Monday, June 21, 2010

Settle In Friend

This first piece might seem like it is coming out of nowhere, and it is, but that is because I have consciously made an effort to avoid it as a topic of these posts. Part of my process of being a good GM is venting to avoid letting the little things pile up to the point where they transform me into the rage GM. I'm reaching a point where if I don't vent, an aneurysm is going to develop in my brain. Or a sentient tumor that orders me to strangle my players will grow out of my brainstem.

I'm frustrated by the fact that I cannot be just a player. I just feel like I'm starting to choke on all the shit I'm responsible for and I need to play something that I am not completely one hundred percent in charge of. I want to be able to game in a fashion where I can relax and worry about one thing, and not be responsible for handling every little dogdamn detail that crops up and needs handling. I don't want to stop GMing, I want some variety. I want some time where I don't have to hold an entire world in my head in case the players decide that they do want to burn Hell to the ground and wage war on the Governmental Ward of Kusseth City. I exaggerate slightly, but I am always aware that at any moment, the players could decide to do something far outside the bounds of the scenario, and I need to be able to roll with it with at least the appearance of competency.

I just feel like I'm in charge of way too much sometimes. Being in charge is the GM's role, I know that. Especially if you're in the position where you are building a world and deliberately trying to create something that goes against the norm, which I like to think I am attempting to do. I just feel like the whole being in charge thing is choking me to death and I need to game and relax while doing so or I'm going to get all frustrated and shut everything down again. I create characters and backgrounds in various systems and that is kind of how I escape from the whole responsibility for everyone else's enjoyment thing. That's why I have enough characters built in Excel spreadsheets to populate the entire southern rebellion in Reich-5. That's why I have the Robust Five (More Or Less) all ready to go for GURPS, even though GURPS might never get used. I build characters because I get excited and antsy about playing them. I'm an excitable skittish little kid when it comes to this stuff, and I act just like a kid when I don't get what I want. Which is a long running campaign where I get to consistently play a character of my own devising in a social pen-and-paper gaming setting. All I want is to get together on a monthly or better basis and say "Hi. This is Bob the Barbarian King of Eld. When he was a kid, the tiger lords of Eld enslaved his tribe and raised him as an arena fighter for their amusement. When he reached adulthood, he climbed to the top echelons of the arena fighters and was granted an audience with the tiger lords. In that meeting he slew them and took their hides as a prize. Then he did some other stuff and escaped. Those are his credentials for badassery, lets roll some dice and see how many 1s I can get to render that background ridiculous."

I just want to be able to game and not be the man in charge with all the info. That's why I chose 4th Edition. It was different enough that it was new to all of us. So I could kind of learn with the rest of the group as we played. Except no one read the books prior to play and I had been through the DMG twice by the time we finished our first session in my campaign. Then Jeremy got into my campaign and that was hella cool. People being interested in the world makes me happy because it makes me feel like my efforts have been worth it and I've hooked other people as much as I've hooked myself.

Bah, I can only indulge myself for so long. Point: I've been going crazy lately struggling with the need to game and not be completely in charge of everything. Which is a nice segue way into my next topic.

Apparently, Shawn and I are going to possibly enter into DnD gaming group that spans this great nation from coast to cost (almost). Currently, it looks like Shawn or his friend will be running a 4th Edition campaign that will more than likely be a series of linked Wizards published adventures, rather than a campaign. This is very exciting to me, for a lot of reasons I've been whining about for that past few paragraphs. Even better, I might possibly get to game with Shawn on a semi-regular basis for the first time since like high school. Yay. Even better, I may have put forth the idea that we should play some Dark Sun stuff when it comes out in August. This excites me further because I have pined to walk the wastes beneath the bloated sun of Athas as a thri-kreen monk since...well, a while. I like Dark Sun and thri-kreen are awesome. This could be the thing I need to keep me from getting too loopy in the DnD area. A small, kind of relaxed, semi-regular webcam based gaming group of three or four people. I think I could have a lot of fun with that and it might make me a little less crazy on the old blog here.

What follows is only tangentially related to anything else I've typed out here. Jeremy and I were discussing role-playing the other day and today I was watching the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring film and I got to thinking further about role-playing.

Let me say this first, because it is a big misconception a lot of people seem to have. Just because you gain levels and play a class, it doesn't mean you're in a role-playing game or role-playing. Making an attack roll is not role-playing. Gaining a level and some perks on Call of Duty is not role-playing. A good and evil meter in a game is not role-playing and neither is growing horns from your forehead that get progressively bigger the more often you eat crunchy chicks.

Watching The Fellowship of the Ring it occurred to me what exactly role-playing is. Now, role-playing can be being skilled at Stealth or Thievery because your alter ego grew up on the streets because its parents abandoned it or were murdered by minions of the Big-Fuck-Evil of the world or whatever. Another type of role-playing is when Gimli starts talking about his cousin Balin in Moria and laughing as he recalls his cousin. The party (i.e. The Fellowship) aren't in combat or in the midst of a mission or talking to an NPC, they're making camp and hanging out. Nothing is going on, but Gimli is still chatting up a storm and Boromir is training the hobbits. Tolkien, if he were a GM, said, "And then you guys make camp." and paused for a moment before he makes Legolas make a Perception check to notice the inbound Crebbin and in that pause, the players have their characters do stuff. To me, that is role-playing, but role-playing is different for everyone. Trying to tweak his gun for maximum damage output may be role-playing to John, and Eric having Xein consistently (mostly) purchase the best food and drink and clothing and amenities to spoil himself after eight years in Beltan might be considered role-playing as well. Role-playing is a hard thing to define exactly, because it isn't an exact kind of thing. Some people think it is voices and costumes, others think it is anything with levels and experience points. We're all entitled to our opinions, and the above is mine.

Edit After The Fact: I just got an amusing idea for a synopsis of The Lord of the Rings films via DnD terms. For instance: Gandalf epically fails an Insight check vs. Saruman's Bluff check when they begin discussing the One Ring and Sauron. Later, Gandalf makes an Intimidate check to shut everyone up during the meeting about the One Ring. Frodo makes a Diplomacy check to convince everyone he will carry the ring, while Merry and Pippin make Stealth and Perception checks to listen in. I dunno, it struck me as mildly amusing to think of the films in those terms.

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