Sunday, January 31, 2010

Doom & Tea Parties: Small, Focused Games

I think Trollsmyth has mentioned that the solo game didn't start out that way. Originally we had four players, then lost two, then the third, added another who only lasted one session, and so on, until the group finally settled down into me, and some NPCs who I pretty much treated as members of the party. Whether it was just schedule problems, or a side-effect of chat gaming, or Trollsmyth's peculiar campaign style I couldn't say, but lately the group game has been having similar trouble. We're down to just me and the boytoy, from a group of four players, and while there was an extended attempt to add a third player it doesn't look like the schedule is going to work out for a while.

Which, honestly, may be okay. I liked the other characters when they were around, and that potential third player would have been a lot of fun, but having just few players has some advantages. He and I have built a rapport, our characters don't get along in all kinds of fun ways, and it means the NPCs in the party get a lot more screen time. Since they interest me (and boytoy has amused himself by finding various ways to make their lives miserable) that's been working out well.

As a general rule, I'm coming to prefer solo and small-group gaming. One, two, and three people means the game can be more character driven, more interaction-focused, and more responsive to the specific things that I like, with fewer player agendas to juggle.

Which is a bit different than the freewheeling, "whoever shows up can play," megadungeon and wilderness crawl kind of play that I think of as quintessentially "old school." I suspect that those kinds of sprawling campaigns played a significant role in creating and anchoring communities of gamers, and I would like to run or play in such a campaign at some point, but mostly for the novelty of it, and to better understand how such things function. My real interest lies in smaller, more focused games.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Graph Paper and Vinyl, or, "You Old People Just Don't Get It, Do You?"

I am what might be described as a "whippersnapper." Started blogging when I was still in my teens, still much younger than the average RPG blogger out there, and probably younger than the average RPG player, period. I gamed all through my teenage years, and still game with high schoolers occasionally, so I like to think I know a thing or two about "kids these days," at least in the gaming world. And every so often I'll read something somewhere out in blog-land that just utterly clashes with that understanding, to the point where I wonder if I managed to find the only high school, college, and youth group in the country that wasn't each populated by drugged-up cyborg freak-children.

Take this gem I saw over on The Core Mechanic:

It Appeals to the Younger Generation. Grognards need not apply. If the D&D brand is going to survive they need to figure out a way to appeal to the masses of tweeting, texting, facebooking teens who barely have time to sit still to eat breakfast let alone play a 4 hour game of D&D on a regular basis. If WotC fails to do this - the D&D game won't make it in 10 years, or it will be marketed to people at retirement homes (that would be awesome!). The D&D Encounters organized play format has all kinds of features that are aimed at appealing to younger teens and college age "young adults" (read:young whipper snappers!). Tangible trinkets, prizes, and rewards with in-game benefits for playing in D&D Encounters are all signs that WotC is trying to lure new players to the game table. Plus, you have the D&D team pushing D&D WizBook, Facebook connections, and actively Twittering - these just reinforce WotC's connection with a new, gadgeteering younger generation of gamers.

Yikes. Where do I start?

First, I want to make clear that while I'm picking on Jonathan a little bit here, I can understand why he has the view of "them young folks" that he does, and in its broad strokes its even pretty accurate. There's a kind of teenager who will be much more interested in D&D Encounters than a traditional kind of RPG experience, for a lot of the reasons mentioned in the text I've quoted above. And most of what I have to say about "kids these days" is based on my own fairly narrow experience. So take everything I'm about to say with that grain of salt.

(And jazzy title notwithstanding, if you're reading this, you're not "old." And honestly, I think the youth obsession our culture has currently is a big source of what's wrong with it. But it does make for a snappy title.)

Nevertheless, that quote represents a fundamental, and fairly common, misunderstanding of modern teenagers in general, and modern teenage gamers in particular.

Consider, for a moment, the music industry. The last ten years have been all about mp3s, iPods, downloading tracks from the internet. The album is dead. The music industry is flailing around trying to get people to start people to pay for songs without a physical object attach to them. Music has entered the digital age. That's how young people have always known music. And do you know what's gotten popular lately?


