Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Gaming

Yeah, I changed my mind on what my content should be about yet again. (I mean, I still might have research articles eventually, but this is what I feel like writing right now.)

Gaming! Not just any gaming, but pencil and paper roleplaying! THE BEST KIND OF GAMING! Some of you are asking right now what pencil and paper roleplaying is and what exactly makes it the best kind of gaming? So I shall begin with an intro!

Pencil and paper roleplaying belongs to a subset of gaming known as tabletop. These are games that, obviously, are played on top of a table. This includes board games, war games, card games, etc. (If you're super confused at this point, think Monopoly. While Monopoly is generally considered to be the worst of all games, it is, in fact, tabletop.) Most of these games are fun for one night. Pencil and paper roleplaying can continue the same game for years! Years, I say! Okay, it doesn't usually last that long, but theoretically it can. I've heard of a couple groups that kept playing the same game over multiple years. Mostly games still last one night before everyone gets Cool New Ideas and runs off to do Cool New Things.

I guess that means I need a different reason for its superiority. Umm. It combines the best elements of different games! It has the roleplaying fun of- well, I'm having trouble thinking of a main stream game that involves roleplaying. Cops and robbers? Man, I'm lame sometimes. Anyway, roleplaying is fun! I promise! It also has math (no, wait, don't run away yet! The math isn't difficult, I swear!), strategy, combat, and whatever else the group wants to add. It's a very flexible game type that can be turned into whatever the group prefers.

Now that I've obviously convinced you that you must become a pencil and paper roleplayer, you're probably wondering how this incredible game is played. Well, first you get some books. Unless you really don't want to. (See how flexible it is?) My first pencil and paper roleplay was actually bookless, with a terrible homebrew system with broken combat dynamics. (For some reason you could buy speed with experience points and there was no cap. This led to one person being capable of a hundred attacks before anyone else could move. Needless to say, we scraped this system.)

If you'd rather have a system created by experts, I recommend books. My favored system at the moment is GURPS. For the more traditional gateway drug, there's Dungeons and Dragons. Wait, you might say. We were talking about D&D this whole time? And it's merely one sort of system among an entire ecosystem of similar games? Yep. (Well, D&D gets kudos for breaking the ground. But pretty much, yeah.)

Ahem. Anyway. So what do you do with these books? You read them, of course! Each system will have its own set of rules, outlined in the books. There'll be rules governing how you make your characters and how to determine who punches who in the face. There'll also be rules on how to create monsters and lop their heads off, how to cast spells (assuming you've picked a fantasy world) and how to convince other characters that you're totes the coolest and everyone should bow down and adore you.

Yeah, it's a lot of rules. Luckily you can mostly learn them as you go. It's more reference book than novel. Go through the relevant sections as you need them. There's a lot of rules you probably won't even use.

So now you've got your books, you know you're rules, awesome! You're almost set to play! Next stop, character sheets! You may have seen these in T.V. shows. Mostly they're portrayed as being covered in colorful scribbles. I assume this is for the camera, because honestly, it makes no sense. (You see why it would make no sense to write your character sheet in crayon, right?) Write in pencil. Please.

The books will detail out how to stat your shiny new character. You should probably gather your group together at this point for a character creation session.

Wait. I think I missed a few steps. Like the most important one. Your group! Pencil and paper roleplaying is generally a five person game. One game master and four players to run amok in the game master's world. So... get four other people. Have one of them agree to run the game. If you can't find four other people, try posting an ad at your local comic shop or look around online.

Anyway. Now you have your group and your books, one of you has agreed to run the game and you've met to make characters. Fantastic! What else do you need?

Dice! This one depends on the system, so check what system you're using first. Or just buy a one pound bag of dice. I mean, either way. The dice act as the random number generator of the game. As such, the life of your character depends upon them. The dice are sacred. The dice rule all. Treat them well.

Now you've got your group, your books, your dice, and your characters. You're ready to play! (Gosh, did that seem like a lot of work to anyone else? *wipes brow*) So how do you play, exactly? Again, this depends on the system, but the basics are this: The game master creates a cool world for you to wander around. Each player acts as their character and sets out to do cool stuff. You buy things, kill things, take their stuff. And yes, this world is entirely in the head of the people in the game. You use your words to build it.

"There's a gigantic oak door in front of you."
"I kick it open!"
"It falls on your head."

Like that. Except with more Monty Python references, usually. Mostly you just hang out with your friends, kill monsters, save the world, and have fun. You're frickin' heroes, after all.

For my next post, I'm going to get specific! I'm currently mid-campaign building right now for a new game starting Sunday, so I'll detail out all the steps I'm taking to put together the session. Spoiler alert! It's GURPS urban fantasy with a Supernatural flavoring. Because when you can make anything you want to, it's go crazy or go home.


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