Gamethink

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

These are the things that dreams are made of....

posted by Doc Blue

Time for me to beat a dead horse briefly, namely on the issue of roll-playing versus role-playing or combat versus conversation.

It is no secret to most readers that role-playing games, as we know them in America, at least, evolved from war gaming. That is, some folks decided they wanted to play officers of their armies and act out what they did, and thus role-playing was born. Long story short, I believe that this origin is a large part of the reason why many rpgs spend so much time and effort on developing combat rules and combat options and cool powers for combat. You get the picture.

However, at the same time, role-playing games, by and large, and I know there are exceptions, profess to want to encourage character interaction of the non-violent type. Still, most, and again I know there are exceptions, fill one chapter with a list of skills or the equivalent - only some of which are socially oriented - and another with combat rules.

I think this trend is changing somewhat with PDF games. A number that I've thumbed through lately seem to give a more balanced look at the comabt versus non-combat, including My Life With Master which seems largely to treat all conflict with much the same mechanic. I think this is a good sign and potentially a way for role-playing to evolve. I've looked for years for ways to simplify combats down to single rolls like other skills, but have recently started going the other way. That is, finding ways to expand any skill use to the same level of complexity and thus the same level of importance (at least in terms of the amount of session time used) as combat.

Now the key to this, of course, is to use this idea frugally. Not every die roll should turn into an hour-long dice-fest. But, if you limit multiple die roll resolutions to only the big plots, for combat or non-combat, then it should be effective. It also has the side effect of letting the chef hang out with the street samurai and both feel equally important. Sure, the street samurai dominates straight-up combat, but how much more fun is it if the chef can distract the foe with a gourmet meal first?

Anyway, in closing, I think if role-playing is going to survive and thrive, we need to do what the creators of games like Over the Edge, Feng Shui, or Vampire did before us. Think differently. Come up with new ways to describe the resolution of events. New ways to explore interactions between characters. New ways to role-play! Assuming I don't slack too badly, I will try to bring some of my more mechanical, more detailed ideas to light in this forum. Some derivative, some impractical, but designed to get us thinking. Heck, I might even do a rant on statistics and gaming some time....

Doc Blue, Two-Fisted Statistician