Thursday, January 26, 2012

Back to Basics

Blame it on 5e. And the stupid thing hasn't even come out yet. Truthfully, 5e doesn't really deserve the blame--or WoTC for that matter. It's more about the state of gaming today. And truthfully what I'm going through isn't really a bad thing.

No, what I've been doing, is good for my gaming health. I've been rereading several of my rulebooks for other systems--GURPS, HERO, C&C, 1e, 2e, 3.5, 4e, HM, BRP, DCC RPG Beta, PF, et al--in an attempt to get "at" what rules I like and don't like. I'll admit there are some systems that really appeal to me, HM and DCC are all really close to my heart for several reasons. I like their tone, and what their playstyle implies.

In my studies I've tried to focus on mechanics instead of supps, modules and setting type stuff--because the decor of a game isn't necesarily bound by the core mechanics. Although it can be implied, as I mention above. We can play almost any setting regardless of the rules. It's just that some rules make it easier to do than others. So what I have been wondering is what the heck are the rules that I really need to play the game I want to play.

Some time ago I made the claim that I and my 1e buddies really did play 1e RAW, with most of the rules intact. I just assumed that was the way we played--it seemed like it was. That's the way I recall it anyway. Well, it's taken some time but I finally decided that was not really the case. We played with lots of flavor from the game--spells, magic items, character age tables, any extra race or class that came up and the like-- but you know what? I couldn't even prove that we used the racial limitations on levels or abilities! Let alone weapon speed, weapon armor modification, encumbrance, movement, and on and on. Geuss my memory aint too good, huh?

So that got me to thinking--what the heck am I doing with PF now? Am I really playing with all the PF rules? Or am I sort of winging it along in some kind of very basic simulation of D&D  with PF classes and stuff. I'm sure you can already answer the question. But after closely meta-analyzing our playstyle for the last 4 sessions I've come to the definite conclusion that the only consistently PF rules we are playing is the classes. I mean basically it's a super lite d20 SRD fantasy game with PF classes. Rarely will attacks of opportunity come up, or use of CMBs or CMDs, let alone movement, combat actions etc. etc. We do use PF rules on healing and have switched back to using PF crit rules--which I still don't like, even with the crit and fumble decks. But generally speaking it's just when we need to know some obscure ruling that we look to the book other than that we actually don't rely on the rulebooks alot.

I was blown away when I realized this. It seems so counterintuitive to me. I mean here I've been haranguing myself over rules, systems, versions and editions and none of it really matters! I'm simply playing a very lite and fast version of D&D the way I've always played it. In spite of the fact that everyone is carrying their PF books around and saying they are playing PF.

This is becoming a bit of a watershed moment for me. There are those times when you take a real look at yourself, and are surprised by what you see. You know, those life defining moments when you either realize you need to fundamentally change something in your life--or when you realize who you truly are in some aspect or other. This careful look at how we were playing did this for me. Or more properly said is doing it for me.

That being said what can I say I like and don't like? What have I really come up with in gaming terms? The following list is just a few of my tentative initial realizations. And please keep in mind that these principles may apply more broadly to gaming in general or just to me in particular.

  1. The core of D&D style gaming is very similar across platforms
  2. Classes are the most defining feature of the game
  3. The genie's in the details--the really fine ones
 Now I just need to explicate these, which I will do if I don't get shaken from my line of thought.


Woo Flaxman said...

We all play the same game, we just all like to play it differently. I've never been in a RAW game and never will. It's the little agreements between players and DMs that make D&D unique and fascinating and that is why we still play year after year.

Chris said...

Yep, well said Woo Flaxman. I'm beginning to see that. At least a little more than I did previously. It'll be fun trying to figure out where I land next.

rainswept said...

A RAW game isn't difficult or undesirable in and of itself... it's just unlikely. Each group makes the game their own, transforming D&D into "our campaign". Any DM will make whatever cuts or extensions to the rules are required to meet the specific needs of the players & the campaign. If the need is exactly no cuts & exactly no extensions... then the RAW are the RAP.

Like every 7-11 has core inventory and then stock customized to the needs of local customers... what are the chances the a 7-11 in Melbourne will have exactly the same stock as one in Saskatoon?

Practically nil, but that doesn't mean that only one of them has the "right" stock.

Chris said...

Thanks Rainswept, that is sort of the direction I'm headed. There is a sort of core than we play with as a rule and then the details. Like 7-11's in both places appear pretty much the same, even though some details inside are different.

My problem was in thinking that RAW was the way to play the game. I mean sure there were houserules about things the rules didn;t cover, but RAW was the way everyone was expected to play. Fact is that is seldom the case. Color me naive, but i've never really confronted that before--in myself I mean.

So that's sort of the present flow of ideas on the blog. I like DCC RPG and HackMaster, but how essential is it that I play those games if the basic core is the same? I can play the kind of game I want with the game I am playing right now, or at least with the game everyone wants to play.

--I hope that made sense : )

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