What kind of Game do you want, anyway?

The other day, Christian at Destination Unknown posted about what happens when the game you have is not the game you really want (OK, so I’m mangling his premise, but to read what he really wrote, just follow the link… I really just wanted to use his post to blog about ME, anyway). This seems to be a familiar problem… perhaps because there are an embarassment of choices and opinions.

Frequently, conversations about ‘what gamers want’ becomes an exercise in comparing different rule sets OR comparing different play styles or a little of both.

Rules: I’d love to say that ‘rules don’t make a difference,’ but think that position is naive. I’m afraid that I find 3.5 and Pathfinder versions of D&D unappealing — this is my opinion and not that interesting so I won’t go into it here (other than to say, yes, I think I did give the 3.5e game a fair shot, playing it and 3e for a number of years both as a player and a DM).

Play Style: Current discussion on blogs and forums seems to set up the ‘sandbox game’ and the ‘story driven game’ as the two opposite ends of opinion, and both have their champions. As the years go by and I muse on it, I think I’d like to find myself somewhere in between with a few caveats related to how the game is managed. As a player, I find myself chafing under the game masters who have decided ahead of time what will happen in a given session. I remember playing under one DM who would simply decide that X, Y or Z would happen that session… and if the players did not cooperate, then the DM would simply announce that whatever he had planned would happen anyway. I found it frustrating because it did not seem to matter what we did or what we attempted… as an example, if the DM had announced that a flood was about to ravage the land, the players often had to play guessing games until we lit upon what he wanted us to do before the game could go forward. So if the DM had cooked up the flood because he wanted to convince us to head for higher ground, if we tried to reinforce the levee with sandbags or build an ark or do ANYTHING other than what he wanted, our actions were doomed to fail until we did what we were supposed to so what the DM wanted to happen would happen. He never rolled dice for wandering monsters — monsters just appeared when he thought it was dramatically appropriate or when he was bored or when he thought the players were not paying enough attention. And he saw his way of running a game as a virtue.

I suppose my ideal game would have a lot of options for the players, and chances to go off into unexpected directions and the events that occur in the game could, ideally, be created by both the players and the DM. The players could describe actions and the DM (witht he help of the dice) would choose reactions. If the DM wished, larger events in the fantasy world could follow some predetermined course which could be altered by player action (for example, if the pre-determined course is upset by the players eliminating an important NPC, then so be it, the players have had a hand in creating the history of that fantasy world). I’d also love to have ‘game within the game’ events, like the occassional minis battle to decide the course of kingdoms… a practice I tried to interest players in years ago but failed to catch fire (ah well, perhaps my presentation was lacking). When I was high school/junior high, I wanted to give each player a ‘chunk’ of the fantasy world consisting of a kingdom or two and let them design it as they saw fit — then players could wander from one DM’s kingdom to the next and different people take turns DMing. This, unfortunately, never came to pass.

Unfortunately, time and energy for these pursuits are lacking… and I don’t think I have a crop of enthusiastic collaborators to draw from.


2 Comments on “What kind of Game do you want, anyway?”

  1. Taketoshi says:

    Re: Game within a Game

    In my second-to-most-recent 3E session, we had a nice side-plot develop as the groups gnomish badger knight decided to go off on his own for a bit while in town and found himself registering for a combined archery and stone-skipping contest…as the only non-halfling participant!

    He made a respectable showing, and certainly acquired a name for himself among the halflings of that city. Those are the moments that I ultimately find most memorable, as a DM and as a player.

  2. Aplus says:

    I wish we lived near each other (that sounded creepy). It sounds like our gaming belief systems are pretty much identical.


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