What Are You Going To Do About It?

And I mean that in the nicest possible way!  I am actually referring to the post earlier this week that I made entitled Theatre of the Mind.  It got a lot of attention and for someone who was having a pretty bad week (me) it really highlighted why I am here and why I keep typing on the blog.  I had so many great comments about the post and just general support for the blog.  I thought I would do this follow up to let you know some of the decisions I have come to and some of the suggestions I like.

One of the people I admire and respect the most is Stuart McDermid.  He and I have played in a few games together and he is a big ROLE player.  He plays games for the fun of the interaction and to learn while playing.  He has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of cool indie games and is not afraid to share his point of view.  If you are on Google + I strongly suggest you get to know him.  Hew and I are quite different though.  He loathes preparation as a GM while I revel in it.  He had some great points to make in this conversation.  The first was that Pathfinder is a D&D derivative and thus it has murder hobo mentality entrenched in it.  He strongly recommended to me that I need to play in a system where this is taken out of the equation.  A system that rewards role playing.  Interaction and investigation that pushes the story forward, regardless of how that comes about.

Many of the other gamers that read the blog and commented who were *cough* around my age (Back when I was a boy…) spoke about how they had seen the same things occur.  Role Playing Games are being more and more influenced by video games and younger players really do “need” the visuals that maps and miniatures provide.  Some of these gamers had even actively avoided using virtual tabletops or even playing on line because of this phenomenon.  I am a little upset that this is the case to tell you the truth, think of all the great gamers I am not getting to play with online.  I think that the one great thing that these tools have done is open the community up to one another and I want to play with the gamers that like the non-combat road more than anything!

buying rpg
It’s not all about the rules – it is about what happens at the table…

So, what am I going to do about all of this?  What has this discussion done to change the way that I do things?

  1. My in player game is likely to always be Pathfinder or D&D.  The long term players of that group are really geared that way and that is OK.  But what can I do to make that more enjoyable for me and them?  Well, for a start, I am going to as a rule stop using battle-maps UNTIL such time that the players have decided combat is to begin.  That means no more drawing the “dungeon” out as their characters wander it.  It will all be Theatre of the Mind stuff until combat begins and then, only then, will I draw a map if the environment is such that it would be useful.
  2. I am going to trial a change of the way that I hand out experience.  I am thinking that there will be possibly two options.
    1. Tell them that the experience will be moving from killing things and winning encounters to being based on interaction and roleplaying.
    2.  Ask them if they just want me to decide when they “level up” and take experience out of the equation all together.
  3. I am going to add a “Hero Point” system that is a derivative of the Pathfinder version but a little more liberal in nature.  Pathfinder “Hero Points” is too wound up in use a point for this or use a point for that with mechanical benefits.  My Hero Point system will be allowing the players to enhance the story with “cool stuff”.  I had a player once of a monk who was continually frustrated that he could not do cinematic type stuff because of the rules.  My version of hero points will fix that.
  4. I am going to introduce repercussions for murder hobo attitude.  If you kill a guy because he was evil (and had a sword I wanted) then the watch may take a disliking to your character, or his powerful friends may be knocking on the door.

Online things are different.  I have a greater range of players and am always playing something.  I do have a core group that play Pathfinder, the adventure path Reign of Winter and they are about to hit the final module of that.  I have already moved to a place where they just level up when I tell them, but I will start to reign in the use of battle maps which has been a key feature.  I may actually implement my version of hero points as well.

Past this module I am not sure if I will be running Pathfinder online again.  I may run Adventure Paths for it but use a system like FATE Core or Dungeon Crawl Classics perhaps.  I know Dungeon World was a favourite suggestion of readers but I love dice too much to give up rolling them altogether!  Maybe the Earthdawn RPG Gamemaster Guide will be done by then and I can get a Fantasy System that focuses on story in action!  Or maybe I will run a setting where the expected action is other than combat like Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space or even James Bond RPG.  Maybe Stuart McDermid or Joe Sweeney will run me a game of their RPG “Deniable” to show me what a low prep, great story game can be like.

Stuart McDermid (left) and Joe Sweeney (right) with their proof copy of their game Deniable
Stuart McDermid (left) and Joe Sweeney (right) with their proof copy of their game Deniable

Regardless of the final decisions online that I make, I am promising myself that the games I run in the future will be games that I want to play in.  I will be making sure that from the start the players and I know what will be expected of them and myself and the system changes will be outlayed clearly.  The one central core to this will be that it is about the role playing.  I am not going to turn away people that want to play a combat munchkin but they will be made aware that the murder hobo attitude will quickly run them into problems.

I will detail some of the thoughts above into individual blog posts as I flesh them out.  The one thing that I really want to say is a big thank you to everyone that read the post and thought about it.  For those of you that commented on it and shared, thank you – your advice has been invaluable and you have made an old gamer learn some old tricks again!  Keep rolling.

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