions to a game is? Do you think it’s fair for the GM to give out experience or character points for contributions? If so, what qualifies? What about the informal value of contributions? Do they balance or unbalance a game?

I think contributions can add a lot to a game (he said modestly). They’re not essential, but they can really help set tone and feel and they definitely make players feel more of a stake in the world. That’s not always a desired effect, but it’s an effect I happen to like, so I’m all for it. It takes a certain willingness for the GM to let go control, but that’s OK.

On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of giving out extra points for them. This is more a sign of my uncertainty about experience points as a whole, I suspect — but what exactly are you rewarding? Contributions don’t much reflect additional training/learning/experience gained by the PC in an in-game sense. If you give experience points “just for showing up,” then sure, contributions are another sort of “showing up.” But then you get into the problems of lack of balance. I just think it’s a bit of a risky wicket.

WISH #76: Player Role

WISH 76 asks:

A lot is made of the role of the GM in a game, but what is the role of the player?

I’m not really sure if I can answer that one, since so much depends on the game. The single most important trick to master can be summarized as “support interaction,” which covers a lot — sharing spotlight time, making your character sticky, and so on. Most other stuff depends on the game, I think.

Some games really are GM-driven, and I don’t actually have any problems with that. Sometimes I want to be a spectator. Not often, but sometimes. Some games, the role of the player is to be tactical opposition. Some games, the players help drive plot.

Idle question: is the GM playing the game as well? Shouldn’t we call him or her a player?

WISH 74: Where's?

WISH 74 is all about dreams and hopes:

Name three or more supplements (or core books, for that matter) for existing game systems that you’d like to see. Why? What inspires your interest in these supplement? What existing supplements or materials are you using instead?

I’m not an Amber player anymore, but I’d still kind of like to see Rebma… no? OK, I’ll come up with three others.

First off is a two in one, since the reasons I want them are similar. I would like to see the promised Heresy RPG. The background was cool and the card art was superb and I like games that use the Christian mythos quite a bit. Heretical cyberpunk hit all my buttons. I want Anoch’s Mystick RPG for similar reasons; the cards hinted at a dense intricate background which played to my love for conspiracy.

Mind you, in both cases I expect I would have been disappointed. It’s unfair to expect game companies to live up to my inchoate dreams, and neither of the sourcebooks would have been 500 pages long.

In lieu of these sourcebooks, I hang around people who make up cool conspiratorial stuff and that scratches my itch. I also read Eco novels. It works out OK for me.

Second: Trinity. Lots more Trinity. Preferably written by me, but really, any Trinity would do. In particular, I really sorely wish I’d gotten to work on the full-size aliens supplement. I wanted to write the Coalition chapters so badly. (Pause for a moment of self-indulgence.)

Since the supplement probably isn’t happening any time soon, I make up my own Coalition material, which bears a certain resemblance to what might have been published.

Finally, I’d like to see a D20 Modern Fantasy supplement, adapting the D20 Modern rules to fantasy usage, preferably from WotC. I’m pretty sure that D20 Modern characters are a bit weaker than characters of equivalent level in D&D, but I like the D20 Modern approach to classes somewhat more than I like the D&D approach. So a supplement which presented a beefed up set of classes would be vastly appreciated. Alternatively, of course, I could just start everyone at third level. (Tip of the hat to Gamma World D20 Modern.)


Happily, Game WISH is back. Today’s question:

Talk about a few characters you had to stop playing before their stories felt finished. Where do you think they would have gone?

It’s kind of a hard question, because I don’t tend to think of characters in those terms — so when I say I’d like to play Paul or Clarice more, it’s not because I think their stories were unfinished per se. It’s because I want to find out what happens next. In Paul’s case, I’d like to see him leading an adult superhero team. I’d like to find out if he can continue to be the force for good he thinks he could be. And I like playing him. In Clarice’s case, well, she’s just fun to play. I guess her story is about done; I like thinking of her hanging out in 1850 training a bunch of little genetically engineered Ascended ninjas.

That said, Cian really deserves more play and he’s the only character who I really feel missed out on a full lifespan. I had to move to Boston in the middle of that campaign, and there was a lot of prophecy around Cian. I’d really like to know what happens to him, and I don’t have any idea, which is perhaps the most irksome part.

WISH 69: Board?

WISH 69: Non-RPG Games for Gamers asks about the other side of the gaming world:

Recommend three non-RPG games for RPGers. Why do you recommend these three?

Well, blackjack is lots of fun — no? Oh, got it.

Diplomacy, first off. It takes a while to play, and some RPG groups are used to those six to eight hour sessions. Plus you can roleplay the countries. Plus it’s a sneaky introduction to the idea of diceless gaming.

Shadowfist, second. Eeek, a collectible card game! But it’s a ton of fun, it has a goofy exciting setting, and a lot of roleplayers I know enjoy it.

Finally, Cosmic Encounter. It’s a classic board game for a reason. There’s a good measure of skill and a good measure of randomness and every game is different, to borrow the marketing slogan.

WISH 68: There can be two

WISH 68 wants to know about something I don’t have a lot of experience with:

Have you ever played in or GMed a game with more than one GM? What was your experience with it? What were the strengths and weaknesses of having multiple GMs? Was it positive or negative? Would you do it again? If you’ve never tried it as a GM or player, would you like to? Why or why not?

Answer: not really. A couple of sessions of From Light To Darkness and that’s it. It was good; Neil and Soula clearly agreed on how things were meant to work.

In the back of my brain I have a game design which requires multiple GMs. One GM sets background, and one GM plays all the NPCs. I wanted to make some kind of point about narrativist versus simulationist and how a game can satisfy multiple urges, but I forgot what the precise point was, so I’ll never actually write down the design.

Oh, and my game Into the Sunset is pretty much a multiple GM game, come to think of it.

WISH 67: Tell me

WISH 67 is all about the story:

How do you tell stories in your games? Are there character stories, overarching stories, and/or other kinds of stories? Could you tell a coherent story from games you’ve GMed or played in? Does it matter to you? Why or why not?

I don’t ever strive to tell stories, but it’s nice when it happens. I’m really more interested in exploring the story space than I am in setting out to tell a story. I like it when things happen to my characters and I like it when my characters do things, but I find plotting for a story to be restrictive.

My characters sometimes have goals, but I regard those as plot hooks for the GM rather than indications of where the story must end. I expect goals to change in play. My goals in real life certainly do.

The Dear Brother letters are a solid example of this. Reese actually didn’t have a goal; he had a desire. He wanted to show America the true road. I didn’t know how it was going to play out, and in the end it’s been a little darker than I envisioned. People have told me that it works as a story, and I think it does, but that’s more because I’m making an effort to write the letters as stories — I’m subscribing to the conventions of fiction rather than gaming.

It means that sometimes I talk about things Reese didn’t see, and I take a few liberties here and there, and I leave out great swathes of things that make the campaign interesting. In the end, the differences between Rob’s campaign and my Dear Brother letters illuminate the differences between playing in a campaign — even a story-oriented campaign — and telling a story.