Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Game, part one

That’s right, I’m posting twice in one day, since I just finished with the GRE and now have a bit more time. I’m sure it’s not the best way to go about posting three times this week, but oh well, you’ll just have to deal with it.

So, remember how I tend to get obsessed with gaming systems and the like? I mentioned at some point that after my initial encounter with Dungeons and Dragons, I started to make up my own role playing games. It was an enjoyable habit that I kept up over the years through elementary, middle and high school, though once I went to BYU I let things come to a close. There were various iterations of the system I worked with, but they all shared some common characteristics.

First off, I did away with the whole ‘class’ system that defines a lot of character roles. I didn’t like the fact that the fighter character always had a specific job to do, or had to choose from a set of skills, and that he couldn’t up and choose to be part wizard instead. I guess my limited experience hadn’t taught me about cross classing or whatever, but in my games I made sure that no matter who you were, as long as someone (or something) was available to teach you, you could build up pretty much whatever skills you wanted. It led to some interesting characters among the people who played, and gave me a lot of challenges as the game master to keep up with the different players who customized their characters effectively.

Secondly, my system didn’t involve any dice rolls. That is fairly weird, but it made sense to me. After all, things don’t always get determined by only luck. A lot of the time, things happen because of the choices people made. So before each player decided on their action, I planned out their opponents moves, and had them compared. For example, I knew the guy facing somebody was going to swing an axe at their head. If the player decided to attack, unless they were faster than the other guy, they would be hit in the head. If they blocked or dodged, depending on the angle or direction, they could escape.

Similarly, there weren’t any hit points involved. People got injured or incapacitated based on where their wounds were. Take a hit in the arm, and it was injured. Hit to the head, you had problems. Scarring and permanent damage was handled more or less the same way. Put together, it kind of helped make everything a bit more cinematic and fun to describe, rather than what felt like a bunch of math. Clever players could think up some pretty cool tricks, and we never had the experience of having to roll a bajillion dice just to figure out what happened next.

Another aspect of the games I came up with involved the campaigns. Players often didn’t have a specific objective, and they tended to have to wander in order to find something they found interesting. It gave them a lot more freedom than a focused campaign, and allowed them to have a kind of sandbox feel to what they were doing. There were enemies who built up forces and came after them, and plots that they could uncover or thwart, but how they did it and what order they faced them was up to the players, not me. It also allowed them to avoid any railroading on my part, though if they missed some of the hints I left lying around they occasionally got surprised by attacks from nowhere. They also occasionally wandered into places and situations where they could get killed easily, but I typically left them a way out after they faced the consequences of their actions.

Next time I’ll probably go into why I’m spending so much time talking about all this. Suspense! Or not…

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