Wednesday, 6 August 2014

RPG a Day, Day 7: How much falutin'? High.

I found the Day 7 question -- "intellectual" RPG -- a little curious. Obviously, RPGs are a bit of an intellectual pastime anyway (as opposed to, say, a physical one), but I don't think that's what it meant. I think it meant something like "the most highfalutin' RPG you own."

This is a subject that seems pretty contentious among gamers. Even talking about the subject of "intellectual" or "artistic" RPGs introduces the risk of pompous auto-back-patting on one hand or derpy Philistinism on the other. I hope I steer between the two extremes; a lot of the games I love are based on doing straightforward adventure fiction (although they aren't as derpy as people tend to assume, for more of which see below), but I put in my time in the indie-gaming trenches. I wrote a 24-hour RPG, and I won twenty-five bucks for so doing, and then I kind of forgot all about it. Sorry, Ron. (It's totally incomplete, and even if it were complete I doubt it would be any good. Me writing narrative games is real square-peg-in-round-hole stuff.) 


In the video, I kind of make it sound like the indie RPG thing ended in like 2008, which is totally untrue; that's just when I started to get out of it. Lots of cool stuff is still coming out of that movement, and in fact I've talked about some of those games previously on this blog. I'm perfectly happy to be a consumer of those games, but keeping up with the upcoming stuff and the new releases and so on proved too difficult for me. And my strengths never lay in game design. I'm not a rulesy thinker. Perhaps that's why old school gaming and Gloranthaphile setting-nerdery both appeal to me so much. 

Speaking of setting-nerdery, there's some of that coming up in today's video.

As a further point, I am not at all sure that our perception of games as "intellectual" or not is accurate. I mean, I think most people think of D&D and its heirs as the action-movie bros of the gaming world, focused on thrills and spills and less concerned about, I dunno, feelings or whatever. But I think that's probably a mistake. Go back and look at the old school blogs I linked to yesterday. Sure, Jeff likes broad comedy in his blog, but read it for a bit and you will see that he's a very smart, educated guy. And does Middenmurk look like the blog of someone who's just in it for uncomplicated action? 

Perhaps what I'm saying is that we may be confusing games that tolerate a broad range of play styles and therefore can be played in a lighthearted, undemanding way with games that have to be played that way (like World of Synnibarr or whatever). 

Lastly, one subject I don't touch on is that games have always been educational for me. The first time I ever heard about the Shahnameh was from Gary Gygax. The first time I ever encountered the myths of the Popol Vuh was in a TMNT supplement. How many of us gleaned the basics of Sumerian religion from Deities and Demigods? My examples are mostly legend and myth, but there's a lot more. Oh, games don't teach good history or good science or whatever, but hopefully what they do is sort of ... limn the edges of larger subjects and entice people who are motivated by that sense of incompleteness to check them out. Or that might just be me. 


The updated version of De Profundis is just over £5, so that's going on my to-buy pile. What the hell. 

Dogs in the Vineyard is great. There's also a bundle of a bunch of lumpley games on there; check 'em out. My old PbP is still online all these years later, although you may need to be an RPGnet member to read it. 

And you can get My Life With Master pretty easily too. 

I know a bunch of you guys are Monsterhearts fans. Same guy did Ribbon Drive. You can get it in PDF, although it isn't as cool without the DVD-case thing, at least to me. 


  1. What does it say that I assumed 'Ribbon Drive' would be an SF game focused on the implications of a particular means of speculative FTL travel?

  2. Don't forget about Dying Earth, the game that's all about the Grifting and not about the fighting. Having to constantly think on your feet and figure out what to do without resorting to any violence

    1. Well, you *can* resort to violence. There's just no likelihood that you'll be better at it than anyone else, so the threat of an angry mob is real.

  3. Broken Rooms is looking pretty cool.