11 July, 2012

The state of RPGs and Survival Games

Due to a lack of participants last night, the new "regular" game I've joined didn't run.

Instead I got to know the guys a bit better, and we had a good long chat about the state of roleplaying and computer games and general popular culture.

My wife and I about 10 years older than the other guys in the group; we've done a lot of roleplaying, both tabletop and LARP. As a result we've had heaps of exposure to plenty of different games, while the other players haven't really explored beyond their two standard games "Warhammer" and "Deadlands". The Warhammer GM mostly knows 3rd Edition (while I grew up on 1st/2nd Editions many years ago), and he's never played a game of D&D...he even commented that he doesn't understand how a d20 game would work. It didn't take long to remedy this, giving a quick explanation of the D&D rules. But it struck me as odd that there were gamers who had never played "the 800 pound gorilla" that indie game designers claim is stopping their products for becoming well known.

I discussed a variety of indie games that these players had never heard of...One of the guys knew of Monsterhearts due to it's appearances on various gaming podcasts lately (but he had no idea what it was about), neither had heard of the recent indie darlings 3:16, Apocalypse World, Burning Wheel, Fiasco or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I'm guessing that Fiasco will be better known once it appears on Wil Wheaton's Tabletop.

It was also interesting to hear that neither of them knew of old contenders to the D&D crown such as Rolemaster.

I was odd to realise how much esoteric knowledge regarding roleplaying that I actually have. But these are guys who have turned from computer RPGs to tabletop because they have become frustrated at the lack of actual choice made available to players within a computer program. It's really interesting to see this evidence in light of the tirades that have been made about computer RPGs destroying the industry...I know that I've made comments about this in the past and have agreed with other commentators, but it's fascinating to see that this isn't always the case.

Another fascinating point came up, a point which none of us were able to answer, so I put the question out to anyone who might be reading.

Our "Warhammer" GM is a self confessed novice when it comes to running games. He knows how to put together a "Monster of the Week", a simple dungeon bash, or a linear storyline, but he's only now experimenting with the sandbox style of play. Something else he wants to experiment with is a survival game; not a dramatic action packed game with antagonistic NPCs and monsters, but a game where the major antagonist is the gradual menace of surviving in an alien environment...Man vs Wild stuff.

I suggested making the antagonism for the story focused on the relationships between the characters, and throwing things at them to drive enemies together or thrust a wedge between allies...constantly forcing us to learn more about the various aspects of the characters when they are confronted by stress, tiredness, fatigue and confusion, rather than physical injury.

I tried to think of as many games as I could that might be capable of replicating this style of play, but couldn't come up with a good fit.

Does anyone have any good ideas?
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