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Author Topic: Disappointed with Conventional RPGs  (Read 2762 times)
Dethklok
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« on: July 09, 2011, 10:06:25 am »

Remember when you were a kid, and played make-believe with your toy soldiers, or your dolls, or rocks and sticks in the backyard? Did anybody ever collect experience, or level up? Did you ever pause to flip a coin or check the dictionary?

Growing up, I noticed that the typical rpg, like all things of a civilized, long-settled people, was intricate and complex, and had lost most of the pristine essence in a maze of formulas and rituals. I've been playing around with a game that uses paraphernalia primarily for thematic effect rather than for resolving outcomes:

  • Items are represented by illustrated cards - no scribbling endless equipment lists on a sheet.
  • Character sheet fits on half a page; the other half is a "cheet sheet" containing the rules.
  • GM screen is either a forest scene, cave scene, or town scene depending on where the characters are.
  • Painted "clock" keeps track of time, showing the sun rise in a blue sky, then set in a red sky fading into starry black.
  • The dice are all colorful d6s, with one mechanic for rolling them.
  • Candles.
  • Mood music. (Classical, movie soundtracks, video games, foreign chants, etc.)

In other words, although it isn't live action - it's very much tabletop - the focus is on creating a rich, imaginative experience, like a movie does. Now, it's harder to get a game together, because the effort of designing a scenario with the right songs associated with different areas or events, coupled with the need to minimize distractions in the form of cell phones, food, and outside noise, require more advance planning. I asked another guy to take over the game a couple of times and I don't think it worked - he was used to running conventional games and didn't prepare anything or use any of the thematic tools except the cards.

But oh, the times we've had. What made me think of posting this are the attitudes of the girls in my group. When I show them conventional roleplaying games, they ask: "Why would anyone play that?" I dunno. I tried to join a D&D group recently and can't figure out why anyone plays it, either.
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FireFog
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« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2011, 01:14:24 pm »

Items are represented by illustrated cards - no scribbling endless equipment lists on a sheet.
One game we hosted had a system like this with cards for items, skills and spells with colored glass markers to be put on the cards for enchantement, durability and so on... one advantage of this system is that our GM created bags of loot where we picked ourselves (randomly !) a fixed amount of cards depending of the container or monsters looted. (but not all the drop was random)


Character sheet fits on half a page; the other half is a "cheet sheet" containing the rules.
That's a great asset for easy management and keeping the game fluid (rules).


When I show them conventional roleplaying games, they ask: "Why would anyone play that?" I dunno. I tried to join a D&D group recently and can't figure out why anyone plays it, either.
Bad GM or bad group, I guess... I don't see why D&D could not be fun... and more genreally I don't see why what you call a "conventional RPG" could not be fun !
As long there is a fluid gameplay and good storytelling (as much from the GM as from the player), it should be great ! It does the trick for me, as you said, it's all a matter of immersion.
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2011, 01:16:05 pm »

This seems like you want group storytelling or LARP, honestly.
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Dethklok
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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2011, 08:40:28 pm »

Quote
One game we hosted had a system like this with cards for items, skills and spells with colored glass markers to be put on the cards for enchantement, durability and so on... one advantage of this system is that our GM created bags of loot where we picked ourselves (randomly !) a fixed amount of cards depending of the container or monsters looted. (but not all the drop was random)
I'm interested in this, FireFog - do you feel like elaborating?

Quote
Bad GM or bad group, I guess... I don't see why D&D could not be fun... and more genreally I don't see why what you call a "conventional RPG" could not be fun !
Looking back over the course of my life, the very best D&D games I played were those where I left bored; the worst actually had a decent crew, but threw me into a depression for days. (No I'm not exaggerating; my wife was distressed to see me wandering the house saying "Stinging Shout... psychic damage? WTF?") Sitting around flipping through books, picking through dice, and deciding which game mechanics to employ to defeat my foes isn't fun for me.

