Ah, I’m back from two weeks of hanging out on the beach in Bulgaria. Didn’t know there were good beaches in Bulgaria? There are!
I got a lot of book reading in. I read scarily fast, so I went through 11 books by my count. As with everything else in life, I mine the books I read for RPG related insights, so I thought I’d report in and give you some thoughts.
A Game of Thrones
First off, I read A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, books two and three in the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones, as you might know it). I’d read the first book but hadn’t picked up the others till now. I was lucky to find them at Half Price Books, the HBO series has emptied the shelves pretty well. Each one is 1000 pages of murder and betrayal.
Game of Thrones has some interesting similarities to RPG campaigns. The resolutions of plotlines, and life or death of major characters, does seem like it’s at the whims of fate – some characters that seem like “made men” get murderized like the lesser men. Some people feel that character death in RPGs “ruins the story.” These novels are an object lesson in that not being the case.
Also, the story does drag on like many a fantasy campaign I’ve been in (and run, to be honest). Things do keep happening, but sometimes you want to say “Yes yes, could we progress a little bit more here please?” I’ve tried to take that to heart, because even though session after session might be engaging, there is such a thing as too slow of a pace at a high level.
The books also highlight how prudish the RPG community is. Every deviant behavior you can think of is in these books, from incest to dwarf sex to rape to torture to slavery. There’s not even a warning label on them, gasp. But in the RPG realm, when people start talking about “should sex be in an RPG” or “how much is over the line and ‘squicky'” they seem to be using some kind of 1950’s neo-Victorian standard that other art forms aren’t subject to – these aren’t fringe works, this is the most popular fantasy series in the world and has spawned a TV series. Get your head out of your ass, RPG community.
I wanted to pick up some of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books and some of Charles Stross’ Laundry novels, but all I could get from three Half Price Books was Fool Moon, book 2 of the Dresden Files.
It was pretty good. I assume you all know the general setup – Harry Dresden, modern day wizard/detective. I read some of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels recently and this definitely owes them a debt. This one had everything from werewolves to bikers to chronically naked chicks to dream sequences.
Anyway, these novels have good insight into how to run a supernatural-in-the-modern-world game (like any of the White Wolf oeuvre).It’s funny, most of those games stress the active hiding of the supernatural. In Dresden’s world, he’s really open about being a wizard, just no one believes him. The supernatural is a small enough part of the world that it’s just not all that relevant to Joe Sixpack.
The hard part is that Dresden (like Marlowe) spends large portions of the story totally beat to shit. But he rallies and does stuff. This is hard to model in most RPGs, especially ones like the DFRPG where you get progressively large minuses to do anything when you’re hurt (the “death spiral”). Having Harry powerless for a bunch of the story is OK, but when it’s your character it tends to be less enjoyable. Heck, the couple times I had villains beat up on the heroes in a supers campaign I ran, even though it was genre appropriate, the players went into open rebellion.
Next time – Pathfinder Tales! And then, the wonderful world of travel writing.