Seriously. Check your local music store. It's not just a baby boomer nostalgia thing, either. Nine Inch Nails put out its latest record on vinyl. It's a huge part of the indie music scene. And while things like Abbey Road and Dark Side of the Moon top the vinyl charts, that's largely because young people are buying them. They listen to classic music, and some of them want it in the original format. I'm not discussing this in a theoretical way: my boyfriend has a record player hooked up to his media set-up, and the serious music geeks I know love it. They think the sound quality is better. They like the way that vinyl feels.

Most teenagers aren't ever going to pick up a vinyl record. They're going to keep listening to their iTunes library or discovering new music on Pandora. And even the people who love vinyl don't listen to it exclusively. Digital music is too convenient. But there are a number of young people, a significant number of young people, who want to have a place in their lives for an older, slower, more aesthetically focused, aggressively analog kind of music. They like vinyl for the very physical presence that makes it so un-digital.

Young tabletop gamers feel the same way about the games we play. The guys I know who play Magic: the Gathering, Warhammer 40K, and D&D 4e? They like buying miniatures and handling cards and seeing all the stuff of those games laid out on the table. It's a physical, tactile, social experience. They like it for the very things that make it different from the digital graphics, constant stimulation, and online anonymity of the computer gaming that they'd otherwise be spending their free time on, the features that characterize so much of the rest of their lives. It's old school. It's retro.

It's for that reason, as well as my own experiences introducing people my age to Swords & Wizardry and the old school megadungeon crawl, that I suspect, for at least a certain variety of teenager, "old school gaming" actually has a stronger appeal than the slick, glitzy, D&D Digital Initiative direction of gaming that a lot of folks seem to think the hobby is headed in. I know I don't want a tabletop game that requires an iPhone to play. If I want digital, I'll play a video game. I, and a lot of folks like me, play D&D because it's a simpler kind of game.

I've talked about my attempts to get my boyfriend involved with gaming here before; it took a long time to get him to start playing Dungeons & Dragons, and even after he'd tried it, there was a long time when he was willing to play but didn't think it was "his thing." A video game, he said, had better graphics than his imagination. Then he started making his own dungeons, and discovered the joys of drawing little worlds on graph paper. He's working on a scenario now that he's going to run online, through a chat program, but all of his notes are on paper.

Look at the kind of roleplaying that young people (particularly young women, who for various reasons aren't all that interested in the standard "bits of plastic and math" tabletop gaming that currently dominates on the strength of its appeal to those young guys I talked about a moment ago) already do, all the time: online freeform play. Yes, this is an "online," digital thing, but pay close attention to what freeform gaming is not: like a video game in any way. It's text, maybe some illustrations, based on collaboration and social negotiation and writing. Doing it in forums and chat rooms lets it happen at a reasonable speed, but otherwise it's about as analog as you can get these days.

And while I'm getting a little more personal here, maybe excessively so to be useful, I think there's a lot to be said for the appeal to young people of the rules light, exploration-focused, long-running, and sometimes deeply involved gaming that characterizes the neo-classical games I'm in now and that I see happening all over the place in OSR blogging. I know I wouldn't have gotten involved in D&D if all it was to me was an encounter a week at a local gaming shop. What interests me about gaming is the campaign, the world, the characters. Having this thing in my life that I go back to every week, and watching it evolve a little bit at a time. Because so much of my life is brief and fast and digital, there are times when I prize the slow, the involved, the difficult to reduce to a simple, forgettable formula.

But all that proves is that people like me exist. I'm willing to entertain the idea that I'm deeply weird in that preference, even perhaps when included amongst the older generation. Still. I look around at the folks I game with, mostly college-age or a little younger, and I see folks who are entranced by the things that make D&D "D&D" and not Baldur's Gate or Dragon Age. Many of them don't even play video games; these days I'm mostly in that category myself. I have better things to do with my time. Roleplaying is one of them.

Now, not all young people are like that, but D&D is never going to be a mainstream thing. The average kid is going to keep on playing World of Warcraft and Halo, no matter how hard we try to make tabletop games friendly to "the masses of tweeting, texting, facebooking teens who barely have time to sit still to eat breakfast."

