Thursday, March 8, 2012

Philosophy and Games: Story vs. Game OR Crunch vs. Fluff.

I've been thinking a lot about games lately. Wow, big surprise there right? The thing is that I am fundamentally a different gamer now then I was when I was younger. The sacred cows I held when I was younger have been slaughtered and turned into steak and ribs.

There was a time I was a fluff bunny. Then for a bit I was a crunch addict. Now, I fall somewhere in between. For those of you who don't follow the wargames circuit, that's background and story compared to hard game rules and physics. Nowadays, I'm neatly in the middle.

There were times I wanted my Chaos Marines to act more chaotically. When I say chaotically, I really meant erratically. Just random stuff, I was not contemplating the mean of chaos being a goal instead of a description. Chaos in the 40K world does not mean true chaos, its more anarchy. Tear down the established order.

There was a time when I wanted to beat the ever living crap out of a dude who wanted to use a Tau/IG combined list with homebrew rules. Not thinking of the few Imperial worlds that were Gu'ala. NOT IN MY RULES BUDDY!

Those are just 40K examples. There's more and more out there. I've been thinking more and more about this in relation to D&D rather then wargames, but it still applies. My philosophy now is much more game-centric then story-centric. I went from the dude who never killed anyone unless it was story appropriate to a dude who gleefully enacts a TPK (Total Party Kill).

The thing is at the end of the day, I realize that D&D is a game. It is not a novel writing tool, regardless of what Weiss and Hickman say. For it to work as a game, there has to be risks, and there have to be consequences. It is supposed to be a challenge to be overcome.

That's my game philosophy. The players drive the game, the DM provides the challenges. The players can only become legendary if they are provided the opportunity to do so. I don't sit down and come up with an outline (anymore at least), I plan things out very loosely, and let the PCs go where they will. Everything they do is because they are given the choice.

I suppose that's why I like published adventures, I can plop them down, and just get going. If the PCs opt out, well then, I'm only out a few bucks and I can use it later. They are great a outline.

The thing is that I want my PCs to do whatever they want. I want them to feel like my game is their game. I give them challenges, that I expect them to live up to. I give them choices, and I expect them to choose wisely. I give them background and fluff, and I expect them to enjoy the enhancements.

Due to my game philosophy there are a few things that really bother me. I mean they piss me the fuck off. Stuff that would cause me to stand up, flip a table and drive my pen into someone's face.
*Railroading- I want to go where I want to go. If you don't like it why the hell are you playing an RPG?
*You can't do X- Wait, last time I checked, I wasn't playing Stephen Hawking. If I want to jump off a ledge onto the back of a giant lizard, by gum I can do it! I might not SUCCEED, but I can do it!
*Nerf- Nerfing is the act of pulling the teeth out of something (like replacing bullets with foam). If you need to nerf a bad guy, then you do not have good enough players. I should have a damn good idea when I should run and when I should fight. If I don't then I deserve to die!
*Wait a minute, you weren't suppose to fight that!- Is it evil? Is it in front of me? Do I have a reason to believe I can kill it? Then YES I am going to try to kill it!
*Your character doesn't know that, its metagaming!-Bullshit. My character is far more into this world then I am. He obviously knows things that I don't. If your dumbass leaves the map with the treasure clearly marked, I'm going straight for that room. It's a game, and I will take advantage of any opportunity you give me. My character is a lucky guesser! Characters might not have any concept of levels, but they probably have a good idea of how the world works. They'll know if they have a chance at killing that beholder. It doesn't matter that I know that a beholder is CR 10 and we're a 12th level party. If I can figure it out, so can my character.

There's a reason that I'm writing all of this, and in my mind its a damn good reason. Others might disagree with it. As a matter of fact, the reason I'm writing this will disagree with it.


  1. Hey, I had intended to write a reply here but it got so long I didn't feel right taking up so much space. I've Linked to your post and started a topic in regards to it over at my blog.

  2. Well, actually, no - just because a player solves a twisted puzzle, or knows the best way to thwart a beastie because of the natural intellect or because they've consumed the Monster Manual/Rule Book it doesn't automatically transfer to your character. Hence character stats. If your character is a thick shite, then he/she isn't going to work things out as you, the player, can in reality. After all, that's why it's termed as 'role playing'. But on the other hand, if your character is a genius with a stat INT score of 18, then good luck to you.

    The same argument has popped up in my games, where players quibble about their own real life abilities being transferred over to their characters. HELLO! You are NOT your character - your character is NOT you. Just because you can swim in real life, it does not mean your character can swim also.