Friday, June 30, 2023

Get Out of My Courtyard!

As my daughter likes to remind me, I'm old. I'm not like 'how does this phone thingy work" (generally), but more like "meh. Music used to sound better". So I'm a bit removed. However, I teach 8th grade, so I spend a lot of time around teenagers. I realize that there's a secret underbelly of the youth cultural experience circa 2023 that I am blissfully unaware of, but I also have a sense of the general shape of thinking of the modern adolescent mind.

All of that said, I'm reflecting on how gaming differs between me and other people posting things on social media for game use. There are people who seem to be nice enough and talented enough and sincere enough and all of that over on the FB group I've just joined, but the art and discussions center around friends and relationships and gender identity. And I get that these are big conversations and huge concerns for a large number of my students, so it's not shocking or strange that it would make its way into gaming.

What is odd to me is that in some ways, it's become the point of the game. Your primary stat is gender identity. That's something I can't quite fathom. Sure, I know what gender my characters are, and sometimes that implies a relationship, but that's always in the background. Like, if I decide his tunic is blue, it's blue. Whatever. It could have been red, and I'd still play the character the same way.

I mean, I made Arath, and he's a heterosexual male, because I just assumed he's that. I didn't think about it. He's a lone dude on a quest. His sexuality, or lack thereof, never really enters into my thinking. At one point I checked to see if a character he was spending time with had a crush on him (the dice said no), but I never checked to see if he had a crush on her. He's kind of busy doing stuff to think about relationships at all. To me, the game is about killing monsters and taking their stuff. He could be a Ken doll under the belt and it doesn't really change the game for me. As a result, my art is about characters going into, preparing for, or in the midst of conflict with the forces of darkness/chaos/not-nice-ness/whatever. 

A lot of art I see is of characters hanging out in town or on a boat or somewhere. They may be on the way to an adventure, or recovering after an adventure, but they're just spending time together and smiling and building their relationship.

I guess I don't get it.

All of that is a LONG way of circling back to my game in this way - I am thinking about adventuring as a level 1 female mystic in a moon elf city of mystery and intrigue. So, XP could be awarded for killing monsters and taking their stuff... or it could be awarded for navigating an encounter. She has high mind, no armor, and only a few hits. Killing monsters is going to be harder. I got curious about how I defined this in the core rules, because that matters, and found this in section 3.0: "Every time a PC overcomes a challenge, they earn experience points (xp)... Grant XP as above based on the level of the foe(s)." and then, later, I suggest "PCs may also earn level x1 to level x5 XP for overcoming challenges requiring roleplaying and skill". "Overcome" is vague enough that it could include combat, or not include combat. You get the same XP if the monster dies or runs away or decides to let you walk through its lair after picking it clean.

As far as that roleplaying piece, this nests easily over the existing framework for likelihoods... how likely was the character to overcome this 'challenge' at the beginning?

Very likely = level x1 XP
Likely = level x2 XP
Possible = level x3 XP
Unlikely = level x4 XP
Very unlikely = level x5 XP

You had to convince the barkeep you've known for a decade to let you pay him tomorrow? Seems pretty likely he'd roll with that. Enjoy your 1 XP with your beverage. You were trying to negotiate peace between two warring factions of bugbears and you managed to broker a truce without bloodshed? Um, guess you earned that level x5 XP. I don't think that a solo game works in this way at all - I am playing alone, and the dice only take me so far in emulating real, human interaction. It's a 'roll' more than 'role' system when I play solo.

It's not a perfect system by any stretch, but that I put it in the rules at all makes me feel better. I was worried for a second I had equated XP entirely with hacking and slashing (which maybe the title of the game conceivably suggests), but the social piece is there, at least in an implied state.

All that is to say that if you spend your time between adventures building relationships and smiling at others, you could conceivably get to level 6 and never draw your sword.

That game seems boring AF to me.

But I'm old.

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