Friday, April 27, 2012

Rethinking the Obvious

I have really appreciated the feedback lately--both positive and negative. It has come on my blog, in emails, in other blogs and in person. It makes me feel quite good to have such a willing community of hobbyists to whom I can go for counsel and advice. I have had a few days in which to consider it all, while I finished my Hackmaster post. And now I wanted to openly reflect on every one's input on my experiences, thoughts and feelings.
  • The most frequently expressed thought was by far that my gaming style did not match those of my players.
This I now readily admit. And I have come to some decisions in regards to the school gaming club I advise. In the past I have struggled with how to run the club. I belonged to a D&D club when I was in middle school, but it lasted 30 minutes in our homeroom hour and very little actual gaming was done. We mostly got together and talked, made and compared characters and the like. I had come close to starting one when I was in High School--but a rat tailed 20/20 piece on D&D caused the Principal to shoot us down. Then I had done some web research and ran into at least one club that gave the model under which it ran. Well, it has become apparent to me that I was putting the "club" ahead of the actual gaming experience of those involved. I was requiring uniformity and attempting to retain control--blame on being a classroom teacher of adolescents. Anywho, I have decided that next year I am going to run my game--the game I want--and allow anyone else who would like to run a different game or the same game differently is welcome to. I have made this decision in the past, but I always step in and rescue failing groups. I'm just going to have to allow them to fail. I am not going to take responsibility for every one's gaming fun. From here on out it will be more like "This is a place where you can start or join any game you want!" By doing this I can run a game the way I want, and those who may not like it can run in a different game. And I don't have to take these differences so personally. I think I was just biting off more than I could chew, and forcing it down everyone else's throat as well.

  • The next thought that impressed me was that Monty Haul gaming has been around since the beginning of the hobby.
This is oh so true. I'm not sure why it bothered me so much now, where it didn't then, until I really thought about it. I never liked it then either. But I was young, stupid and not so worried about offending Monty Haul gamers. Now, I'm an adult and hopefully a little wiser and kinder. I can't release my frustration by tirades out in the open as I did when I was a kid gamer myself. I hold it inside a lot and stew over it. That's not good either. At it's heart I think this goes back to playstyle mentioned above. If you want to play that way don't expect to do it in my game. But this thought has also got me to thinking about systems again too, and I'll go into that in another post.
  • The next matter has to do with railroading your party.
I think I already addressed this fairly well in my response to Aaron, but it too has given me pause to think about how and game and why I game the way I do. As I said I addressed this fairly well in my response--but it still didn't keep the incident from occurring, which then goes back to differences in playstyles. But beyond this I have begun to think about the game that best suits my playstyle; which I will get into when I address systems in my next post.

  • And last but not least was the oft repeated opinion that it wasn't Pathfinder's fault.
I don't disagree with that. Pathfinder had a lot to do with it however; but that was because I chose to GM Pathfinder and then tried to do so in a style that was distinctly against my tastes. My opinion was slanted to begin with. I'll own my own prejudices and biases against much of modern roleplaying. It's a weakness, I suppose, but it is what it is. I personally feel my playstyle is rooted in an older style of play. It may not be the only style of play, but it's the one I like. Aaron was right in as much that  shouldn't be shoehorning my young players into my style simply because it's what I like to play. I don't want to shift my style to a different ethos, and that's fine. It is also fine that players in my club prefer something different. Pathfinder was simply the vehicle of choice in which it was all experienced. However, I find it hard to admit that Pathfinder is an old school game. I tried it. Maybe if my players had agreed with my playstyle and caught on to the way I was trying to get them to play it may have been a different experience altogether. But as my past posts on Pathfinder show, there are numerous mechanics in PF I do not like and that I think encourage a player-powered game. Such rules and structure enforce a style of play that does not encourage creative problem solving as much as it could, encourages player to go for power wherever they find it, and focuses character development on powers abilities, classes, features an the like. Not on depth of roleplay.

