Thursday, October 10, 2013

Early-Morning Clarity, Personal Growth, and Roleplaying - Part 1

Have you ever experienced the phenomenon where, in the moments after you wake up in the morning, the first thoughts that come to your mind seem so pure and clear? In addition, do you suspect that those thoughts are manifestations of your truest, deepest desires? In other words, these thoughts may be what you truly want with regard to some aspect of your life, but most of the time they are buried under all of the other thoughts, feelings, and various mental distractions of your daily life.

I believe I woke up on a recent morning with one of those moments of clarity. At least, I think that's what happened. I want to farm this whole thought process out to you, my fellow RPG bloggers in the great virtual hive-mind that is the Internet. I want your thoughts, advice, feedback, ridicule, whatever. This is going to be a bit long, so I'm breaking it up into two posts. Here goes:

For some reason, I just haven't been feeling fully satisfied of late when it comes to the rule systems I've been considering or actually using. OF COURSE, I am entertaining the possibility that this lack of satisfaction with any of the rule systems that I've been reading/using of late is due to some lack of vision on my part, some lack of thought-clarity.

Anyway, I've been feeling that there needs to be an RPG, and specifically a fantasy RPG similar to D&D, for busy adults. Perhaps this theoretical RPG would somehow facilitate play for those who can meet only infrequently, and who can't spend copious amounts of time on session prep.

Now, I do in fact believe that the continuity and cohesion of a particular campaign depends a lot on the GM's attention to detail, and not on the system being used. Does the GM take the right amount of notes during sessions so that he/she creates a firm bridge between sessions? For me, if I can't maintain this session cohesion, I don't feel like I'm doing right by my campaign and, most importantly, my players.
Back to this RPG for busy adults concept. Here's what I'm thinking currently, stream-of-consciousness style:

Perhaps the biggest concern I've had of late is the "damage" long breaks between game sessions can inflict upon a campaign. As a busy adult, I've come to believe that the sometimes long absenses from the table-top result in an increase in time needed for players to level up. Is there an RPG with an advancement system that doesn't suffer from long absenses from the campaign? Is there an RPG that will have just the right advancement system that will give satisfying goals for players and allow them to steadily advance despite the potential for long breaks between game sessions?

I don't want to keep track of arrows, torches, sling bullets, rations, etc. And as a matter of fact, I don't want my players to keep track of the usual "consumables." Yes, this is my heretical disdain for resource management. Heck, I want lack of resources to crop up unexpectedly.

I also don't want to keep track of time, miles traveled, etc.

I DO want to deal with plot hooks, player decisions, and subsequent consequences.

I'm a busy adult who believes (perhaps wrongly or rightly) that he doesn't have time to keep track of the resource management, but believes that the tension that stems from said management can still be created using the right system...or perhaps using a system right!

I want to focus on the complex results of the interplay between GM and players. I prefer to focus on fostering the cooperative story that the players and I are creating.

When I talk about a story game, my definition is one that doesn't involve me creating the RPG equivalent of a "novel" through which I will railroad my players. I am not a frustrated novelist. I'm a GM running roleplaying games. Story comes from me presenting a world and events in that world, and giving players knowledge of the events in that world (or at least some of those events). This knowledge will come in a variety of ways: rumors in the tavern, intelligence from thieves, braggadocio of mercenaries, whispers of courtiers, declarations from enemies, scribblings on scrolls and in tomes, and on and on and on. Then, the players will decide which of these sounds appealing to them, and they will head off in search of adventure. And part of the joy of this is that I will have to adapt, as best I can, to their whims. I will do my best to react and give them consequences, both "good" and "bad," that will interest, intrigue, engage, titillate, horrify, bedevil, ensnare, and reward them.

As I said above, I don't want my players to have to do bookkeeping. I know there can be joy in the bookkeeping, but that's a different style of play than I am currently interested in. I was interested in the past, but right now I am not. Why? Well, again, I feel sometimes overwhelmed when dealing in-session with I feel like a nanny when I ask players to "mark off that arrow you just fired" or "reduce your mana for that spell." I don't want to be bothered.

I suppose I can get this from any RPG system if necessary, I just need to change my perception. Or is there a system out there that facilitates the plot focus that I'm seeking, but somehow brings the tension of resource management to the table? Is this system called Torchbearer or Dungeon World?

Ok, I'm not all that happy about how coherent this post is...but I think I got the gist across. I feel like I've had a cronic lack of clarity in my writings of late...but that's for the next post. In the meantime, your comments are welcome.


  1. I understand your dilemma. Given work, family, friends, hobbies there doesn't leave a whole lot of room for roleplaying games or being that kickass DM. Being a busy adult sucks in this manner and it would be nice if there was an RPG product that caters to us. I haven't come across one myself but I haven't been searching either.

    Regarding resource management I've played in games where players could take abilities like "One shot left" or "I just so happen to have.." In these games the GM arbitrarily decided when you ran out of ammo (hopefully when tension is at its height) and the first ability let you as the player avoid that and keep one final round. The second ability depended on something like hero points where if you need something to overcome an obstacle you the player had a chance to mysteriously come up with the necessary goods. Perhaps those could be useful to you.


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