This last week or so has been a welcome time because, having some time away from work, I've been able to dip deeper into some of the not-so-random thoughts that have been dribbling around my mind.
One of the most pervasive ideas that has really struck me this week has been the way in which, at any given time, I seem attracted to three different styles of roleplaying games.
Style One: Character-focused
Getting together with the guys in my regular group over the last few days, to create characters for the Serene Dawn game using Traveller5, was a really positive time for me as Gamemaster.
Here I have been applying some of the techniques gleaned from Brian Jamieson's Gamemastering
and really focusing on generating a game based on the desires of the players. This style is the one which I really hanker for a great deal: the development of my GMing to a more engaging and deeper level.
Character-focused gaming is about really engaging the players in the collaboration that is roleplaying games. It's the adventure flowing from the ideas that a group of people bring to the table in a serious attempt to tell tall tales together.
Character-focused gaming is also the most hard work. It requires dedication as GM and lots of input from the players. The rewards are great... but the effort is demanding.
But then anything worth doing...
Style Two: Low-intensity
For a long while this was what the group wanted. We did it with D&D4e before... admittedly badly, in my honest opinion. Yet, this is the game of the end-of-week adventure.
Low-intensity is about rolling up some characters, using the standard character archetypes, and letting rip with the action. The investment is lower than that mentioned above but the rewards are still pretty good. Perhaps the stories are more stereotypical and straight-forward, not taking time to connect the players to their characters too greatly... but these games are fun.
For me, this is the realm of the Dungeonmaster. It doesn't have to be fantasy, of course... but it quite commonly is. I've played games of Hunter and Buffy, Star Wars and Star Trek in this style... and I've played D&D and other OSR games in this style too.
It's about an evening of simple entertainment. It's about mates rolling dice and telling tall tales of derring-do and danger.
These are the games that I miss when I've been running a game for weeks, nay months, and I just fancy a knock-about. It's not quite beer-and-pretzels... but it's certainly not high-brow or deep thinking.
But then there's nothing wrong with a good delve, eh?
Style Three: Quick Bash
Simple rules, simple scenario, very low investment in effort. That's the promise of the quick bash.
I've noticed a recent trend towards this arising out of the blend of the OSR and the simple enjoyment of board games. I'm not entirely sure if it's 100% my cup of tea... but then, sometimes, you just want a quick cup of tea with a biscuit, eh?
How about you and your mates come around and we just knock out a quick dungeon bash? Or maybe we run some skirmishes in an arena? Or a quick cyberpunky mission? Nothing much... maybe the equivalent of a short convention scenario, with pre-gen or quick-gen (because the rules are really lite) heroes. A couple of hours or so, bang, we're done.
But then sometimes you just want to blow off steam, right?
No One Style
For a long time I thought that maybe I was on a quest from Low-intensity towards Character-driven gaming. In some way I used to think that, ultimately, I was going to be a great GM when all my games felt like hard-bitten adventure tales which engaged my players in deep roleplaying all of the time.
Then I woke up.
The reality is simpler.
Yes, I'd love to produce a detailed Character-driven game. I'm working on one right now, actually. Nothing wrong with that aspiration. Yet... I'd also like to run a one-off Low-intensity game with Castles & Crusades quite soon. And I'm not averse to a simple Quick-bash to either test some rules or just have a laugh either.
Honestly? I think that we might just need all three styles. It's about a mix. Variety = spice, right?
Yeah, I want to produce some really dramatic and exciting gaming experiences with my friends. But I also want to, even if occasionally, just have some laughs. It's horses for courses, as they say... and when the mood takes me I want to delve dungeons just as much as I want to roleplay a complex character.
Are you allowing yourself to taste the buffet? Or are you restricting yourself to one style?
Why not try something different next time?
Labels: GMing, musings, OSR, roleplaying