Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Trinity of Old School Gaming (Part 3)

Now that I’ve explained the relationship between a game’s mortality rate and its method of character creation and how the former leads to simple and exciting combat, I’ll focus on how quick character creation, a high mortality rate and simple, exciting combat make it easy to form or find a gaming group.

Quick character generation is the most obvious aspect here, as it lowers the entry bar. A newbie who has never roleplayed before can hop right in. Similarly, guest players, tryouts, spouses or kids can effortlessly join in, even for just a session or two.

Poster Brendan directed me towards another point with his comment on participating in a character's evolution through actual play: To wit, quick character creation can easily be done at the table and as a group (rather than at home alone with a dozen source books and spreadsheets). Ideally, everyone is somewhat invested in everyone else's character which makes newbies feel more welcome.

('New school' games such as those coming out of the Forge movement often emphasize joint character creation for this reason, among others.)

Quick character generation is my N° 1 requirement for the one-shot games I occasionally spring on my group - and what better way to get my players interested in a new (or very old) game than to provide an evening of fun?

Simple, exciting combat is another factor in forming or finding a group. First of all, it’s uncomplicated fun and thus a great attraction. It makes people actually want to play. More subtly, though, simple combat is usually quite fast, which allows one to have larger and more robust groups. In D&D 4e, a typical fight is anything but simple and in my experience takes about 30 min per player character involved. So a group of four players will need 2 hours for a regular fight – add another two players (and a bunch of monsters on the DM’s side) and you’re probably looking at a single fight per session.

Contrast this to a game where a fight takes about 5 min per player involved. Even a fight with 10 PCs will be over in under an hour (and most likely keep everyone’s attention, too). On top of all that, handling the characters of absentee players is no problem with a simple system. In D&D 4e, a high-level character has 20+ cards detailing powers, magic items and such – good luck trying to run two or three of those on short notice.

What about a high mortality rate though? Simply put, it can be a bit intimidating to join a group who has played the same characters for years. Moreover, well-designed RPGs with a high mortality rate not only provide a method for quick character generation but also ways to catch up in a reasonable amount of time.

All in all, I think that the above factors make it much easier to assemble, find and maintain a robust gaming group.

Next up: How randomness, simple combat and death make for some excellent roleplaying!

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