Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"I would prefer not to"

It occurs to me that some OSR grognards regard any game where the players are given some sort of narrative control over the action as a "story game." To put it another way, some people think if you're not recognizing Rule Zero as a fundamental aspect of playing role-playing games then they don't consider it a role-playing game.
Rule Zero was always a stupid concept to begin with. The best D&D games I ever played in were ones where the GM built off of things the players handed them, and the worst D&D games I ever played in were the ones where the GM completely ignored the other players' desires and ambitions for his own plotline or slavish devotion to his setting. When I hear other people talk about their best and worst experiences at the table I hear the same kinds of stories, except when somebody is targeting a particular game. I try not to declare something is bad simply because I had a bad experience with it, or didn't have fun. I try to explain exactly what it was I didn't like without falling into generalized descriptions.

I don't like the Shadowrun system and I have only had bad experiences playing it, but that doesn't make it a bad game. I love a lot of things about Shadowrun despite my bad experiences and my distaste for the rules. I would definitely try playing it again with a fresh GM.

I don't like 4th edition D&D because it requires a map to play it, I think of it as a glorified board game, but that doesn't make it a bad game. When I get done playing a game of 4th edition D&D I am left thinking about the tactics I could have used rather than the story that was happening around, plot is incidental to the action on the table. It's just not a game that appeals to my sensibilities.

I don't like Paranoia because I have only ever had bad experiences with it, yet when people talk about what has happened in their games of Paranoia it always sounds like a lot fun. It's like when I hear about a sketch on Saturday Night Live and it sounds really funny when somebody describes it to me, but when I actually watch it it's not that funny. I could probably try playing it again if I was with the right group of players.

I don't like Monsterhearts because the playbooks are each individually defined to promote a very specific style of playing that particular character and I want to be able to have more freedom with my character then following a guided playstyle and narrative. I probably won't play it again.

I have probably had more bad experiences than good ones while playing 1st and 2nd edition D&D, but this always came down to a GM who either ignored what his players wanted to do or a GM who took possession of the campaign world in such a way that it limited the fun players at the table were having. The level-based system of D&D no longer appeals to me, but I would still play it as long as the GM didn't quote Rule Zero as a maxim for how they ran their game.