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Old 08-27-2013, 07:02 AM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default Things we get out of roleplaying

What specific events and results in a game do you especially enjoy?

I started thinking about this because of the latest Parkour thread in the GURPS forum, which baffled me. I can see why it might be a useful ability, but some of the commenters seemed to want it as the centre of character design, the defining aspect of the character. There was something there I wasn't getting in terms of the rewards of the game.

Things I like these days include: Playing the character(s) and thus thinking as someone else to some degree for a while. Getting things done in terms of goals or a mission. Doing things "neatly" by ingenious methods or just seeing a simpler way to get the job done. Using less violence or destruction than the obvious way, if that's possible.

What do you most like to get out of a game?
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Old 08-27-2013, 08:23 AM   #2
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
What do you most like to get out of a game?
One of probably several different replies I'll write to your post, each trying to have a go at your question from a slightly different angle:



Being the character, defined very much by his abilities. By how he differs, capabilitistically, from an average person, in multiple regards (notice that when you make a GURPS or Sagatafl character, you start with an average adult Human, and then to make changes to him. Most of those changes cost points. Sometimes (disads) the point cost is negative).

What he can do, what he can't do, and how well he can do that which he can do. And how, because of that, he contrasts with the other characters around him (the members of his fellowship, if there is one) and with the population of the surrounding world in general.

And having him be able to be different in a wide variety of regards (and with a wide span of variety, e.g. I'd like AD&D's concept of Exceptional Strength expanded to also cover Exceptional Charisma, Exceptional Intelligence, Exceptional Perceptiveness, Exceptional Agility, Exceptional Dexterity, and so forth, including their simulative consequences), rather than only in terms of how he performs at various kinds of combat.

I have this partial or incomplete (and perhaps a bit vague) expression or definition:

What I'm interested in (and which I'm not the only one in wanting, although others may not be so clear about it, and/or may be less horny for it than I am) is some sort of "battlesuit" model, in which everything I choose to do is "filtered" through my character's abilities, and everything my character perceives is "filtered" through his abilities before it reaches me.

I want rid of the me-ness. The character isn't me. He may be like me in some ways, but ideally every one of those ways should be the result of a conscious character creation choice made by me, instead of some dumb automatic inhereitance. I am good at specific thing X therefore this bleeds over to my character who then is also observably good at thing X.



In movie scripting land, there's talk about the notion of "high concept", which is that a movie can be summed up very precisely with a very few words. "It's about a catboy and a latina woman; they uncover a strange conspiracy, and attempt to thwart it".

I don't like "high concept" characters. I prefer characters that consist of several different abilities combined. The Feng Shui RPG is a good example of "high concept". Each character "archetype" has one single schtick, either one skill that's very high (the Thief has some kind of Intrusion skill, e.g.) or else one special ability.

I don't like that at all. I want multiple character-defining abilities to be the norm. That requires a generous point budget (although it doesn't have to be very high - it's doable in GURPS on 150 CP, some times, but rarely on 75 or less I suspect), and probably also some way for traits to interact.

I've abandoned my Modern Action RPG design, and managed to squeeze most of the neat ideas into Sagatafl (Flaws, Veteran Points, Action Points, maybe a few others that I'm no longer immediately conscious about), but back before that, I kept messing about with a single-class concept, in which each player character had a single character class, or "subtype" at it was called (55 subtypes, organized into Types of Combat, Skilled and Special).

So your character might be a Skilled/Generalist, which gave you a small discount on all Non-Combat skills. That was your "boon", but you still got a bunch of points, to spend to buy Non-Combat Skills and other Skills, and inborn Gifts, and binary skills (Stunts), and so forth. The Skilled/Veteran character class got a discount on Veteran Traits as his "boon". Some subtypes got certain abilities for free, that others had to buy, as their one "boon" or in addition to discount-type "boons". Some, like Combat/Swashbuckler, got access to a specialized skillset at a discount (in that case, ancient weapons).

Today, if I was going to resume design of MA RPG (which is less likely, since all the cool design stuff is now part of Sagatafl), I'd re-do the basic design, so that each player must choose two character classes, two equal classes from the list.

Thus one player might build a Generalist+Athlete, another a Genius+Detective, a third a Traveller+Veteran. There'd probably be a bit fewer classes, maybe 30-36 instead of 55, but with 30 classes (e.g.) and a choice of any two, that 435 different possible combinations, as far as I can calculate: matrix of 30*30 is 900, subtract 30 for the "middle diagonal" of same class+same class, then divide by 2 because X/Y is identical to Y/X).

Compare that to the 1320 (12*11*10) different combinations from my old Multiclass RPG, from 1998, in which you had to choose a Primary, Secondary and Tertiary character class, from a list of 12. So, your concept might be a Warrior/Spy/Wizard while mine might be a Spy/Thief/Wizard. My character gets a larger discout on Spy skills than yours, but yours has a hard time learning Thief skills (for you, Thief is a "quaternary" class) while mine has a hard time learning Warrior skills.

Even back then, I cared deeply about flexibility of concept.


