Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Some declarations of my own

I'm not usually much for memes, but I can't resist any opportunity to inflict my opinions on the public at large (or at least the miniscule subset of it that actually reads this blog), so when Joseph Bloch and, later, Zachary Houghton posted about their personal gaming preferences, well, I felt compelled to join the fun. Please note that the following represents only my opinions, and does not necessarily reflect those of my fellow contributors (although they are welcome to add their own).

On game design:
I love "kewl". I know that as a 45-year old gamer who first started playing D&D in 1981 and has been continuously playing tabletop rpgs for three decades, I don't really fit the demographic profile of a new school gamer. But I am. I love to min/max, but I also love to play suboptimal characters just to see what I can get out of them. I am a powergamer. Character background, story arc, narrative, none of these things mean very much to me beyond providing a framework in which my character can develop. I don't care what is going on four kingdoms over and I don't care what happened 2000 years ago, unless that information is relevent to what my character is attempting to accomplish. It's a bit odd, since I am history buff, but I guess it's because I only care about real history. I like a lot of options for character design. I know a lot of old school types prefer to personalize their characters outside of the rules, but I want tangible game effects from the decisions I make. I want to know that choosing a two-handed sword over a longsword and shield will have some meaningful consequences.

I definitely fall into the simulationist camp when it comes to game design. Even though I have played some iteration of D&D for most of the last 30 years, I have always chafed under some of the more gamist aspects of the game. I've never liked AC, preferring something like the BRP system in which armour reduces damage, but not the chance to hit. I also don't really like the power curve of class-and-level games. No character should ever be so powerful as to be able to confidently take on an entire army. I prefer that players never be completely confident of the outcome of any fight. Even a lowly goblin should have at least a slight chance to seriously injure any PC with a lucky shot.

I am comfortable with Tolkienesque player races, but I'm also willing to entertain divergence from those templates as long as they're not too weird. Gloranthan elves and dwarves, for example, would certainly be "too weird". I don't care for subraces, however, unless they are radically different and only serve as evil alternatives to the PC races, such as drow or duergar.

On setting:
I'm a bit of a stickler for consistency in setting design. For example, I don't like Asian settings in general and I certainly don't like them freely intermingled with my pseudo-European medieval D&D setting. No knights and ninjas for me, thank you very much. I do like the inclusion of firearms of the appropriate technology level for a High Middle Ages European milieu, but I've never been satisfied with any of the efforts to incorporate them into D&D. It seems impossible to model the advantages of firearms using the D&D rules, without making bows completely obsolete, so they are inevitably underpowered and overpriced.

Oddly enough, my gaming history and my personal preferences on setting are, once again, at odds. I am a sci-fi guy. I'd prefer a rail gun and a powered exoskeleton over a longsword and a suit of chain mail any day. Yet, somehow I always end up slinging spells and swinging battleaxes. I guess fantasy is simply more conducive to my hack-and-slash style of gaming.

On pronouns and gender issues:
I always use the male pronoun. I find reading a game book that switches back and forth from male to female pronouns to be very distracting. I don't have any problem with female gamers, but my group is all-male and we like it that way (and so do our wives, I'm sure). Game night is boys night out. We don't have to suck in our guts or tighten our sphincters. Most importantly, we don't have to censor ourselves and worry that what we say might offend the ladies.

On politics and religion:
I am a Canadian conservative. That means I'm of a different breed from our friends on the right of the American political spectrum. It means, for example, that I believe religion is something best not discussed in polite company. I don't want to know how you did the nasty with your wife last night and likewise, I don't want to know how you scored with your personal savior on Sunday. Having said that, there are some similarities which have implications for my gaming experience. I despise moral relativism. Some things are just plain wrong and no amount of cultural sensitivity training is going to change my mind about that. This means the morality in my world may seem a tad Victorian to some. There are good guys and bad guys. Sure, there are some occasions of moral ambiguity, but inevitably, my heroes prevail, though the price of victory may be steep. It also means I don't really like playing in evil campaigns. That's not to say I haven't done so and I've been told by reliable sources that I can whip up a pretty awesome villain when situation demands, but it's always well outside of my comfort zone. I'm very pro-military and my games always have a healthy dose of righteous smackdown by the thin olive drab line. If I can find some way to stick a tank in there, mores the better (I know most guys are into fighter jets, but I'm a tank guy). I'm queasy about violence against women and children. Such violence exists in my campaigns, but I always prefer to leave the details to the imaginations of my players. Needless to say, any character, be it NPC or PC, will encounter swift and brutal judgement from the appropriate authority for perpetrating such violence. On the other hand, if a paladin wants to thrash some bad guy to within inches of his life, so be it. Men are expendable and evil men even more so. Waterboard the terrorists to your heart's content, boys.

On technology:
Whatever. Use it if you want as long as it doesn't grind things to a halt. In our group, we have a mix of technophiles and technophobes (ok, that last category is mainly just me) and it seems to work fine. There are laptops and iPads operating cheek-and-jowl alongside dice and pencils with no problems. Of course, no one has spilled a bottle of Dr. Pepper on someone's keyboard yet.


No comments: