Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Inspired by disaster


Back in my first post, I explained a little bit about my inspiration for starting this blog and trying to create an AD&D world.  It was accurate as far as it went, but I skipped an additional, yet major, influence—the Knights of the Dinner Table comic.

I recently dug out my old and minor collection of these comics and have been rereading them.  For those who don’t know, Knights of the Dinner Table is a comic series that retells the adventures of a group of D&Desqe players and a satirical look at the most extreme and horrible things that happen in the game.  It doesn’t show the characters but instead focuses on the players as they sit around the eponymous table—a bunch of adults sitting around, rolling dice, yelling out things like “I WASTE HIM WITH MY CROSSBOW.”  It’s supposed to show, in a humorous fashion, the WORST aspects of D&D style game play.

And I every time I read them, I want to pick up an Old School game and play that.  I LOVE hearing stories about the worst things that happen in a game.  The more crazy and off the rails a game goes, the more I’m excited to not only hear more, but also makes me want to pick up the game and give it a whirl.  For example, for years I had no interest in Shadowrun.  I knew of it, but it sounded goofy and lame and not interesting.  What stories I head of it just seemed over the top and ridiculous.  But then, one day, I stumbled upon the Shadowrun C.L.U.E. archive.  The C.L.U.E. is a collection of just utterly horrible Shadowrun games, where idiotic gamers managed to get not only themselves killed, but often wiping out their teams, their target, and their families in glorious fashion. After reading the entire archive, I called up my friend who has run Shadowrun in the past and INSISTED that he run that game. Hell, even though he’s now halfway across the country, I still give him a hard time about running another game over Google Hangout.

Because the chance for everything to go disastrously yet delightfully wrong is what inspires me to game.  For the players to spend an entire session meticulously planning their assault on a target, carefully move everyone into place, and only at the last minute realize they forgot to bring flashlights, and the entire mission goes sideways.  Or, a storyline from KoDT, to randomly go to a Gladiator arena, come up with a plan to use magic to cheat and win huge at gambling, then spend the next two sessions running around the place as your careful plans fall apart, and the “real adventure” is on the other side of town. 

When I talk to fellow gamers and they tell me about their awesome games, where they beat up the big bad NPC using their cool feats or magic items, or how they came up with a plan that went off perfectly, my eyes start to glaze over.  I just don’t care.  But when halfway through the story, half the party is already dead or in jail, the GM has thrown their notebook aside, and the remaining PC’s have a brilliant plan to rescue their friends by disguising themselves as pizza delivery guys, only the pizza is made of plastique—well, hell, I’m hooked! 

It’s not that I want my game to descend into such chaos, it’s that I want the potential to be there.  I want the chance for failure, for player death.  I want that challenge, and the freedom to respond to it by coming up with other tactics, other strategies.  I’m not a huge fan of most modern games—I like the idea of looking at my character sheet and going “crap, I don’t have a flashlight” rather than saying “well, I have an Infiltration Kit, so I have a flashlight, right?” Or, having an Always Prepared Feat, or spending a Character Point to edit the scene so there’s a spare flashlight around.

Because, for me, that’s what makes gaming so much fun and exciting.  When the game goes off the rails, when there is no script, and both the players and GM are riffing on each other and neither has any idea what’s going to come up next, that’s when the magic happens for me as a gamer.  When this happens, there’s a chance for some truly inspired roleplaying and epic results, but these only happen if there’s also a chance for a sudden total party wipeout and the entire campaign collapsing on itself.  But, no matter what happens, it’s going to be FUN!

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