Tuesday, December 5, 2017

RPGs, Avatar vs Chess Piece Playing

I've gone from DMing AD&D 1E games for friends to my kids to paying clients as a team building tool.  I've seen the approaches of playing a character as an avatar of myself and playing a character as a chess piece in depth.

Personally, I prefer playing as a chess piece myself.  I find it more challenging and more fun.  I know that many, if not most, people prefer playing as an avatar.  This seems especially more prevalent when starting out as a new player.

Just from observation, I notice that most players, playing for fun, play as an avatar in a sandbox game that allows for more free choice and movement.  Sandboxes are a very player centered game environment.  Specific adventures seem to allow for more exploration of the "chess piece" player approach because it gives the player the opportunity to focus on achieving specific goals and objectives both individually and as a group.

My team building games are always run as specific adventure, avatar played games.  These folks are paying for more than a fun, "get away" game.  This is as much training and education as it is (hopefully) exciting.

I always have clients start with character creation because it gives them the opportunity to build their back story and build something of themselves personally into the player character.

There is usually a brief sandbox session right off to allow the players to explore their capabilities and the game world parameters they must operate in.  Then the specific adventure session follows.  I custom write a session for each client group to meet the skill building objectives they want to focus on.

I've had players in client groups try to play chess piece style while the others play avatar style and if anyone walks away from the experience saying they didn't get much out of the experience, it is those players.  Avatar style playing allows for more personal investment in the player character and the game.  Not making that investment, the player takes little away from it as well.  It truly is a "you get out of it what you put into it" situation.

I will take client groups of people in management positions into games in "chess piece" mode.  This serves their training purposes better.  Their goals are usually focused on resource allocation and management.  "Chess piece" style is very appropriate to that objective.  This as well as group strategizing, goal setting and setting group S.O.P.

I do very little gaming outside of client based games anymore.  If I do, I'd like to do so as a player.  Not an easy task for me in my area.    Like I said earlier, my preferred personal playing style is is "chess piece".  I like to take my own created characters and explore the potentialities to their extremes.

However, I get just as much fun taking a random pre-gen and just making the most of it.  Winning is important in my gaming.  Overcoming obstacles, being the first or best or having the highest score is the whole point of playing any game for me.

Which style do I find myself winning with more often?  To be honest, I'd say in avatar style.  Perhaps that's a bit of an easy win for me though with my having so much experience and familiarity with the game as a DM.   However, in "chess piece" style, I can focus more on learning and experimenting with abilities and skills relating to class or race capabilities.  In the long run, I improve over time at playing a given class, race, etc... regardless of dice determined abilities and increase my opportunities to win no matter the character type.

No matter what your preferred style is, you should be having fun.  Otherwise you're doing it wrong.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Who vs Who

I see posts all the time by people who are DM's talking about the things they incorporate into the game to essentially counter or respond to the pc's in the game.

Most of the time, it's not hard to get that the DM is playing counter to the players.  I get that.  At the same time though, I disagree with doing that.  I don't see it as the DM's place to be the opponent to the players pc's.

We as DM's have multiple roles in the game.  We prepare the game session/adventure and tell the story.  We are also the referee during the game.  We determine what is within the rules of the game for players, the pc's and the obstacles built into the game.

It is there that I make the distinction that the DM is not the opponent to the players.  The DM at that point is there to be as objective and impartial as a referee, even while rolling dice to find out what the monster does in random result situations.

One of the DM tasks in game time is to make sure it keeps moving along.  Something easier done by being objective and impartial.  If the DM is wanting to move the game in such a direction as to change the outcome (dramatically) they are not going to keep the game apace.  That's not my style.

Once I write, create and otherwise prepare the game, it's on it's own.  During gametime I am the narrator and referee.  If I've done my job at game prep right, the monsters and npc's all have their personalities established and all I need to do as storyteller is to step into that character to see how they will go about the interaction according to the pre-established identity and randomness accordingly.

The players come to the table to play the game.  In so doing they represent their own interests and intent to play and succeed, win in other words.  We play games to win.  So the players are there to compete against the game itself and the other players, NOT the DM.

In the way I see it, the players can win by accomplishing the objectives successfully and by getting more points than the other players for outstanding gameplay.  The game can also win by basically having stymied the players efforts to succeed.  As the referee, I have to stand back and let things take their course impartially.




Friday, May 19, 2017

Making Contact

Doc stopped in front of the shop, stepping up onto the wooden walkway and off of the dry and dusty dirt street.  The large, colorfully painted sign that hung over the doorway solemnly informed those who could read that this was the notable Antiquarium, "the" source for all things historical and curious.

As he opened the door, the bell tinkled spiritedly to announce his presence to the shopkeeper who was undoubtedly puttering about somewhere among the vast and many cases and cabinets in which new items were always being added but seldom seemed to leave.

