Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What do we do when we play?

I remember seeing this a short while back, and I saved the quote. Well put, well put indeed.
We don't explore characters; we explore dungeons.
 It makes a hell of a lot of sense to describe old school play like that. Sometimes I think some people don't appreciate how much can be contained in the idea of role playing.


  1. Two quick questions to your quick post:

    (believe it or not, no snark...)

    1). Do OS character explore plains and forests and cities, too? Cultures? Or is that just stuff that happens before and after entering the dungeon?

    2). Do those seven words in quote define the idea of role playing for you?

  2. No, those are good questions.

    Personally I'd say that in any kind of roleplaying game, exploring the secondary world is what makes a rpg fun. Not only that, it is what makes rpg stand out from other kind of games. Dungeons just happens to be part of it. I'm as bored by exclusive focus on dungeons as characters. I do have far more experience of the latter, though.

    I guess that kind of addresses both questions.

    In some moods I feel like beating down doors, and some of them are open... :)

  3. Thanks for the reply. :)

    I suppose that I was suggesting that exploration doesn't need to take the form of virtual spelunking (or poking around ruins, etc.), but that exploration and navigation of cultures apart from interesting locales is itself a form of discovery, rife with pitfalls, poisons, and temporary allies.

    No character-navel-gazing required. :D

    I am curious, though, if you would be willing to give us a few examples of 'exclusive focus on characters', so we can identify similar things in our or others' games.

    Are you talking about WW's WoD material where the Player designs the character's background, or Hero Games' Dependent NPC's, etc.?

  4. In my D&D campaign - which is very old-school in some ways and very middle-school in others (not much new-school going on :) ) - there has only ever been one dungeon. There have been a couple of dungonesque things - abandoned Dwarven Mines, and Drow Cities, and even an extraplanar cavern leading to a number of coalescing pocket dimensions - but only one genuine honest-to-goodness dungeon. And it was set up by the Crown to train adventurers (Artificiality is explained by making it artificial).

    A dungeon is what is PERCIEVED as a dungeon...

  5. Mike,

    I guess I'd like to avoid the ghettoisation of the RPG by suggesting that the term 'Dungeon' not be used in the generic, if one is to avoid the false perception of looters kicking around dark spaces as the basis of RP to the uninformed but potentially curious outside world of could-be-gamers.

    The delicate balance between maintaining the familiar for the Grognards, and the attempt to bring in new blood to these hoary rules sets (and their modern kin) should be considered. This isn't "P.C." crap, but rather, better marketing. New customers not entrenched in the 'dungeon is the generic' mentality have been, in my experience, put off by what they see as quasi-historical references, or kink-fetish material. This only fuels the further identification with nefarious acts performed in abandoned buildings by half-crazed teens, etc.

    So, can Classic Gaming (such as RQ which doesn't have a lot in the way of holes in the ground to explore) find both a term it can substitute, and the willingness to do so for the sake of possibly making it easier for new parties to enter the hobby?

    I can already hear folks on DF in an uproar that the idea has even been broached. "It is Dungeon Master, not GM, damnit!", etc.


  6. I am curious, though, if you would be willing to give us a few examples of 'exclusive focus on characters', so we can identify similar things in our or others' games.

    I'd say Jeepform and similar experiments are good examples, in my opinion.

  7. Personally I think a Dungeon is a self contained area for exploration. It can be a culture, a thieves guild, a city or a hole in the ground.

    I'd say Call of Cthulhu is an interesting game, where the dungeon often is the site of a haunting or a chain of sites (archaeological or otherwise) around the would where you got to explore and gain clues and do Encounters. Dungeons, of a kind.

    Generate a bunch of characters and toss them in a room with some NPCs, without a story or a context which is interesting or mysterious in itself, is in my view not a dungeon, nor interesting...

  8. lol

    Thanks for your replies.

    I'm off to drive around in the dungeon of Miami.


  9. I hope you get some XP for Miami exploration! ;)

  10. I don't sit down at the table and expect character development. If I want to explore my players' character insight I'll look into their fiction. BUT at the table, whereever the advneture has the PCs, the players do develop and flesh out their characters in front of me. It's better than a play or TV show, because I might've written the script, but the characters are writing themselves.

  11. I've seen that expectations too many times, so I had a knee-jerk post coming, and this was how it turned out...


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