Monday, September 11, 2006

Back to Basics

'"Kvack! What was that?"

"It sounteed liike a scream... and it waas a dwarf if I am nåt mistaaken."

"Jaa und ve are alles here... nein, wait! Vhere's Willy, that kleine bugger?"

"Theer he kommer running. And screeming, too. Not honorable får dwarf, that."

"Donnerwetter! Was ist that!? It's a spider... no.. it's haben man's body.. vhat unter himmel..."

"It is a scorpion man. Or they are! Scoli! To my side! We'll slice them! Kvack-two-four, kvack-two-four!"

"Sure, pal."

"Saeldis kommen sie! Ve vill take this direction! Hurensohns! They throv rocks!"

...'

We played some RQ yesterday. It was a good old dungeon bash where our group returned to a cave system in which some of the older members of the group had already been in, in order to get some clues concerning Sonja's doppelganger.

The session was not fun per se, but there just is something very satisfying in proceeding into a mysterious cave conquering obstacles (Freudian explanation, anyone?) and I enjoyed myself immensely, regardless of being very tired and beginning to have sore neck.

This got me thinking, why? The poo-poo humour was not the reason although it did not hurt. Part of the 'why' was the tension created in exploring unknown in it's very basic form. 'There's a dark corridor and you do not know what's next.' You can't get much more basic than that.

The cave system was also nicely designed in this regard as there was a constant mystery of how do the inhabitants survive here, what is the meaning of these idol's they seem to worship and so on. Tommi also remembered to place clues our character's only heard. So there were constantly several parallel 'mystery archs' of which smaller ones were constantly born and later resolved and the main one developing whole time: "what is the purpose of this underground habitat, what is it's history and how do the doppelgangers connect to this".

So essentially it is a mystery, and we have only a very limited but clear way to try to solve it: to proceed deeper into the caves. There is not anything vague about it, but on the other hand we can predict the following event on only a very miniscule timeframe. So it is back to basics. And it works.

This style of play was not very immersive, as everything happened on a map. Nay, tactical map.
And it did not provide very much incentives for roleplaying, as there was no reason to interact due to everyone knowing excactly as much. Indeed, too much roleplaying would have distracted from mystery solving.

So, is this roleplaying at all? I'd say yes. Yes because this is a very long campaign that forms mosaic of very different style of adventures and that mosaic is - when observed at a suitable distance - a very nice roleplaying epic, in which in addition to roleplaying the expoits and development story of a character, also the group is roleplayed a a whole. Yesterdays individual tile in mosaic was not in itself so much actual roleplaying as it was painting the milieu and a sort of voice of the author filling in a prominent gap in story.

For example the adventure with the haunted house was very immersive, but with that style one cannot pull off a segment of the story like this. Also there has been some adventures with more ample stimulants (and room) for acting in character in previous adventures, but a change of pace was clearly needed for rhytmical reasons. So I think it was a quite good judgement call to incorporate this kind of adventure here.

This is a very good thing to remember about campaign gaming. There is no need to get stuck with only one style of play, only because the story remains the same. It is one of the more challengin aspects of being a GM to be able to tell what style fits a given basic plot or story conflict.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Oh, I forgot to add that there's a sort of cliffhanger until we play again tomorrow: we have been popping magic points like criminally insane and are very soon in a situation where we'll start to death-spiral (http://socratesrpg.blogspot.com/2006/03/what-is-death-spiral.html) if we do not retreat.