I feel like there's some larger aesthetic principle at work here. Girls (and middle aged women I know of) like Twilight, right? Men and boys, not so much. Now, it's true that some male readers like Twilight, but most people outside of the target audience don't appreciate it. The fact that boys find it boring suggests that Twilight isn't really a good novel, but works because it pushes girls' buttons. Conversely, fewer than 10% of those who play tabletop RPGs are female - and of those, a significant majority are girlfriends or wives dragged along for the ride. So I think this likewise suggests that these RPGs are, generally, lacking.

Quote
LARP
No, not LARP. Definitely not LARP. So far as I can see, LARP still usually has the same rules and goals (i.e. kill monsters --> gain treasure + XP -->  kill bigger monsters --> gain more treasure + XP --> kill yet bigger monsters ad nauseum) but in addition you have badly costumed geeks running around with styrofoam weapons throwing bean bags at each other. Give me a chain saw, please - a real one, if that's OK.

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« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2011, 09:37:49 pm »

No, not LARP. Definitely not LARP. So far as I can see, LARP still usually has the same rules and goals (i.e. kill monsters --> gain treasure + XP -->  kill bigger monsters --> gain more treasure + XP --> kill yet bigger monsters ad nauseum) but in addition you have badly costumed geeks running around with styrofoam weapons throwing bean bags at each other. Give me a chain saw, please - a real one, if that's OK.

I felt the same way about LARP for a really long time, and I suppose that that type of thinking is the reason why I still don't play, but I've started playing D&D with a lot of LARPers lately, and I've learned that it's a surprisingly deep system for both roleplay AND actual mechanics.
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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2011, 06:44:30 am »

I'm interested in this, FireFog - do you feel like elaborating?
It was a makeshift RPG : default fantasy setting (This is not a critic, I wanted to say that the world wasn’t fully fleshed), no classes (which is a good thing for me), all stat/skill checks were done with a d20 (damage depended of weapon). Cards presented the advantage to have directly the effect of the skill/item/spell on-card for a shortened character creation time and quick reference.

There was no level system either: at the end of the adventure, the GM gave a skill card (or a trait, etc.) to each player according to what they did during the adventure.
The “loot bags” I mentioned before were small bags where the GM put some item cards where we picked randomly a card when we opened a container/stole a NPC/etc.

It was at a very beta state, and the GM planned to add a deck of themed “event cards” (depending of the location).



Sitting around flipping through books, picking through dice, and deciding which game mechanics to employ to defeat my foes isn't fun for me.
I see the point of your post. There seems to be a problem with your groups, I, too, wouldn't appreciate a game consisting only of kill/loot/level, and I would rather play Diablo than this.

And if I want to torture my mind by pondering about the most effective skill allocation for a Sludge Elf Necromancer, I already have the one and only Stone Soup for that ^^
This is a ROLEPLAYING game : Interaction between players, exploration, and other adventuring shenanigans should be a very important part of the game.4



No, not LARP. Definitely not LARP. So far as I can see, LARP still usually has the same rules and goals (i.e. kill monsters --> gain treasure + XP -->  kill bigger monsters --> gain more treasure + XP --> kill yet bigger monsters ad nauseum) but in addition you have badly costumed geeks running around with styrofoam weapons throwing bean bags at each other. Give me a chain saw, please - a real one, if that's OK.
LARP, from what I heard is much more oriented towards Roleplaying. It could be fun.

(As I said several times, English is not my mother tongue and I’m not really fluent in English, so sorry if some sentences doesn’t make any sense)
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Dethklok
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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2011, 09:17:17 pm »

I felt the same way about LARP for a really long time, and I suppose that that type of thinking is the reason why I still don't play, but I've started playing D&D with a lot of LARPers lately, and I've learned that it's a surprisingly deep system for both roleplay AND actual mechanics.
Do you have time to go into more depth? I wouldn't be surprised to learn that LARP can be played with the same style I'm trying to use in tabletops (that is, with a focus on mood rather than on rules).


