Friday, December 29, 2006

Maximum Extreme Uber

Last night we did my friend's one-shot OVA-powered fantasy game, which (not for the first time) is turning into at least a 2-shot. He and I both own copies of the game, but up until now we've never used it for anything, and while the game session didn't have all that much dice-rolling or anything, I was overall very happy with how it played. Mike's "Breaker" system (a sort of free-wheeling take on Final Fantasy style Limit Breaks) also looks promising, but needs more development. He also brought along one of his coworkers, who as it turned out fit in with our group frighteningly well. And like just about everyone else I know, he absolutely wants to try Maid RPG. Now that I'm well into translating the replay, which has some very questionable content, I think it's safe to say that America is not ready for this game, the only exception being the 4chan type crowd (like most of my friends) who are no longer capable of really being shocked by much of anything, and tend to be amused by content that would make average want to claw their eyes out. ^_^;;;;

Mike bought a copy of John Wick's Play Dirty for the GM of our regular Truth & Justice game (who also happens to be named Mike) , who finished reading it very quickly and then lent it to me. It was an interesting read, to be sure. How can I explain it? The tips and tricks contained in the book are really good stuff; from those I'd call the book "Game Mastering Secrets" (except that title's already been done, though I would push the double entendre in the title just for fun). On the other hand, for the overbearing attitude and rhetorical style ("And with that in mind, let's move on to this month's topic. Twenty bucks says you can't figure it out until we're all done."), I think it could to be called "XTREME ROLEPLAYING!!!1!" I'm being silly and using hyperbole, which I wouldn't do ordinarily, 'cuz that's just not how I roll. There are some rhetorical questions that I found just distracting though. "If roleplaying games are supposed to simulate life, why are so many people obsessed with making them 'fair?'" and I'm sitting there thinking "Who the hell said they're supposed to simulate life? You said they're supposed to simulate literature. I think it depends on the game." when I should be paying attention to the really good GM advice (on character death) that follows.

There's also some stuff that basically could be a major foundation block of a kickass indie game (like the Living City chapter) being presented as advice for mainstream RPGs. Of course, that comes back to the thing that (as someone smarter than me said on an RPGnet thread) a lot of the wacky mechanics in indie games came out of trying to hard-code techniques developed through gameplay. There are also some bits that remind me very much of the kinds of things I read in the oWoD Storyteller's Guides. (As an aside: One of those offered up the idea of each player having a binder/notebook for their character, for the character sheet and notes and whatnot. We now do that for every long-term campaign, and sometimes my artist friends will whip up illustrations and covers for them to boot).

So, in short, I was not planning to pick this book up because the "attitude" it exuded put me off, but it's got some real gems of advice in it, and I'm glad I did read it (albeit a friend's copy, for free). My only caveat, more of a personal taste thing (which I told Mike -- the T&J GM Mike -- the other day) is that at a certain point the balls-to-the-wall in-your-face style of roleplaying will make the game become stressful for me, Ewen, in real life, and thus less fun. Just let me breathe now and then, and we'll be cool.

2 Comments:

Blogger R. Edward Downe said...

Regarding the lit/reality confusion, the author is rebutting the "Lets make things just like reality" approach when those same people make the problems an even playing field, which is NOT reality, and then brings up popular geek liturature that never did bother to make the heroes "balanced".

The book, by itself is a collection of essays/columns done for a online magazine, which explains it's more "intimate" style. Lastly, the book is written by a man who is notorious for laying down the attitude rather thick. This isn't an act as far as I can tell, he's just that hardcore.
I did take a great quote (amongst other things) from the book: "Weaknesses you defend, you get to keep."

12:38 AM  
Blogger Ewen said...

I'm well aware of his style, and even he has admitted that he's grown up a bit since writing the Play Dirty columns (and even more since this). When I read his ranty style stuff, I find myself thinking "Is this really the guy who created Cat and Enemy Gods?", because he's eminently capable of expressing himself without it if he wants. Regardless, the point is that for me it detracted from the experience and made sane and solid gaming advice at times become unpleasant to read. The writing style is so emotional and xtreme that he doesn't worry about whether or not he's contradicting himself on small points.

Nothing there is "dangerous" as the back cover claims a lot of people have said. It's just that the writing style sometimes tries to make it sound like you're an idiot if you disagree, and IMHO these are mostly techniques best used in moderation.

8:43 AM  

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