Monday, February 26, 2007

A Little Behind, Part 2

I only managed to play in one RPG event at OrcCon, but it was a doozy. My friend (and RPG department co-supervisor) Denys decided to run a campaign game spanning the three conventions a year that make up the Strategicon family. He’s running three duplicate sessions per convention, each with a major decision point in the middle. The outcome of those games determines which direction the “canonical” storyline goes. That sounded cool enough, but when he told me it would be a Middle-Earth game using the HeroQuest rules, I had to play. The game is set around T.A. 1974, the last days of the Kingdom of Arthedain, and the central action of the game involves the fight against the Witch-King of Angmar. I played Peledur, nephew of King Arvedui, which basically meant I got to angst it up. That’s not entirely true, but my portrayal of him centered strongly around the ideas of fate and duty. It was fun afterward to compare notes with the other players (including Ted, whom I have mentioned here before) who had run him through the same circumstances in the two earlier sessions. There was lots of good mood in the game, and I look forward to the next installment.

Speaking of mood, last week’s session of The Mountain Witch had it in spades. Most of the session centered on the ronin telling each other ghost stories while they were trapped in a ruined shrine during a snowstorm. There was some great character work, including one outright revelation of a Dark Fate. The session ended with the ronin finally entering the fortress of the Witch, so while the session lacked action, I suspect this week’s episode will have it in spades.

And speaking of action, my involvement with the Durga’s Ironhelms campaign ended with a bang last week. Following the Markus’ Day celebration in our honor, the company decided to step up our recruiting efforts. Unfortunately, the rumors my character had been spreading about our successes and the vengeance we had sworn again Khador (and Queen Ayn Vanar herself), came back to haunt us. Three of our would-be recruits turned out to be Greylords (think KGB wizards). The four of us turned out to be vastly overwhelmed, and the session ended with everyone unconscious and in an obscuring mist. I took this opportunity to exit the game, not because I wasn’t having fun, but because I need my Wednesday evenings back. I’ll be curious to see what happens to the rest of the company, but for now the game is going on without out me.

And now I’m up to date. Hooray!


Blogger Ted said...

Speaking of mood, last week’s session of The Mountain Witch had it in spades.

The thing you did with turning the water on in the other room was awesome -- Ted and I were talking about it in the car, which made me realize that we should've told you that.

I'm both enjoying the game and feeling like it's harder to play than a lot of games, in ways that are making me edgy in a not-entirely-good way. I talked about this a bit with Andrew in the comments to my last lj entry, so I thought I'd point you there in case you didn't already click on comments and see it.


6:01 PM  
Blogger Paradoxdruid said...

One thing I'm curious about is how the RPG experience is different with a defined end-goal (I wonder the same about MLwM, Promethean, etc). To me, RPGs have always symbolized the freedom from restraint. For example, if I want to explore a set story I can read a book or play a console RPG. But if I want the freedom to change the ending, veering off in random directions-- then I turn to pen and paper RPGs.

I guess from the outside, the very focused and defined forgie games (The Roach, Mountain Witch, etc) seem more like board games than roleplaying games to me, in that there are set victory conditions/ end conditions to varying degrees.

Would you say that's a mistaken impression, or does it have some validity? I think the terms "roleplaying games" and "story games" are wide enough to cover many types of play without a need to disparage one or the other, but it can be useful to acknowledge those shifts of emphasis from free-form story-telling to boardgame without a board. (and the classic hack and slash axis of tactical war game with colorful dialog).

10:58 AM  
Blogger Paul Tevis said...

With regards to creative constraint, we had an interesting discussion about this last night after our game of The Mountain Witch ended a session early. I was surprised by how much we all wanted to play it again, given that that the basic scenario (ronin climbing the mountain to kill the Witch with essentially fixed Dark Fates and no real mechanical differentiation between characters) is so constrained. Granted I've always been a fan of this sort of thing because I think by limiting the choices the player can make, it makes those choices more important. Also, I don't think that knowing how something is going to end decreases it's entertainment value, because for me, it's always the process of getting there that's the interesting part. In My Life with Master, for example, you know the Master is going to die. You don't know who will kill him, and you don't know what will happen to you afterward. That's really what the game is about, and the only choices that the mechanics allow you to make directly effect those two things. So for me, focused mechanics == focused play, which doesn't necessarily make it any less about roleplaying.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Paradoxdruid said...

Thanks for the insight, Paul. I think you defend the focused play well-- I'll have to bug Ted and Christina to hear about their Mountain Witch experiences.

I can get behind "focused mechanics = focused play"; I'm a big fan of "system DOES matter". I guess my lingering doubt would be that some of my best RPG experiences came when the players were focused on a goal (telling interesting and exciting stories), but the story itself was not focused. That is to say, we were all focused on the themes (or "attitudes") we were encouraging, but the route to express those themes was completely open.

A further thought against my earlier stance I had was the example of movies-- generally in Western cinema, we know the good guys will win, bad guys will lose. But that rarely detracts from the overall drama.

*shrugs* Maybe I just like to hear myself speak. In other news, since I haven't seen you since then-- Great job with OrcCon! Smashing success!

1:23 PM  

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