But those of us who do continue to embrace roleplaying are doing because of its analog refusal to conform to the digital moment. Those teenagers and college students want something that's different from video gaming and the online, digital world. Just like there still are, and will always be, kids who read novels, play outside, and listen to vinyl, there are still kids who are going to be turned inside out and upside down by dice, graph paper, and good old fashioned D&D.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Failure Rocks!

I don't always agree with Alexis, over at The Tao of D&D. But today, is he ever on to something:
Yes, it is a major bitch that my character's constitution is so low that eight hours of marching leaves him so weak that he can no longer lift his quarterstaff, much less gather together the magical forces necessary to sweep his enemies aside - but I want my weakness, I want to have it to bitch about, to torture the other party members with, to insist again that we have got to stop and rest because my feet hurt! I'm not interested in running a perfect being. Powers are not the whole game - flaws must count at equal value!

Amen to that.

My DMs think I'm weird because I get all excited when terrible things happen to my character. And maybe I am weird. Sure, I like success as the next gal, but you know what? Getting captured or attacked by slaadi or brainwashed or whatever, it's something to play with. It's fun. Even if it's because my character sucks, it means that the game is focused on my character. When my character gets charmed, or ends up stumbling around exhausted because she hasn't slept in over twenty-four hours, it's something to play off of, to respond to, to deal with.

That's really what I care about. Not success or failure, but getting to play.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Neo-Classical Mechanics: Leveling Slower Than A Gelatinous Cube

So in yesterday's post I mostly talked a bit about why I like long term play and the effect that it has on a game, and in the process I mentioned this idea that such play is a cornerstone of old school and neo-classical gaming. I don't mean that it's not possible to have an neo-classical one-shot, but long term play supports a couple of features that make those kinds of play styles really different from more modern styles.

The main thing I want to focus on for now is that it allows the campaign's style to coalesce, in a really natural way, around player interests. You have time to explore things and try out different ideas; the story can develop from random chance, player decisions, and spur-of-the-moment DM inspiration rather than being pre-planned. And, in particular, this style of incremental campaign design allows players to discover what they like as they play. They don't have to understand their own preferences well enough to be able to explain them to the DM as she's planning the campaign.

None of this is unique to neo-classical modes of play, but that kind of organic, improvisational development is a key feature of the kinds of games I'd describe in that way.

Now, part of my reason for saying that is that OD&D and Basic D&D are very clearly built for long-term play. The XP/level system assumes you're going to be playing for at least a half-a-dozen or so levels. It takes a long time to get to those levels. So to a certain degree I'm working backwards here and trying to figure out why those features are in the game in the first place, but I've also seen the effects of assuming long term play for long enough now to know a few reasons why building a system this way would be a good idea.

But those mechanical features are important, and they bring me to the point I'm trying to make in all of this: The ability to support long term play is an important feature of a lot of what I'd call "neo-classical," and it has some pretty serious mechanical underpinnings. The entire XP system of OD&D, the part of the game that makes it tick, is built around this assumption of campaign length. The rate of leveling. The number of levels. The way the power level changes as a character gains XP.

Not all systems support long term, open ended play. If it has a level cap that your players are geared to hit within a year or two, that's not going to work. OD&D does have level caps, true, but at a normal rate of treasure gathering its going to take your characters three, four, or more years to start hitting those levels.

Furthermore, if the power level changes really dramatically over the course of a few months or a year, then the DM either has to accept that the threats she assembles have a strictly limited shelf life, or that she needs to be willing to make things the party doesn't explore immediately level up along with them, which can create more work and damage verisimilitude. There's not quite so much room to wander around and explore different options, because if you don't handle something fairly quickly once you become powerful enough for it, it quickly becomes irrelevant.

And in a really good, long term, neo-classical kind of game, the players are eventually going to find something they like to do better than leveling. A huge part of the kind of campaign I'm describing is that eventually the players are going to find something to do that basically ignores the rules, and at that point, leveling becomes a distraction. Even, perhaps, a nuisance. You can use this to your advantage ("Do you go for the gold and level, or work towards a less-lucrative but more personally fulfilling goal? Dilemma!") but I have a strong suspicion that the reason leveling in OD&D is so hellaciously slow (besides just making it "mean more" when you do finally level, and the general old school philosophy of driving the players crazy) is so you can use it as a motivator in the early stage of the game, and then ignore it most of the time after that.

