Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Pantomime Power, Gaming’s Great Satan, and Gygax on 3.5

Gamer Life (Tao of D&D) Alexis the D&D Player — “I know this sort of thing is rampantly common, and I know that’s why many people don’t say that they play the game – which probably increases the mystery and in turn the level of anxiety in some people as to just what happens during a game. The whole thing probably results from a game that’s too complicated to pick up in watching for five minutes, and so virtually everyone who chances to hear five minutes of the game being played within earshot is driven to flee the area immediately or else risk being pulled into some body-snatcher pod and reproduced as a walking plant.”

Role Playing Games (Nine and Thirty Kingdoms) Follow-Up: I Hate Play Testing — “The most fun in an RPG happens not when the system performs as expected and players are able to demonstrate their mastery of the rules, but when unexpected surprises happen. That’s why the GM’s rulings are so important: not because they fill in gaps in the rules, but because they keep the game from being just a pen-and-paper version of Diablo.”

The Nature of Role Playing Games (Hack & Slash) On Theory, Defined: Player Agency — “Players come to play at the table with assumptions about what play will involve. To be successful they must transition from their initial assumptions to an understanding of what play actual does involve. What this means is that the structure and design of a game and the choices available within it communicate information to the player that allows them to make an informed choice of action with a consequence that reflects their intent.”

Game Mastering (The Tao of D&D) Catskinning — “This is a hard interplay to get with your players, and of course it doesn’t play out that obviously. But if you’re smart and clever and take your time about giving information from many sources, you’ll get your parties to stop believing A or B, and they’ll start saying to each other ‘He’s lying’ or ‘That can’t be right’ and so on and so forth … until your parties are sorting the whole thing out FOR YOU and all you need to do is watch the process while you get coffee and answer questions.”

The Great Satan (Nine and Thirty Kingdoms) Rant: I Hate Niche Protection — “The more I think about niche protection, the more I realize that it causes all the evil in the world. Or, at least, the gaming world. You need more classes, because you need more niches. Or you play with smaller parties, so that you only have one character per niche. In which case, better design adventures differently, so that a party of four won’t find it too tough. Can’t have hirelings! They stomp on someone’s toes! Classes have to be overdesigned, because you have to try to make each one distinct. You need skills, to help make two fighters distinctive. Feats, too. No randomly-rolled characters, because what if two players roll similar stats? Better make the ability bonuses finer grained, too.”

Dungeon Design (Hack & Slash) On Reader Mail, Bodies and Traps — “A dungeon is what’s past our realm of static steadfast sanity. It’s on the other side, made of dreams, nightmares and horrors. You cross a threshold to enter and beyond, nothing remains the same. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have resonance. Things can still have reasons for existing. They can still follow logic, twisted and dreamlike as though it may be. But the logic and the dungeon never ends. It can’t be explored, fixed or finished.”

Freelance Writing (Gaming Ballistic) Pyramid Magazine Panel Discussion — “That’s something that I found very hard to explain to writers. This concept that rejections look like, they’re very short, they basically say ‘you’re rejected.’ Anything better than that and you’re already beating the percentages at that point. Neither Steven nor myself are allowed to invoice hours to critique something we don’t plan to buy. That’s not how it works, so if you get back a long critique, it just means this is great material, but can you make it easier for us to edit, because (and this is the rude part) because it’s cheaper for you as a writer to edit your own work, than pay us by the hour to edit it.”

Gaming History (Fear of a Geek Planet) Rule Zero Over The Years — “The new D&D is too rule intensive. It’s relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. It’s done away with the archetypes, focused on nothing but combat and character power, lost the group cooperative aspect, bastardized the class-based system, and resembles a comic-book superheroes game more than a fantasy RPG where a player can play any alignment desired, not just lawful good.” — Gary Gygax, GameSpy interview, Pt. 2 (August, 16 2004)

7 responses to “Blog Watch: Pantomime Power, Gaming’s Great Satan, and Gygax on 3.5

  1. Douglas Cole October 18, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Yay! I made Blog Watch again! :-)

    Seriously: this was a fun, good, informative panel discussion. It would be worth your time to watch, listen, or read it!

  2. Jason Packer October 18, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Sometimes, reading those OSR blogs you link to feels like reading the Necronomicon – I don’t understand things and can feel myself going insane…

  3. PeterD October 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

    What’s amusing is I like 9and30kingdoms a lot. Yet I disagree with him basically across the board – I like playtesting, niche protection, game balance, and pretty much everything else he thinks is bad. Of course, my disagreement is mostly because I think he’s pointing out the abuses of those things and saying “this is bad” but missing the value those things bring to the table. To me, on playtesting, it’s not when rules do not work as intended that good things happen, but when the rules do individually work as intended, but create a final result that’s interesting and unexpected. That’s why good rules so often lead to fun play – you get what’s intended to happen, but in a combination you didn’t see coming. And why bad rules lead so often to sucky play – crap that doesn’t make sense happens, and spirals into nonsensical paths that disrupt willing suspension of disbelief. It goes from “pleasant surprise” to “gaming blue screen of death” in no time.

    • jeffro October 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      You may be playing different games…and talking past each other about different things. I know I got the feeling from that one article of his that he was complaining about “playtesting falsely so called” and not the real thing. And I know I’ve participated in official “playtests” where I never saw a session report, just people crunching and extrapolating numbers.

      • Douglas Cole October 19, 2013 at 5:41 pm

        The “crunch and extrapolate” thing is something I tried to be really firm about in the Technical Grappling playtest. Sure, there was some of that, but one common refrain – not just from me – was “run a fight with it, tell me how it works.” We actually ran a wrestling match between a high strength, low-ish mass combat robot and a human, just to see how the weight and ST rules meshed – or didn’t. You really only see if certain edge cases are worth fixing by asking Peter’s favorite question: does it ACTUALLY MATTER in play.

        [Jeffro: Yeah, that’s real playtesting there.]

      • PeterD October 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

        Well, actual play playtesting is great, Proofreading is great, too, and can reveal flaws before you even get to the table. I just think he’s ranting against how some people playtest (as an attempt to iron out differences between results) and calling it a flaw of playtesting.

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