Sunday, February 26, 2006

No love for the d12

Why is the d12 used less often than other dice?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Violent young girls

This Saturday I had taken on my responsibility to introduce three girls between 13 and 14 years old to roleplaying. The event was taking place at a youth camp arranged by an organization for soberness. (These organizations are quite common in Sweden, many of them created during the turn of the century.)

I had a number of goals when planning the events five hours:
- I wanted to play a fairy traditional scenario, to give them an image of how a typical roleplaying session work.
- I wanted to base it on a commercially available Swedish game.
- I wanted to simplify the rules to enable quick learning of the system and getting on with the actual play.
- I wanted to avoid fantasy, to counteract the opinion that roleplaying is fantasy.
- I wanted the players to have fun and getting to play as they wanted, seldom saying "No, you can't do that at all".

I choosed to use a convention scenario called "The seven mutants" for the game Mutant*. I simplifying the already quite basic rules and did not use the pre-made characters. Instead I created a system where you drew four pieces of paper containing different parts of you character like "personality" and "appearance". You could redraw, choose openly or invent something on your own. It was only an aid for the imagination. It really worked out well.

Now, time after time I have met the opinion that "girls seldom like roleplaying games and computer games because of their great focus on violence and sexual stereotypes. They want stories about relationships". With this in mind I had decided to downplay the violent part of the scenario, a classic murder mystery.

I was so wrong. It started when choosing weapons. I had stated that it was a good idea for their characters to have some kind of weapon, as it fitted both the setting and the scenario. Having the simple and common breach loaders manufactured at this post apocalyptic times was not enough. They wanted artifact weapons with large clips and big calibers. An ancient .44 Magnum revolver was a popular choice and one girl picked the ultra destructive plasma carbine. Hmmm.....Ok, everyone wants big guns. Munchkinism is natural...

We started playing and everything went smooth. They had no problem understand how to play and the separation between the players and the gamemaster seemed natural to them. They were involved in the plot, played their characters well and overall impressed me. But the longer we played the more violent they got. They liked rolling for damage. They really liked when the first enemy exploded by the plasma carbine. They soon started to base their action on how to maximize the potential carnage. At one point at the end of the game they had do decide on which of two factions they would support. As one would let them kill one person and the other five it was an easy decision. And of course they followed up by killing the other side of the conflict and a couple of innocent bystanders. When they did not just kill their opponents they used a combination of seduction and drinking them under the table. Sex, drugs and violence.

I had fun and I'm certain they had too. One of the girls complained on stomach aces from laughing to hard at a couple of in-game funny moments.

After the initial scenario we had some time left and they wanted to continue, this time "playing something with less violence". Sure.... The mission they got was supposed to be sneaky and focusing on social interaction but they still wanted plasma rifles and they still ended up murdering both the target for their investigation and their employer, in addition the requested sneaking and lying.

I do not know if my sample is big enough but maybe it is time to scrap the common understanding that girls do not like sex, drugs and violence in their fiction.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Immersion on RPGnet

The last week has seen a large number of threads on the topic of immersion over at RPGnet. Even better, an unusually large amount of the posts have been constructive and interesting. Take a look for yourself (I use the handle Havoc):

Immersionism -- What Is It

Immersion Thoughts

Weak and Strong Immersion

Immersive character design & encouraging immersion

And, while I'm at it, a couple of interesting threads more or less related to immersion and/or freeform:

Indie RPGs, BDSM, and Anarchy

With Apologies to Mr. Edwards

Confessions of a former story addict

I wonder if this interest in immersion will continue, or if it's just the flavor of the week...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

System and immersion

I have been trying to write something about systems helping immersion for a long time now, never really getting to it. Then I stumbled onto this thread on RPGnet, discussing what immersion is but quickly turning into a "Can rules ever help immersion" war. I had to post in it anyway. You can either read all 140 post made this far or just read my own post right here:

First, immersion is certainly not all or nothing. Simply "feeling" the game world and "shared imaginary space" is a form of immersion. For this discussion to have any meaning it needs to be narrowed down to character immersion, or even deep character immersion.

To have any form of "deep" immersion in a character it is not enough to feel *for* the character and try to think as it would. You need to go one step further and *be* the character, your and its mind being one. In practice this will never be a total unification, but it can be darn close, both in table top and larping.

Most mechanics do hinder this process but not all. In many cases I can feel more immersed when having stats that are never used for anything than my own reference. Defining my characters in this way makes the risk of having to reason around if I can do something smaller, resulting in less breaks in the immersion.

Well defined procedures for how a scene is ended and how and when you talk out of character can help immersion too, as it also reduces the need for reasoning, with others or in your mind. A smaller portion of the brain capacity is needed if you got a strict procedures, leaving more for you character.

So, mechanics in the form of resolution systems seldom, maybe never, help immersion. Mechanics in the form of a strict framework for play can often help it.

I also agree on the near religious aspects of immersion. Exactly what it is can never be fully explained or defined, only experienced. A good thing is that in a game striving for immersion, everyone can immerse to their own ability and liking, filling in the rest with acting. You are never forced to immerse and are never excluded for the inability to do so. No one but you should be able to tell the difference anyway.
Maybe I get around to making my "real" post about system and immersion some day...

Related, I just found out about this forum focused on immersive play (seems down right now). I have not yet abandoned my plans to start or help starting a forum focused on Nordic style free form and larping, but right now it isn't moving at all.