Monday, July 23, 2012

On Role Playing yourself and Save or Die mechanics.

Recently my wife and I got some good old fashion game time with Viscount Eric from Gaming with the Gnomies fame. It was a super secret game day with a good friend of ours and since we get to spend time with him so infrequently we would be total jerks to say no to the man. Our games of the day was Call of Cthulhu and Munchkin: Axe Cop. This also marks our second time paying CoC under Eric's Keeper sensibilities as the characters he rolled up for us last year: JP Carson the hard boiled private investigator and Jessica his school teacher wife with a past.

Now I would usually recap the game at this point but Eric already did it for me right here.. And for those that read this blog know that I hate dislike playing characterized versions of myself.. So imagine how I feel playing myself, who is married in game to my real life wife, in a game setting that is designed to have your characters die or go insane...or both. The first game with these characters happened over a year ago and the recap was from the second game with our characters. And as Eric wrote about it....I got killed off. And it cemented a few things in my mind about playing myself in a game, save vs die and what I find fun.

 First playing myself as my PC, whether in a fantasy setting or not, is never fun to me. I loathed creating myself as a Pathfinder character that I never got to play(nor will I ever do so). So one can imagine my displeasure of seeing my CoC PC was myself and I didn't even create it. I will say that Eric did a fine job with it and didn't make my alter ego a mockery of any kind and I'll even say he handled it with a sense of respect for myself and my wife as friends. So its not the character sheet or stats that I find bizarre its the point that I'm playing myself. I am no hero/detective/barbarian/space marine/masked vigilante in real life so why in hell would I want to pretend to be one?

When I was child and was playing pretend with my friends I wasn't envisioning myself pretending to be me in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was Indiana Jones. I was never myself running around with the G.I. Joe's stopping COBRA, I was Flint or Shipwreck. I know you'll look at my Justice League casting and say I'm doing that but I'm casting them as the characters (i.e. Bruce Wayne/ Batman) and not replacing that character with the person.

So why don't I ever like to pretend that I am capable of doing those feats of heroics even in an imaginative sense? Because I don't believe that I am actually capable of it at all. Dropping any super heroics and let's look at just being a detective. I just do not feel that I am a capable detective with what little abilities I possess in life. However if I'm not JP Carson but Matches Malone I sure can pretend that I have that talent and can play on that. Perhaps it is just that I'm better acting as someone else not based on me and when it comes to playing myself all I know how to do is be me: an average guy.

So this leads me to to the most bizarre and surreal part of this all. In the game JP Carson is deceased, his wife Jessica is now widowed and with out him as "life" goes on sans him there. That he cannot be there for his wife anymore when she is being put in mortal danger yet can watch how the world moves on with out him there. Do you know just how fucking weird that feels? I never wanted to know how life would be without me there but I'll do all I can to prepare my loved ones for that day (to make it easier on them). I know its just a game but come on! Think about it for a moment; would you find morbid enjoyment playing on after you die just to see what goes on? I don't. Even after rolling up another character I just was out of it as it was Jessica going on without JP there. It was freaking weirding me out on a level that I just can't fully put into words effectively.

Again I'm going to say that this in no way was Eric's fault. It was just horrible horrible shitty rolls. Specifically one roll for a 'save or die' moment. This is just something in any game system that I look forward to playing/running/purchasing that has to go. D&D has been plagued for years with spells or effects that are 'save or die'. Disintegrate in 3.0 D&D  was Fort save or die (if saved then x dice of damage). I can remember horror stories from older editions of people dying versus spell or trap or something based off of one bad roll. There are other games that have similar mechanics as well but I'm not going to witch hunt them all. I just want to point out that, while games like this should have some danger, a one roll or die mechanic can kill the fun levels for the people playing it. It did for me and kind of made me not want to continue for the remainder of the evening role playing and just move onto Axe Cop. I play games for fun and entertainment, I want more chances at survival in a game than I do in real life. Save or die just removes that from the game. I realize that they are used in rather specific points and not just thrown around every two seconds but are they even needed?