I wrote a long post to the RPG-Create mailing list, some years ago, trying to analyze Cool Character Abilities. I can repost that here, if I can find it, if you're interested.
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Old 08-27-2013, 08:59 AM   #3
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

Speaking as a player, not as a GM, the biggest payoff of an rpg for me is having other players quote my characters' dialogue, and more broadly tell stories about them. I don't play primarily for immersion; I'm wearing the actor head more than the audience head.

I also like it when my characters can pull off impressive feats at something they're good at. La Gata Encantada was tremendous fun to play for that reason. I think imagined competence is one of the payoffs of rpgs.

I like it when the GM is able to create an emotionally compelling scene for my character. My current Call of Cthulhu GM is really good at coming up with intense dreams, for example.

I enjoy watching interaction between other characters, especially when it very clearly defines what sort of people they are.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 08-27-2013, 03:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

I enjoy a lot of different things about RPGs -- which I think is probably one of the reasons I'm still playing them, thirty-plus years on. There's always something different and enjoyable available. But off the top of my head, some of the specifics:
  • Being somebody else for a bit. This is the big one.
  • Meeting a competent character who does things well (whether mine or someone else's).
  • Out-thinking and/or out-manoeuvreing the opposition so that the actual fight becomes more or less irrelevant, and may not even happen.
  • Occasionally, a relaxing fight.
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Old 08-27-2013, 03:20 PM   #5
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
  • Being somebody else for a bit. This is the big one.
  • Meeting a competent character who does things well (whether mine or someone else's).
  • Out-thinking and/or out-manoeuvreing the opposition so that the actual fight becomes more or less irrelevant, and may not even happen.
In short, seconding #1 and #3. Probably #2 too, but not as emphatically.
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Old 08-27-2013, 03:39 PM   #6
Kromm
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

The top thing I get, whether I'm a player or the GM, is an excuse to take a block of x hours away from work, household tasks, working out, formal social obligations, paying bills, visiting the doctor, shopping, etc. to sit in a room and be casually social with friends. Much like an afternoon at the pub or café, but with more emphasis on the chatter and less on the refreshments. That's by far #1 for me. If the other gamers are obsessed with rules or competition or make-believe worlds or whatever at the expense of being friendly, then I couldn't care less about the game.

To a lesser extent, what I enjoy as a player is exploring the absurd – things that you cannot or should not do in real life for whatever reason, but that nobody blinks at in the game world. That might mean weird powers, or just strange dialogue and crazy behavior; I'm not fussy. The point is to be not merely someone whom I'm not, but also someone whom I couldn't be because social norms, physical laws, or psychological principles would never allow it. Quite often, this amounts to playing the loonie . . . I freely admit it.

As a GM, my honorable mention goes to inspiring the players to tell a good story. I don't want to tell stories – that aspect of GMing has never interested me. Rather, I like to set scenes, invent conflicts, and establish themes, and then see what the independent actors known as "player characters" do that turns the situation into a tale worth remembering. I consider it a good game session when I show up with a vague idea that popped into my mind in the shower and leave with notes on four or five hours of collaborative storytelling to write up as a recap. I especially like it when the players come up with twists and curves I didn't anticipate, and the emergent plot abruptly jumps genres (or at least subgenres within the consensus genre) or changes scope.

So: socializing, escapism, and emergence, if you want a few pithy words.
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Old 08-27-2013, 03:54 PM   #7
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
So: socializing, escapism, and emergence, if you want a few pithy words.
These, first/second/third and foremost.

Also, since I write this stuff for money, though not as a day job, I get to indulge some artistic ambitions on a professional level (writing for yourself is a different thing from writing for an editor and paying audience) without endangering my ability to provide for myself and my family. And I get to turn my education in the humanities into a multi-hundred dollar second career.
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:08 PM   #8
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I also like it when my characters can pull off impressive feats at something they're good at. La Gata Encantada was tremendous fun to play for that reason. I think imagined competence is one of the payoffs of rpgs.
Escapism is clearly a goal for many who hve replied to John's question. Not always the same flavour of escapism, or even the same category, but often there's escapism somewhere in people's replies.
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:30 PM   #9
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
I started thinking about this because of the latest Parkour thread in the GURPS forum, which baffled me. I can see why it might be a useful ability, but some of the commenters seemed to want it as the centre of character design, the defining aspect of the character. There was something there I wasn't getting in terms of the rewards of the game.
The parkour thing is interesting.

Because do you need parkour as a thing in the game rules? More importantly, do you need parkour as a thing in the character creation game rules?

Or can you do it with just having skills like Acrobatics and Climbing, or Jumping and Climbing, or all three, which have been traditional to have in RPGs for a long time? Does that produce the effect?

Or do you need slightly more?

GURPS has Techniques. You can buy the Acrobatics and Climbing skills, and then enhance them further, fairly cheaply, with a couple of Techniques that means they count as, e.g., 2 higher when used for parkour-type things.

