Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Role playing is in my blood?

I started playing rpgs when I was in upper primary - someone in class ran Dragon Warriors campaigns after exams. But I really got my start with rpgs with Junx and company playing AD&D (and later Shadowrun) in Sec 1. I used to cut ECA and German classes to go and play - which, of course, I feel guilty about, but you know, it was fun!

Those days were fun.. very juvenile, come to think of it, but I really enjoyed the campaigns, those fun stories our characters would get into, puzzles solved, monsters killed..

Of course, nowadays it's almost impossible to find our old friends to roleplay with anymore. And I've come to realise I just don't have it in me to really be in roleplay campaigns. Especially as a DM, I was never as good as Junx in fleshing out story, mood, and style. I was more of a mind-twisting plot / ouroboros kind of person, and face it, that makes better reading than roleplaying. But I've always liked the idea...

Last year I bought and played a board game know as Descent. When I'd bought
it I'd thought it was simply a dungeon crawler - the fighting part of the dungeon, minus the roleplaying that you needed to get to that point. And I wasn't sure if I would, but hell, yeah, I enjoyed it. Which surprised me, until recently, when I read this Penny-Arcade item about someone else's role playing experience. And then I suddenly realised, as a DM I had faced the same problem.

As a DM, you are not the players' adversary. You are their partner, helping them to tell the legend of their heroes. And so you can't hammer them too hard, and they know it, which takes away from the tension of the game. That's one reason why I liked Shadowrun, with the shadow of disaster constantly hanging over the characters. Death was easy, and resurrection impossible. But Shadowrun is an impossible campaign to run properly unless your players are devious little things who actually think of the kind of skullduggery you actually read in the shadowrun and cyberpunk literature - ourouboros, double blinds, pre-surveillance, Ocean's Eleven and Italian Job kind of tricky, cool ways to get things done.

But Descent, like Fury of Dracula, like Betrayal at House on a Hill, like Shadows over Camelot - these are games where bad guy gets to really play to your full ability, to fight, struggle with, obliterate the good guys without feeling like you ruined their game. Well, you did, but that's the aim. Sweet! I'm looking forward to finding people to complete the basic campaign with, and then to play each of the next three expansions, ending with Road to Legend, which really really really makes me want to play it, since it allows the DM to try to level up at the same time by outsmarting the good guys strategically.

Interestingly enough, Penny Arcade's comic has been featuring the World of Warcraft CCG, specifically the Molten Core Raid Deck, which is a card-based version of what I just described - the struggle between bad guy and good guys.

I think I'd have enjoyed it too... lol.

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