Is it now just up to the GM to allow the player a moment or two to try to come up with something plausible to react to this threat and then allow them to act on it to save their PC? Or are these mechanics needed at all any more? I suppose it just goes into what my preferences are when playing a table top RPG. I try when running my games to take away the save or die mechanics when used on the players and some times keep them when the players use them against their adversaries. I do this because I want to run a heroic adventure for people. I want my players to succeed and I don't remove the challenge and peril from it I just include different ways to illicit the same sense of danger or dread. I don't want a one hit kill there that will wipe out someone suddenly and for really no good reason. Basically I don't want to pull a Whedon on my players.

In my very round about kind of way I'll end on saying that session was a perfect storm of what I don't care for in my gaming experience. The save or die wouldn't have been as impactful to me if I was just playing some random schmo gumshoe and, while I wouldn't have liked it, it wouldn't have effected me as much this particular time. After all of that I'd still happily play CoC under Eric's wing again if he will have me. Just next time......give me something I can truly act on and not someone based in reality. I play games to enjoy the time I have with my friends not to be reminded of just how little we all have left.

Monday, July 2, 2012

QMR: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

This was a very silly, very bloody, high energy, heartfelt, bad assed exteneded look into the life of one of our greatest and most beloved Presidents. Based off the novel of the same name it lives up to the book in tone and spirit while delivering a better movie than the book could tell. Why? Because the books author, Seth Grahame-Smith, also wrote the screenplay and made all the changes to make this a whole new beast.

Produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch, Day Watch) should become a new standard for action movies. Timur just has this eye to capture some of the most imaginative action sequences out there. I fell in love with his style around 2006 when I watched 'Night Watch' and I've looked forward to his movies ever since. This man is an autor in the cinematic world.

I also need to give credit to Benjamin Walker for his protrayal of Lincoln. Within roughly minutes after he comes on screen you start to forget you are watching an actor and he just 'becomes' the Lincoln we have learned and read about for years while still making this role his own. Great work Ben.

I recommend this movie for those that want some action with their vampire stories with a large amount of heart as it is a great popcorn flick. Honest.

QMR: Brave

Another winner from Disney and Pixar. As always it is beautiful to look at and expertly voice cast so no need to fear on those fronts.

The story is a rather heartwarming tale of the relationship between a mother and daughter all set within a old Scotland while steeped in Scottish myth and lore. It is the quintessential Disney princess story turned on its ear with a very strong lead in Merida and NO prince charming to save the day. Its a fable about independence, self reliance, the strength of family, growing up and taking responsibility. All the while showing to do those things in life and to accept the challenges ahead of you truly makes you brave.

This movie is also the first one this year that got a standing ovation from the audience I was with when it ended. Not even The Avengers got that. Do see this movie.

QMR: Prometheus

A brilliantly entertaining time at the movies for me. Yes, this is a prequel to the 'Alien' movie franchise. Yes some of the larger questions are left somewhat vague for the purpose of discussion. However the immeadiate questions in the movie itself are all answered and for the life of me I just don't see all the glaring plot holes quite a few reviewers are speaking of. I found ONE that didn't make sense but all the others were answered in the film.

Heck just talking to some of my friends who saw this flick I could tell by their answers to how they saw scenes that they missed quite a bit of the subtle plot reveals and after pointing out those misses I got 'Oh, well that now makes sense.'.

I enjoyed this, I really enjoyed this. It is a nice change to get a somewhat harder Sci-fi movie in theaters and I'm glad it was one that not only was beautiful in visuals but gave the sense of wonder, paranoia and terror all rolled into one. I loved the principal cast in this movie with Rapace and Fassbender giving strong preformances. In fact Fassbender damn near steals the whole movie as David.

 Prometheus makes the audience ask bigger questions during the movie and even after it ends. So with that said, before seeing this, ask yourself what are your expectations of this movie? Are you looking for another 'Alien'? 'Aliens'? Or something new all together? Its the same universe, its also not its predecessors but something new yet feels familiar. I recommend it and I also recommend seeing it in 3D. It was just stunning.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


So Gaming with the Gnomies is going on in full force at the top secret gaming bar in Alburtis, Pa. So far it has been only Gnome Wars but with luck some Munchkin: Axe Cop is on the horizon. Updates to follow.

Update #1: there are no updates. The wife and I left around 615pm to head home and the rest of the crazy gang were knee deep in a Call of Cthulhu game in the gaming bar of DOOM! I was tired and so was the wifey so we graciously bowed out and headed home. It was still fun seeing everyone and getting to spend time with folk we haven't seen in some time. Looking forward to doing it again soon.