Saturday, 19 July 2008

On the Formation of a Gaming Philosophy

I've been discussing character classes with Rachel in the comments to this entry, and as a corollary to that conversation started thinking about why I look at RPGs the way I do. If I had to sum up my role playing philosophy, I suppose I would paraphrase the late great Gary Gygax and say: "Why let game designers and writers do your imagining for you?" In other words, I believe that the amount of fun you get out of the game has little or nothing to do with the wide variety of rules, variations, and supplements which most games are accompanied by. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that the less rules, variants and supplements you have, the better. 3.X D&D was crushingly unfun for me because I just could not be bothered with the wide range of feats and skills I was forced to choose. And that was only in the core rules. The later supplements made that problem thousands of times worse.

But why do I think like this? I recognise that my view of gaming isn't objectively better than any other. This is how I put it to Rachel:

Strange as it may seem to say, I think my D&D philosophy mostly came about due to economics. My formative D&D experiences all came about when I was an adolescent, and then teenager, with basically no money to spend on books and supplements. One set of core rules between us was about all my friends and I could afford. So we had to get creative with what we had!

I come from a working class background, and like most kids growing up in Liverpool in the 1980s and 1990s, our family was far from being financially secure. We weren't on the breadline, or anything, but times were tough. I just never had any money to spend on games, and neither did my friends. For a long time we survived on just the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual and DMG. (We didn't even have a PHB, and just made up characters from what we could glean from the DMG and remember from the Basic D&D set. I've still never owned a single module for any version of the D&D game except Monte Cook's Dead Gods.) One of us eventually bought the Cyberpunk 2020 core rules, then another bought Shadowrun, and we made do with those, until our later teenage years arrived when we could get part-time work and buy much more of the stuff. (Most kids our age spent all their disposable income on cheap super-strength alcohol and pot. We were after more mind-blowing stuff than that - in the form of the entire Planescape line and Runequest II.)

Anyway, that's a roundabout way of saying, my formative gaming years were spent making the best of a pretty threadbare collection. I'm really glad that it turned out that way, because it forced me to rely more on my imagination than what was in books. There's probably nothing superior in my imagination than anyone else's, but maybe I feel more confident in prioritising it above rules and sourcebooks. I think that's probably true of most gamers of my generation.


  1. "3.X D&D was crushingly unfun for me because I just could not be bothered with the wide range of feats and skills I was forced to choose."

    In the right mood I find it fun to tinker with all this junk, but I feel at a distinct disadvantage to power gamers in the later editions of the game.

    I started playing with some new dudes last week, couple of whom were hardcore chasers of the perfect build (munchkiny even, dare I say?). While they planned 20 levels of stat boosts and feats and prestige classes, I got so irritated just trying to assign my stats in the most advantageous way I threw up my hands and just went with the order I rolled them!

  2. Wow, I am so amazingly flattered! I've never inspired anyone to make a blog post before! Oh, man...

    I'm really glad that I got you thinking. I think it's important to the community that we try to foster understanding between different styles of players and GMs. I hope our banter will get your other readers thinking as well.