Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cool Mini or Not takes over Tabletop Gaming News ... sad times :(

Cool Mini or Not takes over TGN ... sad times :(

What one says?  How can you say that!  Cool Mini or not is great!!

No ... no ... it certainly is not.  I know I'll be in the small minority of people who are displeased about this news but let me explain my angst.

Cool mini or not is a money making enterprise, they are part and parcel with the Dark Age Miniatures company which is owned by David Doust the guy who ran New Wave minis back in the day.  New wave was a terribly run site that basically took peoples money and wouldn't send them the product they'd purchased. It was so bad that they went out of business and they were in a position as a company to dominate online tabletop gaming sales ... if only they'd been run by a person with any business sense.  Dark Age has been horribly run for years and yes I know they are trying to re-launch the game entirely right now.  We'll see how that goes I wish them luck.

I'll make a prediction that alot more is said about Dark Age and everything else starts to go down hill.  I will likely un-bookmark the site and look to other sources for news about minis.  Hopefully something similar rises from the inevitable ashes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Long RPG road to redemption ... and then certain doom ...

Sometimes you have a fork in the road, a turning point if you will and then sometimes you have a WTF intersection.

Recently that kind of an intersection has come up from my gaming group in terms of RPG choice.  Over the past several months we have fully abandoned D&D 4th edition. This isn't a bash 4th ed post at all.  We had fun with it while it lasted but essentials and just the reality of what 4e does hit our group all at once and we just found it wasn't for us at all. 

We have struggled to get other systems going (lack of enough players for more than one game until very recently has been the main problem there).  But its brought up a whole new round of discussing new game ideas and options and most of them have just been dead on arrival.
For me there are a few things that RPGs do well and a few things they don't do well and its as simple as that. 
Long ago (15 years ago now or so) a group I was gaming with collectively had the epiphany that an RPG can simulate things, it can foster story and it can create a player versus game master and/or player combat.  Some systems might be held up as being able to do all that well but in my experience RPGs work on a sliding scale.  You amp up RP too much and combats tend to suffer (unless your just narrating as GMs and/or Players whats happening but even there I'd argue from a combat perspective for the vast majority of groups that just wouldn't be as satisfying in most cases).  You dial up combat too much and you have 2 or 3 hour combats that interrupt the RP too much and get people off track (IMO this is one of the downsides of grid based D&D). 

Game masters and players can use those tools provided by said system to create/weave a collective story together. That is pretty much it right?

Yes duh ... we all know that and have known it since we first played RPGs. All I know though is for me at that time even though I'd played RPGs off and on since I was a kid I hadn't verbalized it  (going back 15 years to the eureka moment) and thought about it in mechanical terms like that. 

Now since that time I've listened to other gamers pontificate, I've pontificated, I've listened to people on their blogs and podcasts pontificating about this or that "trope this" "5th wall that" "simulator this" "indie ... old school ... whatever ... that" ... yada yada .. and at the end of the day its still just extending the discussion on "what is an RPG" but really the simplicity gets lost in all the esoteric jargony discussion.

RPGs are just a guide on how to sit around a table and weave a collective story/narrative (operative term there).  Now that isn't to say that a combat heavy game isn't the same thing ... of course it is ...that game's story is just alot more about the fights that take place than about what the characters do outside of fighting.  Its all the same thing really it just depends on what the group feels like doing. Role playing games are simply a guideline to facilitate a shared story experience amongst a group of players. 

Anymore to me a few things come into play that have nothing really to do with mechanics per say its more to do with players willingness to put time in to learn rules and to spend time playing the games.

Rulesets can be massive tomes and ultra complex or they can be simple, elegant little rule-sets that merely facilitate a single game and not much more. They can do combat well but non-combat simulations bad, they can have loads of hints and suggestions and help players and GMs along the path to a genre specific authentic experience.  They can be lose and open ended or they can be very rigid and closed.  But at the end of the day if they don't ultimately result in group fun they are going to fizzle and people are going to move on.  Each group is so different and there are endless things that can hamper fun ... pulling off RPGs is a daunting prospect even with a great ruleset.

The more complex rules are the larger commitment GMs and players have to make to learn the rules and while 20 years ago that wasn't that big of a deal to get people to spend a little time to buy in ... today ... unless you find people that are ultra passionate about RPGs your going to be hard pressed to find people who want to read a 250 page rule book and memorize a 50-100 page combat section ... JUST TO PLAY the game.  Then show up each week and hope everyone else does and hope that the game doesn't go to hell because someone does something crazy or someone's work schedule suddenly changes or whatever.

On the time topic ... same goes for how long it takes to do things in games.  If you have five semi-busy people who waste time on facebook and Ipod aplications all week and then get busy on the weekends because all the shit they should have done all week is now piled up on them come Friday evening an Saturday afternoon ... are you going to want top play an RPG that has 2 hour combats?  Or a game that it takes someone 20 minutes to do some computer slicing?  Do you want to play a game where rolling a new character takes three hours?  Probably not.  So those games are less and less appealing.  But see people don't always verbalize that ... the game just burns down and no one really knows why. 

Its sad because as we age we get more life stuff to deal with combined with our collective lack of time and willpower to break away from facebook and steam long enough to get in the car and get together to do tabletop gaming is making campaign style RPGs an endangered species.  I don't dislike the complex stuff but I see it as less and less realistic to pull off as there are just so few people who have the time and the inclination to do games like that anymore. On a side note I guess its why I'm also very much drawn to mini gaming and board games because those are so much easier to pull off with a broader audience.

I also think its why D&D continues to thrive because really the non-D&D RPGs give less competition to it by shear virtue of all the aforementioned things ... people just seem to have less and less time to devote to tabletop gaming so they pick and choose things that they know they can pull off.  D&D is a tried and true old friend for most gamers so they keep coming back to it ... whatever version or flavor ... its something that has a little more certainty than a Savage Worlds game or a RIFTS game or whatever.  There are some examples like the GW stuff ... there is a huge base of fanboys for that so it probably sells ok but its selling as an accessory to the mini games probably much more than as a stand alone RPG system.  So on that alone I think D&D is safe yet other types of RPGs unless they are lite and simple and "one shot" style I think they are going to struggle more and more to find an audience.

That is essentially what has happened to us we've gone looking to other game systems and ultimately come full circle back to pathfinder (a game we loved to hate for so long) and found that at the end of the day it fits us just fine and its far more realistic to pull off than pretty much anything else we looked at.