Friday, May 13, 2011

TROLL HUNTER ... the movie?!?!

Ok ... its foreign ...

clearly ... its low budget ...

But holy crap the more I've seen about this movie the more I want to see it!!


I would like to give anyone out there who doesn't know about it a quick heads up on one of my favorite little systems ... its great for one shot supers games (if you want zany/campy hilarity) its called STUPER POWERS DELUXE.  I haven't played for years but it  "is a role-playing game in which you play a superhero endowed with silly, useless, and downright gross superpowers, sent into battle against the only slightly less ridiculous forces of evil."  You end up with characters who can project smells into the minds of their foes ... catch is they themselves have to experience the smell (have fun with that one), they shoot ice cream (instead of fire or ice or energy beams), heroes summon vehicles made of fruit, etc. crazy retro camp at its finest.  This system really isn't the game a group would probably pick for long term play but for some funny one and two shot games this is just a priceless system.  Every game I've experienced of it has been a blast.

The hilarious Taco Bell advertisement just screams for conversion into a stupor powers game ... of course the group would have to make a run for the boarder at some point during the session :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is technology ultimately a distraction in tabletop gaming? Or is it a amazing tool?

First this might seem trite and contrived but to me this is a fundamental question that I have yet to really address on my own terms. Clearly the answer is something in the middle as it always is with an open ended question like this.

For me though this discussion has long been raging in various gaming groups I've been a part of.  Lately its been along the lines of Iphone apps, dicerollers, board game aid-applications, the demise of character builder/monster builder as we knew them with 4e, etc. Yet I can not put my finger on the answer from my own perspective.  I tend to be averse to too much technology I find it is distracting and a huge time waster.  Do we really need to twitter everything we do?  Be honest how much time on facebook is even enjoyable for most people.  Blogs ... hell this blog I've had a ton of mediocre posts ... a handful of people have read them  it is not why I do this so it doesn't bother me, but wouldn't my time be spent better painting figures or terrain or reading a new ruleset or something ... probably is the answer I have to give.  I think if we try to stay aware of whether or not the technology we are using is really as useful as its being billed to be is a good starting place.  I think the problem is tech is hip ... and here in America most people whether they admit it or not are pop culture whores and hipsters and being seen with the latest model of apple product, using applications for everything you do .. is hip .. its trendy ... its in and its cool.  The price we pay though for that is it really worth it?  For me so far I am leaning towards no ... in terms of tabletop gaming.  Then again I'm not in a group that is completely pushing it so I don't know what the global gaming community really feels on this.

Clearly off in the future sometimes all tabletop gaming is likely to be borg-ized by technology for good or bad ... its inevitable.  We all know it.  Board game companies will likely blend with other media companies and we'll be downloading the new Twilight Imperium or Arkham Horror expansions rather than buying the tabletop version.  With minis its harder to say but we've seen the first attempt already.  But the big question is does tabletop gaming die a little more, does it lose some of its magic, when technology runs amok? Or is it a long over due liberation?  For me I have mixed feelings.  Just since around 2000 I feel there has been a massive hit to the average tabletop gamers attention span and willingness to delve into complex rulesets, maybe that is a good thing?  Don't really know.  But also numbers seem to be down a bit.  More people seem to be content to stay home and game via WoW or the newest video game release.  That might just be my own biased personal experience based on trying to find new gamers.  But things do seem to be changing and at least at this moment and from my own individual perspective ... not all for the better.  To me technology seems somewhat distracting and invasive at this point. 

I agree that there is a big convenience factor with using tech aids in gaming.   I think that is the ultimate seduction of technology its easier, faster and able to accommodate more complexity in a manageable way, etc.  I mean if it isn't why would we use it at all?  So yes tech is a tool that can make things "easier" but the question is always is the price (literally sometimes) worth it?

I for one though hate using PDFs for games ... exclusively.  They can be a great reference, very handy, but using only PDFs has at least in my experience been somewhat problematic.  Perhaps its just my antiquated sensibilities but I have talked to many other people who feel the same way.  But the value of PDFs is high and clearly PDFs have changed the gaming industry big time.  The indie scene especially.  I think that is the ultimate seduction of technology ... its easier ... I mean if it isn't why would we use it at all?  So yes tech is a tool that can make things "easier" but the question is always is the price (literally sometimes) worth it?

I think we are sort of at that place with technology and tabletop gaming where technology and much of the rest of society was say five or ten years ago.  Its odd to me that even tabletop gaming is an area of interest that attracts a high percentage of geeks, techies, nerds and generally folks more apt to use tech and explore new uses as soon as whatever piece of technology is available.  Yet here we are ... just now in the past 3 or so years really getting more and more of it.  Seems like the tabletop gaming industry/hobby is lagging behind the rest of post-industrial society a bit.  For example this past year we saw the first (at least widely available in the US market) game that fused tabletop miniatures with tech Ex Illis.  That game was really interesting it is a grid based tabletop game.  You paint and assemble your minis just like the warhammer range, but when your done you play on a grid and record your moves in a computer.  Much more complex math can be done so ultra customizable options are available which otherwise wouldn't be or would be so complex that the vast majority of players wouldn't want to play.  Yet playing the game felt odd ... the question "why don't we just play a video game" kept coming up over and over.  Yet undeniably a blending of tech is inevitable.  As future generations grow up with tech everywhere around them, I think games that don't have some tech element are going to be a hard sell. 

For me tech aided gaming has been cool.  In years past when I was a more avid 40K player I can't imagine life without the armybuilder program.  The 4e run wouldn't have been half as fun without the old character builder program, and though I know I didn't use it ... every DM who I have talked to that ran 4e seemed to have dearly loved the old monster builder. 

A few other interesting tangents sparked from this is the distraction caused by technology ... when one plays a game if their actions distract others that is a distraction. Especially with role playing games where generally immersion is desired.  This said GMs have long been using tools like audio tracks, visuals ... heck back in the 1980s I played in a summer game where we had access to a high school (one of the players dads was the school principal and would let us game in a classroom while he worked down in an office) ... our DM used photocopied transparencies and just hand drawn maps (dry erase) to aid the game.  It enhanced the game alot.  Clearly when a full "gametable" type setup is available ... just imagine the possibilities ... all board games in a digital format, all RPGs in a digital format.  Interactive tools via PDA devices (or just our phones) etc. etc. its mind boggling how far this could go and how cool it might be.

Yet the large question looming in my mind is along the lines of how much technology distracts from life itself and for me tabletop gaming has been a refuge to some extent from technology.  Anyway a really good article along these lines I read last summer sort of got me thinking about all this NY TIMES ARTICLE.  When the day finally comes that tabletop is heavily dominated by tech ... I wonder how I'll feel ... will that be what finally pushes me out of gaming entirely?  Or will it be a magical time again ... a new time of wonder at all the possibilities akin to the day when I stood in awe as the classic red box was opened?

What do people out there think?

I look at this clip and its friggin awesome (yes yes I know the game table itself is old news I'm just talking about the concept which I think very, very few gamers have yet to experience on a regular basis) ... it just gets my mind reeling about the possibilities.  Imagine if all of the good board games, all the good RPGs, even many tabletop miniature games had integrated features usable by a game table like that one (or maybe even a BIGGER one ... man a 4 foot by 6 foot table like that would be AMAZING!).  But then I watch the demo and I see how much time people spend dinking around with things .. granted its a demo ... its new tech.  As such systems come on line they'll inevitably be refined and people will get better and better at using them.  Its soooo enticing on one hand and so uncertain and disturbing on the other.  This stuff will be coming down the pipeline someday in the future ... clearly its inevitable.