RPGaDAY catch-up

#26: Idea
All RPG games are about something, but most of them are bad at communicating what it is that the characters do, and how that affects their world(s). You should look at the XP mechanisms: what character behaviour is rewarded? D&D says it’s about roleplaying and exploration, but the XP systems tell you that it’s killing things is what you will be doing. You’ve seen me use the term “murder-hobo” a few times, and it’s no coincidence that this mode of play is strongly associated with D&D.
What the game is about is seldomly communicated clearly. Which is why I really like the introduction to Blades in the Dark, because it is quite explicit in the goal of the game:

We play to find out if the fledgling crew can thrive amidst the teeming threats of rival gangs, powerful noble families, vengeful ghosts, the Bluecoats of the City Watch, and the siren song of the scoundrels’ own vices.

This tells you everything you need to know to play a scoundrel in BitD: this is the kind of stories you’ll be creating, right on the first page. It gives a very clear vision of the Idea of the RPG. Having this vision so clear makes it easier to design systems that support that kind of play, which is why BitD has a very tight system. And as a player, it’s also really easy if this idea appeals to you, too!

27: Suspense
It’s hard for me to feel suspense during a session, since I always have some kind of detachment from my character. I’m not a method-actor — it’s more like I have a mental model of the character, and examine that to decide how the character would react in a given situation. I am certainly not my character, so my character might be in suspense, but I hardly am.
And most RPGs make it hard for a character to die, because players hate losing a character that they have invested so much into. So even during fights, there is very little suspense. Yes, there are RPGs where characters drop like flies, such as Dungeon Crawl Classic’s funnel adventures, but there a character can be made in minutes, and you’re not supposed to feel any attachment to the character until they have survived their first adventure.

#28: Love
Romance can be a powerful motivator, but the transient nature of most character groups (see: murder-hobo) does not really make it easy for a character to develop a strong attachment to an NPC. Games that have a more political side, where characters have their own bases that they can return to easily, then a long-term relationship becomes more feasible.
My characters rarely have romantic entanglements, but that one time in Astrid’s Amber Campaign, where my character was flirting with the crown princess of a Shadow who was actually betrothed to someone else, I really enjoyed it. Maybe I should take a look at the games that are on my ‘to do’-list and see if I can introduce an aspect of romance in there.

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