Saturday, March 14, 2009

The First FRSG

I personally believe 4E is the first Fantasy Role Scripting Game (FRSG). Given this reclassification, it fits into the established product line of Dungeons and Dragons in the same way that movies also belong to it.

Considering how much time went into designing 4E, we should recognize it as a sincere and considerable effort to provide gaming joy. But challenges in 4E substitute dicing for role playing, and 4Ers script encounters that fuse NPCs with timed and action dependent vocalizations, and that is clearly not role playing.

We could consider 4E a hybrid, since actions can still be role played. But additionally, PCs in 4E are highly channeled to act in ways that limit the range of play. The playing field has become so severely limited that the game has lost the openness of a real world and fallen back into an unbelievable similitude. Fantastic worlds are supposed to be more open than real worlds, not less! No one feels the lightening rod of adventure when the open horizons of possibility are being shut down.

I can imagine participating in a 4E game, just as I enjoy Blizzard's World of Warcraft for limited periods of crunchy swords and sorcery fun. But, I don’t log into WoW to role play, even if it is technically possible.


Heruka said...

As we say here in Newport - 'You Knows It'...

Guy Fullerton said...

Eric & Rob (or any other players involved in the early life of the game),

I would *love* to see video of how you play.

Sure, I can read about the differences in play style between those involved with the game's genesis and the typical player created by later versions of the game, and sure, I *think* I understand the differences to a point where I can try to get an old-school feel in my own games.

However, there surely must be dozens – if not hundreds – of nuances of the original play style that would be much easier for me (and millions of other players) to understand if we could see them in action: Pacing, what the small talk is like, how many jokes are told, how serious the play is, how attentive players are, how the DM explains situations, how the DM verbally treats the players (pick any meaning of "treat" you like), how casually/formally miniatures factor in, how physically close people are, what the lighting/music/atmosphere is like, and so on.

Despite the fact that I did not play D&D in a mature way until the mid 80's, I still understand old-school module/campaign/encounter design because there are many good examples to look at.

But to fully understand the *experience* of playing in the original style – and thus be able to try to achieve something similar – I think the community would greatly benefit from the ability to be a fly on the wall at one of your sessions.

E N Shook said...

Hey Guy. Glad you're aboard! Rob tells me you work for Apple? I'm typing this on a.... Nah! I'm, not starting a nerd war here. :)

I have a friend that did an interview with Rob on camera back at the last, or second to last, Milwaukee Gen Con, who would probably be great at setting that up sometime. I'll have to consult with him. No guarantees, however. It sure would be funny if the piece was given production quality editing and we occasionally cut out to some "reality TV" type commentary. (Oh! I almost lost my dinner there, even though I do believe that would be amusing, I still have a gag reflex to RTV references.)

You mentioned miniatures and I have a pretty strong opinion on this topic, so I'll just spill my guts here.

I have rarely allowed the use of miniatures for adjudicating role playing combat. Perhaps a handful of times, at most, unless the combat was massive or at times with new players or in a public place where bystanders could watch.

Miniatures don't actually capture the look and feel of the characters being portrayed, and instead, take the players out of their head and into a mechanical-spatial place, where stop action becomes obvious. The psychology of story space is instantly pierced by the act of placing a miniature on the table. One might expect that minis help speed things up, but I believe that players become more aware of passing time because it's no longer being measured in their head, but instead time is being measured by when the last time was they moved their mini, which is always longer than they would have liked. And in the meantime, they hover over the figurines with nothing else to do (because part of role playing is listening to others take their turns), and then they grasp at the figures, and sometimes sit with their hands on them, waiting to move them, forever glancing up at the DM, and it becomes obvious that they are not enjoying the play of conversation or even really listening to what the other players are doing with the DM. VERY common.

It's not that I don't LIKE the idea, in principle. I love the idea! I love cute little trinkety type things, and I've certainly seen some of the best miniature paint jobs and modifications. Jeff Leason, even taught me how to dry brush back in the day. But, miniatures largely split the stage and take folks out of their head. Aspects of my games can be very nuanced (as about half of all D&D games probably are), and they miss these things just in the normal course of the game if they don't have sagely types in the party. And I don't like to have to pound my shoe beneath the table when I'm saying something they might need to know later.

This should accord with the way a lot of people still play, but probably less now than in the past, since external visual culture increasingly dominates our western mindset.

Rob Kuntz said...

I agree with our VP's statements. We rarely used miniatures in the day, and even when they became available. Most miniature heavy games I played in actually slowed the action/progress by at least 50% or more. Of course I have witnessed expedient play at conventions, too, so YMMV.

As for all of this media stuff, it is something that Eric and I had already discussed, perhaps through Yu-Tube; and I am looking up that indie film crew (NB--different, proceeding what Eric mentioned above) who was making a documentary back in the day and returned to my home twice, getting at least 12 hours of Q&A footage of me. But after so many thousands of dollars and thousands of miles spent, and professionally so, I have heard no word of it at all, and from what I understood, their footage of industry professionals and such was HUGE.

So more on this as it progresses; and now back to the presses.

Guy Fullerton said...

Regarding miniatures, I used them in my 3e campaign from 2000-2004 and I was quite involved with miniature games (not rpgs) from 2004-2008. I've had my fill of minis for now, and I'm trying to run my AD&D game without them.

It's been a little challenging, since the players are used to miniatures too, but I hope to make progress in that regard slowly.

I agree that they can be a distraction and that they can cause players to stop imagining, and those are the main reasons I'd like to avoid them in my games.