Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hating the Game: My Reflexive Resistance Against Sheet-Play



Yesterday, a survey went out proposing a new concept for World of Darkness' Next Chronicle. It proposes,  in essence, a combined Venue that allows (at least) the four sanctioned venues of Requiem, Awakening, Lost and Forsaken to interact with each other on a full basis. This is made solely for Cross Venue.

Ah, yes, Cross Venue. Mentioning that in a room full of Cammies is akin to throwing a chair in the middle of a crowd: a riot will most likely begin immediately after. It's a natural law, look it up.

Now, there are many reasons why people don't want to do Cross Venue. The first is lack of interest in the other Venues. They're just they're for the genre they like. That's perfectly fine. The other reason is Confliect of Interest. A Vampire in the Ordo Dracul wants to try to divert Ley Lines that a Prime Master Mage is currently cultivating, they are played by the same player. How can that be resolved successfully? It's a bitch. The third is the concept of "Super Friends" instant solutions for one venue by calling in a favor from another. I think that's the least of the three I can think of. Using a solution like that can be done, but like all things should have consequences.

Actually, that's the main two reasons against Cross Venue I can think of. I'm of the mind that we live in the World of Darkness. It makes a kind of sense that we run the risk of existing next to the other denizens of the world we inhabit. This is especially true when your domain is a place like New York City. Let me sum up with something I used in an email thread:

We live in New York City, over 200 languages are spoken here, more than any place in the world. Go down any street and you will see a cross section of humanity in various flavors of Race, Creed, Sexual Orientiation, Gender Identity, Economic Class and profession. From Men who can play Monopoly with Real Builds and Risk with Real Nations to people just trying to eek out a life for themselves on the streets. You can see it all, and if you're daring, interact with them.

It's a little Vain to think that the same can't be said of the supernatural denizens of New York? How many Changelings and Mages have walked through the Mekhet Elysium of the NYPL to find a book?, prayed at the Nos Elysium at St. Pats? How many have walked through the night and seen or heard something down an alley that they knew was something from their side of things.


How many times have they seen some one walk by, and see someone walk by them and go "I know you. For I'm like you. For neither of us belong to the world of normalcy any more, but the World of Darkness" (Insert Orchestra music here at Title Drop...:P)


A Bit melodramatic, I know. But that's the point. It's vain to think that the supernatural entities in the City aren't going to trip over each other some how in some way. What happens with that? How is it managed. I think because it's New York, it's possible to explore that. Because this would be the place to do it, and also because we've got a clutch of players who would be willing to take the challenge.


Still, there is resistance. The main reason, from everything that I have heard, can be summed up in one word:

Thunderdome.

Thunderdome has become a colloquial term to me for a situation that is simply violence for the sake of causing violence in a venue. Kill boxing because one can.

I have a problem when it comes to gaming. The problem is Munchkin Players. A Munchkin is defined as "a player who plays what is intended to be a non-competitive game (usually a role-playing game) in an aggressively competitive manner. A munchkin seeks within the context of the game to amass the greatest power, score the most "kills", and grab the most loot, no matter how detrimental their actions are to role-playing, the storyline, fairness, or the other players' fun. The term is used almost exclusively as a pejorative and frequently is used in reference to powergamers."

In short, these are people who are in a LARP playing more their sheet and less a character. Who are focused on winning the game over playing it.

I can get wanting to have an edge in the game, but here are a few things:

1) This is a game, and this sort of thing just sounds like it's taking something too seriously. Especially since this is an open ended game with no real form of Winning.
2) this is a game populated with other people, and this sort of action kills the fun of other players. Do whatever the hell you want to their characters so long as it makes sense in the universe your PCs occupy.

There are other reasons, but soon I start barking and throwing things. I've honestly seen players that purposefully make sheets that are designed for maximum damage and then seek out excuses to use them despite (and in some cases, in spite) of whatever story is going on. I've called it Joy Riding on a Sheet, and that's how it should be seen.

Give you an example. One player was given an NPC sheet to an effectively immortal character who had some dangerous attacks. He was given specific instructions in character, which he then completely ignored and began using his abilities blatantly in front of everyone (the NPC was described as subtle, this wasn't that). He killed not only the veil of disbelief in the game by constantly wanting to do pulls, but he also killed the plot, as many of the other characters killed him and the other NPCs out of sheer frustration and by the end of it I let them.

I have also seen players who consistently write up Hitter characters who just sit there, waiting to be used. They don't RP much, if at all. They are the Meta Threat. You as a player and PC KNOW that this is a person. It, like it's the subtle threat to the above mentioned scenario's more overt threat.

I'm a writer at heart. I enjoy tension, I enjoy character development. What is the tension and development for a character who just strolls in to show off? This also brings the case of responsibility of those with Higher MC levels, as they are rolling characters with years of experience on their first night (but that's a different arguement). When you have a higher power character, there is the risk of you becoming the plot, the thing that needs resolving.

Now imagine all of these kinds of players to enter in a Cross Venue forum. It's like a deranged Cock Fight, or even a Pokemon battle, with the Sheets being their pokemon and they are the trainers. What could be a fun mixing of genre's and characters and it just becomes some grudge match that ends in a lot of broken sheets. I'd say this is a cynical approach, but due to past experiences, I'd qualify it as realistic.

In the end, I can't stop Munchkins from running around the land of Oz. I can however compensate for them and reward good RP in it's stead. I'd love to do a cross venue story, as I believe this can make for great RP, but that would have to take time to see what the club creates as a venue which. If lucky, they'll make a de facto "corebook" that  helps mitigate Munchkins and their ilk.

Later