January 9, 2004: 9:10 pm: Game WISH

WISH 78: Two Characters, One Game

Do you think allowing one player to play more than one character in a game is a good or bad idea? Does the style of the game make any difference? What about the format (FTF, PBeM, etc.)?

Since I’m catching up on Game WISHes, I’ll just give the short answer for this one, which is, “It depends.”

I think, as some of those who have answered this question already have said, that the main determinant is the amount of roleplaying that is expected. It’s just hard for a player to really give more than one character the attention they deserve. In a game where deep roleplaying is required, I think having more than one character will almost inevitably result in one of the player’s characters becoming a well-drawn main character, while the others end up as roughly drawn sidekicks.

Having said that, I think that in more combat-oriented games (like D&D), having more than one character can work out just fine, and, for smaller gaming groups, may actually be the best way to go.

As for different formats, multiple characters who require RP are obviously going to work better in a PBeM setting, especially if the two characters don’t appear in the same scenes.

December 21, 2003: 8:16 pm: Game WISH

WISH 77: Contributions and Influence

What do you think the value of contributions to a game is? Do you think it’s fair for the GM to give out experience or character points for contributions? If so, what qualifies? What about the informal value of contributions? Do they balance or unbalance a game?

For the most part, I’m against the idea of giving extra experience or character points to a player because of a contribution. I think the informal value of most contributions in shaping the world and getting the player more involved in it should constitute reward enough. If a player feels inspired to do a contribution of some kind, then they should do it, and hopefully it’ll help improve the game for both the players and the GM. It shouldn’t serve as a method for advancing a character’s power (in terms of stats and the like) beyond that of the other characters in the game. It’s then that contributions can become unbalancing. As Ginger pointed out in her answer, the more informal benefits of doing a contribution are the sorts of things an engaged player will get anyway, so those are less of a threat to game balance.

December 15, 2003: 9:17 pm: Game WISH

WISH 76: Player Role

A lot is made of the role of the GM in a game, but what is the role of the player?

The role of a player can vary, I think, depending on the needs of the game (and the game system), but most of the time it is to collaborate with the GM and fellow players in the creation of a story that most of them will find worth telling most of the time.

Obviously there are players out there who think that they only need to make themselves happy, whether the GM and the rest of the players like it or not, but that’s more a matter of the selfishness of a particular player than any true reflection of the roles players should play in a game.

I do think though that the most important thing to remember is that the role of the players will vary from group to group, and, as long as it keeps most (if not all) of the people in the group happy, there’s no wrong way to do it. No one solution is going to work for everyone.

December 6, 2003: 9:10 pm: Game WISH

WISH 75: Religion and Controversy

A lot of neogamers I play with are uncomfortable with taking real religions and putting them into play. With all the “Satanist” backlash against D&D that there’s been, do you feel comfortable having any religion in your games? Do you scrub it of anything controversial?

Does the “Satanist” backlash even really still apply in any meaningful way, or has it faded so far from mainstream thought (sites like this and this sure aren’t mainstream) that it doesn’t even matter to most gamers anymore?

Anyway, the subject of including real religions in a game is, of course, a delicate one. I think the important thing is to know your gaming group, and be aware of when you might risk offending someone. It would almost seem to go without saying that you should avoid any of the obvious religious stereotypes when portraying a PC/NPC, since that’s just lazy roleplaying even if no one in the group is personally offended. Beyond that it becomes trickier, and there aren’t any hard and fast rules to follow. It would seem a shame to just skip the subject entirely though, as it can certainly add another dimension to either a character or a campaign.

December 1, 2003: 9:14 pm: Game WISH

WISH 74: Supplements You’d Like to See

Name three or more supplements (or core books, for that matter) for existing game systems that you’d like to see. Why? What inspires your interest in these supplement? What existing supplements or materials are you using instead?