Quote from: FireFog
It was a makeshift RPG : default fantasy setting (This is not a critic, I wanted to say that the world wasn’t fully fleshed), no classes (which is a good thing for me), all stat/skill checks were done with a d20 (damage depended of weapon). Cards presented the advantage to have directly the effect of the skill/item/spell on-card for a shortened character creation time and quick reference.

There was no level system either: at the end of the adventure, the GM gave a skill card (or a trait, etc.) to each player according to what they did during the adventure.
The “loot bags” I mentioned before were small bags where the GM put some item cards where we picked randomly a card when we opened a container/stole a NPC/etc.

It was at a very beta state, and the GM planned to add a deck of themed “event cards” (depending of the location).
Yes, actually that does sound a lot like what we've been doing. The RPG isn't makeshift at this point - it has a well edited and illustrated rulebook - but otherwise the similarities seem strong. What you seem to do with cards, however, is replace character sheets. I think this is really neat. I don't know whether it really does represent an advance over traditional sheets because you can't write notes and character history on cards, and also you'd have more cards to sort out. Right now having cards for...

* weapons
* armor & shields
* ammunition (arrows, sling bullets, etc)
* food & supplies
* herbs and chemicals (for healing and brewing potions)
* special items

...makes things difficult to keep track of; things are often getting disorganized and pausing to find, say, a 30' rope card during gameplay slows things down. Then again, we dealt with that by having 1 person be Gamemaster and another person keep track of all the cards, so perhaps skills could work that way, too.

Quote from: FireFog
There seems to be a problem with your groups, I, too, wouldn't appreciate a game consisting only of kill/loot/level, and I would rather play Diablo than this.
The thing is that the rulebooks to all conventional rpgs are geared towards this Diablo style playing. Look at the gamebooks for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons and you'll find very detailed explanations for how to resolve combat, long lists of spells useful primarily for killing enemies, detailed bestiaries full of different kinds of monsters and their various combat statistics, and carefully balanced options for character advancement. Seldom will you find rules detailing the grumblings and possible mutiny of a party subsisting only on dried rations for a month, or rules on manipulating guild meetings or dinners with a noble and his retinue to improve one's social standing. People say that such rules aren't needed, and I think they're right - but ultimately, why do we need so many detailed rules for combat and character power if that isn't the focus of gameplay?

Even a game like Call of Cthulhu has very detailed rules for combat and physical actions. It's meant to be a cerebral game of mystery and Lovecraftian horror, yet the game has five physical attributes (strength, constitution, dexterity, size, appearance) and only three mental ones (intelligence, education, power). This trend persists throughout the game, so that even Call of Cthulhu is clearly written with the expectation that players will kill monsters, and then get more skills and equipment in order to kill stronger monsters.

Quote from: FireFog
(As I said several times, English is not my mother tongue and I’m not really fluent in English, so sorry if some sentences doesn’t make any sense)
I understand you fine, FireFog - if I may ask, what is your native language?
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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2011, 11:15:49 am »

TL;DR but I get the idea.

Ill just leave this here for you all.
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If you're gonna do that shit, do it about one of those ontario elections that always end in the cops chasing a rapist around a tim hortons or some shit.
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2011, 07:58:08 pm »

Dude, you killed my thread!
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« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2011, 08:17:45 pm »

And I dont even care. Cause im brutal like that.
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If you're gonna do that shit, do it about one of those ontario elections that always end in the cops chasing a rapist around a tim hortons or some shit.
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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2011, 05:30:39 am »

In Soviet Russia... thread kills you !
*Thread falls on Stan*

...makes things difficult to keep track of; things are often getting disorganized and pausing to find, say, a 30' rope card during gameplay slows things down. Then again, we dealt with that by having 1 person be Gamemaster and another person keep track of all the cards, so perhaps skills could work that way, too.
It's a refreshing system, but I think it's more suited for one-shots than long-going campaigns.

