Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Expect Things to Go Wrong

Now at Kobold Press. (This is the fifth installment in a series of articles for players hoping to get the best possible experience from their time around the RPG table.)

“Adventures, in retrospect, are pieces of extremely bad luck that missed a fatal ending.”
―Lawrence Griswold, Tombs, Travel and Trouble

It’s a shame that Lawrence Griswold isn’t better known these days. He was a real-life Indiana Jones, a Harvard-educated anthropologist and archaeologist who spent most of the 1920s and ‘30s carving trails through Guatemalan jungles in search of Mayan ruins and exploring the then-”lost world” island of Komodo, south of Borneo, where his expedition was the first to capture a live, adult Komodo dragon. A memoir of his adventures, Tombs, Travel and Trouble, was published in 1937, wherein he offered the humorously cynical view of adventure quoted above.

However much Griswold objects that “while (adventures) were happening to me, I cannot ever remember having been particularly pleased at the occasion,” or that he was generally “scared to death, too busy to think about it at all, or just damned annoyed” while his adventures were taking place, it’s obvious that in hindsight he loved every moment of it and wouldn’t trade his experiences for anything.

It would be foolish to expect adventures in roleplaying games to go any smoother than they do in real life. In fact, since our tabletop escapades never result in anyone really getting killed, injured, maimed, scarred, trapped in a labyrinthine tomb, or cast adrift in a rudderless boat for five days without water, they can afford to be even more thrill-filled than the real thing, the way a roller-coaster ride is more thrilling than a drive on the freeway.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Dive Into the Unknown

Over at Kobold Press:

“… Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive―it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it?”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

In what I consider to be the very best types of roleplaying adventures and campaigns, both characters and players face situations where they don’t understand what’s happening and they’re being pushed to make decisions without crucial information. Sometimes they’re faced with a mystery, and filling in the missing information is the point of the adventure. Your opinion on that type of play might be different from mine; certainly there are players who like to feel as if they’re in control of the situation all the time. I don’t begrudge them their preference, but I do believe that they’re missing out on a huge quotient of enjoyment.

Most RPG settings are worlds of wonder. Whether you’re playing a fantasy game with magic and mythical beasts, a science fiction game with starships and aliens, a steampunk game with super-science and dinosaurs, or a post-modern game with vampires and murderous cults, the setting is rife with amazing things that don’t exist in real life. Experiencing the “wonders of the world” and uncovering its hidden truths can be a major thrust of the campaign, or it might be a sidelight. Either way, if players understand everything there is to know about the setting and the story they’re involved in, then I’d argue that the GM has made the world too small and too familiar.

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