Doc looked toward the front counter and observed a young man standing up to look at him, he walked to the counter.  "How may I help you today Sir", the young man said very loudly.  Doc chuckled inwardly at this.  He knew the volume was meant to let the actual shopkeep know a customer had arrived.

A rustling sound could be heard immediately at that and somewhere from the left side of the counter, amid a number of boxes a deep voice could be heard loudly profaning any number of things sacred and common as a stack of heavy looking books fell off of a shelf suddenly into an open crate.   The voice seemed to come out of the crate.

A large hairy head erupted from beneath the pile of books in the crate still muttering imprecations having to do with the young man at the counter's parentage.  The dwarf was still sputtering when his eyes at last fell upon Doc standing at the counter.

Having a reddish gold lion's mane complimented by an extremely long and braided beard of the same color, the stocky dwarf hauled himself out of the crate and began stomping toward Doc as he tried very hard not to laugh.

With a sidelong glance at the youth, the dwarf stood in front of the grey-brown curly, short haired Doc.  Who even at his humanly average height and build seemed to tower over the dwarf.  "Welcome good sirrah, and what manner of knowledge would he be seekin today from the oldest inhabitant and business in all of New Edinburgh?"

He wasn't lying either.  At two hundred and sixty years old, no one had been in town longer than Magnus the Elder.  Truth be told, supposedly his family had been part of New Edinburgh since before the turning time.  If that were true though, and there were many skeptics, that would mean there was human in the bloodline of Magnus though he would never admit to it.

Doc himself only occasionally was able to come visit his old friend on rare occasions due his job requiring that he travel so extensively.  It was always a rare pleasure to stand in this place which exuded a sense of being out of place and time.  A very peaceful place which Magnus worked very hard to maintain.

"I come seeking the wisdom of our forefathers." Doc began the coded message.  "Such wisdom lies within your own constitution and determination to seek the truth", Magnus continued.  The contact established, Doc began the next part of the interaction.  "If only I could speak with those forefathers once again and have their counsel, what great things I might achieve."

Magnus nodded knowingly at Doc, then finished with, "The words they leave us with in books can be much the same as talking with them in person if one is patient."  At that, Magnus slightly nodded in the direction of the young man.

'So the youth is not an Initiate', Doc realized. He understood he would have to wait a moment until Magnus could send the young man away before he could send the message to the guild President.  Magnus could be heard giving the young man instructions to go out of the shop for awhile to perform a particular task that suddenly needed to be done immediately.

Magnus then pretended to busy himself looking for a book while the assistant hurriedly prepared to leave.  After a few moments, the lad was out the door like a whirlwind.  "At the rate thet boyo moves, we'll have plenty a time to handle her business."  Doc smiled and stepped forward to grasp his diminutive friend's hand in a firm shake.

The two walked to the rear of the shop, weaving through various bookshelves until they came to a stop in front of an ornate cabinet filled with a number of small sculptures.  Reaching seemingly to caress a small statue of a dog, the dwarf triggered the mechanism and the large cabinet swung inward to the wall revealing a hallway that led to a room at the end of it.

Stopping to admire a painting halfway down, Doc waited, distracting himself as Magnus stopped just before the doorway to the room .  Standing so that he blocked the view of anyone behind him, Magnus fiddled with something for a moment, then grunted to indicate that it was safe to enter the room.  Such precautions must be taken in every Society safe house.

At an enormous mahogany desk that occupied the entirety of the center of the room, the top was clear of anything.  The polish and shine of the glassy top was indicative of the great care and pride the middle aged dwarf took in his care of the timeless and priceless historical items in his care.

Once again distracting himself by looking at some brick-a-brac, Doc deliberately was not watching as the dwarf approached a spot in the room behind Doc's back and diligently worked some mechanism.  In just a few, short moments, Doc heard the sound of a book behind laid on the desktop and turned around.

As Magnus seated himself at the desk, he looked up at Doc and asked him for a password that Doc gave to him.  The dwarf wrote the password at the top of the page in the open journal and slowly, the letters disappeared from the page.

After a couple of minutes, new words began to form on the page.  He was now in contact with command.  Hopefully the person he needed to come to this riverside town would be available and the guild command would approve the assignment.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The beginning of a new adventure

In Nomerca, a vast land taking up most of a continent, a river valley stretches North to South nearly dividing the continent in half.  The river itself, now known only as the "Mimo" River, is the main draw for villages, towns and cities seeking to harness it's fast current for everything from energy to food and water resources.

The Mimo has dozens of tributaries and offshoots as well as receives input from other rivers stretching across the great plainslands which stretch for thousands of kilometers in all directions.

To the West lay mountains and deserts.

