Expanding Definitions part 1

Click to go buy this beautiful piece. 

Click to go buy this beautiful piece. 

My first experience of role playing was through my cousin Mark. He was a few years older than me, and infinitely more knowledgeable about things like video games and awesomeness. He introduced me to Magic: The Gathering (around the time of Ice Age), Final Fantasy (around the time of IV), and Megaman (around the time of 2). This of course led me to trust anything that he said about anything.

On one of my visits to his house, he decided that it was time that he teach me the ways of D&D. He sat me down in front of a hand drawn map on a sheet of notebook paper and started to tell me a story. The story involved an evil necromancer that I was to slay, and quest that would lead me to a tower that I was to climb. At the top of that tower was a tome full of untold knowledge.

When I aquired the tome, my lowly level 1 character could cast all of the spells. All of them. The necromancer proved little trouble for me and I ended the session triumphant and wanting more. That is when Mark showed me the rule book.

This giant book of rules seemed so far removed from the adventure that I had just gone on that I couldn’t even comprehend at 10 years old how the two even related. All these rules for and numbers just baffled my little brain. It was enough to scare me off of role playing until well into my adulthood.

Beat ‘em Up

Until just a few years ago, I just assumed role playing games were all about combat. There are a million rules for weapons, armor, magic spells, attacking, evading, hit points, and all that jazz. When I roll an 18 to hit, there are very specific rules that govern that interaction.

That all makes sense when you consider the roots of our shared hobby. It comes from the natural expansion of war gaming concepts. When you are planning an elaborate war simulation, it is important to know what will happen in all of those little circumstances that you might find yourself. All of those little bits and bobs matter a great deal to your success, and the fun comes from figuring out interesting solutions to complex tactical problems.

This was actually something I understood well. Video games have always been my thing, to the extent that I still receive videogame themed undergarments as gifts from relatives to this day. Tactics, strategy, and general mathiness were not scary to me. It has just never been the thing that has hooked me into a game. It can help me to stick with a game, sure, but all by itself it is not enough.

I grew up on the Final Fantasys, Chrono Triggers, and Metal Gear Solids of the world. I read just about every fantasy and science fiction book that I could get my hands on. Rules just weren’t enough. They had to be in service of something greater. They had to be in service of the story and the characters that acted in it.

Shakespearean plays, Renaissance festivals, and other anachronistic displays have been a favorite pastime of the passionate for decades, and they share a huge overlap with those that would want to immerse themselves in another place and time. There is also a huge overlap with theatrical people of all types, people that want to be a different person than they are in real life for whatever reasons that they might have.

The theatricality of roleplaying also brings people together. You can’t perform without an audience, and you can’t roleplay without other people. Roleplaying gives people that would normally hide themselves away an excuse to gather together. It gives you an excuse to act in ways that you would never get to in real life and a group of people to explore that possibility with.

Players Seeking Group

When I moved to Austin, I knew absolutely no one. My girlfriend at the time and I moved to Austin for work. This resulted in us being almost completely alone. She was an avid roleplayer though, so she had a plan: find other roleplayers. I hadn’t played D&D since the ill-fated book drop, but I was willing to give it a try. We desperately needed a social group and this seemed like a great solution.

It started poorly enough. We approached a guy that lived in our apartment complex. He had a fuzzy d20 hanging from his rearview mirror, so we thought that it would be a safe bet that he roleplayed. He did, but he wanted us to pass a series of increasingly awkward social tests and trials before he or his GM would even consider us for their game. We failed.

He did have us meet him at a local game store called Dragon’s Lair for one of these trials though. Dragon’s Lair is a combination comic/rpg/board game store that has plenty of room to play and lots of cool interesting people that hang out there. So we started hanging out there. One monday night as we were demoing a game that I had been working on, a strange group of people started to gather around us. That happened to be the Cracked Monocle group playing Tephra. We fought a building-sized automaton with our barefists. It was fun. We kept coming.

A Different Beast

That is really what makes roleplaying different from any other type of game. It exists along so many different axes that it appeals to a really wide variety of people. There are those that play it for the math and the game. There are those that play it for the drama and the story. There are those that play it for the social interaction.

So how do you appeal to all of these people? How do you make it fun for everyone involved? How do you make it easy to facilitate that fun within the confines of a real social game? What is the magic mixture that allows everyone to have a good time?

For the mathy, the systems in SteamCharged are ubiquitous, crunchy, tactical, and satisfying. For the dramatic, intensity ratchets things up to epic proportions and allow for great moments. For the social, your crew is central to the game and working together is the only way that you will succeed.

These are some of the core things that I want out of any roleplaying experience, and SteamCharged delivers them with every action that is taken. In the coming articles, I’m going to go more in depth on how I think SteamCharged solves all of these problems. I have built systems that encourage and reward all sorts of different play patterns. I think that there is a something in SteamCharged for all sorts of players. Soon, we are all going to start playing it together.