Monday, 21 October 2013

Cold Turkey

So... Things have changed.

A few weeks ago I withdrew from my gaming group. There were a few reasons, partially the fact that I want to focus on writing meant that having a day off during the week really disrupted the flow of the book, making it harder to get back into it. Given that I often have to force myself to write and fight off the distractions, I felt I was struggling to get anything done.

The other reason was similar to the one my friend mentioned when he quit - though in my case it wasn't that it felt like we couldn't get a long game out of it but that in many ways it feels like all the games we play have become, 'bash things and get loot'. In some ways it feels like the first gaming I did, back in Uni, was more grown up and I miss the feeling of 'stretch' that came from playing games like Mage. It also makes games feel predictable, it 's just a matter of counting the minutes to guns being pulled out, swords drawn and the tedium that is combat in most RPG systems being unleashed (how many ways can there be to say 'I hit him'?).

There were a few other problems, it felt like everything we played had slipped into a continuum of 'summer blockbuster' gaming, partly linked to the overdependence on combat but also, frankly, on what seems to be an ever lower level of player buy in - it doesn't feel like a group where something like Mage or Nobilis can be pitched without it causing lots of problems; in fact it feels like anything that operates outside of 'you're a group of mercenaries, working for hire' is a bit of a struggle - even Call of Cthulhu and its derivatives seem like they'd be too much effort somehow.

Given that one of the things I look for in an RPG is a dimension of social roleplay (I came into the hobby with Vampire the Masquerade and it's sort of stuck), and I value the feeling of atmosphere and genre, it was leaving me a sad bunny. I came to the conclusion that the sort of gaming I like, and the genres I like, have fallen out of favour with the other players.

I suspect that this is one of the 'real life' gets in the way moments but I also suspect that its an indication of how tastes change and how much we've diverged. Where I'm loving books series like Split Worlds, Shadows of the Apt and the Merchant Princes - I'm now trying to keep the idea of combining the three out of my head - and playing games like Wind Waker or Last Story, most of the other gamers in the group are enamoured with Game of Thrones*, Dragon Age and other things, often on the telly, which passes me by as I don't watch, well anything. I'm not even sure if most of the players would have heard of the things I adore,  though that's probably more of a statement about me than them truth be told, I've been falling off the face of the world for years now.

Despite the post title, I haven't gone entirely cold turkey, I'm playing with character generation for Numenera (the new Monte Cooke Science Fantasy game) and considering kicking in for The Strange Kickstarter if only because parallel universes are a secret weakness of mine (making Fringe one of the few TV shows I'm considering watching). If I were to run anything it would be one of them in a style that focused on the exploration and discovery of a new world, with as little combat as possible. I guess you need some but I'd rather it was small and quick, a speed bump and nothing more. As I'm considering gaming in theory, as it were, I'm also toying with concepts like handing out experience points for peaceful or clever solutions to problems though I'm not sure if Numenera's specific 'GM Intrusion' method of giving out XP will allow for that.

I'm also looking at the vast amount of games that are earmarked for getting rid of and reclaiming some of them... acknowledging that I was going to get rid of them because the group seems unlikely to play them (not intended as a 'grrr bad people harshing my fun, but as a statement of sadness that the options feel so closed off that I was planning to get rid of things simply because they were likely to stay on the shelf). I'm still going to sell a lot of books it's just that I'm taking the opportunity to work out what I want and when I go back... I'll be taking that knowledge with me.

*I think I've mentioned this before but anyway, I'm afraid Games of Thrones doesn't float my boat, neither does Joe Abercrombie's stuff - I think they're both "Grimdark" but could be wrong. If they are, I'm forced to conclude that that's something I'm allergic to.