Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pausing to Appreciate the Game

I haven't been writing much about Trollsmyth's Labyrinth Lord game, even though it's been (pretty much) weekly since late January, and we've had thirteen sessions to date. Mostly this is because, as a player, I'm not so much in the analytical mode that then causes me to write blog posts as I am when I GM, so discussion of the game where I'm a player gets crowded out by my plans for and reactions to whatever game I'm running at the time. But it's too bad, because that game has been blowing my mind on a regular basis.

First off, it introduced me to dungeons. Shortly therafter, I realized that I'm not a drama/actor player (in Robin Laws' player types, later co-opted by the 3rd edition DMG II and 4e DMG), as I'd always assumed since those are the players I get along with best as a GM. Instead, I'm pretty firmly in the explorer category. Which is kind of the opposite of how I am as a GM; I don't usually have the patience for world detail, and it's been ages since I put together a proper homebrew. But I used to love books like Dinotopia, non-fiction about imaginary places, and gaming can scratch exactly that itch.

Now, I'm finding out about the joys of discovering a character throuh play. Thirteen sessions is a long campaign for me, especially as a player. My record on the stranger side of the screen is 22, and I'd be surprised if, before the Labyrinth Lord game, I'd played in a campaign half that long. My first group had a lot of campaign turnover, and I've yet to establish a long-term group since then. While I enjoy the novelty of short campaigns, I now have a much better grasp on what I'd been missing. Figuring out details about a character (and dwarves in general, in this case) in response to the demands of play is fun, and not really practicle in a short game. Likewise, I'm enjoying the process of negotiating between what I think would be fun and "what my character would do."

Most importantly, I'm starting to understand this thing some call "immersion." I've always been aware of it in general terms, but I'm usually too busy responding to three different player queries at once to really get in to. (I wrote a short story once, but that was based on observing my players more than my own experience.) When I do play, I'm usually equally distracted, whether by books or my own weird conspiracy theories. ("Snakes took our hyperdrive!") 

But lately, I really have been getting lost in a fantasy world for a couple of hours a week. Some of it's the length of time I've been playing; I've gotten used to my character and the world and the genral feel of the game. It's also mostly been solo, which might have something to do with it. And a large part of the experience is simply due to the format of online chat. Sure, it's missing that at-the-table social experience, but it's also missing a lot of the distractions of the table, and I'm already pretty well trained to get absorbed into worlds of text.

Still, though it goes contrary to my usual inclination, dissecting the experience isn't as important as the fact that I'm having more fun as a player than I have in years. That's something worth posting about.


  1. In any well-run campaign, there is (hopefully) a point where a player's understanding of the game world (not just background, history, etc, but also in terms of 'feel', tone, and a sense for where the game is going) makes a quantum jump, and the player begins to truly feel their character is a part of this creation, not merely on an informed level, but on an intuitive one. When that happens, it's a truly wonderful thing.

  2. Online chat has become my favorite way to game because it is so much easier to lose yourself in it. As you say, we're already trained to do that when presented with text. Chat just makes the text interactive. Having it real-time, as apposed to play-by-post or email, gives it a sense of immediacy those forms can't quite match. It's much easier to be "in the moment" with real-time chat.

    I can't tell you how thrilled I am that you're enjoying the game. :)

  3. Robin by the 3rd edition DMG II and 4e DMGDidn't Laws coauthor 3e DMG2? And he's slated to do the same for 4e. Good news all around.

  4. Knightsky: I've been on the GM side of that event before, but this is my first time being the player in question. It's fun.

    trollsmyth: Note to self: keep the DM happy. :D

    And yeah, I much prefer chat to PBP-type stuff. PBP is just so *slow.*

    Wax Banks: If I remember correctly (and I don't always) he's credited as a co-author primarily for the reworked version of his player types, and associated advice, in the 3e DMG II. While I've had mixed experience with his game design, his GMing/table management advice is very good. Clears up a lot of the basic problems that come up in-game. So yeah, it's great that he's doing the DMG II.

  5. I rarely play and this means I have difficulty immersing myself, it seems much harder from behind the screen. That said; the last time I played in a campaign that lasted more than 3 weeks I became very involved with keeping my Librarian-turned-
    alive despite the multitude of daemons, heretics and the like.

    Partly this is because I was heavily invested in the setting, but it's also because the GM was running a solid campaign with an engaging story (Shadows of Yog-Sothoth using Dark Heresy, hooray for Cthulhu with Boltguns) and party because my randomly rolled character was such fun to play.