Same in Sagatafl, any skill you train to level 1 is entitled to a free specialziation for which it counts as being 1 higher (exactly as in Ars Magica, and AFAIK earlier versions of Storyteller, before they changed to something more complicated). So you can buy Climbing (Parkour) 5, meaning you climb at 5 except when you do parkour you climb at 6, and same with Acrobatics (Parkour) 5.

Or you can do it slightly differently, because Sagatafl ascribes great importance to terrain types (it matters a lot where you are, and it matters a lot how good you are at coping with where you are).

All Wilderness skills and some movement skills (very much including Climbing, and it makes sense to do that for Acrobatics too, and perhaps Jumping) are "capped" by the relevant Terrain skill. Survival is capped harshly at x1.5, so e.g. if your Terrain: Urban skill is 4 then if your Survival skill is 7 or more, it still only fuctions as if it was 6, as long as you are in an Urban area. Camping is capped at x2.5, most other skills are capped by Terrain at x2.

So, one way to represent parkour is by taking a fairly high level in the Terrain: Urban skill, and then choose Urban as your specialziation for Climbing, Acrobatics and Jumping (choosing a terrain type as your specialization is 100% explicitly legal).



The question is, is that enough? Does it create the "strong concept" (notice I don't say high concept, because as I've said before, I dislike that) of the characer being able to do parkour? Being observably a parkourist, from inside the world, in the eyes of the other characters?

Some years ago, I tried to enumerare various parkour movement-based options, because that would fit very well with Sagatafl's movement system, based on discrete Move Actions that are defined (in part) by distance (how many hx you move per Move Action) and by time (how many Action Points it costs to perform the Move Action). But I ended up with a farly large amount of distinct moves, which wasn't what I liked.

There's also the search-and-handling issue.

If the GM handles it as a speshul unique case, every time your parkour expert character wants to do a parkour move (possibly more than one such move per combat Round, on average!), and the GM has to sit there and think about it, in a responsive re-active fashion, every time, it's going to slow the game down a lot. The player who has the parkour character risks feeling under a lot of (real or perceived - the difference doesn't matter) social pressure to stop doing parkour moves, because they consume to much of the GM's brain power.

Much better to have the things thought through prior to gamestart, when there is time to do a good and comprehensive job of it. Much better to pre-think it. Ahead of the specific situation.

In the end I'll probably just define parkour as some binary skills, of a particularly "controlled" category known as Stunts, that reduces the normally freakily high Roll Difficulty of parkour moves to something that can be managed. Worst case is just one Stunt per skill, Parkour Climb (a particularly vigorously, very strenous (costs Combat Fatigue Points) but also very efficient way to climb), Parkour Acrobatics and probably Parkour Jumping too. Maybe Parkour Architecture too, to be able to "anticipate" architectural features.

Or if I can boil it down to a few moves, no more than 7, preferably only 4 or 5, those will be the Stunts instead.



Either way, I definitely think that parkour should be a martial art, in any RPG system that has anything like defined or combined martial arts. It ought to have been included in GURPS Martial Arts for 4th Edition. And it fits nicely into Sagatafl's concept of Martial Arts (as a recommended combination of Stunts), so will be one there.

Note, though, that having parkour as a martial art isn't the same as saying that it needs very detailed rules. In Spycraft 2.0, you define a martial art by a combination of Feats. The core book has a sidebarboxythingie that give suggestions for which feats to combine to approximate styles such as judo, taekwondo, karate, kung fu and aikido. It wouldn't surprise me if the Feats necessary to approximate parkour, at least in a primitive fashion, are already there in the Spycraft 2.0 core book. Or in "World on Fire". And that if a couple more custom Feats are added, parkour can be simulated fairly well in Spycraft 2.0.
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Old 08-28-2013, 02:37 PM   #10
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Things we get out of roleplaying

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
The top thing I get, whether I'm a player or the GM, is an excuse to take a block of x hours away from work, household tasks, working out, formal social obligations, paying bills, visiting the doctor, shopping, etc. to sit in a room and be casually social with friends. Much like an afternoon at the pub or café, but with more emphasis on the chatter and less on the refreshments. That's by far #1 for me. If the other gamers are obsessed with rules or competition or make-believe worlds or whatever at the expense of being friendly, then I couldn't care less about the game.
I think this is a point where our approaches to gaming perhaps differ most. I'm with you on rules and competition, but for me the make-believe worlds are crucial. I want to envision the make-believe world, or to explore someone else's vision of one, and I want it to be interesting in its own right, and I want it to be the focus of everyone's attention. The value of interacting with that particular group of people comes from their sharing the desire to be involved in that particular make-believe. They may or may not be friends in a broader sense; they don't have to be—as long as we have that interest and that activity in common. In other words, it's kind of like belonging to a square dance club or a chess club or a writers' group: The play of the game is a thing for me, not simply a mode of socializing, and the social interaction is subordinate to the thing.

Now, with a number of my gaming groups, we've gone out for dinner after a game, and socialized then. Or subgroups of us have, in many cases. But the socializing takes place after the game and is kept somewhat separate from it.

Bill Stoddard
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