Tuesday, 9 March 2010

People at Story Games Get It

I've written before, if only in passing, on how the Old School Renaissance and the whole indie game/forge movement are really two sides of the same coin. This is true both in the nuts-and-bolts sense (both are all about DIY, Print-on-Demand, and Blog-o-centrism) and also philosophically (player agency and narrative control are central in both movements; the only difference being that games like Mountain Witch make narrative control explicit whereas with OD&D it's entirely implicit).

Further evidence of this can be found in this thread at story-games, which shows that people over there "get it" to a much greater degree than the herd at rpg.net. Here's a paragraph that bears quoting:

Also, about wanting to play a fighter and not getting a good Strength score... I know that my thinking's not that useful for most, as I don't exactly run D&D by the book, but why not just play a weak fighter? If I did the thing with ability minimums for class entrance (which I currently sort of do; some classes require a successful ability check, which is similar), I'd ensure that I also have a set of class options that have no minimums, and from which players could develop their characters into whatever they want them to be. So make that low-Strength guy a fighter, experience the suckyness and then fight your way out of it. From zero to hero, I say!

Couldn't have put it better myself. The obsession with optimization so prevalent on web forums is something that never fails to boggle my mind, not because it's couched in whiny and entitled terms (although it sometimes is) but because it's so godawfully boring.


  1. Fighters who start with low-ish strenght find that they have to use their wits rather than their brawn to get out of trouble. That's far more interesting than splatting things, IMHO. Unless of course you're a power-gaming munchkin (not that I want to come over elitist or anything).

  2. I agree that Story Games is full of groovy people.

  3. I found an awesome post over there about the psionics handbook. Some guy had the idea of generating characters entirely based on the pictures, or based on a single character with a single time travel psionic power, teleporting versions of himself from different parts of history to make up the remainder of the group.

    I also noticed overuse of the word "dude". It was like Bill and Ted do D&D.

  4. "...but because it's so godawfully boring."


    I recall, more than once, somebody rolling up a character who was average. Nothing exciting, nothing special. Such characters were often considered a challenge to play - but for the players who rose to the challenge, "Captain Average!" became more of a hero than the guy with 18(00) strength.

  5. Just recently, a player in my own campaign decided to be a halfling with a 5 STR. The lovely part is that he has been clever enough not only to survive spectacularly, but has been just as effective in combat as the fighter with the gauntlets of ogre strength...

    I also remember an April Fool's edition of Dragon magazine that had the Hopeless NPC class. If I recall correctly, the class had maximum requirements instead of minimum requirements (anything above a 9 disqualified you, or something like that). I had a friend who took it as a challenge and actually got his Hopeless character to second level. Personally, his character is the only one I remember from that campaign.

  6. I dunno, I find the whole indie forge thing to be irritatingly pretentious in a way that even a lot of the more hardline old schoolers are not.

  7. As DM I hate it, but as a player I'm an unrelenting min-maxer munchkin twink. I think it's something to do with the the geek/programmer analytical mind trying to get maximal efficiency or something.

    To be truly happy I'd want a 19 in strength. But if I had that I sure wouldn't waste it on a fighter! How boring and predictable. Give that sucker to a Cleric of Kord or a halfing sorcerer who enjoys casting reversed embiggin on people and then pummeling the snot out of them.

    At least that is how I rolled in 3.5.

  8. My fighter has a greatsword. He likes to smite monsters with it. Sometimes the monsters smite back harder though. This makes him sad.


  9. Oh, the above is new school meets old school Forge/D&D 'game as story', been using that motif since 1983, see how kewl I am? hee,hee

  10. I never understood the backslapping that goes on because someone plays a fighter with a sickly strength or a thief who is clumsier than Mr. Magoo and declares they are engaged in some sort of "purer" game experience. Like I should self-flagellate because I rolled a character than can actually contribute in his chosen field. Because why get the idea that a "fighting man" should actually, you know, "fight". He should be running, hiding, and outwitting his foes. While all the rest of the party is trying to pull their weight Sir Don Knotts can go hide in a tree and toss a couple of sling stones.
    Now THAT'S Godawful Boring. Give me Conan anyday.

    That being said, the funnest character in one of my face to face groups is the halfling thief with the crappiest stats. Not because of the crappy stats, but because the player is a hoot.

  11. Badmike: Who said anything about purity or self-flagellation? It's just more interesting with less-than-optimal stats. (I'm not sure why 'pulling weight' is an issue; nobody complains about low level wizards not pulling their weight because after they've cast one spell they're just a very weak fighter.)

  12. "It's just more interesting with less-than-optimal stats."

    If that were "It isn't necessarily uninteresting with less-than-optimal stats" I'd wholeheartedly agree.

    The stats do not make the character interesting or uninteresting. The player does that. When players realize that their PC with less-than-optimal stats can still be viable, they start to play the heck out it. And THAT can make it interesting. The playing, not the stats.

  13. "If that were "It isn't necessarily uninteresting with less-than-optimal stats" I'd wholeheartedly agree."

    I wouldn't disagree with this. I'd still rather have Conan backing me up than Don Knotts when we make our final delve into the Lich-King's tomb....screw wit and being interesting, I want the dude with the biggest muscles and largest sword putting the beat down on the baddies.