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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 65 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Of Utopias and Dystopias  (Read 15923 times)
Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #30 on: November 28, 2005, 11:03:08 PM »

Yeah, I'm sorry about that.

It kind of touched off a sensitive issue as to the common thematic underpinning of rules systems which always bugged me (I sent you a personal note about it, but I forgot to check out this thread, first.

Anyway, I apologize.

But I would like to address the issue or restate my original point which is that, in a way, most games DO reflect that wonderful world both in their rules and their setting element - at least in the mainstream. For example, D&D implicitly states that the monsters are mostly baddies (evil alignments all the way) and that the PCs heroically defend the good people of the world with their various expeditions. Indie games tend to have more anti-heroic and grim touches because they come to the table with a different background. They often do not accept the same values as mainstream games and therefore create environments where their point of view can flourish.

I hope that's a more constructive argument.
(I let my sympathies get away with me again.)

Oh, and, uh, yeah. As far as for plucky underdogs, I rather meant characters who had a chance to win because of their unusual and oft-overlooked or maligned traits. Misfits, perhaps, would have been a better word. You still need special rules to support that kind of thing - rules which do not prevail in most of the more popular game systems (D&D and even WoD give play to strengths and powers, not seeming limitations which turn out to be advantages.)

Again, I'm sorry about the outburst and I hope this works better for everyone.
Yours

Arpie.
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Neal
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #31 on: November 29, 2005, 10:19:33 AM »

But I would like to address the issue or restate my original point which is that, in a way, most games DO reflect that wonderful world both in their rules and their setting element - at least in the mainstream. For example, D&D implicitly states that the monsters are mostly baddies (evil alignments all the way) and that the PCs heroically defend the good people of the world with their various expeditions. Indie games tend to have more anti-heroic and grim touches because they come to the table with a different background. They often do not accept the same values as mainstream games and therefore create environments where their point of view can flourish.

Again, Arpie, I think it's all in the way you play it.  The most simplistic vanilla D&D games will avoid troubling the Good-versus-Evil thematic, and all the characters will be heroes on the proper side of authority.  Sure.  I've even seen posters on other discussion boards foam at the mouth that this is the way the games must be played, as though coloring outside the lines would somehow bring the entire hobby crashing to the ground.  But that nonsense aside, even high fantasy games -- and the most vanilla of those -- can be played differently without violating any rules.

I also question your distinction between mainstream and indie games, at least since the advent of the cyberpunk subgenre of SF.  Recall that Shadowrun is a mainstream game, and quite popular still.  That game, while it can be played as vanilla as the group desires, does admit of your "misfit" protagonists; in fact, it rather thrives on them.  Conversely, Dogs in the Vineyard is an indie game in which the player characters are completely aligned with authority -- in fact, they are authority.  So I think perhaps you're letting D&D and its various clones limit your sample size too much.  There are misfits in quite a few mainstream games.

Come to that, I'm wondering what a true misfit character would look like.  Can you give an example from real play?  I ask because I keep trying to imagine a protagonist who wins while remaining somehow disenfranchised and/or unfit, and I keep coming back to characters already available in mainstream games.  I keep defaulting to characters who are actually "right," though their society sees them as "wrong."  Surely, these are not out-of-the-ordinary in gaming, even in vanilla gaming.  The misunderstood D&D thief comes to mind -- you know, the one who is the only guy aware of the clergy's corrupt collusion with the merchant lords of the village, and who is persecuted and blackbrushed precisely because he continues to poke his nose where it doesn't belong; in short, he's a hero who is seen as an anti-hero (at best).  Is this the kind of character you have in mind?

On the other hand, if you mean you're looking for a game which turns real "limitations" into strengths, as you said, that's another thing I'm having trouble seeing.  To take an example you might not have had in mind, when does cowardice become an advantage to a protagonist?  Or fecklessness?  Or the inability to drive a car, for instance?

I'm just trying to understand your complaint.  If it's a dearth of anti-hero characters in mainstream play, then I disagree with your assessment and would place the blame not on the games, but on their players for refusing to make the most of available materials.  If, on the other hand, it's the absence of games in which someone might say "Fortunately, your character has an incurable stutter and poor bowel control..." (real limitations for a hero, I think we would agree), then I just don't see the viability of such a game.  Give us some examples of the kinds of characters you mean, please.
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Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #32 on: November 29, 2005, 09:10:34 PM »

I think I might be a little too close to this issue emotionally. I was about to write a rather long dissertation on this problem, but I realized it had nothing what so ever to do with rules (except in rather small ways -speicifcally trying to reflect a mood or motiff in rules that encourages players to present their characters as if the characters theselves were unaware of their stronger qualities. That would appear to be a problem of presentation.)

Anyway, it seems to be taking this thread off subject and I'm afraid I'm not really contributing.
I will duck out and perhaps start a new thread in the appropriate area when I've collected my thoughts.

(I'm really quite embarrassed.)
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Roger
Member

Posts: 168


WWW
« Reply #33 on: November 30, 2005, 10:01:19 AM »

Arpie, there is no need for any apologies.

First, let me assure you that when I (or anyone on The Forge, I believe) write something like "That is a topic for another thread", I'm not saying that as a passive-aggressive code for "Shut up and get the hell out of my thread."  It's exactly the opposite -- I'm trying to encourage you that it's a worthwhile topic of discussion, one that deserves its own thread and its own attention.

Secondly, the last thing I want is for you, or anyone, to shy away from those topics which elicit the most passion and zeal.  Those are exactly the things we need to talk about and which are the most rewarding to explore.  To explore, mind you, which is in decided contrast to defend, or argue, or attack.  I've seen no signs of the latter attitudes in your posts here.

You've said a number of genuinely useful things here, not the least of which relates to:

the common thematic underpinning of rules systems

To what degree do rules systems have thematic underpinnings?  Can one just slap whatever theme one wants onto whatever rules system one wants?  I think those are useful questions to consider, and a natural extension of this line of thought that starts with the nature of the settings and the characters.

My first inclination is to say that mechanical systems float free of their themes, but I'm not so entirely sure now.  The way that, for example, character sanity is handled in a game like Call of Cthulhu is both heavily informed by its thematic underpinnings, and casts a large shadow over the themes of any resultant play.


Cheers,
Roger


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Josh Roby
Member

Posts: 1055

Category Three Forgite


WWW
« Reply #34 on: November 30, 2005, 11:04:45 AM »

To what degree do rules systems have thematic underpinnings?

Roger, have you read any of the articles behind the link at the top of the page?  The thematic underpinnings of rule systems is kind of foundational to most discussion here.
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