Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Players Collide

I didn't post last week. I'm very sorry. Real Life got in the way.

This week, I'm going to look at conflicting gaming styles. Specifically, I think of the reasons that GMs run games, as compared to reasons that players play in those games.

One example: I had a GM once who loved the feelings of power he got from running the game and having absolute control over what happened. He loved the look of shock and amazement when he caused something to happen that the players not only did not expect, but could not reasonably be asked to expect. He was a very dramatic gamer, and loved the exquisite timing and flow of intrigue that came from having players at his mercy. I sometimes felt as if I was a plaything for a dark and cruel god.

Another GM I played under: he was an excellent storyteller. That is, he told excellent stories, and he told them well. The only problem was that sometimes his own strengths would get in the way. He was very good at predicting how people would react to certain situations, and excelled at arranging events in such a manner that the story would go in the direction he planned by giving the players just the right stimulus to nudge them in the direction that he wanted them to go. Unfortunately, after a while, it starts to feel like the players aren't really involved in the story at all; they're just there to serve the needs of the storyteller.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gaming Costs

Today, I would like to talk about the high cost of gaming.

Gaming has always been an expensive hobby. In the documentary Über-Goober, one of the interviewees says that gaming saved her from a life of drugs. She follows this by saying, "How can you afford drugs when you're spending all your money on gaming books?"

And I know this to be true. I've been there. I've been the one spending the majority of my weekly income on gaming paraphernalia. I used to get a new gaming book every week. I had quite a collection (much of which was lost when it was in the car that got repossessed).

But today, it seems as though a week's salary won't get you as much as it used to. Things have been easier for me since I stopped playing (or even attempting to play) collectible trading card games like Magic: the Gathering and Arcadia: the Wyld Hunt. And there aren't a lot of standard RPGs out at the moment that I feel a need to collect; the last two games that held enough of my interest to entice me into buying anything were Changeling: the Dreaming (which was put on hiatus and left languishing there until they ended that game line) and GURPS (which is in 4th edition as of a couple years ago, and all the GURPS products coming out at the moment either don't interest me or are basically compiling and updating 3rd edition products for the new edition, so I already have all of the material in these books). I don't play D&D, I'm not interested enough in Cyberpunk 2020 or Shadowrun to buy any of the books, Little Fears folded, and I have only a passing interest in most of the other systems out there.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Play By Email

Hello and welcome to another week of the Game Dork's Gaming Corner. This week, I want to talk a bit about PBeM. For those of you that don't know, that stands for "Play By eMail." See, gamers have been playing games via correspondence since the 60s, when players in wargames such as Diplomacy would operate across miles of distance by sending their moves to their opponent in the mail. The opponent would adjust his own board according to the instructions in the letter, and decide what his own move would be, and then mail that back to the other player, and so on. This system was called PBM (Play By Mail).

RPGs, being as they are a growth of the wargaming community, would of course follow suit. And with the advent of email, it only made sense that this correspondence would move from the mail system to computers.

I am in a unique situation, in that I have moved out of my country of residence to a new continent, and have left all my former gaming partners behind. So it would seem that PBeM is an ideal solution for my gaming needs, as it allows me to play with people thousands of miles away in a different time zone. Unfortunately, none of my former gaming crew think that PBeM is a viable option. So today, I thought I'd talk a bit about PBeM.