Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Two Things from last Friday's Pathfinder Game

I ran my Pathfinder game last Friday, and had a good time. The last few sessions have taken place on a forsaken island with a temple to my campaign's Earth God and Storm Goddess, who would be relatively friendly to the PCs, but it has long since been abandoned and become the home of wererats. They've explored a lot, spoken to a couple of guardian spirits, and discovered a valuable ally. Next time, they're likely (but by no means guaranteed) to purge the temple of the remaining wererats and be able to go home (as the island was quarantined due to the "mysterious plague" of lycanthropy).

My players said two things that warmed my heart at the end of the session. One was how it wasn't a typical "go to the evil temple and prevent the ritual" scenario that they had originally expected. Now, I've run that scenario before, but the thing about this one was, other than a character interaction that tipped them off to the island's existence and location, I didn't really have a story to present to them. What did happen happened because they were exploring their environment, and I don't know if it should even be called a story, but whatever it was, it was entertaining to my players and me, and that's what was important.

"The first thing you have to do is come up with a compelling story."--I've seen this advice pop up, in one form or another, on countless forums and blog posts, and while it might yield good results some times for some people, it is by no means necessary. Some games, like Capes, In a Wicked Age, or Fiasco, are purely plot-driven, but they also operate on a very different set of assumptions and play very differently from traditional RPGs, to the point where some people prefer to call them "story games" rather than RPGs. But D&D can be an immense amount of fun without having to follow some kind of three-act structure intended to mimic Hollywood movies. (By the way, all three of the above are very fun games, and I recommend you check them out; but for the sake of this discussion, I'm just pointing out that D&D does not need a story, however loosely you may define that term.)

I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as  possible. --Stephen King, On Writing

The second thing was, I mentioned that I had another game in the works, one based on 1st edition AD&D/OD&D, and that I'd cobbled up a few rules from different sources for resolving things without requiring feats, skill systems, or other stuff that clutters up the modern character sheet. They seemed to be interested in it. The way I've set up my campaign, I almost never have a full set of stats for any but the most important/likely to be encountered NPCs, and don't have a lot of my locales written up in game-specific terms, so they can be swapped from one game system to another with minimal effort. (I do write up stats for the encounters and locations that immediately surround them, but that's at a different stage of game prep from world-creation, and happens between games based on where they go.)

They were interested. That surprised me, because they were very interested in Pathfinder itself, and because the experiences I've had with two of them before indicated that they liked d20-style games, replete with all the skills and feats and crunch that post-D&D 3.0 games entail. But I should have known better, because I know they are also playing in a Fate-based game at the moment.

So I'm going to email them the list of house rules I've accumulated and let them decide whether or not they want to go OSR with this game. I'm up for it either way, but I'm not-so-secretly hoping they take the bait and go for it.


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