Friday, March 26, 2010

My Gaming Zenslap

Sorry for the delay today. I've been asleep for the past 22 hours, so things slipped. Still, something must go up, and here it is.

I used to be a bit of an RPG snob. I consider it a phase, but it's what comes out of reading many many games and having Strong Opinions about them. Plus, as I got out of college, this whole internet thing was really booming, and it showed me that A) There were lots more other gamers out there and B) that their default social mode was total dickery. I don't think I ever fell that far, but I definitely learned some bad habits.

One of them was so stereotypical that it kind of hurts these days, and that was - of course - White Wolf bashing, almost invariably in the form of Vampire. Some of it was stuff I consider legitimate to this day (like adventure design with PCs as audience)[1] most of it was the less-than-subtle eyeroll when a black-clad gaiman fan would go off about how it was the Best Thing Evar.

This took a turn when, in a moment of conversation with a good friend who was a big booster, I asked her to really break down what made it so great. Her answer was not what I expected. Rather than zeroing in on Clans or Disciplines or Humanity or any of that, she said she liked it because of the Nature and Demeanor.[2] The rest of the sheet was just noise to her, but those two things really helped her play the character.

Now, I'm not holding this up as some great truth, or even as emblematic of some portion of the fanbase, but it was such a *drastic* departure from my expectations that it lead to me stepping back and reconsidering a lot of my other expectations about games and gamers.

Since then, It's been a lot easier for me to be comfortable with the different ways in which people get their fun, and more skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions. Even more, it's made me more enthusiastic to look at things I don't necessarily get and try to understand where people find their fun.

It has not simplified my gaming life, but it has improved it immeasurably.

1 - Stuff that hasn't been a problem in the nWoD I hasten to add.

2 - For the unfamiliar, they were basically your true nature, and the facade you showed the world. Mechanically, these were really soft things, like your name, and most hardcore players I'd dleat with considered them an afterthought at best.


  1. I had the reverse problem for a long time -- I assumed D&D alignment was a lot like Nature and/or Demeanor, and it messed with my enjoyment of D&D for many years.

  2. I still consider Nature and Demeanor to be great examples of soft mechanics. Exalted did Motivation which had similar underlying greatness. With motivations you could create an epic raison d'etre like "Get revenge for a 1000, year-old conspiracy against my ancestors." and if you ever actually fulfilled it to the GM's satisfaction you could get a potential power boost beyond what normally would be allowed. Great play impetus.

  3. I'd agree with that, although in my case it did cross over to Clan, but only as a result of the original clan quotes. Is it possible to be born a Malkavian?

    "Are you afraid of me? Afraid of what I might do? Of what I might think?

    "What an intriguing reaction. Don't you find it rather encumbering?"

    Which kind of sums me up to a tee. [And given the fact I have apparently cameoed in a number of Vampire campaigns as the archetypical Malkavian, a number of people seem to agree with me. <grin>]

    [And Yay! Apparently with are now a pathology! A disease state! On the Ventrue! Sorry! Couldn't resist. It's an idea that leads to so much FUN!]

    I have to admit I have only Vampire bashed once. And that was when I complained about the intended addition of Advantages and Disadvantages, since it broke the wonderful "dot" system mechanic they had originally implemented for the game. They didn't listen to me though. [<sigh> I still think it would have worked better]

    The advantage of the game is it's flexibility, and that isn't in the game mechanics, but rather the ideas portrayed by the setting. In fact you can see different takes on ideas through the various editions. But that is also it's disadvantage, as the system can be perverted quite badly into a game you wouldn't want to play – but obviously one which someone does.

    I think the idea that there is only one right way to play is antithetic to the spirit of the hobby. [Even if it does lead to a game designer complaining that you are dreadfully misusing his precious mechanics. <grin>]

    That being said I did join the crowd heckling the early White Wolf for not investing in a copy editor, which of course, led to the infamous Page XX jokes. And what they did to Ars Magica after the publication of Malicifium doesn't really bear rethinking about, it was so ridiculous (such as the infamous baby-buggering bishop of Barcelona).


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