To the East lay gigantic lakes and a rich basin which is itself bordered by mountains and coastal plains.

To the South are swamps, marshes, all surrounded by hot and arid lands good only for grazing animals and ranching.

To the North is a vast tundra rich in arboreal forests and further bounded by vast, winter-locked open spaces.

In one large town directly alongside the Mimo River, New Edinburgh, something strange is going on.

 People are changing.  Literally.

In a community made up of just about every main race from human to orcs to elves, dwarves and gnomes, people have been changing into goblins seemingly overnight.  Once changed, the goblins scamper off to someplace north of town.

Reports of goblin raids on villages and travelers along the Mimo River have been increasing.  More interesting are how every report indicates a great deal of organization and even subjugation among the goblins, known for their genetic programming for chaos.

"Doc" is suspicious and curious.  Not only are people essentially being kidnapped and changed into something else against their will and unsuspecting, once changed, they are essentially enslaved and being programmed to blind servitude.  He thinks something should be done to investigate this more in-depth and stopped if possible.

Who could take up such a challenge though?  It is certainly a job for more than just one person.  All of his efforts to bring it to the Town Council and the Sheriff but they seem uninterested, disinclined to believe it or in complete denial of the situation.  The Sheriff actually threatened to lock up the next person who dared to mention it.

Why are people changing?  Where are they going to after being changed?  Is someone behind the changes and the raids?  Why is the Sheriff so disgruntled and the council members so apathetic?
So many questions, so few answers, so little time.  At the rate things are going, nearly half the people in New Edinburgh will have been changed before another month goes by.

"Doc" has an idea of who might be able to get assistance from.  He heads to the bookstore to confer with his friend the local sage.

die Bürgerwehr, a secret society

This is a secret society of people concerned for freedom and liberty of all sentient beings. They work together to right wrongs by other groups and individuals who would infringe on another's natural rights. They trace their beginnings to the time of the "turn" before the change of everything on this world. It is said that the most valuable possession of the society is an original copy of the founding documents of a place from before the "turn" called the U.S.A. a place, according to those documents where all people were respected as individuals with a sovereignty of their own, each and every one.
die Bürgerwehr is always looking for new agents and members of the society. One does not petition to join. If the Society wants you, they will invite you to become an agent, a contractor so to speak. If they feel an individual is worthy, they will extend an invitation to join and become a member of the Society with all of it's benefits and responsibilities. One can choose to not join if invited. Free and voluntary association is highly regarded among the Society.
die Bürgerwehr is represented by someone in the position of "General Contractor".  It is this General's duty to represent the Society in all negotiations and conduct the business of the Society with the approval of the "Congress"  which consists of all Society members that have achieved a certain status level relative to their trade or class.

Most people don't even know the Society actually exists.  Of those who have heard of it, most consider it a myth.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bees, My New Adventure

I am writing a new 1E/OSRIC adventure focusing on a giant bee colony.  I am highly enthusiastic about this as it allows me to combine my profession with my hobby in an extremely cool way.

I know going in, it features a Druid, a colony of giant honey bees, a geas and a secret, magical, mystical treasure.  I also know there is a terrible dark secret and a cover up.  Lastly I know it contains new creatures and shtuff.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kits vs Open Play

I had a chat recently with a fella interested in playing AD&D 1e.  He has some idea of 2e and other later editions of AD&D but not 1e.  What's the major difference is what he wanted to know.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was more about the specificity of later editions.  It's kind of like LEGO kits from when I was was younger.  They just came in a big box with a variety of different blocks and a beginning set of instructions on how to build a handful of things like trucks, helicopters, buildings and other fun stuff.

Ultimately, the world was at your fingertips.  You could build almost anything you could imagine.  Later, LEGO started making kits with specific parts and specific instructions to build what they intended for you to build.

Yes, if you were creative, imaginative and resourceful you could build other things with what was available.  It seemed though that while a handful of people (like me) did just that, most everyone else seemed content staying with the provided instructions.

As newer updates to AD&D were released, it seemed as though they were being refined and directed toward someone's pre-determined idea of how the game should be played rather than the wide open and non-directed system that is 1e.

It was like building a specific LEGO kit focused on a specific project instead of building whatever you might have in mind.  Sure, easier to referree and run the game but, in my case anyway, it felt like I was playing someone else's game, not "my" game.

To me 1e seems to support spontaneity and flexibility.  It allows for a game to go in any direction at any time because 1e has no expectations.  It has no pre-determined outcomes.  It just the bits and blocks used to build an adventure.  Any adventure.  YOUR adventure.

Later editions may be fine for other people but they seem too focused and constrained on how someone else thinks it should be played.  I'll stick to 1e (and OSRIC) because it feels more like my game, my way.