If that's where the game goes. Which is, when you get down to it, what this kind of play is about.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Doom & Tea Parties: Regular, Long Term Play

So the Doom & Tea Parties solo hit the one year mark this month. Sixty sessions, as of last night. If I'm counting right. Which I'm probably not--I suspect there's a duplicate log or two in there somewhere. But anyhows!

One year. My previous record for campaign length was about six months. Twenty-three sessions. And that was as a DM. (The group game is right around that mark itself now, and shows no signs of slowing down.) I don't have as good records on my time as a player, but I do know that the record there was rather less than that.

Appropriately, I'd been grumbling about this lack of campaign length around the time that Trollsmyth talked me into joining the game in the first place, which he did partly on account of my professed interest in the longer form.

It hasn't disappointed, for reasons that James Maliszewski articulated back when he started his Dwimmermount campaign (right around the same time as the solo game, in fact) and that his own campaign has since confirmed:
One of my growing beliefs is that, for old school gaming to work, you need to play not only consistently but also regularly. I'd venture to guess that one of the big reasons why old school play isn't as popular as it once was is because gamers meet a lot less often than they used to and because they don't stick with a single campaign -- or game! -- long enough to let it find its feet and properly establish itself.

Regular, long term play. I cannot possibly stress how much of a difference this makes to a campaign.

The difference between this game and my previous campaigns isn't simply length. Those other games started out with the understanding that they would be short; either someone else was planning a game that would need a turn within a few months, or the players simply wouldn't be available once summer ended. Doom & Tea Parties, in contrast, is open-ended. It will end, someday. The characters will die, or find another natural conclusion to their stories, and eventually Trollsmyth and I will have other ideas that we want to explore. But when it ends, it will end on its own terms. No external force demands its conclusion.

Again, I can't stress enough the difference this makes: the idea that the campaign can be as long as it needs to be. We've spent the last four months just setting things up, playing through two weeks of my character adjusting to a new environemtn while she anticipates Major Happenings (both social and quest-related) but without any particular pressure to get to those higher tension scenes, because we both know that they would always be there. We can take our time, and linger on the quieter moments that allowed us to lay some serious groundwork that will make those events, when we do finally get to them, really sing.

Furthermore, Trollsmyth and I have both noted that a few months ago the campaign started moving in a slightly peculiar, very social direction. (It's gotten even more peculiar since then. When I got into this hobby I never could have expected that one of my all-time favorite gaming moments would be a ten-minute conversation about what to do with NPC's hair, but there you go.) And I've mentioned that the time we spent in the dungeon was a big part of why that social, soap-opera-y style has worked so well.

But it wasn't just that we were mucking about in a dungeon. It was because we were mucking about in a dungeon and had no particular time limit, other than the amount of time we could devote to the game each week. There wasn't any particular need to clear the place within a given time, no particular pressure to hit any goals or milestones or even to "move the plot along." I had time to explore, wander into brief digressions about elven society, and really enjoy each particular moment of the campaign. As long as I was having fun with each individual session, I could fool around and figure out what I really liked doing. No time limits. No schedule.

And when my characters friends were kidnapped and she and another went to go rescue them, there was absolutely nothing to derail when I decided that, instead of immediately get back to work and move on to the next bit of the "action," what I really wanted to do was play through my character waiting for news. To have, in fact, the kinds of conversations that one has at the beginning of a relationship -- granted, a relationship between "a dwarf who'd been transformed into a nixie and a human cleric," but that's what made it D&D.

Which is the kind of thing that I'd been thinking about doing for at least a few weeks then. I liked several of the various NPCs that populated the game, and knew just enough about them to want to find out more, but I'd never done anything quite in that vein, so it took some time to find the appropriate opportunity to just slow the game down and talk. If I had been paying more attention to those constant distractions of keeping the action moving and gaining XP -- if I hadn't been sure that we'd be able to (or attempt to, anyway) rescue those friends and then move on to explore the results if I took too much time up with other pursuits -- I might never have tried it at all.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hirelings, the Sandbox, and You

This latest discussion of sandboxes (to which Monsters and Manuals has also chimed in) has gotten me thinking that one really spiffy way to facilitate player choice and player driven adventuring is through choice of henchmen. By which I mean: having hirelings come with plots attached, or with interests and abilities that affect how the party goes about picking and handling problems, are both a lot of fun, and giving players enough information about those plots and abilities when choosing hirelings gives them another way to affect the style of the game -- as well as a way to signal to the DM the kinds of activities that they're interested in.

