Thursday, October 8, 2009

Warring With Words

First off, beware the spoilers. I'll be starting with a little broader base than a direct quote to set the tone so that the quote make sense.

In S. M. Stirling's The Protector's War, the second book of the Change, there are numerous organizations. Some of them friendly towards one another and others that take various minor actions of war against one each other.

Two of the allied groups, the Bearkillers and the Clan Mackenzieare bound together not only by a common enemy, the Protector, but by Rudi, the child of Mike and Juniper, the leaders of each group. The child came about through a chance meeting before Mike would marry his queen.

In a down time setting, a magnificent horse is brought forth. The beast is everything a warrior would want save one thing. It's soiled. It's not fit for riding people. It's a mankiller.

"I could ride her! Like an ealge on the wind!"

"Kid, if you can convince your mother to buy that horse, go ahead!" he called again, his voice warm and friendly. "I'll go halves on the price for a cold of hers, if Juney can magic her into not being crazy-mean."

Signe Havel's voice was coolly neutral as she called: "I'll pay the man's price myself and give her to you if you can ride her, Rudi!"

Signe is essentially trying to get Rudi to kill himself through the boy's own lack of knowledge.

I've seen this happen in the game and it's usually not among the characters but rather the players. It's when one player users superior knowledge of how the game works to screw another player's character over and usually for a small benefit. Usually to get another character to take a cursed item for a chuckle or to set off a trap so that they don't have to endure it.

This behavior might not be fatal to a gaming group but what impression does it leave on the guy who isn't sure about the rules? Instead of encouraging the new player or trying to show the best of gaming, it showcases the worst attributes and it doesn't do it in any sense that is 'illegal' or against the rules, but nontheless, is wrong. Hazing is something you usually think of when you hear about frat houses or sports and should be left far and away from a group of people trying to entertain themselves through the use of a gaming system where people are taking on imaginary roles.

But in the game itself, ah, there's potential.

If the Game Master showcases the enemy to be brash, bold, and prone to acting before thinking, then players should be using not only sword arms and other combat based skills to take the action to them, but also using other abilities so that their enemies are taking risks that they don't necessarily have to take.

The same is also true for the game master. If the players are supremely sure of themselves and their abilities, there are fewer things more enjoyable then giving them the "okay" signal and having them have to work through the results of their potential folly.

Roleplaying games should stretch to move beyond combat not because combat is bad, but because combat should not be the only resource of the players or the game master.