I’ll start off here by saying that, as a rule, I don’t like supplements. Or maybe it’d be safer to say that I don’t like supplements when they come in overwhelming numbers. Or when, rather than just having a specific focus, each of them also tosses in a few extra skills (or abilities or classes or whatever) that probably should have been in the main rulebook. I shouldn’t have to buy five or six supplements to have access to a comprehensive list of skills.

Having said that, here are a few supplements I wouldn’t mind buying if they came out:

Amber DRPG Shadow Sorceries

A collection of different sorcery systems/traditions for use with the ADRPG, all of which have been tweaked to be able to work together with some degree of harmony. The sorcery offered in the ADRPG rulebook manages to be both dull and annoying, but trying to come up with an alternative that can still work within the Amber setting can be a pain, especially if different players want to use different systems.

There are probably other Amber supplements (Rebma? Tir? Golden Circle? Chaos?) I’d like to see too, but Shadow Knight didn’t exactly give me a lot of confidence that they’d be done right.

Nobilis…. anything for Nobilis

Okay, I don’t actually own my own copy of the rulebook yet, and I already want to see supplements. This is either a very good or a very bad sign.

GURPS Night’s Dawn

Based on Peter F. Hamilton’s The Night’s Dawn Trilogy (which came out as six books here in the U.S.), which I think would make an excellent RPG setting.

New Crobuzon RPG

A game based on China Miéville’s setting for Perdido Street Station and The Scar. It’s an amazing and complex world, which I don’t think would do very well as a GURPS book (or a d20 one either).

November 23, 2003: 8:49 pm: Game WISH

WISH 73: Player-Driven Shifts

What’s the biggest PC-driven shift you’ve ever experienced in a campaign? If you were a player, what made you feel like you could successfully change the GM’s world? If you were a GM, was this planned or something the PCs surprised you with?

At the moment I can’t recall any games where I was there for a major shift in plot (or world) that was caused by the players, as opposed to the usual evolution that is done cooperatively using player input. Reading through some of the other examples that have been offered by those tackling this week’s Game WISH, I can see that they do take place, but it doesn’t feel like a dynamic that I’ve ever witnessed in my own gaming. Have my games been unusual in that respect?

A pretty lame answer, I know, but there it is. If you’ve been in a game with me where a shift like that happened, and I’m just totally blanking on it, please feel free to point out my omission.

November 16, 2003: 9:15 pm: Game WISH

WISH 72: Character Interruptus

Talk about a few characters you had to stop playing before their stories felt finished. Where do you think they would have gone?

Back in the days when I was active on the old Compuserve RPGames forum, I had many characters whose games got yanked out from under them by GMs who either left the forum or, for whatever reason, decided not to keep running their games. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that since then I sometimes have trouble getting into a character’s story, which means I don’t get as attached as I otherwise might.

One that does stand out in my mind is Holden, who was my character in a PBEM game called Fires of Home, which I was in from 1998-2000. The game was set in a world made up of connected pockets of Shadow that hung in the Abyss, all sustained by a construct known as the Pyre. This meant it was cut off from the rest of the known Amberverse, at least for the most part. Holden was unique among the PCs in that he knew about Amber, the Pattern and the rest of it, as he had been trapped in this world when Brand first created it. He was also much, much older than any of the other PCs, and was in fact older than any non-Elder Amber character I’ve played before or since.

The thing that made the character really come alive was meeting Kieren (another PC), who was the daughter of one of the local nobles, and, it turned out, Holden’s niece. A near-death experience for Kieren resulted in the two of them falling deeply in love, which was a bit of a problem as they were each involved with someone else at the time.

The campaign eventually slowed and then died, which left their story unresolved. Holden has been working on a way to leave the world they were in and return to Amber, and it would have been interesting to see if their love could have survived the trials of a post-Patternfall Amber, as they were both descendants of Brand. There was also the matter of Holden’s other love interest, Kimber, who was going to be coming along with them. I’d like to think that there would have been an amicable split between Holden and Kimber, and that he and Kieren would have found some happiness back in the “real” world.

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