The "skills and interests" thing is one that's come up a lot in the Doom & Tea Parties solo, partly because most of the adventuring party is NPCs so they get a lot of involvement during the planning stages. Usually my character asking them questions, but still, the interests they have colors their information.

I picked out the party's sorceress specifically because I was interested in at some point going to Fire and she had been to and knows about Fire, so that's an obvious one. More interesting, though, is the effect that having two clerics of Uban in the party has had on the campaign. That had been my initial thought for my PC, before I decided I'd do something I'd never done before and run a dwarf, so that was the first NPC I hired, and then shortly thereafter we rescued another from goblins.

Uban being the god of knowledge, what this basically means is that I had one guy happy to explain elven iconography to me, and another who knew useful things about adventuring, and accordingly made fun of the first. Which for someone whose ideal game is basically a mix of fantasy anthropology, dungeoneering, and social hijinks was pretty much awesome.

That particular configuration mostly fell into place on its own, but party management in general -- both picking who to take with me in-game, and talking with the DM about how I find most interesting out of it -- has been a pretty powerful tool for me to control the game's direction and style. Which is really what a sandbox game is all about: giving the player's control over the game's direction without sitting down and talking with them about what they want. The latter is all well and good, but I'm increasingly of a mind that letting people figure out what they want out of the game as they're playing it has its own perks.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Riffing Off of Rogues, Sandboxes, and Themes

If you aren't reading Playing D&D With Porn Stars then you are missing the heck out. Brilliant stuff about Rogueish Heroes vs. Upright Heroes and their behavior in sandboxes:

In other words, whereas a villain confronted with a sandbox world will immediately start generating ideas, Upright Heroes (typical heroes) need a plot. Without the bank robbery, Superman would just endlessly circle Metropolis, then go to work at the Daily Planet. Without the whole problem with the Ring, Frodo would just sit and hang out in the Shire forever being wholesome and loyal and sipping tea. Without fires, firemen just hang out in their firehouse, Ever Vigilant, playing cards.

I'm sort of a sucker for structural analysis of game behavior like this, but this is something that I've definitely seen in the Doom & Tea Parties game. My character in the solo game is actually pretty stand-up -- she's in the middle of a save-the-world-quest right now, sort of -- but she started out with just "I want gold for personal background reasons, and because dwarf," added "What exactly happened to the elves who used to live here?" and "My friends are in danger!" along the way, and got involved in the world-saving business in the process of following those goals. Because we started out working on other things, the she's now trying to save the world in a way that's very particular to her and interesting to me.

The thing that makes this work really well with Trollsmyth's game is that nothing in the setting lines up into Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. On a large scale, there's "the folks who want to make the world a better place but maybe have their own motives for doing so" vs. "the folks who think that 'making the world a better place' is crazy and dangerous but maybe have their own motives for working against it," and on a small scale there's a bunch of folks with their own particular things that they want out of the situations they're in. Some goblins you meet while they're torturing people for fun, and some goblins you meet while they're hunting spiders.

Which means that even if I'm going to play a fairly stand-up character (And I'm evil enough in real life that I usually end up doing that, just for a change of pace.) there's still a lot of decisions to be made and flexibility to be had in figuring out exactly what "stand up" means. Do I hire on with the priests to wipe out the murderous, troublesome pirates and make the seas safe for honest folk? Or do I go warn the pirates about the obnoxious, slave-taking priests?

This does mean that I spend more time than I would in a lot of games thinking about things like "what's the right thing to do?" and "how should society be organized?" (Though the latter is because I'm weird, not just because of how Trollsmyth runs things.) Which is all kinds of fun for me, but isn't what everyone wants out of game, and isn't even what I want out of every game--sometimes a girl just wants to goof off and steal things. But it does make for a pretty powerful, involving, and player-driven game.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Old School: The Feeling is Fear!