The thing is that the rulebooks to all conventional rpgs are geared towards this Diablo style playing. Look at the gamebooks for any edition of Dungeons & Dragons and you'll find very detailed explanations for how to resolve combat, long lists of spells useful primarily for killing enemies, detailed bestiaries full of different kinds of monsters and their various combat statistics, and carefully balanced options for character advancement. Seldom will you find rules detailing the grumblings and possible mutiny of a party subsisting only on dried rations for a month, or rules on manipulating guild meetings or dinners with a noble and his retinue to improve one's social standing. People say that such rules aren't needed, and I think they're right - but ultimately, why do we need so many detailed rules for combat and character power if that isn't the focus of gameplay?
The true question may be : are all that combat rules needed ? We do need rules, but as you said before, having too many rules may break the fluidity of the game.

Even a game like Call of Cthulhu has very detailed rules for combat and physical actions. It's meant to be a cerebral game of mystery and Lovecraftian horror, yet the game has five physical attributes (strength, constitution, dexterity, size, appearance) and only three mental ones (intelligence, education, power). This trend persists throughout the game, so that even Call of Cthulhu is clearly written with the expectation that players will kill monsters, and then get more skills and equipment in order to kill stronger monsters.
That's truly a shame because in this type of context, the rulebook should focus on how to create a "scary" experience rather than "pew pew take that Elder One".

I understand you fine, FireFog - if I may ask, what is your native language?
My native language is French ^^
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« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2011, 04:00:47 pm »

When i was in lower and middle school we used to play "warhammer" with friends. there were two guys who were really good at telling stories, and they were the Game Masters. except that, we had no rules. Everything was done by the GM, (only sometimes we used dice, but that depended on the mood). And you know what? these games were awesome. ive tried playing DD with sticking to the rules, but that was just boring... GM should be god, and if this is a good GM the game will be fun, with a bad GM it would suck anyway.
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2011, 05:55:51 pm »

When i was in lower and middle school we used to play "warhammer" with friends. there were two guys who were really good at telling stories, and they were the Game Masters. except that, we had no rules. Everything was done by the GM, (only sometimes we used dice, but that depended on the mood). And you know what? these games were awesome. ive tried playing DD with sticking to the rules, but that was just boring... GM should be god, and if this is a good GM the game will be fun, with a bad GM it would suck anyway.


/thread
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2011, 08:36:13 pm »

Quote from: SOK
Everything was done by the GM, (only sometimes we used dice, but that depended on the mood). And you know what? these games were awesome. ive tried playing DD with sticking to the rules, but that was just boring... GM should be god, and if this is a good GM the game will be fun, with a bad GM it would suck anyway.
This! But as a GM, I like having rules to fall back on. I'd feel bad killing a character without having it clear that a certain roll needed to be so high, or that his strength ran out, or whatever. Still, you make a good point, and I think we do need to ask ourselves why we need rules at all.


It's a refreshing system, but I think it's more suited for one-shots than long-going campaigns.
Mmm... actually when I tried it, one-shots didn't work as well, because everyone takes a while to get used to the cards. Over the past year we played a series of ten games, and it worked fine for all ten.

Quote
The true question may be : are all that combat rules needed ? We do need rules, but as you said before, having too many rules may break the fluidity of the game.
It is a problem, FireFog; it is a problem. But even with rules-light systems, there still isn't necessarily anything there to create mood.

Quote
That's truly a shame because in this type of context, the rulebook should focus on how to create a "scary" experience rather than "pew pew take that Elder One".
I agree; but Call of Cthulhu is fairly standard in that sense. In fact Cthulhu is better, since the stats for the Elder Gods are so high that it's pointless to fight them. Then again, there's an intricate, rpg-style board game - Arkham Horror - which does encourage you to kill the Gods with guns and grenades.


Quote
My native language is French ^^
Ah, français! I have a question - have you noticed that English speakers are less emotionally expressive, and stand farther apart when talking, than the French do?


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« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2011, 08:38:34 pm »

Ah, français! I have a question - have you noticed that English speakers are less emotionally expressive, and stand farther apart when talking, than the French do?

Aw jeez, man, we're standing right here.
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