Friday, 4 June 2021

Expectations

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Expectations

Looking at Qualitative Design has got me thinking about Expectations that RPGs carry. Again, I'm throwing back to the manifesto, where I say:

When you learn about a new game your mind races with what could be possible. The reality is often a compromise. I want to remove everything that stands in the way between how you imagine a game could be and how it plays at the table.

My first exposure to tabletop games was through Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and I don't think I can overstate how little context I had for this new hobby that was unfolding in front of me at age 10. I didn't have any friends that already knew about it, there wasn't a handy website or video I could watch to explain it, and I wouldn't get an actual rulebook for months after buying my first few miniatures. 

So my monthly exploration was limited to what I could glean from White Dwarf. Battle Reports were a lifeline here, where I could pour over them and try to imagine how this thing would actually work on my own dining table. 

Years later I would go through a similar experience with D&D, when I picked up the 3rd Edition core books and mostly experienced them through reading about other people's games on forums, with the occasional dissatisfying facsimile of a game on pbp or irc. 

In a way, nothing can live up to those na├»ve imaginings. I never used to imagine hitting a rule that we don't understand, our game grinding to a halt. I never imagined being matched up in a game with that player who ruins it for everybody else. I didn't imagine having an idea for a daring gambit and being told that I should really just do the boring thing instead. 

I don't think this imagined perfect game is necessarily worth chasing in earnest, but that endless pursuit has been core to so much of what I try to do with my games. 

Did you have an expectation with games that never quite survived reality?

7 comments:

  1. I was lucky enough to experience mostly games where the cool thing was done, and when the rules got in the way, we made it work within a loose framework based on the rules. There was the understanding that *of course* the rules could not cover every conceivable idea. They were just the baseline for a common understanding. When I finally met groups that were very rules-effectiveness oriented and put the letter of the rules over the spirit of the story, they were, to me, odd groups of people, not odd rules systems.
    Lucky me!

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  2. "I don't think this imagined perfect game is necessarily worth chasing in earnest..."

    Yes, it is. Chase that dragon, hoss!

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  3. When I played my first game of AD&D at age 8, my friend’s older brother ran some module out of a book. I thought there must be, not just dungeons, but vast wilderness, towns, biomes and whole worlds defined in perfect detail. I thought the world we were exploring was already fully defined in a thousand modules and this corpus of modules was ‘D&D’.

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  4. The mystery and wonder I felt from reading about Jorune never quite translated into the playing of it. 'Let us go on a journey across this ancient alien landscape and see the fabled Mountain Crown of Tan-Iricid' somehow always just turned into 'Bitchin! We can throw these cystals like GRENADES!!!'.

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    Replies
    1. And yet, I'm certain everyone had a jolly good time :D

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  5. I had a similar experience with Warhammer and such, piecing whatever I could from white dwarves and the free reference sheets. I played a bit at various clubs, but always enjoyed playing more solo where I could do what I wanted and make narratives without worrying about strict rules or "the best move".

    When I played magic the gathering I also imagined something very different from what I ended up playing in. Played a while against hyper-focused (and expensive) decks that I stopped, probably what put me off people super-optimising in RPGs.

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