Toth of the Emergence Campaign Weblog posted a really interesting analysis of combat in RPGs, with an eye towards addressing the question of how complicated your combat system needs to be. The quote that caught my eye:

The most boring fights are the ones where you know the outcome already, or where you’re almost sure to win – but you have to grind through it anyway. For them, you want a quick-and-simple combat system. The truly satisfying part of fights like this lies in the characters having worked hard to find a way to turn a potentially-deadly fight into a near-certain victory. Doing it for them – the “Balanced Encounter” philosophy – will quickly get boring. Phony risks are only exciting for so long.

Obviously this ignores the fact that, for some people, the simple acts of optimizing a character and making decisions in a tactical, rules-bounded environment are fun, much like spending a couple hours chatting with a cleric and a rakshasa about boys is fun for me. But I think it's an interesting point that a game that does have a big focus on both tactical combat and character continuity is going to have to deal with the fact that at least some of the game's danger is artificial danger. More importantly, he lays out a pretty thorough case for a combat system that does get the heck out of the way, for those of us who either aren't interested in tactical experiences or get them from other kinds of games.

And Zachary the First had some over-lapping thoughts yesterday, on The Lost Art of Running Away. He covers a lot of ground in a short post, pointing out that part of the reason running away is "lost" is that a game with too much running will get really obnoxious in short order, and that for a certain kind of game running away defeats the point, but I have to agree when he writes:

But if you’re playing in a sandbox/exploration/dungeon crawl, the goal isn’t to bravely die on the 4th level of a dungeon fighting bugbears who will eat your corpse as soon as you drop. It’s to survive, become more powerful, and get out with what loot you can while avoiding any more potentially lethal situations than are strictly necessary.

After all, I've said similar things myself, in talking about why the sense that death is always just around the corner can make a game awesome.

What this all sets me to thinking is that focusing on the outcomes of fights rather than the experience of playing through them and being afraid enough of those outcomes to occasionally run away are largely a result of the way a rule-set handles combat. Make combat into a big fun deal and the players won't run away from fights, because fights are what they're there for. And running away -- making the decision that a particular foe is too tough for you to handle right now, and backing off to prepare, bring allies, or find another way to your goal -- is fundamental to any game that I'd call "old school" or "neo-classical." That label isn't entirely a mechanical one, but it has some pretty significant mechanical requirements.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

7th Sea: New Campaign, New Character

At this point the Erin's 7th Sea Wave game has been running for about a week now on Wave. Trollsmyth and made characters who had met up before the game got started proper so we'd been playing a bit before Christmas, testing the waters, but the game didn't really get started until December 30th.

Things have been, well, rough. Fun, yes, but there's been a bit of friction. That's normal for a new campaign, particularly for one where the players don't all know each other and haven't all played with the GM before, but the period of adjustment can still be awkward, even if you're expecting it.

A lot of it, honestly, is a side-effect of Doom & Tea Parties. That game going for a year now means Trollsmyth's been my DM for more games than probably all the other DMs I've played with combined. (I game a lot, but the campaigns I've run tend to be short and the campaigns I've played in tend to be shorter. I've had probably eight DMs in nine years of gaming, and run a lot more than I've played.) Which means that I have a lot of habits and expectations and things based on the particular style of that campaign. And Doom & Tea Parties is weird. I love that game, but the ideas it's given me about how I should handle in-game situations, and what the results of various actions will be, don't translate to every game, and it's caused a couple spit-takes on my part when Erin has done something that reminds me, oh yeah, new GM. Not to mention that Labyrinth Lord is not exactly the same rodeo as the drama dice slinging 7th Sea. So that's an on-going adjustment.

But that's part of why I signed up for the game in the first place, so I'm not complaining. As you may have noticed, one of the things I like to do is try new kinds of games and new styles of gaming, so I'm looking forward out of getting shaken out of my rut a little bit. It's a fun rut, and I'm not planning to abandon it permanently, but I could use a little vacation now and then.

