Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dungeons in new games

Zak wrote something interesting about dungeons the other day. He notes that newer RPG are often a bit more cinematic and also they usually don't feature dungeons. This made me think.

I have a few friends who have been playing role playing games since way back. They also have one thing in common in that they look and sound a lot less enthusiastic when you mention the word "dungeon".

For some people the fun part, and even the whole point of, playing a RPG is to interact with NPCs - to roleplay. What is interesting with dungeons though, is that like Zak writes anything, however mundane, is potentially interesting. Exploring the environment is what the game is about. Your role is not method acting, it's interacting with the other party members and acting out your role in the party. This doesn't necessarily mean you don't do roleplaying!

I still wonder how to make my friends more enthusiastic about this kind of roleplaying. We might like slightly different kinds of gaming, but you play with the gamers you've got and like to hang out with. Also, I like to think roleplaying can be a lot of different things, maybe even at the same time, for different people.

Maybe there is a way to make NPC interactions more common in a dungeon environment? Maybe there is a way to make the virtues of explorative play more common in the NPC crowded city based game? I'm not sure how, but I like to think it can be done.

If James Joyce does that in his exploration of Dublin, maybe I need to read it? I think that sometimes cityscapes have been less used as a canvas of the fantastic than they deserve. While going down a hole in the ground to dig out treasure have a certain resonance of the Hero's Journey, I guess the urban jungle can be just as wild and feel just as much like a game of exploration. How would it be to do a hexcrawl of a fantasy city?

It would be interesting if Zak Sabbath was the one who finally made me read James Joyce, because I wanted to read the dungeon crawl novel, Ulysses.
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