Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Adapting Games for A Play Community

It’s not winning the game that makes the game fun. It’s playing that makes the game fun.”

I’m reading Bernie De Koven’s The Well-Played Game in which he focuses on the “play community,” a group of people willing to play games together, striving not for the triumph of the win but for a positive, satisfying play experience. “The nature of a play community is such that it embraces the players more than it directs us toward any particular game,” he writes. “Thus, it matters less to us what game we are playing, and more to us that we are willing to play together.” I’d recommend the book to anyone willing to more deeply examine their relationship, dynamics, and shared goals with those who join them at the gaming table no matter what the game. Although it discusses “play” as a more free-form concept, its many insights can apply equally well to adventure games (as opposed to more rigidly organized games like sports, with more strictures in terms of rules, requirements, and referees). In that pursuit he encourages play communities to embrace the freedom to change a given game so we can play well together. Members of the adventure gaming hobby have a long history of adjusting their games to best suit their own tastes and sharing them with others, but we might consider becoming more sensitive to individual players and groups depending on the participants and venue of particular games.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Random Encounter Motivations

Monsters serve as the default antagonists in Dungeons & Dragons and its derivatives (primarily many games developed in the spirit of the Old School Renaissance or OSR). They’re the focal point of the entire hack-and-slash mentality: kill the monsters and take their stuff. The character advancement structure of these games encourages this kind of play. Fighting and killing monsters not only earns experience points for the deed but points based on the value of treasure plundered from dead monsters (an aspect of the game’s design I’ve examined before). Certainly elements like the “Monster Reactions Table” can mitigate these presumptions. Yet a creature’s own motivations might affect how they react when encountering adventurers just as much as the adventurers’ openly displayed intent. This becomes particularly important for randomly determined creatures – as “wandering monsters” or in randomly generated dungeons – who don’t always have motivational cues based on a particular location. For instance, in a published scenario, four orcs in an evil wizard’s guard room have an assumed role to keep adventurers out, sound the alarm, and try to kill or capture intruders; but four orcs encountered as wandering monsters don’t have such clear cues regarding their motivation and hence their reaction to meeting adventurers. What if – before rolling on the “Monster Reactions Table” – we consulted a “Creature Motivation Table” to determine their intent when they stumble upon adventurers?