It also doesn't hurt that my character, Alasdair the Highland Marches (read "fantasy Scottish") Pirate, rocks, and I'm having all kinds of fun playing him. I put a somewhat ridiculous amount of work into developing him pre-game (1000 words of character background and another 400 of physical description, way more than I would have even considered writing a year ago) and so far it seems to have paid off, giving me a lot of things to riff off of and interesting reactions for him to have. I'm particularly happy with the relationship Trollsmyth and I sketched out and are playing with between our characters -- recently re-united half-siblings, which has produced quite a bit of banter and continues to keep me amused.

He's the first male character I've ever run, which is an interesting challenge that I'm not sure I'm quite meeting yet, and something that I have wanted to do for ages but never did -- first because we had a rule against cross-gender play for a long time in my high school group, and later because I'd seen some cross-gender play at the table and decided it was too confusing to be worth it. In text, though, it works.

So that's where that is. Early in the going of it, but promising.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010 New Year's Resolutions

There's not as many this year as last, but honestly, I'm trying to be a little less hyper and spastic than I was when I made that last batch. I got a lot of things done this past year, including a lot of gaming, but much of that gaming turned out to be different lessons in what I don't like. Which is good, and I gave a lot more thought to my play style and what exactly I like about and in gaming this year than I have in years past, but in 2010 I want to narrow down a little bit and really get involved with those things I've identified now as Stuff I Like.

Go to GenCon
This one should be pretty simple, but it's something I've been meaning to do for the past two years now without ever quite putting in the effort to make it happen. I've already got two members of my road trip posse confirmed, money tucked away, and arrangements made to borrow a car, so that's in progress. I also have a couple extra goals for once I'm actually at GenCon; while the list will no doubt grow over the next seven months, it currently includes bringing a revamped megadungeon binder ready for play, and in no way mentions getting revenge for all the horrible things Trollsmyth has done to my character.

Read 15 Fantasy Novels
Another easy one. I got a few read over last summer (the first two Pern trilogies, to be precise) but if I can get started before August then I should have no problem beating that number. At the moment I've got my eye on the Kushiel series, and the rest of the list is mostly romantic fantasy, since I missed that all during my teenage years, but I'm also going to see about getting a little pulp fantasy and sword and sorcery in there. (And to that end, a book of short stories officially counts as a novel.)

This is really two resolutions in one. First, I just want to read more, period. But I also spent pretty much all of high school reading science fiction -- and mostly Golden Age and hard SF at that. It's time to move on.

Blog About Every Game I'm In
This year I'm going to make a point of writing about the games I'm running, playing in, and planning. I do a fair amount of that on the blog already, but this year I'm want to do it more consistently and organize it better. The other day I was going through the archives and thought to myself that it would be cool to have a better record of the gaming that I'd done last year, so that's what I'm going to do for this year.

I won't be doing a write up of every session that I play, if only because there's no way I'm going to start doing that for the solo game, and Erin's 7th Sea game doesn't have sessions per se, being play by post. But at least a monthly check-in should be reasonable for all the games I'm in right now, just to talk about what we're doing, why it's cool, what it's got me thinking about, and what's working or not working.

Let Someone Else Run This Year's Summer Game
This one may be tough, because I'm a compulsive planner of campaigns and I've got at least three ideas right now that part of me is dying to work up and run this summer. That's when the high school crowd gets back together for our annual three or four month mini-campaign, and I've run both of the ones we've had so far. This year, I'm going to leave the field open for someone else. I haven't ruled out encouraging someone to run something, but I'm not going to do it myself.

I've got a couple of reasons for this. The big one is just that I've got a longer-term online game in the works and I don't want to take my eye off of that. It's also been a while since I played regularly at the table, and partly I just want to give someone else a turn. I'm a little worried that if I don't run something, no one will, since as I mentioned I'm the compulsive game-planner in the group, but even if that's how things work out I've still got Doom & Tea Parties and the brand-new 7th Sea Wave game to fall back on.

Finish, Run, and Publish my Social RPG
I haven't written about this much yet becaue I'm superstitious that if I write about it too much before it gets done, it won't. Essentially, I'm solving the problem of what system to use for my next campaign by building a neo-classical RPG about social interactions. The "publish" part may be a bit of a stretch, but as far as I know there's nothing out there quite like what I'm working on, and it's not a bad spot to shoot for even if I'm not quite sure I'll make it.