I have always been interested in history and I always found it quite intriguing to play in historic roleplaying games. So it was of course no surprise that I backed Achtung! Cthulhu which combines Lovecraftian elements with the history of WW2. For most of my readers playing in such a game has no special significance. The vast of majority of my readers is from one of the countries who were known as the Allies in WW2. But for me – as a German – things are a bit different. My people were the bad guys back then.
I am usually a very mild-mannered and peaceful person, but there’s one thing I particularly hate: fascism. Fascists and Nazis make me terribly angry. For me (and probably you as well) the Hitler regime was definitely what we’d call the bad guys. So if I’d ever play in such a game I’d probably play an Allied soldier or something similar. It just wouldn’t feel right for me to play one of the supporters of said regime. I think I could portray Nazi NPCs as a GM, but never as a player. It just feels terribly wrong.
Because of our history I always hesitated to actually run a game set in WW2. I am sure there are many interesting stories to be told, but I fear it’s hard to do it in a proper way that also respects the victims of the war. I guess I might be overthinking things. Perhaps it’s because I always try to do the right thing. My question to you, my dear readers, is how do you see this? Would you play one of the bad guys? Do you think that topics like the Holocaust can be properly handled in a roleplaying game? How do you deal with your home country’s history in a roleplaying enviroment?
Since this is a very serious and complicated topic, please let me try to end the post on a lighter note:
Today I stumbled upon a blog post by John Wick about game balance, social skills, weapon lists etc. If you haven’t read it yet, please check it out and come back afterwards.
You’ve read it? Good. Welcome back! In his post Mr. Wick has tackled several issues. I already had some discussions about this post on Google+, but I thought writing a blog post would be a good idea. So, here it is.
Let’s first talk a bit about balance in games. I agree with his conclusion that balance between players is totally overrated. If you ever played a successful RIFTS campaign, you probably know that already. It’s not important that the player characters are on the same “power level” but everyone needs to get into the limelight from time to time. If someone is in the spotlight all the time, the game suffers.
He then somehow comes to the issue of weapon lists and brings the example of the famous “tea cup scene” in Chronicles of Riddick. His conclusion is that one should throw out weapon lists completely. I agree that weapons lists and other detailed stats don’t necessarily help to tell an exciting story, but they can help to set the mood of a game. A game like Shadowrun just doesn’t feel the same if you remove the incredibly long equipment lists. Part of the charm of the game is to go shopping and find the perfect gun for your character. Of course you can run a cyberpunk fantasy game without all this, but it’s just not Shadowrun anymore. In my opinion it’s a matter of taste and not a question of whether or not it makes sense from a design standpoint.
Last but not least let’s talk about the most controversial topic of the post: social skills. John Wick tells us that he usually throws out social skills and prefers if players act out their characters. You want to convince a NPC to do something? Let the player act it out. If the GM is convinced, no roll is needed. I somewhat agree with him that it’s better if you can solve social situations in roleplaying games by just acting them out. I even let players succeed if they convincingly played their character. This can of course lead to problems. What is if a player can’t or won’t act out the character? I don’t need to be able to fight with a sword as a player to play a master swordsman in a game, so why make a difference when it comes to social interactions?
I try to always encourage playing out social interactions in roleplaying games. I try to use first person speech and avoid situations like “my character says to your character”. So if a player acts out his or her character convincingly I might not ask for a roll. In a way it’s meant as an encouragement. In non-social situations, an interesting description of how a character tries to break a lock, attack an enemy etc. might also lead to at least a hefty bonus. Generally I try to favor a cool story over dice rolls anytime. BUT I try to never make things harder for the players who are not able to come up with colorful descriptions.
I’ve had a rather lengthy discussion with Chaotic/GM on that matter on Google+ and I have to admit his reasoning is very sound. Treating social interactions differently than non-social ones will give a certain type of player unfair advantages. So perhaps I should rethink my GMing style or at least modify it, so that everyone has a fair chance at the table. So what are your thoughts on the matter?
I am not sure if I already wrote on the blog about it, but I have been playing Traveller for several months now. Initially my GM wanted to run a face-to-face game but we couldn’t make it happen. There were just too many scheduling problems, so we eventually decided to switch to a Hangout game. But I digress.
The longer I played Traveller the more I wanted to run it. I love the way our GM handles things (his version of Traveller feels almost Hard SciFi, which is extremely cool), but I also wanted to try my hand at running it myself. We actually use Savage Worlds with some elements from Interface Zero and Chaotic GM’s Savage Space, but I am toying with the idea of running a Traveller game with either Mongoose Traveller, Classic Traveller (thanks, Bundle of Holding), or Stars Without Number.
But there’s one element that slightly bothers me. For some reason I feel that the Traveller universe doesn’t need all those aliens. For one most aliens in Traveller feel like humans in rubber suits anyway (aside from the Hivers perhaps) and a Traveller universe without aliens feels closer to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation universe which Traveller was surely influenced by. I might actually keep some of the mystery of the Ancients alive, but having various variants of Humanity feels enough for my tastes.
The question now remains whether I should just create my own alien-less universe with Traveller trappings or just keep the Traveller universe as it is and just replace aliens by humans. What would you do if you were in my shoes? And do you think Traveller is still Traveller without Vargr, Hivers, Droyne, etc.? Please share your comments below.