Sunday, March 13, 2011

What we write about when we write about rpgs.

Perhaps this should be titled; What we read when we read about rpgs. It has been noted that I read a lot and I have determined that all this reading is the equivalent of doing the research with out doing the writing. The writing does eventually come about but probably at a much slower pace than is desirable.

I was doing a bit of "research" recently, reading the ol' 2nd Ed. AD&D Dungeon Master Guide and I read a paragraph that looked familiar. I have reached the point in my reading and research career that I read almost all of a book. This is to say that I read the introductions and the "notes about the author" but am not likely to read the glossary or bibliography. So, I was reading the intro to ye ol' DMG and came to this section;

"The rules of the AD&D game are balanced and easy to use. No role-playing game we know of has been playtested more heavily than this one. But that doesn't mean it's perfect. What we consider to be right may be unbalanced or anachronistic in your campaign. The only thing that can make the AD&D game "right" for all players is the intelligent application of DM discretion."

I believe that passage speaks volumes about what is popularly called the "old school" attitude of fantasy role playing games. These ideas have been written, time and time again, across the blog-o-sphere; unlike the rules of chess, the rules of role playing games are not intended to be the final judge of an action in the game. Rather, the final judge are the ideas and attitudes of the members of individual game groups. But, rehashing old opinions about our hobby is not the point of this post.

Those sentences from the 2nd Ed. DMG reminded me of a passage at the beginning of another favorite rpg, Encounter Critical. I don't have any doubt that the author of E.C., S. John Ross, was familiar with that very passage or, at least, similar passages from various old rpgs. In the intro to E.C. he, in the voice of Hank Riley, writes:
" can enjoy the assurance that this is the only game we know of to include True Scientific Realism in every system. Combat, especially, derives from actual battle experience and from extensive research into the theories of tactical interplay... This is a complete fantasy and science fiction game in a single manual, but it is also the beginning of your greatest scenario, a foundation on which you can build."

"Although, as far as rules go,...(we prefer) a minimum of systems to keep track of: enough to know what your character can achieve, and enough to know who he can defeat, is enough!"

Perhaps these two passages are not as identical as I had initially thought but they certainly bare a resemblance in tone as they both imply; "this is the most highly playtested game to our knowledge." E.C. is a lampoon of the old style rpgs any way, but a very functional game itself, and that makes the comparison and likeness appropriate.

So, thanks to Zeb Cook and his team that created 2nd Ed. AD&D and thanks to John Ross and Dave Insel and Cody Reichenau for Encounter Critical, I have two more things to ramble on about as I approach my senility.

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