Wednesday, March 19, 2014

[A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Game Store] Of Chainsaws and Disintegrators

Sayeth Von:
"ERIN! I'm having thoughts. Thoughts along the lines of putting a bullet through GAME OVER and transferring my various content elsewhere. You'd probably get more reliable Wednesday output (since whatever I happen to have to say about RPGs would be said on Lurking Rhythmically) and I'd be posting RPG stuff on a platform where more people seem inclined to read it..."

Sayeth Erin:
"I am completely in support of this!"

Here it is, then. I still plan on doing the 'here's an adventure based on the last song I heard, the last book I read, and what I had for lunch yesterday' thing from time to time, but I also want to share some of the other Starry Wisdom that percolates through my foetid brain-meat from time to time. (Hopefully once a week, roundabout Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning. That'd be helpful.)

As a start, I thought it might be worth talking about Erin and I as GMs. We both naturally gravitate to that side of the screen, but how we approach the building of worlds and the running of games is... startlingly different. This might also explain why I've only ever written one thing for Pellatarrum and am unlikely to write more, even though I really like what my gracious hostess has done with the place.

Erin is a self-identified Chainsaw GM. She revs up her engines and hacks out great chunks of rules systems, stapling them - still raw and bleeding - into place on others like some demented Cenobite until she has something she's happy with.

I am more like some sort of space gun - a Disintegrator GM. I look upon the three-hundred-page rules tome with a dismayed frown and proceed to flay it away, one layer of cruft at a time, until the essence of what makes this RPG distinct from others is laid bare... and proceed to run with just that.

When Erin writes about Pellatarrum, the setting is system-neutral and the posts establishing it are generally focused on describing the world and its cosmology, what it's like and how it got to be the way it is. It's elaborate, and detailed, and it fits around a central mission statement, it's clearly designed. Very much a writer's world; you discover it by reading about it and into it.

When I write about Auld or the Iron Kingdoms or the World of Darkness or wherever, the setting and system are intricately bound together to create a particular genre of experience. I scorn the Fantasy Encyclopaedia style and focus on playable concepts: in general, I am occupied with the practice of play, with my development work being shown obliquely. Very much a gamer's world; you discover it by playing in it.

Erin identifies as "high fluff, low crunch", and so do I, but I wonder if we mean something a bit different by that.

High fluff, to me, means that it's the armchair-theatre aspect of the RPG that makes the RPG distinct from the board game, and if I'm not looking for an excuse to put on funny voices and overinvest in my playing pieces, I'd just ask if we could play Small World or Settlers of Catan or Dominion instead.

Low crunch, to me, means minimalism: rejecting the idea that we need four pages of grapple mechanics to accurately simulate all aspects of grapplement. I merely wish to know whether or not my victim is engrappled, and how hard Hark will be able to backstab said victim, and what said victim has in their pocketses, with the bare minimum of sums, cross-referencing and rolling a surfeit of dice.

I don't insist that everything be expressed within game rules, necessarily, merely that the game rules do what's required of them and stay the hell out of my way the rest of the time, because I don't think we need too much help pretending to be wizards or vampires or steampunk goblins; we need just enough paraphernalia to excuse us for doing so.

I'm not sure where Erin stands on that.

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