Now, I'm not saying PF isn't a roleplaying game, nor am I saying a group couldn't play it differently. Just that I find it to be a heavy player option game that is designed for a certain type of play. This type of play was introduced in 3.5 and the massive power creep and rule multiplication chaos that entered the game are a perfect example of where such games inevitably lead. Not in every circumstance mind you, but that is the tendency of the game. Sorry for the 2e fans out there, but that is the same thing that happened in 2e--against, I might say, Gary Gygax's wishes.

Is such a thing bad? No, not at all. But it is what it is. And it's not what I want. Which, despite my last love-fest post of Hackmaster, keeps me hesitating still when it comes to deciding on which system I can embrace to foster my playstyle. Which is what I'll post on next time.


Drance said...

I'm not sure if you addressed this in an earlier post, but why did you go with Pathfinder in the first place? Was it because you left the choice up the the kids? Why not propose a different game system? Actually, "propose" might be too egalitarian! Why not tell them the club has now become a "Hackmaster" club or a "D&D Basic" club or whatever? If you want to get some enjoyment out of this as well, then you have to run what makes you happy. I think you put yourself in a position of wanting to give the kids what they want, but that's not always the best thing for kids! If they're really interested in roleplaying, then they should understand that roleplaying in pen and paper doesn't have to mimic RPG video games! I think you have to go the route of "this really isn't a democracy." I think I sound harsher than I want to be, but can approach it like this: ok, we tried Pathfinder. Let's move on to something else. That might be the way to go: do short "campaigns" using different systems. It will help you and the kids explore all sorts of systems and associated play styles! And that to me is an educational experience, and isn't that what school is about?! ;-)

Drance said...

Addendum: I think you also might want to put more energy, if possible, into finding a non-game club RPG group for yourself. I think the gaming club has been your primary gaming outlet, and I can't imagine gaming with teenagers as my current adult self!!! Seriously, you might need to have some other RPG action with some other adults, if that's possible. But bottom line, you have different desires and expectations when it comes to gaming than a person who is currently a teenager or whatever in this age of instant gratification and "everyone is a winner all the time" approach to parenting.

Greylond said...

I think you've made some good decisions. Being a GM is a lot of work. You work hard on your game and want to have fun running it so the best advice usually is to run the game that you want to run.

I also think it is a good decision to let the kids run/play whatever they want to run. As the Teacher/Adult in the situation I think you should provide the place and structure to host games but let others decide what they want to play. GM a game and if they want to play in your game, all the better but definitely allow others to GM/Play whatever they want to play.

Master Of Grey Skull said...

I'm placing a lot of hope in 5E (aka D&D Next). I hope that it'll provide a system for DMs of all persuasions to run the game they want to run under the title of "Dungeons & Dragons." Sure, the stock holders at Hasbro are money-motivated and the game developers are "just trying to keep their jobs," but at the heart is everyone's desire to create a game that brings all of us back home. Back home and away from Pathfinder, Hack Master, OSRIC, et al. And if they produce a game that can be played smoothly in any iteration, then all the better. WoTC will see their sales soar as old-school gamers return and their market share will increase and we'll get a game that we each individually love.

Greylond said...

Sorry, but I have absolutely zero faith in WOTC game designers at this point. The last 12 years of WOTC games have shown me that their vision of games isn't anywhere near what I want to play. However, Kenzer&Co has consistently shown that their games are the ones that I want to play so I see no reason to expect WOTC to be able to write what I would want in a RPG.

Chris said...

Hey thanks everyone.

1. Yes, the kids chose pathfinder. Adventures Dark & Deep actually won the vote, but there was a massive effort by a few vocal PF players at the last minute and the majority defected to PF.
2. Yes, I desperately need a group of gamers that are adults. I wouldn't mind an older teen or two, but mostly adults. Problem is finding adults to play.
3. Next year we are letting everyone play their game of choice if they can rustle up players. I will be GMing my game of choice. f they'd like to play in my group it will be with a system I like.
4. I too have hopes for 5e--I'll check the playtest rules, but initial PR has me seriously doubting they can pull off anything like I want to play. But at this point I don't even think they know what they want. But I'll keep my eyes and my mind open.

Thanks again for stopping by everyone. Sorry for my delay in responding--our modem was out until today.

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