Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leap a Day, Miss a Year!

Lest this old skull's blog fall by the wayside and be forgotten, I'd better post something, even if it doesn't have any 0e or Holmes content. (sigh)

I'd rather report that I have a healthy following of 0e &/or Holmes enthusiasts, or at least some new blood willing to give the ol' rules a go, but it just ain't so.

I am still heavily invested in a game store 5e campaign that has, quite frankly done so well, it is heading off the WotC rails! And by rails, I specifically mean the "Encounters" weekly programmed sessions.

The players who're involved almost from the beginning are definitely ready to move this campaign to someone's house. This is beneficial in many ways. The first thing will be an increased amount of time to play and plan sessions, and will allow for greater variety of session content. The weekly D&D Encounters program is designed to give players a 'snapshot' of what typically happens in a D&D game that is overly focused on combat.

A home campaign will give the players time to role-play, and, most importantly (for me) a relaxed atmosphere more conductive to exploration and explanation of details that are glossed over in WotC's version of the beloved game.

Of our stalwart group, three of the players are "old schoolers" (although I claim to just have an old skull...); I trace my roots back to 0e & 1e, as the True Believers here are already aware. But of the other two, I know one also goes back to the mid-70's and prefers 2e/3e most, and the third wants to run a Hackmaster game once a month. (Praise be to the Gawds!) Most of the rest are 3e era D&Ders, which, in today's accelerated standards is also "Old School", but overall what matters most to me is that we are having a blast with this campaign, no matter what the accepted rules/houserules are.

In our weekly game-store sessions, there were also many a discussion based on what 5e is doing that is different than all other editions that came before, and I had an answer for that, which is, basically and politely: "...5e is a game system that is focused on combat and levelling up players as quickly and convenient for them in order to facilitate instant gratification..." insofar as the game store weekly Encounters sessions are concerned.

Yes, the rule books have a lot to offer in the way of exploration and tidbits to help players examine the roles they choose as characters in order to advise them on role-playing, but it has been a constant bone-picking exercise in certain debates that NONE of the rules explain how to role-play. We get lots of ancillary advice on alignments, archetypal roles, and even manner of appropriate dress-codes for different classes, even modes of speech and names that each major race uses, but there are no actual rules on role-playing.

Anything that veers too close to role-playing is akin to breaking out a script of "that awful D&D movie" or the Cliffnotes version of "A Midsummer's Night's Dream", and that over-acting might even prompt the DM to advise such players to "...take it to community theatre, we don't do that here..."

So, the one thing that every set of D&D rules, any edition ever published totally misses the mark on is "How to Role-Play" using these rules to set up and play through a game session/campaign. Now this little bit will piss off those players who insist there be a rule for every little thing, and this is a tenant of the game that goes back to pre-0e: There isn't any rules, you have to wing it.

(Uh oh. Here he goes into rant mode again...)
That's right, there is no right or wrong way to role-play, although some players love to push the boundaries so far as to make everyone else at the table squirm in discomfort, and some do it on purpose, and yet others are made out to be the bad-guys for telling the over-actors to 'take it to community theatre'. There is only one major rule in role-playing, and that is keeping it all at a level that everyone can appreciate and have fun with. I'd like to add 'challenging' to that rule, but role-playing, ...rather - acceptance of escalated levels of role-playing may be more of a non-gaming challenge to others than it is for some.

That physical/emotional/spiritual inability to accept those levels of challenge will make or break a group. Moving out of the game store may be the easiest of challenge levels of our "successful" group, and I am confident we will overcome that challenge and move on to others, but beyond that, the group should not expect a series of more and more difficult challenges every session, as that is just pushing the envelope of 'this easy space' that we all look forward to every week. 

Y'know, we game because we want to escape from the pressures of everyday stress, not add to it by tackling the problems that deal with everyday life. Catharsis - yes! Political statements - GTFO. Our overall purpose for gaming is not to present a lesson in tolerance at the cost of anyone's comfort. This is not a platform for politics, but rather a social contract to just get along, and that means not violating the least common denominators amongst the group.

If a couple of players want to come in costume, fine, but please be aware of perceived tastes: sensible Tommy Hilfiger elf-wear is fine, emulating your barbarian's "sexy armor bonus" is not, unless your daytime job is being a supermodel. Dressing like Frankenfurter is expected at a local showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", but not in someone's home where there be children watching TV/viddy games in the next room over.

Wait.... When did I get so fucking preachy? Heh. I believe I left my main point a few paragraphs back, but I'm not deleting what I've got so far, because this is just an example of where role-playing can lead - down paths we feel pretty strongly about that has nothing to do with D&D or the group sitting at the table, and sometimes subjects that we'd rather not deal with while we're rolling dice for in our escapist elf-games... ...or maybe your grope is into that, which is fine - do what you feel, just keep your feet on the wheel.

Until next time,
Make Mine Marvel.

Oh, PS: The main reason I wanted to post this was to also announce that I'll be making another blog in a week or so, but I get side-tracked easy. The blog has no name yet, but its content will be 5e based, or rather - how the grope I'm in (yes, that's the second time I've spelled it that way - that was on purpose) is fairing with the 5e rules, as we are all coming into 5e as noobs from different editions - and in the case of a few players - as first time gamers, period. I hope Blogger allows a user to have more than one blog at a time, it'd be a pain in the arse for me to learn another blogging service when I've just about got this one down pat.

I for one, intend to take our 5e group down the "Old Skull" path just a lot - when its my turn at the DM screen. Bwa-Hahahaa!